The Penguin (Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot) is a DC Comics supervillain and an enemy of Batman. He was introduced by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger, he first appeared in Detective Comics #58 (December 1941).
The Penguin, one of Batman's oldest foes, is an eccentric criminal mastermind, known as much for his love of ornithology and trick umbrellas as for his already shady business dealings. Gotham City's popular Iceberg Lounge serves as Penguin's front for a number of illegal financial stature; the Penguin is a wily foe whose umbrellas conceal a variety of deadly weapons and gadgets.
In most incarnations, the Penguin is a short, chubby (though he wasn't really fat in the original Batman series) man who wears a tuxedo, top hat, monocle, white gloves (black in Batman Returns), and spats. A mobster-type criminal, he fancies himself a "gentleman of crime". Unlike most Batman villains, he is sane and doesn't theme his crimes around a psychotic obsession; his intelligence and aristocratic personality starkly contrast against demented Batman villains, such as The Joker. As a result, his relationship with Batman is often somewhat less tense than it is with other villains. The Penguin recently became a mobster and nightclub owner who engages in more quiet criminal activity whom Batman tolerates as a source of criminal underworld information. Whenever he is apprehended for a crime, he is sent to an ordinary prison instead of Arkham Asylum, although some versions of the character (particularly the less sane interpretations) are sent to Arkham.
The Penguin does, however, possess a few eccentricities. He is known for his love of birds and his high-tech umbrellas that serve some specialized function, such as hang-gliding and weaponry. He also keeps beautiful women around him, perhaps to remind others of his monetary power or to compensate for his own grotesqueness.
Although a second-string villain for many years, Burgess Meredith popularized the Penguin in the 1960s Batman TV show, partially because of his signature squawking laughter. Danny DeVito played a much darker and older version of the Penguin in Batman Returns. This version was not just an unattractive criminal, but a physically deformed, sadistic, megalomaniacal monster. Subsequent Batman animated series have alternately featured the deformed Penguin and a more traditional version.
The deformed version of the character has also appeared in comics, most notably in the miniseries Batman: The Long Halloween and its sequel Dark Victory. He only appears for a minor cameo at the end of the Long Halloween, and has no lines. He plays a slightly more notable role in Dark Victory, when Batman goes to him for information. This incarnation also added elements of the 1966 TV series character, as he shouted the well-known "Waugh waugh" while talking.
Born Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot, the Penguin was teased very much in his childhood due to his short stature, obesity, and bird-like nose. These traits made him an outcast in his rich, debutante family. Their rejection drove him to become evil. These are contrasted against the more aggressive and specific wealth gathering origins of the Batman graphic novel Batman: Penguin Triumphant, which specifically states that Oswald Cobblepot neither is nor ever was insane and merely used his astute mind and scientific skills in developing weapons to intimidate and control others, and the largely attributed Earth-One incarnation origin of the Penguin in Batman #287 (1977).
The Penguin's weapons of choice are the trick-umbrellas he uses to execute his crooked schemes. Several versions of the Penguin's origins say that he was forced as a child to always carry an umbrella around by his over-protective mother due to the fact that his father died of pneumonia after being drenched in a downpour. In keeping with his pretensions of being a refined gentleman, he also prefers to wear formal wear, such as a top hat, tuxedo, and spats during his jobs. The Penguin received his alter-ego from a childhood taunt, bestowed by his peers, who teased him because of his grotesque appearance and love of birds (some re-tellings of his origin suggest he also suffered from some sort of hip ailment, which caused him to waddle when he walked; the Penguin shows no signs of suffering from this affliction today). Some comics suggest that he tried to abandon the title (which he hates), but it has been permanently brought into popularity by Batman.
Slimming Down and Gaining Mental "Weight"
After the destruction of the previous primary reality of Earth-One had been removed due to the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the new Penguin who emerged native to New Earth had far less girth in his belly and far more mental prowess and focus than any of his previous incarnations. Much of the New Earth Penguin's adventures shows Oswald far more concentrated on developing and refining his mental skills to overwhelm all of his many foes, not merely Batman and far, far less attention in his personal indulgences and consumption. In that focus, Penguin began exploring the potential of going straight as a successful means to his own long-term ambition of personal power and accomplishment.
