Who’s the Most Important Member of the Batman Family?


One of the best attributes of Batman as a character is his extended family. From Nightwing, to Alfred, to Robin, his cast of supporting characters is rich and deep. They help make up who and what he is. I say that not just because, as supporting characters, they allow writers and reader explore his affect on others, but because they, themselves, are fully realized entities. Each has a unique motivation with nearly tangible personalities. Instead of simply being reactionary to Batman, each and every one of them seem equally as real. That fact boosts Bats up beyond the temporary restraint of plot devices and makes his tale an enduring one.

That having been said, each plays an important role in the Story of Batman. So which one of them would bring about the biggest impact on the saga were they to disappear? No disrespect to characters like Stephanie Brown or Cassandra Cain, but I’m going to focus on a core of characters that have had a lengthier, more serious impact on Bruce Wayne’s ongoing existence.

Alfred Pennyworth

Alfred is Bruce Wayne’s guardian in every sense of the word. He raised a young, angry child from the moment of Thomas and Martha’s death to the moment he donned the cape and cowl. He serves as Bruce’s moral compass, supporting a quest he feels is ultimately self destructive, knowing that without him Batman would spiral out of control. Alfred’s mentoring is one of the few things that keeps Bruce from falling into a pit of furious vengeance. He also serves to maintain Batman’s human side in the form of Wayne Manor. Without that, “Bruce Wayne” would likely cease to exist.

Dick Grayson

Dick is the first and longest tenured Robin. Other than Alfred, he has the most intimate knowledge of what makes Batman tick. Steadfast and loyal, though not unwilling to challenge Bruce if he steps out of line. Dick is also the first in a long line of people effected by similar tragedies that have been drawn into Batman’s psychosis. The Robin mantle seems to serve as a strange stabilizing force for the Batman entity. Bruce  took Grayson under his tutelage on one level to make up for his own childhood tragedy- so that another child wouldn’t have to suffer the same painful path- but on another guiding him on a similar road so that he feels justified in his own choice of lifestyle. It’s doubtful that Dick really had much say in the matter. Once he got older, the differences between the two grew and Grayson went out on his own as Nightwing. There seemed to be an implied resentment toward Batman for leading him in that direction, but he lived out a similar career none the less. Nightwing became an honorable crimefighter himself, even becoming Batman after Bruce’s (brief) demise.

Tim Drake

Tim was the third boy to call himself Robin. After the tragedy of Jason Todd’s death, it was surprising that Bruce would put another person in harm’s way. The fact that it happened anyway reinforced Batman’s apparent need to control the child he never was. Their dynamic was admittedly different, mostly due to the aforementioned Todd incident. Early on, he wouldn’t allow Drake the same leeway and autonomy that the previous two Robins enjoyed and he also eventually struck out on his own. Tim was a constant reminder of where Batman’s choices lead him and the people he effected. The major difference being that the third Robin wasn’t an orphan, having only lost his mother (at first). Perhaps this made Bruce feel less responsible for what happened to the boy.

Jim Gordon

Jim Gordon is the only honest cop in Gotham. He also knows that to circumvent the failed system of the city and allow Batman to mete out vigilante justice is the only way to bring law and order to the masses. Without Gordon as an ally, Bruce would likely find his job much more difficult. He’d be fighting battles on every front, instead of along side the police force.  Jim Gordon is also the closest thing Wayne has to a friend.

Lucius Fox

Fox serves in a similar role to Alfred, but instead of being the steward of Wayne Manor, he watches over the many businesses and philanthropic efforts of the Wayne family businesses. The reason he may not be quite as important is mostly due to his relatively short lived existence as a character. Though he did exist before Morgan Freeman’s pivotal character in Christopher Nolan’s movie trilogy, and has been around much longer than Tim Drake, his importance in the overall saga has been spotty.

Which of these would hamper Bruce Wayne’s efforts the most were they no longer to exist? I admit that it’s a tough call between Alfred and Nightwing. Dick Grayson is a living monument to Batman’s failings AND his greatest strengths, keeping him honest about both. Alfred, on the other hand, is the sole reason Bruce Wayne doesn’t fade out of memory, causing Batman to follow any number of darker paths. That alone I think gives him a slight but definitive edge. Without Alfred to keep things together, the Batman we know and love would fall to pieces.