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The Penguin (Danny DeVito)

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The Penguin
General Information
Real name: Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot
Aliases: Penguin
The Penguin Man of the Sewer
Alignment: Bad
Affiliation: Tucker Cobblepot (Deceased Father)
Esther Cobblepot (Deceased Mother)
Max Shreck (Former Ally)
Catwoman (Former Ally)
Characteristics: Gender - Male
Hair - Black
Eyes - Brown
Portrayed by: Danny DeVito
Appearances: Batman Returns

"You're just jealous because I'm a genuine freak and you have to wear a mask!"
―The Penguin to Batman[src]

The Penguin was the alias of Oswald Cobblepot. He was a deformed man who was abandoned and raised in the sewers as a baby. He carried deadly weapon concealed umbrellas and his horrible past turned him into a bitter and ruthless sociopath.


Origin and Early Life

"My name is not Oswald! It's Penguin! I am not a human being! I am an animal! Cold blooded!"
―The Penguin to the Red Triangle Circus Gang[src]
Penguin box

The box the Penguin was kept in as a baby.

Around Christmas time in Gotham City, the aristocratic Cobblepots gave birth to a baby boy. Because the child was deformed, they locked him in a black box, where he showed his first sign of homicidal tendencies when he attacked the family cat. Disgusted, they ventured out into the snow and dropped their vicious baby in the sewers. Eventually the Cobblepot baby washes up onto the shore of the Arctic World exhibit show at the Gotham City Zoo.

Not much is known of his early life from then on, except that he basically runs off to join the Red Triangle Circus. Then when the circus returns to a town for two weeks which featured newly added to their freak-show: The Poodle Lady, The World's Fattest Man, and an Aquatic Bird Boy. The circus's two week stay was put to an end early because while guests were at the circus, their children went missing. One of the freak-show performers vanished before he could be questioned, some say that it was the Aquatic Bird Boy who would have by this time have been nicknamed The Penguin by his fellow freaks.

BR Penguin's umbrellas

The Penguin with his deadly trick umbrellas.

The Penguin then retreats to the now abandoned Gotham City Zoo, in order to hide from the police. This is where his nickname is put to use rather literally. He goes back to the Arctic World exhibit. Somehow, he was able to track down fellow members of the circus and they formed the Red Triangle Gang. The Penguin runs around the Gotham City sewers because there is an accessway from the Arctic World exhibit (the same way he floated in when he was a year old). He uses a Duck vehicle from a skyride at the Zoo to get around the sewers easily. This brings us to Christmas in Gotham City, when the Penguin is 33 years of age.

This is all based/taken from the news articles Bruce Wayne had on the computer in the Batcave from Batman Returns with a little bit of stuff from the comics thrown in to add to his early years.

Revenge on Gotham City

"Hey just relax, I'll take care of the squealing wretched pinhead puppets of Gotham. You gotta admit, I played this stinking city like a harp from Hell!"
―The Penguin to Batman[src]

33 years later, a multimillionaire named Max Shreck is kidnapped by the Red Triangles and is brought to their leader, a short, deformed man known as "The Penguin". at his secret hideout. Penguin blackmails Shreck with incriminating evidence of his more dubious activities, such as the toxic waste from his clean textile plant, documents that proved that Shreck owns a few firetraps in Gotham (which Shreck had shredded, but with a little patience, the Penguin had carefully taped them back together), and his ex-partner Fred Atkins' hand. Max told everyone that Fred was on paid vacation. This prompted Shreck to agree in helping Penguin find out his true identity and his parents.

Shreck arranges for the Penguin to "rescue" the mayor's infant child from his own gang members. The plan works, and Penguin becomes a hero to all, with the exception of a suspicious Bruce Wayne (Batman's alter ego). After finding out his original birth name of Oswald Cobblepot (as well as the names of Gotham's first born sons), Penguin eventually wins the approval of citizens of the city and, after being persuaded by Shreck to do so, intends to run for Mayor.

Bds articulos-batman-returns 05

A deadly alliance.

After he encounters Batman and Catwoman while taking a walk around his future constituency at night, Penguin is contacted by Catwoman the following day, who notes that she and Penguin share a hatred for Batman. Although Penguin states that he is already planning to sabotage the Batmobile, Catwoman notes that Batman would have more power as a martyr, and the only way to truly destroy him would be to frame him and turn him into one of the villains that he despises.


The Penguin and the Red Triangle Gang kidnap the Ice Princess and frame Batman.

When the subsequent plan is put into action, Batman is framed for kidnapping and murder and finds himself trapped in the Batmobile under Penguin's remote control. However, Catwoman and Penguin's alliance falls apart when she rebuffs a sexual advance from him, and Penguin tries to kill Catwoman himself, although she successfully escapes with the use of his air bound umbrella before accidentally letting go and falling into a greenhouse, but she once again miraculously survives the attempt, counting as her third of nine lives. The Penguin's campaign to oust the current mayor is quickly destroyed when Bruce Wayne plays selected comments he made insulting the people of Gotham while controlling the Batmobile at one of Penguin's speeches, the most prominent phrase being, "You've got to admit, I played this stinking city like a harp from hell!" The people of Gotham get angry, forcing Penguin to defend himself with his machine gun umbrella, and the police chase after him. But Penguin flees into the sewers, and reveals his original plan: to kidnap and kill the first born children of Gotham's most prominent families in revenge (comparable to the Pharaoh killing the first-born Hebrew babies in the beginning of the Book of Exodus in the Bible) and drown them in the waters of his lair, which he has poisoned with the toxic waste taken from Shreck's textile plant for the occasion.

