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The Penguin

Real Name: Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot

First Appearance: Detective Comics #58 (December 1941)

"Awkward. Skittish. Friendless. Freakish. I was everything a Cobblepot was not supposed to be. And so, I would have to make my own way in life. There'd be no mayoral reigns or famous war victories for this Cobblepot. No, I would have a life filled with museum thefts and clashes with masked vigilantes to look forward to instead. A life as The Penguin. And so it went. But whatever can be said about my life, even my bitterest foes must grant me this: I've always conducted myself with style. With class. And with dignity. And so it shall remain. No matter what my situation is now."
Gotham Underground

Oswald Cobblepot was born to wealth and status, much like Bruce Wayne. His father died of pneumonia at a young age. Believing her husband had caught the disease from walking unprotected in the rain, Oswald's mother insisted that her son carry an umbrella at all times. Oswald spent most of his life miserable, being bullied due to his short stature, obesity, and beak-like nose; he was an outcast to all. His only companions were his beloved mother and his pet birds.


Eventually, his frustration built up to a point where he finally decided to release it by becoming a criminal. Due to his upbringing, he always tries to look his best in a tail-coat, top hat, and monocle. In addition to his notable love for birds and the lessons in cruelty he was taught in childhood, all of that inspired him to take the moniker "The Penguin." What began as a malicious childhood nickname has become one of the most feared monikers in Gotham's criminal underworld.

The Penguin is one of Batman's most persistent and implacable foes. Classy, refined, flamboyant, cruel, savage, and ruthless… sometimes all at the same time. A master criminal specializing in committing crimes beneath a facade of legitimacy or weakness, often exploiting people's tendency to underestimate him. The Penguin is motivated by greed and a desire for superiority, his trademarks being birds, his obsession and the imagery he surrounds himself with, and his use of umbrellas, which like himself, conceal deadly weaponry on a benign and comical appearance. Over the years, he gradually moved away from thievery and assault to arms-dealing and operating as a legitimate businessman as a cover-up for his criminal actions, more of a mob kingpin.


Whereas most of the Bat-Villains are insane to a degree, Penguin is usually portrayed as sane and operates the "Iceberg Lounge" nightclub as equal parts legitimate business and front for his OTHER business. Penguin, like Catwoman, skirts the line between being criminal and being on the up-and-up, to the point Batman will even be willing to give him some leeway as long as he doesn't get too dirty. Unlike Catwoman this isn't because he is an Anti-Villain but mostly just a case of Pragmatic Villainy. Batman's even used him as an information source on underworld info since the Penguin knows "everybody". They're enemies, but they're willing to let each other be as long as their paths don't cross.

The character is one of the most prominently featured Batman villains, having appearances in virtually every Batman-related media, his most iconic depictions being in the 1960s Batman (1966) television series, portrayed by Burgess Meredith, and in the 1992 film Batman Returns, where he was portrayed by Danny Devito. He's also appeared in 2022's The Batman, played by an unrecognizable Colin Farrell. Robin Lord Taylor portrays a younger version of Oswald Cobblepot in the television show Gotham. Tom Kenny has voiced him several times. Paul Williams voiced the character in Batman: The Animated Series. He is currently voiced by Dana Snyder in Justice League Action.

The Penguin provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • In "Pain and Prejudice", Mr. Cobblepot was one nasty piece of work who neglected and abused his son physically, emotionally, and sexually. His father had his traumatized child watch him and his wife engage in sexual activities (Although Baby Oswald fell asleep). Mrs. Cobblepot, meanwhile, was certainly not up for any parenting awards herself. Whenever Mr. Cobblepot said or did something to their son, she'd either downplay it or take his side. She'd become even worse after the untimely death of her husband, as she, convinced Oswald might catch pneumonia and die like his father, made her son carry an umbrella wherever he went outside, and struck him with it whenever he refused. Some comics, such as "The Penguin Returns", make it clear she saw her son as a tool for social gain, and the violence enacted against him was her way of controlling him and keeping him in line.
    • In Batman Returns, they didn't do this. They did, however, bundle him up in an enclosed baby carriage and throw him into a river when he was about a year old due to his appearance and violent mannerisms. This is how he wound up in the Red Triangle Circus freak show. Thirty-three years later, he corrupted Gotham by running for mayor during Christmas time.
