Penguin (comics)

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"The Penguin" redirects here. For other uses, see Penguin (disambiguation).
The Penguin
PenguinBatman.png
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
First appearance Detective Comics #58 (December 1941)
Created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane
In-story information
Alter ego Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot
Team affiliations Injustice League
Iceberg Lounge
Suicide Squad
The Society
Super Foes
Notable aliases "The Gentleman Of Crime"
Abilities
  • Criminal mastermind
  • Utilizes weaponized umbrellas and bird-related equipment

The Penguin (Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot) is a fictional supervillain appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics, commonly as an adversary of the superhero Batman. Artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger introduced the character in Detective Comics #58 (December 1941). The Penguin is one of Batman's most enduring enemies and belongs to the collective of adversaries that make up Batman's rogues gallery.

The Penguin is depicted as being a short, portly man who uses specialized, high-tech umbrellas as weapons. A mobster and thief, he fancies himself as being a "gentleman of crime". The Penguin runs a nightclub called Iceberg Lounge, which provides a cover for criminal activity, and Batman sometimes uses the nightclub as a source of criminal underworld information. According to Kane, the character was inspired from the then advertising mascot of Kool cigarettes – a penguin with a top hat and cane. Finger thought the image of high-society gentlemen in tuxedos was reminiscent of emperor penguins.[1]

Burgess Meredith portrayed the Penguin in the 1960s Batman television series and its movie. Danny DeVito played a darker, more grotesque version in the 1992 film Batman Returns. Subsequent Batman animated series featured him in depictions that alternated between deformed outcast and high-profile aristocrat, or a blend of the two. Robin Lord Taylor currently portrays a young Penguin in the television series Gotham. The Penguin has repeatedly been named one of the best Batman villains, and one of the greatest villains in comics[2][3][4][5][6] and, paradoxically, has also been described by others as among the least convincing.[7][8] Penguin was ranked #51 in IGN's list of the Top 100 Comic Book Villains of All Time.[9]

Fictional character biography[edit]

Born Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot, the Penguin was bullied as a child for his short stature, weight, and beak-like nose. Several stories relate that he was forced, as a child, always to carry an umbrella by his overprotective mother due to his father's death from pneumonia after a drenching. His mother owned pet birds that Cobblepot lavished with attention, and served as his only friends growing up. His love for birds would eventually lead him to obtain an ornithology major in college. In some versions, Cobblepot turns to crime after his mother dies and the birds are repossessed to pay his mother's debts.[10] In others, he is an outcast in his high-society family and their rejection drives him to become a criminal. In keeping with his origins, the Penguin pursues his criminal career with class: He prefers formal wear such as a top hat, monocle, and tuxedo, especially of the "white-tie-and-tails" design. He is criminally brilliant and psychologically sane. He has a brain power that could possibly outwit some of the smarter men in existence. Teamed with his understanding of betrayal and loyalty; Penguin is a tough and unbeatable opponent in the organised crime world.

Pre-Crisis[edit]

Originally known only by his alias, the Penguin first appeared in Gotham City as a skilled thief, sneaking a priceless painting out of the museum by hiding the rolled-up canvas in the handle of his umbrella. The Penguin later used the canvas as proof of his intellect to a local mob, which he was then allowed to join. With the Penguin's help, the mob pulled off a string of ingenious heists, but the mob's leader and the "be-monocled bird" eventually fell out, leading Cobblepot to kill him with his umbrella gun. The Penguin became leader of the mob and attempted to neutralize Batman by framing him for theft. The Penguin's plans were eventually thwarted, but the bandit himself escaped.[11]

The Penguin was a persistent nemesis for Batman and Robin throughout the Golden and Silver Ages, pulling off ploy after ploy, such as teaming up with The Joker,[12] attempting to extort money from a shipping company by pretending to flash-freeze a member of its board of directors,[13] and participating in Hugo Strange's auction of Batman's secret identity.[14]

