Harriet Cooper, best known simply as Aunt Harriet from the Batman television series, is a character that first appeared in the comic book Detective Comics #328 (June 1964).Created by writer Bill Finger and artist Sheldon Moldoff, the character is the maternal aunt of Bruce Wayne's ward, Dick Grayson.
Harriet Cooper had doted on her younger brother, John, and adored her nephew Dick. Tragically, however, Harriet's husband had been left an invalid after suffering a grave injury and Mrs. Cooper became the breadwinner for the household, working two jobs to make ends meet. Unable to care for Dick herself, the offer by Bruce Wayne to serve as the youngster's guardian seemed to be a godsend. Bruce, for his part, offered to provide Harriet with enough money to live a more comfortable life but the proud woman wouldn't hear of it. Fortunately, she never connected the generous checks related to Mr. Cooper's injuries with a certain Gotham millionaire. The death of her husband left Harriet Cooper at loose ends. She was no longer obligated to work two jobs to pay for medical treatments but the unexpected time on her hands and the emotional void in her life were taking their toll. It was around that time that she received tragic news from Gotham City: The death of Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred Pennyworth, who heroically died while shoving Batman and Robin out of the path of a falling boulder. Arriving on the scene within days of Alfred's death was Dick's Aunt Harriet, who announced her intention to take care of the boys in the manner to which they'd been accustomed and to live at Wayne Manor to oversee the household and help raise her nephew.. "You youngsters are so helpless you'll need someone to see to it that you take care of your health." While Bruce stammered, Dick could only grin. When Aunt Harriet made up her mind, there was no changing it.
Almost immediately, she began tumbling onto odd details in the Wayne household. Answering the phone at mealtime, Harriet heard nothing but "a peculiar buzz," a detail that alerted Dick to an incoming call on their "hot-line" from Commissioner Gordon. As her nephew rushed off, a disgusted Harriet wondered "why I bother cooking for you and Bruce. Neither of you eats enough to keep a bird alive".
Paranoid that Aunt Harriet might suspect the truth, Bruce began to read double meanings in the woman's comments to him and Dick. "I still can't shake the feeling that Aunt Harriet knows that we're secretly Batman and Robin. ... She seemed to insinuate something in her remarks".
The continuing telephone buzz and flashing lamps only heightened Harriet's suspicions. In March of 1966, she seemed to get the answers she was seeking. While cleaning the wall in Bruce's study, she unwittingly triggered the hidden panel that revealed the elevator to the Batcave. "But what's the Batcave doing under the Wayne Mansion -- unless -- unless Bruce and Dick are Batman and Robin! Oh, but that's ridic -- I mean, they couldn't be -- yet -- it WOULD explain -- "
Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the approaching Batmobile. She rushed back to the study, then paused. "Hold it, Hattie! Don't panic. You can't leave the car up here. Better send it down as it was originally -- or they'll suspect what I've found out."
The sound of the elevator setting down, combined with the lingering scent of Harriet's perfume, was enough to alert Batman and Robin and they immediately went into spin control. "She'll have to PROVE her suspicions first," Bruce asserted. "And we're going to make it tough on her by giving her plenty of room for DOUBT."
When Aunt Harriet inquired about the secret elevator that night, Bruce asked her to show it to him. The door opened to reveal a closet. ("A newly installed electronic remote-control device will still let US work the elevator -- but nobody else," thought Dick.) Harriet was undeterred. "The boys think they've fooled me, but I'll have the last laugh yet!"
The next few days became a battle of wits between "the boys" and Aunt Harriet. Outside the disguised Batcave entrance, Dick discovered that "she's coated our exit road with wet pitch. If we'd driven over it, she'd know which road we took and maybe find THIS entrance to the Batcave. I'll bet she's done the same thing to ALL the roads around the estate." Using a hydrofoil attachment, the Batmobile was slightly elevated off the ground by compressed air and glided right over the pitch. After they were a mile out, the Dynamic Duo dropped the car back onto the highway.
Batman and Robin's evening patrol brought them into contact with the latest villain to menace Gotham -- the Cluemaster. Secretly coating the Batmobile's tires with "a special chemical," the mastermind imagined he could trail the heroes back to the Batcave. He imagined without the tire tracks stopping abruptly in the middle of the highway. While the Cluemaster's gang wondered if the Dark Knight and his squire were "aliens from another world and the Batmobile is really a spaceship that suddenly took off," Batman and Robin took satisfaction in the fact that they'd outmaneuvered Aunt Harriet once again. If they only knew ...
The battle of wits continued when Bruce and Dick found a hidden camera trained on the elevator. Dick found a second one by the highway exit but, curiously, its film was fogged "by some radiation." Batman quickly deduced that the radiation must have come from the painting/clue that the Cluemaster had left after his latest heist. "That means the Cluemaster could use it to seek out the Batcave!"
Moving quickly, the Dynamic Duo established a secondary cave "some miles from Gotham City" and allowed the villain's gang to "discover" it. Trailing the thugs back to their own hideout, Batman and Robin brought the entire group to justice.
No less disgusted than the Cluemaster was Aunt Harriet, who developed her film the following morning to discover Batman and Robin stepping from the elevator to greet Bruce and Dick. Satisfied that he'd fooled her with the trick photography, Batman admitted that she'd averted disaster in the Cluemaster caper. "I suppose someday we'll tell Aunt Harriet the truth," predicted Robin, "just as we did with Alfred".
After Alfred returns from the dead in Detective Comics #356, a heartbroken Aunt Harriet was prepared to pack her bags and leave but Bruce and Dick insisted she stay. Alfred himself added "that I -- need you most of all -- since I'm not entirely well yet, and your cooking will speed my recovery."
"Oh, bless you all!" Harriet exclaimed. "I'll go and prepare a dinner to celebrate our reunion." Indeed, when Alfred was stricken with fatigue in March of 1967, Aunt Harriet was delighted to take over ("We must make sure you stay well, you know."), even rejecting Dick's offer to help with the dishes. "No, no! Goodness! It will give me something to do. Now you two just run along!"
A recurring health problem (mentioned in late 1967's Detective Comics # 371) blossomed into a full-scale crisis and Harriet was rushed to Gotham General for emergency surgery in early 1968.
Doctors used cryosurgery on Mrs. Cooper and, when the device failed, Batman and Robin made a desperate flight to retrieve Mister Freeze's cold gun and cannibalize it to save the woman's life.
She recovered at Wayne Manor, with Alfred now playing caretaker for her (appearing for the last time in [[Jimmy Olsen # 111 and Detective Comics # 380. Not wanting to be a burden and regarding herself as redundant alongside Alfred, Harriet moved out. She continued to stay in touch, though. Characteristic of her eclectic taste in art, she sent a unique housewarming gift when Bruce moved into his Wayne Foundation penthouse -- an Oriental gong.
Harriet had made her final appearance as an ongoing series character in Detective Comics #380 (1968). Harriet's last recorded visit with Dick, Bruce and Alfred was over the 1975 Christmas holidays in Batman Family #4.
Despite the longstanding legend that the character was created for the television series to reduce the potential for homosexual interpretations of the Wayne/Grayson relationship, the character had actually been created two years earlier for the comic book. Some details from the television series (her last name, her status as a widow) were added to the comic stories in Detective Comics #373.