But try as he might, Cobblepot could not overcome the prejudice of being a convicted criminal to gain profitable work nor gain the wealth that he personally desired. Thus, Cobblepot selectively returned to criminal activities but he would continually be found out and imprisoned by both non-powered and superpowered law supporters, Deciding to take advantage of his limitations and contacts during his time in the Suicide Squad, while at Belle Reve Prison (Suicide Squad then headquarters), Cobblepot had his criminal record expunged and gained financially.
Cobblepot decided that it was in his own best interest to emulate his controller in the Suicide Squad and manipulate the many from behind-the-scenes rather than to continually leave himself open to outright threats and arrests which would interrupt his wealth amassing activities as an open criminal.
While attaining social appreciation as a businessman and celebrity host of a successful restaurant and nightclub, Cobblepot also continued to gain success as a criminal mastermind manipulating the massive criminal underground members to largely work for him in his role as a clearing house for their illegal activities. While Cobblepot does still very occasionally participate himself in active criminal activities himself, it is in his role as an indirect and inactive criminal manipulator and social gadfly in the ownership of the Iceberg Lounge, a nightclub that Cobblepot has finally begun to attain the power over the three main groups he wanted: acceptance by the social elite he longed to be included in and who now recognize his legitimate businesses as some of the most successful society people willing frequently join; power over the criminal underground, whose many superpowered members including Killer Croc who need and use Penguin's fencing operations; personal success over his many enemies, including the Batman, who now tolerates Cobblepot's many associate criminal activities for the lack of direct evidence against Cobblepot as well as being an invaluable source of usable information that Cobblepot occasionally shares to law officials and Batman when it does not interfere with Cobblepot's own designs and operations.
Penguin continues to operate in this successful mode as the ever entrepreneurial Penguin is often fencing stolen property or arranging early furloughs for incarcerated former criminal associates - for a hefty fee, of course - on the side. During the period when Gotham City was leveled by an earthquake (the "No Man's Land" storyline), he was one of the major players in the mostly-abandoned and lawless city, using his connections (one was eventually discovered to be tied to Lex Luthor and his company) to sell necessities at outrageous prices.
Early Comic Years
The Penguin first appeared in Detective Comics #58, where he rigged a jewel heist and attempted to steal an emerald penguin. Penguin escaped the Dynamic Duo, but re-appeared countless times over and over. He had teamed himself up with the Joker on more than one occasion and was more umbrella and money obsessed than bird obsessed. He appeared in a purple hat and tails with pin-striped pants. His gloves changed color many times from purple, to orange, then to white. Penguin also wore gangster spats.
After the success of the Batman TV series, Penguin's popularity soared and he was featured in almost as many comics during that time as The Joker. Sadly, DC went under new management and Penguin stories stopped being published (only two were made during a ten year period). When Penguin returned to his roots on page, he opened a night club and casino (the Iceberg Lounge) and became less of a crook and more of a kingpin or smuggler.
When the Penguin "reformed" in the early 1980s, he ceased wearing his signature top hat, for he was often seen indoors. He molded his hair after a Rockhopper penguin and was practically glued to his lounge booth.
After putting up with being an information broker to Batman, he went back to crime very briefly. After stealing a rare bird statue, he and Batman got into a scuffle at his old hideout and Penguin called it quits and went back to his booth at his lounge. Once back, he was horrified that Batman got to the statue hidden in an egg he had with him, making things worse for him and vowing revenge on Batman.