The Penguin made his last appearance during the last appearance of the Earth-One Batman. After he and a multitude of Batman's enemies are broken out of Arkham Asylum and Gotham State Penitentiary by Ra's al Ghul, the Penguin carries out Ra's' plans to kidnap Batman's friends and allies. The Penguin, along with the Joker, the Mad Hatter, Cavalier, Deadshot and Killer Moth, lay siege to Gotham City Police Headquarters, but are infuriated when the Joker sabotages their attempt at holding Commissioner James Gordon for ransom. A standoff ensues, with the Joker on one side and the Penguin and the Mad Hatter on the other. The Joker quickly subdues both with a burst of laughing gas from one of his many gadgets.[15]

Post-Crisis[edit]

Following the Crisis rebooting the history of the DC Universe, the Penguin was relegated to sporadic appearances, until writer Alan Grant (who had earlier penned the Penguin origin story "The Killing Peck") and artist Norm Breyfogle brought him back, deadlier than ever. During the era of Tim Drake as Robin, the Penguin forms a brief partnership with hypnotist Mortimer Kadaver, who helps him fake his own death as a ploy to strike an unsuspecting Gotham. The Penguin later kills Kadaver, after plugging his own ears with toilet paper so that the hypnotist no longer has power over him.[16]

After Batman foils this particular endeavor, the Penguin embarks on one of his grandest schemes in the three-part story "The Penguin Affair". Finding Harold Allnut being tormented by two gang members, the Penguin takes in the technologically gifted hunchback, showing him kindness in exchange for services. Harold builds a gadget that allows the Penguin to control flocks of birds from miles away, which the Penguin utilizes to destroy radio communications in Gotham and crash a passenger plane. This endeavor, too, is foiled by Batman, who hires Harold as his mechanic.

The Penguin resurfaces during Jean Paul Valley's tenure as Batman, and is one of the few to deduce that Valley is not the original Caped Crusader. To confirm his theory, he kidnaps Sarah Essen Gordon, places her in a death-trap set to go off at midnight, and turns himself in, utilizing the opportunity to mock her husband Commissioner Gordon as midnight approaches. An increasingly infuriated Gordon is nearly driven to throw him off the police headquarters roof before Valley rescues Sarah moments before midnight. As Valley leaves, he says, "There's nothing the Penguin can throw at me that I haven't encountered before." The Penguin reluctantly agrees with this sentiment, accepting that he has become passé.[17]

Subsequently, the Penguin turns his attentions to a new modus operandi, operating behind the front of a legitimate restaurant and casino he calls "The Iceberg Lounge".[18] Though he is arrested for criminal activities several times during the course of his "reform", he always manages to secure a release from prison thanks to his high-priced lawyers.

In the storyline "No Man's Land", Gotham City is nearly leveled by an earthquake. The Penguin stays behind when the US government blockades the city. He becomes one of the major players in the lawless city, using his connections to profit by trading the money that nobody else in Gotham could use for goods through his contacts outside the city. One of these connections is discovered to be Lex Luthor and his company, LexCorp. Penguin's information helps Luthor to gain control of Gotham's property records, but Luthor dismisses him when Penguin attempts to blackmail Luthor regarding their collaboration, Luthor's men shooting Penguin's henchmen as Luthor informs the Penguin not to threaten him again.

The Penguin, as seen in Batman #287 (May 1977). Art by Mike Grell.

The Penguin is swept up in the events of Infinite Crisis. In the seventh issue, he is briefly seen as part of the Battle of Metropolis, a multi-character brawl started by the Secret Society of Super Villains. The Penguin, along with several other villains, is bowled over at the surprise appearance of Bart Allen.

One Year Later, while the Penguin is away from Gotham City, the Great White Shark and Tally Man kill many of the villains who had worked for him, and frame the reformed Harvey Dent. Great White had planned to take over Gotham's criminal syndicate and eliminate the competition, the Penguin included. Upon his return to Gotham, the Penguin continues to claim that he has gone straight, and reopens the Iceberg, selling overpriced Penguin merchandise. He urges the Riddler to avoid crime, as their new shady but legal lifestyle is more lucrative.

