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|First appearance|| Detective Comics #58 |
Story: "One of the Most Perfect Frame-Ups"
|Created by|| Bob Kane |
|Origin|| Secret Origins Special #1 |
Joker's Asylum: The Penguin #1
Countdown to Final Crisis #29
|True Identity||Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot|
|Affiliations|| Injustice League (Former) |
Various Gotham crime organizations
|Partner(s)||Joker (occasional); Catwoman (occasional)|
|Abilities|| Criminal genius |
Vast underworld connections
Assortment of weaponized umbrellas
Skilled with birds
The Penguin (Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot) is a fictional character, a comic book supervillain published by DC comics an an enemy of Batman. Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger (the same duo who created Batman and Joker), the character was introduced in Detective Comics #58.Penguin is the secondary antagonist of Batman series.
According to Bill Finger, inspiration for The Penguin came from the appearance of emperor penguins, whose plumage made them look as if they were dressed in tuxedos. Accordingly, The Penguin's iconic outfit is a gentleman's tuxedo, along with a top hat and monocle.
Bob Kane, on the other hand, claimed that the character was inspired by the advertisements for a brand of cigarettes called "Kools". The advertisements' mascot was a small penguin named Willie that would squawk "Smoke cooools!" in both print and radio ads, and accordingly, The Penguin is often depicted as smoking from a cigarette holder.
Beginning in the early nineties, the character began to move away from the life of a full-blown criminal that he had held for the last five decades or so, and instead became an underground "kingpin" type of criminal. Rather than be directly involved in crimes, The Penguin instead serves as an information broker and such while keeping up a respectable image as a legitimate businessman, running a nightclub known as the Iceberg Lounge.
Though he is hinted to be able to still convict Cobblepot of criminal charges if need be, Batman grudgingly tolerates the presence of the nightclub and Penguin's image, as he himself had come to the portly criminal on multiple occasions for information.
Fictional Character BiographyEdit
Born into a rich family as Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot, the boy who would later become The Penguin was mocked for his portly stature and beak-like nose (some stories even suggest that he was left out of the family inheritance because of his grotesque appearance). Socially ostracized, Oswald's only "friends" were his pet birds (at least one story states that his family owned a pet shop). As a result, he possesses a fascination with birds even as an adult.
The story "The Killing Peck" (Secret Origins Special #1) gives an origin for both Oswald's criminal name and his obsession with umbrellas. When he was little, he had an extremely overprotective mother, and when his father died from contracting pneumonia after being caught in a rainstorm, insisted that he carry an umbrella whenever he went outside. At school, young Oswald was tormented by a bully, who mocked him for his build and often called him "penguin" while beating him up.
The original Earth-1 (Silver Age) and Earth-2 (Golden Age) Penguins were little more than ordinary thieves who utilized weaponized umbrellas and trained birds in their robberies. Often, the target would be bird-related (like an egg made of solid gold), but just as often, the target would be ordinary cash.
The Penguin's first appearance depicted him as a sort of counterpart to Bruce Wayne - he, too, wore a mask of innocence and wealth in public, but at night, became a thief. The Penguin (unnamed at this point) soon joined a criminal racket, eventually killing its leader and becoming the boss himself. Under Penguin's watchful eye, the mob is able to commit more robberies than ever, and in order to throw off Batman, Penguin himself frames the Dark Knight, claiming him to be a criminal who had threatened him. In the end, Penguin's ultimate scheme - to steal from a diamond exchange - is foiled, but the crafty criminal is able to escape onto a passing train.
Cobblepot made continuing appearances throughout the Golden and Silver ages of comics, always giving trouble to the Dynamic Duo. Amongst his many crimes were a team-up with fellow master criminal Joker to steal the Van Landorpf Emerald - a team-up whose spirit would be kept alive to this very day in various cartoons and comics. 
Post-crisis, the New Earth Cobblepot would quickly assume the role of a white-collar criminal, supplying underworld information and assisting in fencing illegal goods. During the events of the storyline "No Man's Land", for example, he runs an operation that smuggles food, water, and other basic necessities into the earthquake-torn Gotham, declared to be abandoned by the United States government.
During "One Year Later", a storyline which depicts the DC Universe one year after the events of Infinite Crisis, The Penguin leaves Gotham for a while, causing rival crime bosses Warren White (AKA The Great White Shark) and the Tally Man to murder several of his associates in a bid to weaken his grip on the Gotham underworld. Upon his return, Penguin claims to have no hand in this, and continues to run the Iceberg Lounge.
The limited series Gotham Underground features Penguin prominently, embroiled in a gang war with Tobias Whale and Intergang. In the end, he is "saved" from being executed by Intergang by Batman, who "convinces" him to become a snitch for him. When Batman "dies" in the wake of Final Crisis, however, Penguin loses his esteemed position.