No Man's Land
After the earthquake and fall of Gotham, Penguin was arguably the most powerful person in Gotham at the time. Though his territory was a bit skimpy, he controlled most of the underworld and gangs. With Arkham Asylum and Blackgate Prison down and it's prisoners free and wanting a piece of Gotham, Penguin found himself in gang wars and disagreements with Two-Face, Killer Croc, Mr. Freeze, and Black Mask a lot. Penguin was shot in the knee with an arrow which cost him half his territory to Two-Face. Penguin soon found it preferable to open clubs and casinos in the overturned buildings and it became a steady way for him to rake in money before Lex Luthor started work on the new Gotham.
The Penguin kept a presence in Gotham as it is rebuilt, mostly due to the efforts of Luthor.
The Penguin becomes swept up in the events of Infinite Crisis. In the limited series' 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, are bowled over by the surprise appearance of Bart Allen.
Later, while the Penguin is away from Gotham, the Great White Shark and Tally Man kill many of the villains who worked for Penguin, and frame Harvey Dent. Great White had planned to take over Gotham's criminal syndicate and weaken all his competition - Penguin included. Upon his return to Gotham, the Penguin continues to claim that he has gone "straight" and reopens the Iceberg Lounge nightclub, selling overpriced merchandise. He urges the Riddler to avoid crime, as it's more lucrative in their current, non-criminal lifestyle.
The Penguin is also featured as a prominent figure in the new Gotham Underground tie-in to the series Countdown. He is hired by Batman as a snitch, using his criminal contacts to give Batman an edge over Gotham's criminals. He is also in a gang war with Tobias Whale and Intergang a war that, ultimately, he loses along with his privileged position, due to having lost Batman's support after his supposed death at the hands of Darkseid, and Intergang taking advantage by the events of Final Crisis. The Penguin also appears in Battle for the Cowl: The Underground, which shows the effects of Batman's supposed death on his enemies.
The remains of the Penguin's now-crumbling criminal empire had been destroyed by the returning Black Mask, who has now established himself as ruler of Gotham's underworld once more. The Penguin's mob had been absorbed by Black Mask II and his actions controlled. Seeking revenge, Penguin, with the aid of Mad Hatter abducted the new Batman (Dick Grayson), brainwashing him to assassinate the Black Mask.
Dick, however, fails to kill Black Mask. Instead, he manages to shrug off the mental conditioning and eventually capture the crime lord, unmasking him as Jeremiah Arkham, the maddened director of Arkham Asylum. Arkham is committed to his own asylum, and a doctor named Alyce Sinner replaces him.
During the events of Brightest Day, the Birds of Prey discover the Penguin beaten and stabbed at the feet of a new villain calling herself the White Canary. The Birds rescue the Penguin, and flee to the Iceberg Lounge. While recovering, the Penguin expresses an attraction to Dove. Eventually, the Penguin reveals that his injury was a ruse, and that he is working with 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 being defeated by the Huntress. Huntress then tapes up the Penguin 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 being underway. Enraged at the Penguin's traitorous actions, Huntress considers killing him with her crossbow, but ultimately leaves him bound and gagged in an alleyway, with the promise that she'll be back to exact her vengeance on him at a later date.
Penguin is featured in the last few issues of the Secret Six series. He is attacked by the Six in his mansion and blackmailed by Bane into revealing information on Batman's partners as he plans on killing Catwoman, Azrael, Red Robin, and Batgirl. Penguin reveals the location of the Six soon after, and they are subsequently attacked by the Justice League of America, Teen Titans, Birds of Prey, Justice Society of America, and several other superheroes who take down and capture the Secret Six. Soon after, a new villain calling himself the Architect bombs the Iceberg Lounge. While Penguin and everyone else in the Lounge are successfully evacuated by Blackbat and Robin, the Lounge itself is destroyed.
Streets of Gotham
He is shown under new villain Bedbug's control lumbering around mindlessly stealing from a shop. Batman takes a picture of him and says this is one for the Batcave. After Batman frees every one from Bedbug's control via a high pitched sound. Medics treat a cut on him but the Penguin thinks they are police officers arresting him saying defiantly "You can't arrest me I haven't done anything wrong." A medic replies by saying "You're free to go now Mr. Cobblepot."