    • Played With in "Gotham". His single mother Gertrud Kapelput, a poor European immigrant in this continuity, was extremely controlling, assuming out the blue that if he doesn't come home for a few days that he's been lured away by "some painted slut", though she still adored him. When he finally met his father, they hit it off so quickly that he pushed his stepchildren aside to make Oswald his heir. While none of this ended well regardless, Oswald was even able to throw it in Sofia Falcone's face that his parents loved him unconditionally when hers did not.
    • In the 1950s comic that introduced Penguin's backstory, Esther Cobblepot was a sweet, frail older woman who owned a bird shop. After she dies from old age and her birds are taken away, Oswald is devastated.
    • In The Batman, he says, "Well, Mama Cobblepot always said I was a handsome one".
  • Adaptational Badass: Despite sometimes being presented as a capable martial artist, Penguin isn't generally presented as a huge physical threat to Batman. One of the few exceptions occurred in The Batman where Penguin is an extremely Acrofatic opponent who can leap all over the place and match Batman blow for blow in some cases.
  • Adaptational Dumbass: A writer once had Cobblepot mistake arteriosclerosis for a legal term.
  • Acrofatic: While he is "usually" portrayed as a capable physical combatant when he feels the situation calls for it, his level of skill varies widely Depending on the Writer. He has been written both as a physical match for Batman and as a character the masked vigilante can floor with a solid punch (even if it takes him a while to actually land one) and anywhere in between. For a fat guy, he's quite the fighter.
    • Confusing things further is his propensity towards intentionally losing fights as part of a scheme or to avoid exposing his respectable businessman persona as a sham.
  • Affably Evil: Penguin conducts himself in a gentlemanly fashion, is almost always very polite (except when he's stuffing his face with fish), civil, and refined, prefers negotiation to bloodshed, can be very charming when he wants to be, has a (twisted) sense of honor, still has a heart and when he cares does so genuinely, is willing to work with Batman, and has helped pull said hero's ass out of the fire more than once. He's also a ruthless mob boss, responsible for much of the illegal trade in Gotham as well as a greedy, often amoral cold-blooded killer. If you happen to offend him, he will slit your throat with a razor-sharp ferrule, and, as you lie on the floor choking on your own blood, the last thing you'll hear is him calling the florist to send condolence flowers to your widow. If you're "lucky". Bruce has recently reluctantly admitted that a united criminal underworld in Cobblepot's control tends to be less dangerous for ordinary civilians. He's still scum, but there are worse people out there who would be more than happy to take his place if the situation to do so arose.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Almost all versions of his backstory incorporate this.
  • Aloof Big Brother: When they weren't joining in on it, his more accepted, physically attractive brothers turned an uncaring eye as other children harassed their brother.
  • Astonishingly Appropriate Appearance: Well, it's the other way around; in the earliest version of his story, he got his nickname from a combination of squatness, pudginess, beaky nose, outdated mannerisms, and sense of dress. Some writers (especially after Batman Returns) go even further and make him outright deformed, with flipper-like hands and inhuman proportions, while others downplay it to the point of Informed Deformity. The Batman: The Telltale Series version looks debatably handsome with a prominent but not enormous nose. In The Batman, he has a wide grin with very sharp teeth for some reason.
  • Backwards-Firing Gun: In "Crime on the Wing" in "Batman" #33, the Penguin drops one of his gimmicked umbrellas while fighting Batman. Batman picks it up and fires it at the Penguin, only to discover that the umbrella is booby-trapped, and fires a dose of gas back in the firer's face.
  • Badass Normal: Has no powers and still managed to battle Firestorm (who has powers of molecular reorganization) to a standstill armed only with an umbrella. He also beat up the Joker in "The Batman". It's pretty impressive for a man with a hip problem to perform a full split in midair.
  • Badass Bookworm: He's a portly, middle-aged (he's usually portrayed anywhere between 27 to a senior citizen) businessman who majored in Ornithology. In the United States, undergraduate programs do not award a specific degree in ornithology (they offer coursework in avian biology instead), so to pursue studies in ornithology, he would have needed to obtain either a Master's degree or a PhD, and most of these programs would require the Graduate Record Examination in biology, which would test his knowledge of (1) cellular and molecular biology, (2) organism biology and (3) ecology, evolution and population biology. His additional required courses would include chemistry, mathematics (especially calculus), statistics, computer science (although the Internet did not exist in 1941) with GIS and English. Yup, Oswald Cobblepot is highly educated and has been drawn wearing glasses when not using his trademark monocle. One book had him wearing a pince-nez. Though he's more apt in using range weapons against his foes (which he often makes himself), the Penguin is a black belt in Judo and no slouch in melee combat. He is also skilled in ninjutsu and bare-knuckle boxing. He also attended college in England in some versions.
