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The Penguin / Oswald Cobblepot
|First appearance||Detective Comics #58 (December 1941)|
|Created by||Bob Kane|
|Full name||Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot|
|Team affiliations||Injustice League|
The Penguin / Oswald Cobblepot
|First appearance||Detective Comics #58 (December 1941)|
|Created by||Bob Kane|
|Full name||Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot|
|Team affiliations||Injustice League|
The Penguin is a fictional character, a supervillain who appears in comic books published by DC Comics. He is known as one of Batman's oldest and most persistent enemies. Artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger introduced him in Detective Comics #58 (December 1941). The Penguin is a short, rotund man known for his love of birds and his specialized high-tech umbrellas. A mobster and thief, he fancies himself as being a "gentleman of crime;" his nightclub business provides a cover for criminal activity, which Batman sometimes uses 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.
Burgess Meredith portrayed the Penguin in the 1960s Batman television series and its movie; this is perhaps the character's most well-known incarnation. 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. The former interpretation appeared in comics, most notably in the miniseries Batman: The Long Halloween and its sequel Dark Victory. He made a cameo appearance at the end of the Long Halloween with no lines. He had a slightly more notable role in Dark Victory – this incarnation included elements of Meredith's interpretation. Paradoxically, the Penguin has repeatedly been named among the worst and best of Batman villains.
Unlike most of Batman's rogues gallery, the Penguin is in control of his actions and perfectly sane, features that help him maintain a unique relationship with the crime-fighter. His latest characterization has him running a nightclub that is popular with the underworld. Batman comes to tolerate his operations so long as the Penguin remains one of his informants. The entrepreneurial Penguin often fences stolen property or arranges early prison furloughs – for a hefty fee, of course.
Born Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot, the Penguin was bullied as a child for his short stature, weight, and beak-like nose. In some media, his fingers are fused, resulting in flipper-like hands. Several stories relate that he was forced as a child to always carry an umbrella by his overprotective mother due to his father's death from pneumonia after a drenching. His mother owns pet birds that Cobblepot lavishes with attention, and served as his only friends growing up. His love for birds would eventually lead him to obtaining 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; 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 while he steals.
The Penguin's alias first came from a childhood taunt over his grotesque appearance and love of birds. In an early account, when Cobblepot first attempted to join a gang, he was belittled as a "penguin" and mocked for his umbrella before being literally kicked from the crime den. Outraged at the rejection, he resolved to make "the Penguin" a name to fear and the umbrella a fearsome weapon. He returned to the den and killed the crime boss with "the world's first .45 caliber umbrella," then claimed leadership of the now-terrified criminals. Some later stories suggest that he tried to abandon the nickname, which he initially hated but came to accept.
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.
The Penguin was a persistent nemesis for the Dynamic Duo (Batman and Robin) throughout the Golden and Silver Ages, pulling off ploy after ploy, such as teaming up with The Joker, attempting to extort money from a shipping company by pretending to flash-freeze a member of its board of directors, and participating in Hugo Strange's auction of Batman's secret identity.
The Penguin's last appearance, fittingly, was the last appearance of the Earth-One Batman. After he and a multitude of Batman's enemies were broken out of Arkham Asylum and Blackgate Prison by Ra's al Ghul, the Penguin accepted the offer of the immortal terrorist and carried out Gul's plans to kidnap Batman's friends and allies. The Penguin, along with the Joker, the Mad Hatter, Cavalier, Deadshot and Killer Moth, laid siege to Gotham City Police Headquarters, but were infuriated when the Joker sabotaged their attempt at holding Commissioner Gordon for ransom. A standoff ensued, with the Joker on one side and the Penguin and the Mad Hatter on the other. The Joker quickly subdued both with a burst of laughing gas from one of his many gadgets.
Following the Crisis rebooting the history of the DC Universe, the Penguin was relegated to cameo 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. Within the era of the Tim Drake Robin, the Penguin formed a brief partnership with macabre criminal and hypnotist Mortimer Kadaver, who helped him fake his own death as a ploy to strike an unsuspecting Gotham. The Penguin later gunned down Kadaver, after plugging his own ears with toilet paper so that the hypnotist no longer had power over him.