The Penguin was mentioned by a thug in Detective Comics #4. The thug approached the villain Dollmaker, who had captured Batman, with several thousands of dollars in gold, offering to trade the gold for Batman. Batman subsequently escapes as he is being tied up and knocks out all of Penguin's men. A hit man in a Joker mask is featured in the next issue and is in possession of a poker chip from the Iceberg Lounge (which appears to be a replica of the Sydney Opera House with a roof coated in ice). Though the assassin escapes, Penguin appears briefly at the end of the issue, watching reporter Charlotte Rivers disguise herself as one of the Lounge's waitresses from a security booth and tells several female bodyguards led by Lark to kill her.
His usual appearance, a small, fat human in formal wear has alternatively changed with Tim Burton's version of the Penguin, a grotesque murderous psychopath who appeared to be a cross between an actual penguin and a man. This freakish appearance inspired comic artists and, for a while, Batman: The Animated Series. Although, now his old and new appearance alternate, despite there being no clear explanation or basis in reality for this to happen.
Powers and Abilities
- Genius-Level Intellect: From an early age Penguin was never very physically strong or appealing and this forced him to apply his naturally keen intellect. It should be noted that his intellect is almost always sinister in nature even in the most mundane of decisions.
- Criminal Mastermind
- Business Management: Oswald's criminal operations would succeed without a hitch if not for the actions of Batman. Oswald has existed both above and below the law with his businesses; running a legitimate night club as well as selling drugs from within it.
- Tactical Analysis
- Expert Combatant: The Penguin has an uncannily high agility level and is fast for his body stature, as he is also a master of Judo, ninjutsu, and bare-knuckle boxing.
- Leadership: Penguin always travels with henchmen on any criminal mission or even to the zoo. He controls bodyguards, chefs, servants, gang members, villains and so on with masterful talent. Oswald has led both legal and illegal operations within Gotham City; under any conditions.
- Avian Trainer: Penguin has used his knowledge of birds for criminal purposes as well as personal interest; bordering on obsession. Like Catwoman's affinity for felines, he shares a special kinship with birds; specifically the various penguin species.
- Penguin Boat
- Trick Umbrellas: The Penguin employs an assortment of "trick" umbrellas, many of which can be used as weapons as well. A few of his umbrellas are equipped with motorized flight capabilities, flamethrowers, machine guns and narcotic gas.
- Automatic Handguns
Henchmen and Henchwomen
Penguin is served in his crimes by various henchmen. The following henchmen listed below have been named:
- Beefy - 
- Carmichael - 
- Hammer - 
- Jay - 
- Lark - Penguin's henchwomen who Penguin sends to kill a disguised Charlotte Rivers.
- Louie - 
- Raven - 
- Tongs - 
- Turk - Turk assisted Penguin at the time when he changed his arsenal to guns and fishing poles.
- Beulah- a Harley Quinn prototype from the 70s.
- The Kabuki Twins
In Other Media
In the 1992 film, Batman Returns, a darker version of the Penguin was depicted a bit older looking than he was before, despite his age stated in the prologue of the film as 33. Most things changed about him: he wore a Victorian-like tuxedo, had long and wavy hair (even though he had a bald spot on his head), and his hands were flippers (he also wore black gloves). The Penguin was played by Danny DeVito.
The Lego Batman Movie
Penguin makes a couple of cameos in the film alongside the other Batman villains. He does speak during the climax, but it is unknown who did his voice. His design is based off of Danny DeVito's film version of the Penguin.
Penguin is one of the few recurring villains on the 1960s Batman, appearing in 17 episodes during its run. He is also one of the main antagonists of Batman: The Movie, along with the Joker, Catwoman and the Riddler.
The Batman/Superman Hour
Penguin appeared in a variety of episodes from The Batman/Superman Hour during its year long run (1968-1969). He appeared to a similar, classic, standard to what Burgess Meredith did in the Batman TV show (which ended shortly before that show aired). The Penguin was voiced by Ted Knight (who also voiced the Narrator, Commissioner James Gordon, and The Riddler).