The Penguin was featured as a prominent figure in the Gotham Underground tie-in to the series Countdown. He fights a gang war against Tobias Whale and Intergang while supposedly running an "underground railroad" for criminals. As the Penguin conducts his affairs, Two-Face enters the club and demands to be part of his underground railroad project. The Penguin brings him into a meeting with several of Gotham's most notorious villains, including Hugo Strange, Scarecrow, and Mad Hatter. Batman, in the disguise of Matches Malone, spies on the meeting from within a darkened alcove. The Suicide Squad bursts into the room and attacks the assemblage of villains.[19] It is revealed that the Penguin is involved with the Suicide Squad, and that he had set up the other villains to gain the favor of the Squad.[20] The Penguin negotiates with Tobias Whale.[21] The Penguin and Spoiler had assembled gangs like the Bat Killers, who were based on Batman's enemies; the Dead End Boys, based on the Suicide Squad; the Femme Fatales, based on female villains; the Five Points Gang, based on the Fearsome Five; the L.O.D., based on the Legion of Doom to which the Penguin himself had once belonged; and the New Rogues, based on the Rogues.[22] The Penguin and Whale fight, and Robin, the Huntress, Batgirl, and the fourth Wildcat get involved. When the Penguin gets the upper hand, Whale reluctantly calls a truce so that they can stop Johnny Stitches and Intergang.[23] Johnny Stitches provides proof that he has killed Riddler and Mr. Jessup, drives a wedge between Penguin and Whale, and undermines Penguin's strength by threatening the lives of his henchmen's families. He orders Penguin to leave the city in 24 hours.[24] Intergang attacks the Iceberg Lounge, but is foiled by Batman. Batman insists that the Penguin pay for the rescue of his nightclub by becoming his informant.[25]

The Penguin later loses Batman's support after the latter's mysterious disappearance and Intergang's exploitation of the return of the Apokoliptan Gods. He appears in Battle for the Cowl: The Underground, which depicts the effects of Batman's disappearance on his enemies.

The Penguin's mob is absorbed by Black Mask II, who controls his criminal activities. The Penguin, with the aid of the Mad Hatter, abducts Batman and brainwashes him to assassinate Black Mask.

During the events of Brightest Day, the Birds of Prey discover the Penguin beaten and stabbed at the feet of the White Canary.[26] The Birds rescue him and flee to the Iceberg. While recovering, the Penguin expresses his attraction to Dove.[27] Eventually, the Penguin reveals that his injury had been a ruse, and that he is working with the White Canary in exchange for valuable computer files on the superhero community. He betrays the Birds and seriously injures both Lady Blackhawk and Hawk before the Huntress defeats him.[28] The Huntress tapes him up with the intention of taking him with her, only to be informed by Oracle that she has to let him go due to a police manhunt for the Birds. The Huntress considers killing him with her crossbow, but ultimately leaves him bound and gagged in an alley with the promise that she would exact her vengeance on him later.[29]

The Penguin is eventually attacked by the Secret Six, who kill many of his guards in an ambush at his mansion. Bane informs him that he needs information on Batman's partners, as he plans on killing Red Robin, Batgirl, Catwoman, and Azrael.[30] The Penguin soon betrays the team's location, which results in the Justice League, the Teen Titans, the Birds of Prey, the Justice Society, and various other heroes hunting down and capturing the criminals.[31]

Around this time, a new super-villain, who called himself the Architect, plants a bomb in the Iceberg Lounge as revenge for crimes committed by the Penguin's ancestor. Though Blackbat and Robin are able to evacuate the building, the Lounge is destroyed in the ensuing explosion.[32]

The New 52[edit]