  • Bad Boss: Despite being overall much more sane and composed than the other Batman rogues, some versions of him will not hesitate to brutally murder and abuse his minions at the slightest transgression. Particularly if he thinks they are mocking his appearance.
  • Benevolent Boss: On the other hand, other depictions have shown him to be somewhat respectful and decent to his underlings (his sizeable paychecks help). When he prepares to face death in "Gotham Underground" and sends his employees off, they remark on what a great boss he was and seem genuinely sad about his incoming fate. In general, there are much worse people to work for in Gotham than The Penguin.
  • Bad-Guy Bar: The Iceberg Lounge counts, but not all of it: supervillains and criminals hang out, deal in illegal weapons, drink and shoot the breeze / threaten to kill one another in a backroom kept "very" separate from the main area, because most of Gotham's villains aren't exactly good with people, and Cobblepot has a reputation to uphold. However, while the main area of the Lounge does not, itself, count, being a Bad-Guy Bar is still the "theme" of it - Penguin himself cites the touristy appeal of a hobnob with famous "gangsters" and "supervillains" as the main draw to the establishment.
  • The Beastmaster: Especially in his pre-Iceberg Lounge days, he often employed one or more trained birds in his crimes. In one comic, a former mook of his even noted that he'd never seen his boss pecked by a bird, even by accident.
  • Berserk Button: Do not hurt a bird in his presence. Although he has murdered his pets in a fit of rage as a child after one bit him, he immediately broke down in tears afterward. In another instance, when Batman informed him that a group of thugs broke the necks of his doves, Oswald was downright inconsolable.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: The Rebirth version would go on about missing his deceased wife, with her "beautiful black feather" and "sun-drenched beak".
  • Big Brother Bully: Oswald's brothers brutally abused him, physically and emotionally, "and got away with it". He was willing to tolerate their maliciousness right up until they started killing his birds. One drowned in ice and the other choked on his own vomit as a result.
  • Blood Knight: He may exert moderate self-control over it, but when he feels that circumstances are such that he can allow himself a proper smackdown he expresses a good deal of enjoyment in mutilating his opponents.
  • Blue Blood: The Cobblepots were one of Gotham City's oldest and most prestigious families, second only to the Waynes. The Pennyworths used to work for them in some continuities, such as in The Batman.
  • Bodyguard Babes: Usually employs at least two of these in most incarnations, often with bird-themed names. After a trip to Japan, in The Batman he picks up two ninja women named The Kabuki Twins. The Twins were seen again in The LEGO Batman Movie.
  • Break Them by Talking: Like any true master, The Penguin can affect others with hardly a sign that he had ever done anything at all. Cobblepot, through expert use of his massive network of connections, piles on the mental misery in a steady, methodical monologue, until the victim, without having ever once been touched, curls in a fetal position on the floor, head in hands, as good as dead. He once framed a chef who he thought was laughing at him and made the chef's life a living hell until said chef eventually hanged himself.
  • Camp Straight: He has his moments but has been engaged at least twice. He has proposed to wealthy socialite Veronica Vreeland, Catwoman, a blind woman named Cassandra, and trafficking victim Violet. Although in Gotham, he is bisexual. In Batman Returns and The Batman, he was quite the pervert. He was also shown staring at a woman's breasts in a comic.
  • Canon Immigrant: Batgirl (Rebirth) introduced a son for Oswald named Ethan, who — aside from his name and hair color (blond instead of black) — was pretty much based on the version of Oswald from Batman: The Telltale Series.
  • The Charmer: Strangely enough, for someone who considers himself The Grotesque, Oswald has charm: if you can charm the Joker, then you can charm anyone else. He has often been shown kissing women's hands, which they didn't seem to mind.
  • Character Development: Went from another from-the-mold Batman villain whose gimmick happened to be birds and umbrellas to a nightclub owner and the major player in Gotham's black market dealings. His backstory varies, depending on the writer. He had an elderly aunt ignorant of his criminal history in one comic, and she was surprisingly skilled with an umbrella when she was almost mugged.
  • The Chessmaster: Is quite talented at the actual game as well.