After Batman foiled this particular endeavor, the Penguin embarked on one of his grandest schemes in the three-part story "The Penguin Affair." After finding Harold Allnut on a lonely street, undergoing physical and verbal abuse by two gang members, the Penguin takes the technologically-gifted hunchback in, showing him kindness in exchange for services. Harold builds a gadget that allowed the Penguin to control flocks of birds from miles away, which the Penguin utilized to destroy radio communications in Gotham and crash a passenger plane. This endeavor, too, was foiled by Batman. Batman finally hired Harold as his mechanic.
The Penguin resurfaced during Jean Paul Valley's tenure as Batman as one of the few to deduce that Valley was not the original Batman. To confirm this theory, he kidnapped Sarah Essen Gordon, placed her in a death-trap set to go off at midnight, and turned himself in, utilizing the opportunity to mock Commissioner Gordon as midnight approached. An increasingly infuriated Gordon was nearly driven to throw Cobblepot off the police headquarters roof before Valley showed up in the nick of time with a rescued Sarah. As Valley left, he commented, "There's nothing the Penguin can throw at me that I haven't encountered before." This was a sentiment with which the Penguin reluctantly agreed, accepting that he had become passé.
Subsequently, Cobblepot turned his attentions to a new modus operandi, operating under the front of a legitimate restaurant and casino known as the Iceberg Lounge. Though he was arrested for criminal activities several times during the course of his "reformation", he always managed to secure a release from prison thanks to high-priced lawyers.
During the storyline "No Man's Land," when Gotham City was nearly leveled by an earthquake, Cobblepot stayed behind when the US government closed down and blockaded the city. He became one of the major players in the mostly-abandoned and lawless city, using his connections to profit by trading the money that nobody else in Gotham could use for goods through his outer-Gotham contacts. One of these connections was discovered to be Lex Luthor and his company, LexCorp.
The Penguin was swept up in the events of Infinite Crisis. In the limited series' seventh issue, he was 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, was bowled over at the surprise appearance of Bart Allen.
One Year Later, while the Penguin was away from Gotham City, the Great White Shark and Tally Man killed many of the villains who had worked for him and framed 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 continued to claim that he has gone "straight" and reopened the Iceberg, selling overpriced Penguin merchandise. He urged the Riddler to avoid crime as their non-criminal lifestyle was more lucrative.
The Penguin was featured as a prominent figure in the new Gotham Underground tie-in to the series Countdown. He fought a gang war against Tobias Whale and Intergang while supposedly running an "underground railroad" for criminals. As the Penguin conducted his affairs, Two-Face entered the club and wanted in on his underground railroad project. The Penguin told him to meet him later after hours and subsequently held a meeting with several of Gotham's most notorious villains including Hugo Strange, Two-Face, the Scarecrow, and the Mad Hatter. Batman, in the disguise of Matches Malone, spied on the meeting from behind a darkened alcove. Suddenly, the Suicide Squad burst into the room and attacked the assemblage of villains. It was revealed that the Penguin was involved with the Suicide Squad, and that he had set up the other villains to gain the favor of the Squad. The Penguin later met up with Tobias Whale in order to negotiate with him. 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. The Penguin and Tobias Whale were then fighting each other as Robin, the Huntress, Batgirl, and the fourth Wildcat all got involved. Even though the Penguin got the upper hand, Whale reluctantly called a truce with him to stop Johnny Stitches and Intergang. Johnny Stitches sent the Penguin a package containing the Riddler's glasses and Mr. Jessup's cut-up body. When the Penguin had a talk with Johnny, the latter mentioned that Tobias Whale was not on the "Penguin's side" any longer. Johnny also mentioned that he had threatened the families of those fighting on the Penguin's side and told the Penguin that he was giving him one day to get out of town. When the Penguin and the Riddler were talking in the Iceberg Lounge, members of Intergang attacked. Things were looking bad for the Penguin until Batman arrived and came to his rescue. However, Batman was not there simply to save Cobblepot's life. Instead, he informed the Penguin that he now owned Cobblepot and that he was expected to report everything to Batman concerning Intergang and what was going on in Gotham, to which Cobblepot was actually quite happy to agree.
Cobblepot later lost Batman's support after the latter's mysterious disappearance and Intergang's exploitation of the return of the Apokoliptan Gods. He appeared in Battle for the Cowl: The Underground which showed the effects of Batman's disappearance on his enemies.