In The New 52 (a reboot of the DC Comics universe), the Penguin is a client of a criminal named Raju who was sent to offer gold to Dollmaker for Batman's release.[33] While in his Iceberg Casino, the Penguin views a disguised Charlotte Rivers on his surveillance cameras and he tells his henchwoman Lark to make sure Rivers gets "a story to die for".[34] During the Death of the Family crossover, the Penguin puts his right-hand man Ignatius Ogilvy in charge of his operations in his temporary absence. Ogilvy, however, uses the Penguin's absence to declare him dead, taking over his gang and killing those loyal to him. Under the alias of Emperor Penguin,[35] Ogilvy takes over the Penguin's operations. Upon the Joker's defeat, Batman unsuccessfully attempts to imprison the Penguin in Blackgate Penitentiary only to be forced to release him later. Upon learning of Ogilvy's betrayal, the Penguin attacks his former henchman's new empire, but Batman intervenes and arrests him. The Penguin is found not guilty, however, thanks to the machinations of his ally Mr. Combustible. Meanwhile, Ogilvy releases Kirk Langstrom's Man-Bat serum on Gotham City, turning many of the citizens into the creatures. Langstrom discovers a cure, returning the citizens to normal. Ogilvy then takes the serum himself, along with additions made by Poison Ivy. Emperor Penguin then challenges Batman openly to a fight, defeating the masked vigilante with his newfound prowess, and leaving him to be rescued by the Penguin. The pair forge a temporary alliance, and defeat Ogilvy.[36]

The Penguin also played a role in Black Canary's rebooted origin. In Birds of Prey vol. 4 #0, Dinah sought to land a job at Iceberg Lounge, knowing that a lead on the Basilisk organization which she was pursuing would soon spring up there. Unfortunately, the Penguin was not in the habit of taking job applications, so she decided to prove her worth by infiltrating the outfit by herself. When she arrived in the Penguin's bathroom, he was unimpressed. To prove her worth, she demonstrated her special ability: a sonic scream that could shake down the roof, if it were intense enough. Naturally the scream alerted Penguin's henchmen, and she made short work of them with her martial arts skills. Finally impressed, Penguin hired her, and dubbed her Black Canary in keeping with the ornithological theme.

During the Forever Evil storyline, Penguin is among the villains recruited by the Crime Syndicate of America to join the Secret Society of Super Villains.[37] With the heroes gone, Penguin becomes the Mayor of Gotham City and divides the different territories amongst the inmates of Arkham Asylum.[38] Bane retrieves Ignatius Ogilvy (now calling himself Emperor Blackgate) for the Penguin as part of their agreement. When he brings him to the Penguin, he tells Emperor Penguin that the Arkham fighters are not scared of Bane as he does not instill fear as Batman did.[39]

Characterization[edit]

Skills and abilities[edit]

The Penguin is a master criminal and occasional engineer who uses his genius-level intellect to gain money and power through criminal means. The Penguin's wealth gives him access to better resources than most other Batman villains and his life as a millionaire gives him superior knowledge of the backgrounds of celebrities and politicians, especially those he plans to target in his future crimes. He is also capable of returning to his luxurious lifestyle very easily despite his violent criminal history and prison record. He has even attempted multiple times to enter the political world, even launching expensive election campaigns. The Penguin also has strong connections with other criminal kingpins across Gotham, allowing him to hire their assassins and workers or to spy on them easily. The Penguin relies on cunning, wit, and intimidation to exploit his surroundings for profit, and he is normally depicted as being more rational and sane than other Batman villains, or at least relatively so.

Although he often delegates the dirty work to his henchmen, he is not above taking aggressive and lethal actions on his own, especially when provoked. In spite of his appearance, he is a dangerous hand-to-hand combatant with enough self-taught skills in judo and bare-knuckle boxing to overwhelm attackers many times his size and physical bearing. The Penguin is usually portrayed as a capable physical combatant when he feels the situation calls for it, but his level of skill varies widely depending on the author; the character has been written both as a physical match for Batman and as someone the masked vigilante is capable of defeating with a solid punch. His crimes often revolve around stealing valuable bird-related items, and his car and other vehicles often have an avian theme.