  • Chronic Villainy: He's tried to go straight a few times, but eventually, he always returns to his bad habits. He does manage to keep a low profile and stay out of prison most of the time. Although given the teasing situation in "Birds of a Feather", his anger was justified.
  • Classy Cane: Or Classy Umbrella in any case. He's rarely seen without one. He will use his umbrella as a cane to help him walk sometimes. In his debut episode in The Batman, he held TWO umbrellas behind his back. In Batman Returns, he keeps his entire umbrella stash in his sewer lair.
  • Creepy Child: Initially an idealistic, sweet, and generally nice kid, he eventually becomes one in the "Penguin: Pain and Prejudice" backstory after being put through a few rounds of Break the Cutie (domestic abuse, bullying, being rejected by a girl, etc.). Even the gangsters he attempted to work for rejected him in one story.
  • Composite Character: In Batman Returns, his character is fused with Killer Croc, where he's a deformed misfit who lives in the sewers after being abandoned by his parents.
  • Cuddle Bug: Zigzagged. It's a little off-putting at times, but on a good day, the man is "remarkably" affectionate with those he considers his friends. Yes, even towards The Joker. On an off day, however...
  • Cultured Badass: Cobblepot is a polished Sharp-Dressed Man who loves tea (one action figure even came with a teacup), is a wine connoisseur, can play the violin, studied Shakespeare, has an appreciation for opera, poetry, literature, art, and world history, and is capable of utterly wrecking your shit if given a reason. Although some of the flippered versions don't have these, he almost always wears gloves like a little gentleman. He also uses an old-timey cigarette holder.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Frequently. The Penguin's commentary towards his fellow rogues, the heroes, and life, in general, tends towards being relatively dry and sarcastic. Can overlap with Stepford Snarker.
  • Depending on the Artist: His appearance can vary wildly from issue to issue. How obese and grotesquely deformed he is can never be made consistent. Sometimes he is a squat, spherical humanoid with a two-foot nose and sharp piranha teeth, and sometimes he looks like a perfectly ordinary mildly chubby man with a Bob Hope face in a suit. In Gotham and Telltale he is quite thin, and his height varies from a little over 4 feet to 5 foot 2. He has also been shown as a noirette, a redhead, a brunette, graying, or completely bald. In "Gotham", he experiments with his bangs and highlights a lot.
  • Depending on the Writer:
    • How adept at hand-to-hand combat is he? A Boisterous Weakling who needs to rely on his craftiness? Not a bad fighter but prefers to stick to ranged weapons? A capable street brawler? A talented martial artist? Granted, even if it is the latter, up against Batman, most modern takes come off looking like a sick duck.
    • Is he genuinely Wicked Cultured or merely Wicked Pretentious? The latter is more common in adaptations outside the comics.
  • Depraved Dwarf: Depending on the Writer. He's always short (except in Gotham and Telltale) and usually fairly chubby. His depravity levels depend on who's telling a story with him.
  • Determinator: "You see strength isn't about size, or muscle, or looks. It's about strategy, delay of gratification, the long-term plan. It's about determination, perseverance, about getting up every single damned time they kick you down."
  • Diabolical Mastermind: Penguin is Gotham's main crimelord, being a middle ground between the more ordinary gangsters (The Falcones, Rupert Thorne) and the costumed freaks (Joker, Two-Face) that Batman fights. Ever since his shift into becoming more of a mob kingpin, he's had to fight for territory multiple times. While he usually has to share ground with the likes of Black Mask or Great White Shark (or whatever new villain is being pushed at the moment), in the end, he tends to have the last word nonetheless.
    " 'Penguin'": Gotham is the Penguin's city, and no one else's. And woe to the man who forgets it.
  • Disabled in the Adaptation:
    • Batman Returns, Batman: The Animated Series, The Batman and the Batman Unlimited movies, Justice League Action depict Oswald as suffering from syndactyly. That said, the transition from "B: TAS" to "The New Batman Adventures" would see Oswald with normal hands, suggesting either the earlier design was an artistic choice or that in the interim, the Oswald of that universe got corrective surgery.
    • In the chronologically later installments of the "Batman: Arkham Series", Oswald is shown with the bottom of a beer bottle jabbed into his left eye in place of his monocle and a vent from years of smoking.
