Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Batman Prequel PENNYWORTH Gets Series Order from EPIX

Two TV shows with Alfred and still no sign of Batman.

The Hollywood Reporter has revealed that the premium cable network EPIX has given a straight-to-series order for Pennyworth, a new drama based on the DC Comics character and set in the Batman universe.

The series will be from Warner Horizon Scripted Television, executive producer/writer Bruno Heller and executive producer/director Danny Cannon. Heller write the script and Cannon will direct the pilot, as he did with the Fox series Gotham.

According to the article, Pennyworth will have ten episodes and "follows Bruce Wayne’s legendary butler, Alfred Pennyworth, a former British SAS soldier who forms a security company and goes to work with Thomas Wayne, Bruce’s billionaire father, in 1960’s London."

The series will not be a Gotham spinoff, but an entirely new story exploring Alfred's origins. Sean Pertwee, who plays Alfred Pennyworth on Fox's recently renewed Gotham, is not involved with the project.

Michael Wright, President of EPIX, stated, "As genuine fans of these classic DC characters, as well as the incredibly talented Bruno Heller and Danny Cannon, we couldn’t be more excited to make EPIX the home of this series. We can’t wait to work with Bruno and Danny—along with Peter Roth, Susan Rovner, Brett Paul and the team at Warner Horizon—on this fantastic origin story."

Heller and Cannon added, "Michael and his colleagues have created the perfect venue for original storytelling, and all of us working on Pennyworth are thrilled to be on the EPIX slate."

Created in 1943 by Don Cameron and Bob Kane, Alfred Pennyworth first appeared in Batman (vol.1) #16 as a retired actor and intelligence agent who followed the deathbed wish of his dying father Jarvis Pennyworth to carry on the tradition of serving the Wayne family. To that end, Alfred introduced himself to Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson at Wayne Manor and insisted on becoming their valet. Although the pair did not want one, especially since they did not want to jeopardize their secret identities with a servant in the house, they did not have the heart to reject Alfred.

Initially, Alfred discovered their identities by accident. While fighting a burglar in his first appearance, Alfred accidentally hit a switch and opened a sliding panel leading to the Batcave. He was helpful to the duo, following them to a theatre where they were captured, bound and gagged by a criminal gang, and rescued them after Batman attracted his attention by knocking a rope down before the crooks return. In 1957's Batman (vol.1) #110, this discovery was revised so that during his first night at Wayne Manor, Alfred awoke to moaning and followed the sound to the secret passage to the staircase leading to the Batcave and met his would-be employers in their superhero identities. As it turned out, the wounds were actually insignificant, but Alfred's care convinced the residents that their butler could be trusted. Since then, Alfred included the support staff duties for Batman and Robin on top of his regular tasks.

Alfred helped Bruce raise Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake, all of whom were adopted by Bruce Wayne and became his partner Robin.  He also had close friendships with other members of the Batman family including Barbara Gordon and Cassandra Cain. Alfred often acts as a father-figure to Bruce, and a grandfather to Dick, Jason, and Tim.  He is also highly respected by those heroes who are aware of his existence, including Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and the original Teen Titans.  Alfred has also been romantically linked to Dr. Leslie Thompkins, though his relationship with her never came to anything.  He also developed feelings for Tim Drake's stepmother, but again, nothing came of it.

In the current DC Comics continuity known as The New 52, it was revealed that Alfred's father Jarvis Pennyworth was the butler of the Wayne family before Alfred when Bruce was still a child.  Jarvis was blackmailed by the Court of Owls to set a trap for the pregnant Martha Wayne.  Despite declining, the Court managed to cause a car accident that caused the child to be born prematurely and eventually to have died.  Jarvis attempted to resign from his services and wrote a letter to his son in which he described the manor as a cursed place, and told Alfred that he should not begin his service under the Wayne family.  However, Jarvis was unable to send it after being murdered that night.

During the events of Batman: Eternal, Alfred was reunited with his long-absent daughter, Julia Pennyworth, an agent of the Special Reconnaissance Regiment.  Batman found her in Hong Kong and took her back to Wayne Manor for medical treatment after she was stabbed with a katana through the chest by a Chinese gang boss she was hunting.  Julia was initially hostile to Alfred, feeling that he had wasted his life going from a soldier to tending to a fop like Bruce Wayne.  After Alfred was attacked by Hush and infected with a fear toxin, she discovered the Batcave and took on her father's role to coordinate the Batman family's efforts against their enemies.

Pennyworth is expected to debut on EPIX sometime in 2019.

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