Penguin storms the hall of ball hosted by Shreck with a shout of "You didn't invite me, so I crashed!" and tries to take Max's beloved son, Chip. Max successfully pleads with Penguin to take him instead. Penguin holds Max in cage overlooking the poisoned water telling him his plan, remarking; "And you get to watch them sink... Into a deep puddle of your industrial by-products. Then you join them."

Batman attacks Penguin's Red Triangle Circus goons and puts a stop to the kidnappings. Penguin then dispatches an army of Missile-armed Penguins to completely annihilate Gotham. Batman manages to jam the birds' control signals and turn them around. The Dark Knight then tracks the villain down through the sewers.

Knowing that Batman is closing in on him and after seeing the rest of the Circus Gang flee, the villain rushes over to his Duck Mobile, grabs one of his umbrellas along the way and drives to the surface. Batman follows him by driving the Batskiboat straight through the walls at the top and destroying the vehicle.

Batman vs Penguin

The Penguin fighting Batman.

Batman gets out and surveys the wreckage, but the Penguin pounces on him and they begin to fight with the villain unsheathing a sharp blade from the tip of his umbrella. The Dark Knight responds by taking out a remote control from his utility belt, which causes all the Penguins to appear in the zoo.

Furious and horrified at the same time, The Penguin viciously swipes his umbrella at Batman. However, he breaks the blade when he accidentally hits the Duck wreckage, but he manages to knock the control out of Batman's hand.

Grinning with triumph he picks it up and presses the glowing red button which causes the Penguins to fire their missiles. Then the Batskiboat releases a flock bats which surround the villain until he crashes through the main glass window of his lair and falls into the water below. Meanwhile the Penguins continue to fire the missiles destroying the outside of the Penguin's lair and everything around it.

BR Penguin burial

The Penguin's burial.

Following the dramatic final confrontation between Batman, Catwoman and Shreck, culminating in Catwoman killing Shreck with a damaged stun gun and a high-powered electric cable, the now-unmasked Batman is left to confront a gravely injured Penguin emerging from the water, ready to kill him.

Although seriously injured and horribly intoxicated by the bath into the poisoned waters, the Penguin draws an umbrella from his collection, only to find it's a harmless toy ("a Cute One"), and proceeds to drop it. Complaining of the heat, Penguin mentions to Batman that he "will murder him momentarily", just as soon as he "can get a cold drink of ice water", which ultimately turn out to be his last words. He then collapses to the concrete and dies from the poisoning, as well as his injuries. At that moment, six Emperor Penguins emerge from the shadows behind his body and solemnly drag his remains back into the water. As a result, the Penguin slowly sinks to his final resting place in a black cloud of his own drool.

Behind the Scenes

  • Danny DeVito as Oswald Cobblepot / The Penguin: Abandoned at birth due to his hideous appearance by his aristocratic parents, he spends his life living in the sewers of Gotham City. He eventually rises and thickens a plot to take over Gotham as its new Mayor. However, his real intentions are to dispose of every first born son in Gotham City out of vengeance against his parents for abandoning him as a child. Director Tim Burton, inspired by the film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, re-imagined the character not as an eloquent gentleman of crime, but a physically deformed lunatic with a childhood trauma. While this Penguin retained a number of trademarks, particularly the variety of trick umbrellas and the use of a monocle, he was given a huge visual makeover. His hands were now flippers, with a thumb and index finger, and the remaining three fingers fused together. Where the comic version had varied between a full head of hair and varying degrees of thinning, this Penguin was bald, with his remaining length of hair long and stringy. Instead of a tuxedo, he wore a more gothic, Victorian-style outfit, with a jabot as opposed to a bow tie. Other instances show him in black boots, a bib-like cloth around his neck, and something akin to a child's blanket sleeper, or the old long john-style underwear of the 1800s. Combined with his long dark coat, the full white front of the bodysuit gave him an even more penguin-like appearance. One visual aspect that remained fairly intact in this re-imagining was the familiar top hat. Another new touch was his large yellow duck vehicle, which had the triple functionality of being a boat, a car, and an elevator-like lift.
  • Wesley Strick was solely brought in to come up with a solution with "Penguin's lack of a master plan". The writer claimed he was presented with "the usual boring ideas to do with warming the city, or freezing the city" (the latter ended up in Batman & Robin). Strick pitched an alternative approach, inspired by the Moses parallels of Walter's prologue, in which the infant Oswald Cobblepot is bundled in a basket and thrown in the river where he floats helplessly until he's saved (and subsequently raised) by Gotham's sewer denizens. He came up with Penguin's "master plan" to kill the firstborn sons of Gotham City. Both the studio and Burton were impressed with the idea, though Strick claims the toy manufacturers were worried. Strick went uncredited for his work. Strick also deleted the idea of Schreck turning out to be the Penguin's brother.
  • Universal's Stage 12 housed the Penguin's underground lair, an enormous tank filled with half-a-million gallons of water and a simulated ice floe island. To create Penguin's bird army a combination of techniques were utilized including men in suits, computer-generated imagery, robotic creatures and real life penguins.
    Everyone involved was required to sign a document guaranteeing that they would not specifically hold interviews with news sources. About midway through filming, however, a few test shots of DeVito in costume found their way into an American entertainment magazine. Warner Brothers hired a group of private investigators to track down the source, though the ploy ultimately failed.
  • In Tom Mankiewicz's script of the first movie, that featured the Penguin, he was described as "a tall, proper-looking, thin man".
  • In the unmade sequel of Batman & Robin, that was named Batman Unchained, the Penguin would be reappear as a hallucination by the Scarecrow's fear gas.
  • In Batman Begins, the opera attended by Bruce and his parents feature characters similar to Tim Burton's penguin tugging at the ropes.


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