    • "Gotham" sees its version of Oswald with a limp, and lose his right eye and replace it with a fake one.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: As a villain with a reputation to uphold, this is usually toyed with but ultimately either Downplayed or Subverted, however…
    • His story in the comic book "Joker's Asylum" has him doing everything he could to ruin the life of a chef who he thought was laughing when he went on a date with a beautiful woman. Less than two months later, he had ruined the chef's life so thoroughly that the guy hanged himself, and it wasn't even sure that the guy was laughing at him - for all Penguin knew the chef may have just happened to be looking in his direction while laughing.
    • This happens again in "Penguin: Pain and Prejudice". At a party, a guy bumps into him and starts to call him a fatass before he sees who it is and begs for forgiveness. Penguin responds by having him fired from his job, burning down his apartment, cutting the brakes on his parent's car, and having his girlfriend infected with an unknown substance.
  • Dissonant Serenity
  • The Don: After retiring from committing crimes personally and setting himself up as proprietor of the Iceberg Lounge, he runs all organized crime in Gotham.; Batman tolerates this (more or less) because you never know the information he might "overhear", and be willing to share, "off the record".
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: He had a loving, albeit bordering on smothering, relationship with his mother, Esther, in most of his backstories, but that is dependent on her portrayal. She was abusive in some versions and a sweetheart in others.
  • Everything's Better with Penguins: He loves all birds but identifies most with Penguins.
  • Evil Brit: Sometimes. Otherwise, this is an affectation, if implied at all. He speaks with a British accent in some video games, while in "The Batman", he simply had relatives from Newcastle. However, in "Gotham", his mother is Hungarian or German.
  • Evil Counterpart: Not to Batman himself, but rather to his alter ego, Bruce Wayne, with both of them being aristocrats and having various gadgets...but only one of them uses those gadgets for evil.
    • "Gotham" takes it Up to Eleven - Bruce and Oswald are both orphans whose parents were murdered in front of them and are traumatized by it, but Bruce shows mercy while Oswald swears revenge (and gets it, brutally). They have the same goal of bringing the city to heel, and they both work outside the law to do so; their only difference is the selfish streak that Penguin indulges. Bruce relies on physical prowess and intimidation tactics to subdue criminals, while Penguin's weaker stature ensures his reliance on negotiation and compromise, but they are both equally pragmatic and tolerate each other's existence because of it. Oswald was the son of a poor Hungarian immigrant, and Bruce was raised in extreme wealth, but they both understand isolation all too well, and people tend to underestimate them. Oswald puts on a servile mask to hide his proud and ambitious nature, while Bruce puts on a cocky demeanor to disguise his kind and humble core. Oswald even seems to have his own Alfred in Arthur Penn, whom he belittles and mistreats in contrast to the close relationship between Bruce and Alfred. They are somewhat lonely but have a select few loved ones they care about deeply. By the end of the series, they've both overcome the odds and risen to power.
  • Evil Debt Collector: More Apathetic than evil. Not long after graduating college and before embracing criminality, Cobblepot couldn't make a required payment because his mother's long illness had run up enormous debts. Everything in his store, including the birds, Oswald's only companions, were seized by creditors.
  • Evil Is Petty: Make sure you mind your manners around the guy. If you do anything that pisses him off, he will ensure you pay dearly for it.
  • Evil Laugh: In the comics, this used to be an effeminate "Hee-hee", but he's since picked up the hoarse "Waugh, waugh!" from the 60s TV show. In the 70s, he had an owl-like "Hoo hoo" laugh. In "Gotham", he has a normal laugh. He has a deep, husky cackle in "Batman Returns" and the "Arkham" games. The Lenny Weinrib version had a quiet "wenk wenk" laugh.
  • Face Death with Dignity: In "Gotham Underground", the Penguin finds himself on the losing side of a war against Intergang, with his government contact dead, his dragon having deserted him, and all his Mooks scared off. He's got the chance to flee the city. Instead, He readies his umbrella, dismisses his employees with generous severance packages, and wills the Iceberg Lounge to the Riddler before settling down with a bottle of wine to await his killers. He survives, but he had no way of knowing he would.
  • Family Honor: Part of his motive as a villain. He plans to restore the Cobblepot family name to its former glory. He has a very skewed idea of how this should be accomplished, especially during his rather bratty appearances in "The Batman".
  • Falsely Reformed Villain: Even before his "official" reformation, he's gone through supposed reformations countless times. He went back to villainy over relatively minor incidents, such as possibly false accusations of ridicule.