Equipment[edit]

The Penguin utilizes an assortment of umbrellas, particularly the Bulgarian umbrella. These usually contain weapons such as machine guns, sword tips, missiles, lasers, flamethrowers, and acid or poison gas spraying devices fired from the ferrule. (However, the Penguin is able to weaponize his umbrellas in an almost unlimited variety of ways.) Depending on the writer, some of his umbrellas can carry multiple weapons at once. He often carries an umbrella that can transform its canopy into a series of spinning blades: this can be used as a miniature helicopter or as an offensive weapon; he often uses this to escape a threatening situation. The canopy of the umbrella is sometimes depicted as being a bullet resistance shield, and some are patterned in different ways from a spiral capable of hypnotizing opponents to flashy signs. He can also call upon his flying birds to attack and confuse his enemies on battle.[40]

Relationships[edit]

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". Since then, the two have teamed up countless times throughout the Golden and Silver ages. This carried over into television as well; both appeared together as a team numerous times. They have a very strong friendship with each other; the Penguin has always referred to the Joker as a very close friend and best friend of his, which the Joker has said the same for the Penguin. They have even shown affection towards each other on more than one occasion. One time, the Joker actually cried when he thought the Penguin was murdered, and the Joker wanted to avenge the Penguin's death.[41][42]

Other versions[edit]

Joker[edit]

The Penguin (referred to mockingly as "Abner"[43] by the Joker) appeared in Joker, a graphic novel by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo. This incarnation operates the Iceberg Lounge, handles most of Joker's personal investments, and deals with revenues from boxing matches.

Elseworlds[edit]

In the Elseworlds story Batman: Crimson Mist, the third part in a trilogy that turned Batman into a vampire, the Penguin is the first of many criminals to be killed by the vampiric Batman after he surrenders to his darker instincts. Batman brutally tears the Penguin's throat out as he drinks his blood and subsequently decapitates his enemy to ensure that he cannot return as a vampire.

In The Doom That Came to Gotham, an Elseworlds setting based on the works of H. P. Lovecraft, Bruce Wayne is the leader of an expedition to Antarctica of which there is only one survivor. The rescue team finds no trace of him, but it is revealed to the reader that the now half-mad Cobblepot has abandoned his humanity, and joined the albino penguins of the Elder Things city.

Flashpoint[edit]

In the alternate timeline of Flashpoint, Oswald Cobblepot works as the security chief of Wayne Casinos, providing information about his clients and the criminal underworld to that universe's Batman, Thomas Wayne.[44]

Earth One[edit]

In Batman: Earth One by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, Oswald Cobblepot is the corrupt mayor of Gotham City. He attempts to have Thomas Wayne, the opposing mayoral candidate, killed, but his plan fails. Wayne, along with his wife, are instead killed in a random mugging on election night. Cobblepot runs Gotham with an iron fist, controlling all the power centers of the city and using a hired killer named "Birthday Boy". He almost kills Batman with his umbrella (which conceals a blade) once he discovers Batman's secret identity, but Alfred Pennyworth shoots and kills him just in time. It is also implied that Cobblepot had James Gordon's wife murdered when the detective got too close to finding out Cobblepot's involvement with the Waynes' murder. He tries to do the same thing to Gordon's daughter Barbara by "sending" her to Birthday Boy, but she is saved by Batman, Gordon, and Harvey Bullock.[45]

Tales of the Batman[edit]

In the short story "Vulture: A Tale of the Penguin", by Steve Rasnic,[46] the Penguin becomes a vigilante, calling himself The Vulture.

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles[edit]