Unsurprisingly, Penguin appeared in many episodes of the 16-episode run of The New Adventures of Batman. It also marked the first of few times that Penguin and Clayface appeared in the same episode of any Batman franchise (they appeared together in Have an Evil Day: Part 1 and 2). The Penguin lost his cigarette holder, but other than that, his animated model stayed mostly the same.
The Penguin was voiced by Paul Williams.
Umbrellas in BTAS
- An umbrella that shoots a pellet that keeps the victim tired and void for a week or so
- An umbrella that can implode a lock on the door, making an easy break-in
- An umbrella that flies and is used to shred victims
- An umbrella that has a sword hidden under the cap, and is used only in hand-to-hand combat
- An umbrella that shoots bullets
- An umbrella that at the top of its point sports a deadly knife
- An umbrella that shoots a sugary substance which attracts hummingbirds
- An umbrella that doubles as a flamethrower
- An umbrella that sprays sleeping gas out of the cap
- An umbrella that acts as a shield
The New Batman Adventures
BTAS was revamped into TNBA, which reworked all of the characters including Penguin. Penguin was designed in the classic way and his deformed version was scrapped. He was a reformed "legitimate" businessman and owned The Iceberg Lounge as he did in the comics at the time. In all of his appearances he appeared briefly, and made his most noticed one in "The Ultimate Thrill". He was again voiced by Paul Williams.
Penguin appeared briefly in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode, "Legends of the Dark Mite." He, along with The Joker, Catwoman, The Riddler, Killer Moth, Mr. Freeze, Kite Man, Mad Hatter, Two-Face, Catman, Poison Ivy, and several other villains were shown in Bat-Mite's imagination. Later, he appeared in "Inside the Outsiders!" in Black Lightning's dream. He also appeared in "Aquaman's Outrageous Adventure."
The Penguin was voiced by Stephen Root.
In Batman: Arkham City, the Penguin appeared in a mob-like context. Trapped inside Arkham City, that was built in the heart of Gotham, Penguin commanded his henchmen from the Iceberg Lounge in the Cyrus Pinky Institute for Natural History Museum. Penguin was one of the first of Batman's enemies to appear in the game, who threatened Bruce Wayne's life, and later held Mr. Freeze (a valuable asset in the storyline) hostage at the museum, which attracted Batman to a direct confrontation with his old enemy.
Penguin was voiced by David Jennison in DC Universe Online.
- Despite the fact that there was definitely a Golden Age Penguin, there was no specific adventure or mentioning of a specific Earth-Two Penguin among either of the Earth-Two Batmen's Rogue Gallery. If there was an Earth-Two Penguin, he was never specifically mentioned in any of the specific Earth-Two Batman's, Robin or Huntress stories unlike the specifically mentioned and directly featured Rogues of the Earth-Two in the 1960s onwards including the Earth-Two Joker, Two-Face II and Catwoman, despite having either retired, reformed or were imprisoned in their later years. This specific non-mentioning suggests the Earth-Two Penguin, if he existed at all, was a minor villain and had either retired completely or had died by the time the specific Earth-Two reality was formally introduced and established in the DC canon of the late 1960s.
- Many denote the Earth-One Penguin starts with the Penguin's return in Batman #155 (May 1963): "The Return of the Penguin!" after a seven year absence from the comic printing where his last Golden Age story was Batman #99 (April 1956) "The Golden Eggs!"
- He is one of few Batman rogues that is recognized as sane, others including Catwoman, Bane, and Ra's al Ghul, although he occasionally commits cannibalism.
- In the continuity of the Super Friends comic book series, the Penguin was the leader of a team of villains known as the Super Foes. The Super Foes were analogous to the Legion of Doom from the Super Friends cartoon series. The Penguin recruited his own personal sidekick, Chick, and instructed him to infiltrate the Hall of Justice.
- In a Saturday Night Live skit called "Superman's Funeral," the Penguin attended Superman's funeral and made the same sound that he made for laughing as he did when he cried.