  • Fatal Flaw: Despite his physical deformity, Oswald Cobblepot is capable of finding the love and acceptance that has evaded him all his life. But because he can't let go of his anger and his vindictiveness, he unintentionally sabotages those opportunities whenever they arise. In the end, his greatest enemy isn't Batman, or any of the people who have shunned him for looking different. The Penguin is Cobblepot's own undoing, and the cause of Oswald's own misery. And he'll never be able to change that until he realizes the elements that helped him survive his childhood now prevent him from welcoming decent people into his world and are now a part of who he is. Unlike many other members of Batman's Rogues Gallery, he's usually not written to suffer from any specific mental illness (sociopathy at most); he's simply a man who can't allow himself any long-term peace or happiness. That said, do not hurt a bird in his presence.
  • Fat Bastard: He's usually portrayed as portly. The degree of obesity depends on the artist/actor.
  • Faux Affably Evil: When he's either in a bad mood or when writers choose to focus on the more unstable aspects of his personality. His goals usually involve robbery or arms dealing. Some interpretations have him attempt to murder thousands and wreak havoc on Gotham. The Penguin is a gentleman. A vindictive, dangerous, murderous monster of a man, but a gentleman nonetheless. He'll slaughter everyone you know and hold dear and leave you to live the remainder of your life alone, but he'll do it with a polite smile and civil tone. He's not afraid to kill a baby, however.
  • Foil: Bruce Wayne and Oswald Cobblepot both hail from Gotham's oldest and most respectable families, have a deep understanding of what it is to feel obligated to their family's legacy, and for that obligation to cause their relationships with other people to be dysfunctional. Bruce with his playboy lifestyle, his beneficent, charitable attitude, and his supermodel girlfriend of the week, and the talk of the town with his latest cause celebre, is a cipher for the new aristocracy: the celebrity. Oswald Cobblepot, with his top hat and Dickensian name, wouldn't look out of place in a BBC period drama. He's a throwback to a different time and social order. Seedy and repulsive, his power and authority used to muster up votes, control government officials, and secretly damage Gotham City from the inside by policy to the benefit of him and his, old money making no concession to the new or lesser fortunate, and everything Bruce would instinctively rail against. Even their Animal Motifs, a flying mammal and a flightless bird, are foils to each other.
  • Freudian Excuse: Teased and bullied by other children and rejected both at school and his family's wealthy circle for his appearance, lonely socially-awkward little Oswald, despite yearning for human company, turned to his mother's pet birds as his only friends because they wouldn't judge the strange-looking misfit. His overbearing mother, the only one to show him affection, suffered a stroke and became invalid (and in some stories dies), leaving him with a great deal of debt that sent their holdings into foreclosure. He loses everything he had clung to for security, prosperity, the pets, even the birds get repossessed. Cobblepot, strapped for cash, went to a known criminal and his confederates and offered his services, only to be kicked out and mocked for his appearance. This final rejection spurred Oswald to become a cold, callous criminal, obsessed with proving his naysayers wrong; he'd return later to kill the head of the group and ensured the late criminal's accomplices were arrested as revenge for their ridicule. Having always ached to fit in among the social elite, he still sought validation and acceptance. Cobblepot used illicit means to repurchase his way into high society, as his mind became far too twisted from his life experiences and raging inferiority complex to believe he could successfully attain his goals through purely legal means.
  • Friend in the Black Market: He's this to all the criminals in Gotham City. When Gotham loses all outside contact and public utilities in "No Man's Land", Penguin remains powerful thanks to his ability to get people whatever they want…for the right price.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare:
  • Gentleman Thief: Started this way before becoming a mob boss.
  • Gonk: Depending on the Artist, he may be deformed, from flipper hands and a slight hunchback to piranha teeth.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: He has a cigarette holder, signifying his status as a villain. Although the less-classy versions sometimes have cigars.
  • Graceful Loser
  • The Grotesque: Oswald's deformities usually are not that hideous, but he certainly considers himself one of these. Except in "Batman Returns", where he's so unhealthy that he drools bile.
  • High-Class Glass: His trademark monocle, almost always over his right eye. Some works decide to play with it:
    • In the "Arkham" games, it's the stump of a broken bottle that got shoved into his eye during a bar brawl, to emphasize that he's a thug with delusions of classiness. Removing it would cause him to die from brain damage.
    • In "Telltale" it's a smartglass he uses to jam Batman's communications and interface with military drones he's swiped.
    • In "Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts", it's a Terminator-esque scope, which comes in handy to observe people's intentions.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: It's been demonstrated time and time again that the Penguin's worst enemy is his bitterness and ego.