During the events of Brightest Day, the Birds of Prey discovered the Penguin beaten and stabbed at the feet of a new villainess who was calling herself the White Canary. The Birds rescued him and fled to the Iceberg. While recovering, the Penguin expressed his attraction to Dove. Eventually, the Penguin revealed that his injury had been a ruse, and that he was working with the White Canary in exchange for valuable computer files on the superhero community. He betrayed the Birds and seriously injured both Lady Blackhawk and Hawk before the Huntress defeated him. The Huntress taped him up with the intention of taking him with her, only to be informed by Oracle that she had to let him go due to a police manhunt for the Birds. Enraged at Cobblepot's traitorous actions, the Huntress considered killing him with her crossbow, but ultimately left him bound and gagged in an alleyway with the promise that she would exact her vengeance on him later.
The Penguin was eventually attacked by the Secret Six, who killed many of his guards in an ambush at his mansion. Bane informed Cobblepot that he needed information on Batman's partners as he planned on killing Red Robin, Batgirl, the Catwoman, and Azrael. The Penguin soon betrayed the team's location, which resulted in the Justice League, the Teen Titans, the Birds of Prey, the Justice Society, and various other heroes hunting down and capturing the criminals.
Around this time, a new super-villain, who called himself the Architect, planted a bomb in the Iceberg Lounge as revenge for crimes committed by Cobblepot's ancestor. Though Blackbat and Robin were able to evacuate the building, the Lounge was destroyed in the ensuing explosion.
In The New 52 (a reboot of the DC Comics universe), the Penguin was a client of a criminal named Raju who was sent to offer gold to Dollmaker for Batman's release. While in his Iceberg Casino, the Penguin was viewing a disguised Charlotte Rivers on his surveillance cameras and he told his henchwoman Lark to make sure Rivers got a story to die for. During the Death of the Family crossover Penguin put his right-hand man, Ignatius Ogilvy, in charge of his operations in his temporary absence. Ogilvy, however, used the Penguin's absence to declare him dead, taking over his gang completely and killing those who were vocally loyal to the Penguin, and, under the alias of Emperor Penguin, formally took over Cobblepot's operations. Upon the Joker's defeat the Batman unsuccessfully attempted to imprison the Penguin in Blackgate Penitentiary only to be forced to release him later. Oswald would be shocked to learn upon his return that Ignatius, whom he'd adopted into his gang after a teenage Ogilvy's father had been murdered, betrayed him. His subsequent attack on Ogilvy's new empire fails when Batman, following the discovery that Zsasz (who had been hired by Emperor Penguin) had killed Cobblepot's lawyers, sees an opportunity to finally capture Cobblepot and bring him to justice for his crimes. However, Mr. Combustible, who'd secretly remained loyal to his old boss, helped Cobblepot escape the trial without a mark to his record. Meanwhile, Ogilvy released Kirk Langstrom's Man-Bat serum on Gotham City, turning many of the citizens into the creatures. Dr. Langstrom would discover a cure, returning the citizens to normal. Ogilvy then took the serum himself, along with additions made by Poison Ivy, who was, rather uncharacteristically, returning a favor for freeing her from a fate he himself put her in, turning him into a monster with superhuman strength, endurance, speed, and agility. Emperor Penguin then proceeded to challenge Batman openly to a fight, defeating the masked vigilante with his newfound prowess, and leaving Bruce to be rescued by Cobblepot. The pair forge a temporary alliance, and following the ensuing battle, Ignatius found himself in Blackgate Prison where he currently resides, leaving the Penguin free to effectively reclaim his control of the Gotham underworld.
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. With the heroes gone, Penguin becomes the Mayor of Gotham City and divides the different territories amongst the Arkham inmates.
The Penguin is a master criminal strategist and occasional engineer who uses his genius-level intellect to gain wealth and power through criminal means. Driven by self-interest and an inferiority complex, the Penguin relies on cunning, wit, and intimidation to exploit his surroundings for profit. He usually plans crimes, but does not often commit them himself as it makes tracing the crimes back to him much more difficult and acting for himself risks exposing his respectable businessman persona to the general public. Although the dirty work is mostly delegated 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 fighter with enough self-taught skills in Judo and Fisticuffs to overwhelm attackers many times his size and physical bearing. Cobblepot is usually portrayed as a capable physical combatant when he feels the situation calls for it, but his level of skill, like the Joker himself, varies widely depending on the author and as a result 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 and anywhere in between. His crimes often revolve around the stealing of valuable bird-related items and his car and other vehicles often have an avian theme.