In the Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossover, Penguin is first seen at the docks with the Shredder, selling him a WayneTech Resonance Engine, but Shredder betrays him and reveals he's already taken care of most of his men and plans on taking the engine himself. Shredder is then about to kill Penguin, but Penguin offers to provide him weapons and money for his plan in order to save himself. Shredder decides to spare Penguin, calling him "Bird Man." Shredder then uses the Iceberg Lounge as his base, where Penguin has engineers working on the resonance engine to power his machine. Shredder then reveals that he plans on bringing an army through the dimensional portal and take over Gotham City. Penguin objects, but Shredder threatens to kill him and tells him that he belongs to the Foot Clan. As Shredder gets ready to open the portal, Batman and the Ninja Turtles arrive to stop them, but Shredder destroys the portal and escapes with Ra's al Ghul. During the battle, Penguin escapes as well. Penguin then visits Batman, the Ninja Turtles, and Commissioner Gordon and tells them about Shredder's plans, betraying him. Penguin though doesn't agree with Shredder's plans and reveals that Shredder and the Foot Clan are now working with Ra's al Ghul and the League of Assassins. Later, Robin and Casey Jones reveal that the League and the Foot are using Arkham Asylum as their base. When Batman and Robin arrive, they're greeted by Penguin, who's been mutated into a mutant penguin as punishment for betraying Shredder, along with The Joker, Two-Face, Riddler, Harley Quinn, Mr. Freeze, Mad Hatter, Bane, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, and Ventriloquist, who have all been mutated into mutant animals and attack Batman and Robin. Batman is captured, but Robin manages to escape. The Ninja Turtles and Splinter then arrive, where Splinter defeats the mutated villains, while Batman uses his new Intimidator Armor to defeat Shredder and the Turtles defeat Ra's. Later, Gordon tells Batman that the police scientists have managed to turn all of the inmates at Arkham back to normal and are currently in A.R.G.U.S. custody.

In other media[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Enemies List". Comics 101. January 14, 2004. Retrieved December 25, 2010. 
  2. ^ Top 10 Greatest Batman Villains, WatchMojo.
  3. ^ 75 Greatest Friends and Foes of Batman.
  4. ^ The 5 Greatest Batman Villains Ever.
  5. ^ Batman's Ultimate Villains, IGN.
  6. ^ Batman 75 Years: The Top 10 Batman Villains of All-Time.
  7. ^ Goldstein, Hilary (June 3, 2005). "IGN Best and Worst Batman villains". Au.comics.ign.com. Retrieved December 25, 2010. 
  8. ^ "Top Tenz Lamest Batman villains". Toptenz.net. Retrieved December 25, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Top 100 Comic Book Villains, IGN". IGN. Retrieved 28 July 2015. 
  10. ^ As first revealed in Best of DC #10 (March 1981)
  11. ^ Detective Comics#58
  12. ^ Batman #25
  13. ^ Detective Comics #99
  14. ^ Detective Comics #472
  15. ^ Batman #400
  16. ^ Detective Comics #610-611
  17. ^ Showcase '94 #7
  18. ^ Detective Comics #683
  19. ^ Gotham Underground #1
  20. ^ Gotham Underground #2
  21. ^ Gotham Underground #3
  22. ^ Gotham Underground #6
  23. ^ Gotham Underground #7
  24. ^ Gotham Underground #8
  25. ^ Gotham Underground #9
  26. ^ Birds of Prey vol. 2 #1
  27. ^ Birds of Prey vol. 2 #2-3
  28. ^ Birds of Prey vol. 2 #4
  29. ^ Birds of Prey vol. 2 #5
  30. ^ Secret Six (vol. 3) #35
  31. ^ Secret Six (vol. 3) #36
  32. ^ Batman: Gates of Gotham #2
  33. ^ Detective Comics Vol. 2 #4
  34. ^ Detective Comics vol. 2 #5 (January 2012)
  35. ^ Detective Comics vol. 2 #15
  36. ^ Detective Comics Vol. 2 #20
  37. ^ Forever Evil #1
  38. ^ Detective Comics Vol. 2 #23.3
  39. ^ Forever Evil: Arkham War #3
  40. ^ Joker's Asylum: Penguin
  41. ^ Batman #25
  42. ^ Brave and the Bold #191
  43. ^ Joker's Wild Ride (an interview with the author), on IGN.com
  44. ^ Flashpoint: Batman – Knight of Vengeance #1 (June 2011)
  45. ^ Batman: Earth One
  46. ^ Tales of the Batman, edited by Martin Greenberg chapter 16

External links[edit]