  • Impoverished Patrician: The Cobblepots would eventually fall on hard times due to some poor business deals made by Oswald's father, leading to his motive to restore his family's former affluence and standing, thus "proving" his worth as a Cobblepot (and defeating his father's despising ghost). His portrayal in "The Batman" revolves around "restoring the Cobblepot name to its former glory".
  • Improbable Weapon User:
    • Umbrellas. It also serves as a metaphor for the Penguin's character and nature. The Penguin appears completely harmless, perhaps even mundane, but, like his umbrellas, he conceals a darker nature.
    • Averted in "Batman Returns": "Shit! I picked a cute one!"
  • I Owe You My Life: Told Catwoman she could call in a free favor after she saved his life from the court of owls.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: "Heavy" emphasis on the jerk. Between hiring ex-cons to his "authentically" legitimate business who had been having trouble getting steady work because no one else would give them a chance in "Love Bird", and saving the lives of a doctor, a cop, and a group of children they are trying to get out of Gotham in "The Underground Railroad". Cobblepot has shown himself capable of compassion and not just for his mother or his pet birds, both of whom he couldn't be more protective of if he tried.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Sadly, yes. Let's see here, in addition to the traditional pastimes of beatings and name-calling: They would hang Cobblepot from the monkey bars with his hands and legs roped to the bars with his own suspenders so he would look like a bird in mid-flight, children would burst in on him while he was using the restroom to make egg-laying puns, his brothers and some kids from school tore down every nest in the aviary forcing him to watch the eggs crack on the floor, his brothers killed Speck (a sick bird he was nursing back to health), had a group of teens knock over a portable temporary toilet while he was still inside it, soaking his hair and clothing with the waste material inside, was made to remove his attire in public, and a gang killed all his birds after he stood up to their leader who had been picking on him. His early life was not kind.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Rarely fights, but is a very effective combatant. Anyone who can beat up "Superman" is a threat.
  • Mad Scientist: He's a gifted engineer who usually makes his umbrellas and other mechanisms himself when not delegating the job to his employees to save time and uses his devices in his schemes.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Has been in both positions.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste
  • Manipulative Bastard: He usually only goes to people when he wants something.
  • Momma's Boy: Cares deeply for his mother. Almost to Norman Bates' levels in Penguin: Pain and Prejudice.
  • Mister Big: Has always been depicted as a man of below standard height, sometimes comically so. The "Batman: Arkham Series" stats place his height at "4, 10," average…if you happen to be a ten-year-old. In most books, he is 5 foot 2. His incarnation on "The Batman" is one of his shortest.
  • Nice to the Waiter:
    • Subverted. Big tipper. Exemplary etiquette. Unquestionably evil bastard. In the animated series, he had rather disgusting table manners. We don't blame Veronica for her disgust: he ate those fish WHOLE and used a napkin as an afterthought.
    • See above for the shrimp puff incident.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: You wouldn't think a short, chubby guy dressed in evening wear who deliberately models himself after a goofy, non-threatening flightless bird would be at all threatening. But you'd be very, "very" wrong; he's one of Batman's most intelligent and dangerous foes.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Absolutely loves this trope. He's well aware that he appears non-threatening, even silly, and uses the assumption to his advantage. note 
    • Quote from Bruce Wayne/Batman to Tim Drake/Robin in "Penguin Triumphant": "Everyone seems to consistently underestimate the Penguin — myself included. In point of fact, Cobblepot is ruthless, vindictive, calculating, inventive — and perhaps the most brilliant man I've ever fought. He's smarter than I am."
  • Odd Friendship: The Penguin with any one of his friendsnote , really. "Gotham" portrays the Riddler as an unrequited love interest.
  • Old Money: The Cobblepots have long been one of Gotham's elite families. However, thanks to some questionable business decisions made by Oswald's father, their fortunes have waned considerably; the Penguin's desire to reverse this is one of his primary motivations for crime.
  • Only Sane Man: One of the few recurring Batman villains who is generally considered sane and rarely gets sent to Arkham, and he usually goes to Blackgate Penitentiary instead. He is highly eccentric (eating raw fish, his fixation on birds, his eccentric dress), but this rarely affects his judgment or disrupts his everyday functioning. However, the "Gotham" and "The Batman" versions are far wilder.