Powers and AbilitiesEdit
The Penguin is a normal human criminal, with no superhuman abilities to speak of. He is, however, an ingenious criminal mastermind, and unlike many of Batman's enemies, is perfectly sane and in control of his actions. This makes him extremely hard to catch, especially given his current "legitimate businessman" image.
Secret Origins Special #1 has one of his former henchmen describing his affinity with birds to a Gotham TV crew. With little to no effort, he was able to train them to carry out his bidding, almost as if he were communicating with them.
While the character's flabby build has often hampered his hand-to-hand combat abilities, one story did indeed depict him taking lessons in boxing and judo in his youth in order to ward off a bully. After his training was complete, he was able to punch out the bully's teeth in a fight.
Ever since his initial appearance, the character has carried around a variety of "trick umbrellas", designed to assist him in his robberies. Most commonly, the umbrella would have a built-in machine gun, spewing out bullets through the ferrule. On other occasions, the ferrule had a built-in blade for close combat and/or lock-picking. On still other occasions, the umbrella acted not at all as a weapon, but as a getaway "vehicle", concealing a jet engine or a helicopter rotor in the ferrule.
Besides his umbrellas, The Penguin also utilizes many other weapons, cleverly concealed on his person. His top hat may conceal small caliber handguns, while his wingtip shoes may have retractable blades built into them. Even his monocle, on some occasions, may have a built-in laser.
The Penguin fancies himself as a "gentleman of crime", and much like the Riddler, tries to stay away from needless bloodshed. While his actions are often nothing short of illegal, he often puts on a pompous, polite act to set himself apart from the rest of Gotham's criminals. Eccentric as he may be, Cobblepot is much more rational than the likes of Joker or Two-Face, interested in nothing but personal gain and his own survival.
According to the widow of the late Bill Finger, co-creator of The Penguin, Finger and Kane had intended for the character to be a parody of Batman's "rich bachelor" image as Bruce Wayne.
Later adaptations have expanded upon the effects of The Penguin's grotesque appearance on his mind and personality as well. He is hinted to harbor a bitterness at society in general, as he was often mocked for his build. His "evolution" into a white-collar criminal is suggested to be his revenge against his tormentors, as he is now head-and-shoulders above them in terms of both wealth and position. This bitterness is expanded upon in Joker's Asylum #2, in which he is also depicted as vengeful to a fault, and extremely sensitive towards people laughing at him.
Relationship with the JokerEdit
The idea of The Penguin and The Joker as a team is one that is decades old, as the two villains, pop culture-wise, are arguably Batman's two most famous enemies. Their first meeting took place fairly early, in "Knights of Knavery" (Batman #25), where they engage in a competition to see who is the better criminal. After realizing how well they work as a team, the two decide to join forces, and in doing so, prove to be unstoppable, even defeating Batman. The Caped Crusader is only able to escape by stroking the two criminals' egos, turning them against each other.
Since then, the two have had a variety of team-ups throughout the Golden and Silver ages, such as in Brave and the Bold #68, where they, along with Riddler, turn Batman into a monster called Metamorpho.
In some stories, such as Detective Comics #473 and "No Man's Land", The Penguin has displayed animosity and fear toward The Joker due to his chaotic, homicidal nature. In others, such as "Only Angels Have Wings (Brave and the Bold #191), however, he is brave enough to fake his own murder at the hands of Joker. When The Joker discovers this, he flies into a rage and attempts to murder Cobblepot for real.
1966 Television SeriesEdit
Portrayed by Burgess Meredith in the popular sixties TV show, it was through this series that The Penguin finally rose from obscurity. It was Meredith who gave the character the squawking laugh that he is best known for today, often used on satirical shows such as The Daily Show to mock politicians such as Dick Cheney.
Much like the rest of the cast, this version of The Penguin was an over-the-top, hammy interpretation. He was often portrayed as tech-savvy, carrying a host of gadgets in his umbrellas such as tracking devices and knockout gas nozzles. In addition, he was also much more amiable with his fellow rogues, which may stem from the fact that his jail cell is in the "Supervillain" section of prison, right next to that of Joker's, Riddler's, Catwoman's, Egghead's, and King Tut's.
The Penguin was the main antagonist of the 1992 film Batman Returns, the second entry of the Burton-Shumacher Batman film series. Here, he is portrayed by actor Danny DeVito, and is vastly different from his comics counterpart. Burton re-imagined the character as a "sewer mutant", so to speak, flushed down the toilet by his parents when they realized that they had given birth to a deformed child.
More than thirty years later, Cobblepot returns to civilization, having been the entire time raised by a colony of penguins in the city zoo (where the sewer pipe lead to). Using his backstory to gain sympathy from the people of Gotham, Penguin (a name that Cobblepot adopted for himself) attempts to run for mayor, endorsed by corrupt businessman Max Shreck. Though he comes close to securing the election (mainly by framing Batman for being a criminal), Cobblepot is ultimately foiled, and in vengeance, carries out an operation to kill every firstborn child Gotham, as well as utterly annihilate the city.