The Penguin always carries an umbrella due to his mother's obsessive demands. The umbrellas usually contain weapons such as machine guns, sword tips, missiles, lasers, flame-throwers, and acid or poison gas spraying devices. He often carries an umbrella that can transform its canopy into a series of spinning blades. This can be used as a mini helicopter or as an offensive weapon; he often uses this to escape a threatening situation. Another umbrella has a spiral pattern on the top with which he can hypnotize enemies.
The Penguin (referred to mockingly as "Abner" 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.
In the Elseworlds story Batman: Crimson Mist, the third part in a trilogy that turned Batman into a vampire, the Penguin was the first of many criminals to be killed by the vampiric Batman after he surrendered to his darker instincts. Batman brutally tore the Penguin's throat out as he drank his blood and subsequently decapitated his enemy to ensure that he could not return as a vampire.
In the alternate timeline of Flashpoint, Oswald Cobblepot did not become the Penguin. Instead, he worked as the security chief of Wayne Casinos, providing information about his clients and the criminal underworld to that world's Batman, Thomas Wayne.
On the alternate earth, Earth One by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, Oswald Cobblepot, who was never called the Penguin himself even though the media made references to Mayor Cobblepot's "Penguin" suit on a panel, was a more normal looking man who is the corrupt mayor of Gotham City. He attempted to orchestrate the death of Thomas Wayne, but his plan failed and his opponent along with his wife were killed in a random mugging the same night. Cobblepot ran Gotham with an iron fist, controlling all the power centers of the city and using a mysterious murderer named "Birthday Boy". He almost killed Batman with his umbrella (which concealed a blade) once he discovered Batman's secret identity before he was shot in the head and killed by Alfred Pennyworth. It is also implied that he had had James Gordon's wife murdered when the detective got too close to finding out Cobblepot's involvement with the Waynes' murder, and that he had tried to do the same thing to Gordon's daughter Barbara by "sending" her to Birthday Boy, but she was saved by Batman, Gordon, and Harvey Bullock.
When captured, he is placed in Arkham Asylum instead of Gotham State Penitentiary. He is sometimes aided by two henchwomen, a masked pair called the Kabuki Twins (although their names were never mentioned in the show, in the first The Batman comic book, which starred the Penguin, he reveals their names to be Gale and Peri). In addition, it is clear that he also knows martial arts and is athletic enough to engage in hand-to-hand combat with Batman, dodging and parrying with his various trick umbrellas. He seems to be in a rivalry with Joker (and, to a lesser extent, Riddler) for the title of Gotham's most dangerous criminal. This Penguin regards Bruce Wayne as a personal enemy and has held him hostage on multiple occasions (though he is unaware of Wayne's alter ego). In one episode, he even infiltrates Wayne Manor, though does not discover the Batcave. He holds a grudge against Alfred due to the Pennyworths having left the service of the Cobblepots generations before (Alfred claimed it was because of the Cobblepots' obnoxiousness). Unused concept art from the show indicates that a more classic version of Penguin was considered for the show.
The character of the Penguin, particularly as portrayed by Burgess Meredith, has often been used as a theme to mock public figures that supposedly resemble him. Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, has made numerous references comparing former Vice President Dick Cheney with the Penguin, including a laugh similar to the one heard in the 1960s Batman series. In a similar manner, Stephen Colbert, host of The Colbert Report, called Franklin D. Roosevelt a criminal and told his audience to "ask Batman" "if they don't believe him," showing a picture of Meredith as the Penguin next to one of the former President; Roosevelt and the penguin are both pictured wearing a monocle and sporting a cigarette holder, suggesting a resemblance. Cheney was mocked in a similar capacity on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, while The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson chose to imitate John McCain with Meredith's Penguin laugh.
In May 2006, a Republican-led PR firm, DCI Group, created a YouTube video making fun of Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth. The video portrayed Gore as the Penguin using one of his trick umbrellas to hypnotize a flock of penguins into believing in the existence of global warming and climate change.
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