With an army of rocket launched-toting penguins behind him, Penguin almost succeeds in his plot, but is ultimately foiled by the combined efforts of Batman and Catwoman. In the ensuing fight, Penguin is grievously injured, and finally dies when he accidentally swallows water polluted from toxic waste in the sewers. As he collapses, an "honor guard" of penguins drag his corpse into the water, as his "final resting place".
This version of The Penguin was often criticized for his inhuman appearance, specifically his fused-together fingers and ghoulish-looking face (in addition, a strange, bile-like liquid often flows from his mouth without explanation). His behavior is also much more animalistic, to the point where he proclaims himself as not a human, but as a cold-blooded animal.
Due to copyright conflicts with Filmation and their various Batman cartoons, The Penguin only appeared in the final incarnation of Super Friends, entitled The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians. His only appearance was in the episode "The Case of the Stolen Powers", where he is depicted as sharing a jail cell with the sorcerer Felix Faust. When Faust attempts a ritual that will transfer Superman's powers onto himself, Penguin leaps into the way, allowing him to get Superman's powers instead. With his new-found abilities, Penguin wreaks havoc all over Metropolis, only being stopped when a combination of efforts on both Faust's and the Super Powers Team's parts returns Superman's powers.
DC Animated UniverseEdit
Batman: The Animated SeriesEdit
Voiced by Paul Williams in the critically-acclaimed 1990s cartoon, The Penguin's physical appearance was largely similar to the one portrayed in Batman Returns, due to the close relation in time between their premiers. His personality, however, returned to the "gentleman of crime" portrayed in comics, saddled with a vaguely British accent and a rather lofty personality.
Much like in the earlier comics, Cobblepot would often attempt to steal bird-themed valuables (in his first appearance, his target was a Fabergé egg), aided by trained birds and his "trick" umbrellas. The episode "Birds of a Feather", however, departs from this pattern, and instead depicts him genuinely attempting to reform, only to fly into a rage when he learns that his love interest is only using him as a publicity stunt. As a result, he kidnapped her and held her for ransom, only to be swiftly beaten by Batman.
The Penguin would encounter Batman many times over his criminal career, once sabotaging the Batmobile by blackmailing its mechanic, Earl Cooper, and attempting to use it to kill Batman and Robin. On another occasion, he stole a newly-developed WayneTech helicopter armed with sonic weaponry, and nearly prevailed over a recently-blinded Batman.
The New Batman AdventuresEdit
When Batman: The Animated Series became The New Batman Adventures, The Penguin underwent one of the most drastic re-designs. His bulky build and flipper-like fingers disappeared almost entirely, leaving an ordinary, average-sized (if a bit chubby) human with a long, beak-like nose. Paul Williams returned to his role as "The Master of Fowl Play" for the show's 22-episode run.
Along with his revamped appearance, The Penguin received a new modus operandi. Much like in the comics of the 90s and 00s, he no longer involved himself in out-and-out criminal activity, but instead worked behind the scenes as an underworld informant and overseer. Much like in the comics, he now possessed the image of a legitimate businessman, running a nightclub by the name of the Iceberg Lounge. Though he claims to have reformed, Cobblepot continued to rub shoulders with those on the wrong side of the law, such as the daredevil thief Roxy Rocket, his "old friend", Joker, and of course, Batman (who often "persuades" him to give up valuable nuggets of information).
It was only in the 2003 film Mystery of the Batwoman that Cobblepot (now voiced by David Ogden Stiers) paid penance for his crimes. Collaborating with fellow crime bosses Rupert Thorne and Carlton Duquesne, he planned to smuggle high-tech experimental weapons into Kazania for raw profit. The arrival of the mysterious vigilante Batwoman, however, soon began to derail his plans. Despite having the super-strong assassin Bane on his side, Penguin was ultimately defeated and sent to Stonegate Penitentiary.
The 2005 animated series The Batman provides an extremely original version of The Penguin (voiced by Tom Kenny), distinct from every other incarnation. Here, he once again possesses his squat, overweight build and flipper-like hands, as well as a mouthful of inhuman, blade-like teeth. His high-society background is expanded upon as well - in particular, the Cobblepots were mentioned as having Alfred's grandfather as their butler (whom they abused at every opportunity), and "Ozzy", instead of having been left out of the inheritance, had squandered all of it instead, hence his criminal activities.
In addition to owning dozens of trained birds and a variety of high-tech umbrellas, this version of The Penguin has two ninja-like women known as the Kabuki Twins who serve as his henchwomen. He is portrayed as being very agile and a master of martial arts, in stark contrast to just about every other incarnation of the character. Also notable is the fact that this version of The Penguin is crude, obnoxious, and loud - practically everything but a "gentleman of crime". This is reflected in his relationship with The Batman's version of The Joker - while the two are often on amiable terms in most media, they are presented as bitter rivals in crime here.