  • Oral Fixation: The Penguin is seldom seen without his trademark cigarette holder. However, some more kid-friendly versions removed this for obvious reasons. He's quite the wine and tea fan, too.
  • Papa Wolf: Do not harm his birds. It may take time, but he will find a way to suitably destroy you.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: In the live-action 1960s series, he sometimes wore paper-thin disguises that hardly fooled anyone.
  • Parasol of Pain: He's famous for his "trick" umbrellas in combat—primarily umbrellas with concealed blades or guns.
  • Parasol Parachute: Not only parachutes, but pogo sticks, mini-helicopters, and jetpacks have been equipped into his umbrellas.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Granted against Batman he usually doesn't come across this way but against unnamed goons who are relatively big and muscular, he's been shown to be strong enough for a small guy to knock a full grown man out with one hit or break another man's nose with a single umbrella swing.
  • Playing Both Sides: While he successfully manipulates both sides to his benefit, it's a fragile balance always on the verge of collapsing.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Shows signs of this in Penguin: Pain and Prejudice and Batman Returns. In "The Batman", he's a 20-something spoiled brat who's unafraid to throw public fits if something pisses him off.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: He's a Villain with Good Publicity and would like to keep it that way. He acts as classy as possible with his victims, particularly in "Birds of a Feather".
  • Quintessential British Gentleman:
    • At least, he tries to be. Apparently, "Stuffy English gentlemen" reminded creator Bill Finger of emperor penguins. While he usually speaks in a posh accent, Oswald is of British descent.
    • Defied in Batman: Arkham City. Penguin's backstory in this (and subsequent) games is that he was sent to a private school in England to study, but preferred the company of the criminal element in the East End and came back with a rough disposition and cockney accent.
    • In "The Batman", his family is from Newcastle, England.
  • The Rat: Sometimes. To what degree he'll sell out his fellow rogues, and his motive for doing so is Depending on the Writer.
  • Red Right Hand: His short stature and beak-like nose are a more subtle version of this. In "Batman Returns", Tim Burton decided to strenthen Penguin's physical resemblance to his namesake, fusing the three lower fingers into flipper-like appendages(syndactyly). This enjoyed some vogue in animationnote , but has never been accepted in the comics.
  • Reformed, but Rejected: How most of his genuine attempts to turn over a new leaf panned out.
  • The Resenter: Of just about everyone.note  But Bruce Wayne is at the top of the list. Cobblepot blames the Waynes, and Thomas in particular for his family's fall from grace, and this sentiment puts a bitter enmity between him and Thomas' heir, Bruce, who he sees as spoiled and immature.
  • Secret Identity Identity: Does he honestly fancy himself a refined gentleman longing for his peers' acceptance, or does he regard the Penguin, his darkest, most vicious animalistic criminal nature, as his true self while the gentleman criminal is a necessary Halloween costume? Or are they both aspects of a more complex personality? It's hard to say as the opinions of comic writers seem to vary broadly on the subject.
  • Self-Made Orphan: In most versions, his father dies of bronchial pneumonia, but in "Penguin: Pain and Prejudice", his father 's behavior and commentary eventually pushed him too far, and he murdered Tucker Cobblepot, leaving him alone with his mother. The only one that showed any signs of loving him. In "Gotham", his father, Elijah Van Dahl, (played by Pee Wee Herman, who played Mr. Cobblepot in "Batman Returns") was poisoned by Oswald's stepfamily, he would avenge his death by slaying them.
  • Shadow Archetype: His public persona represents a dark, corrupted version of Bruce Wayne's Rich Idiot With No Day Job identity.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Although varying based on the interpretation, his modern self appears to exhibit many symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. He's always been a sociopath, however.
  • Sinister Schnoz: He typically has a prominent nose despite assorted contrasting appearances across various incarnations. Although long in most versions, it resembles an average Roman nose in "Gotham" and "Telltale".
  • Stepford Smiler: Intelligent, rich and sophisticated; Oswald Cobblepot puts up a friendly, gentlemanly front. Behind closed doors, he's an ambitious criminal with quite a few easily pressed Berserk Buttons. He has flashes of compassion, but he's dominated by a desire to be respected and control those around him. The Penguin combines Types C and A with Obfuscating Stupidity to hide just how dangerous he is.
    "It is important to keep up appearances."
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness:
    • This is a recognized gimmick of The Penguin in almost all of his incarnations, particularly the Paul Williams version.
    • While it still comes out, especially during moments of stress where he'll go from comparatively concise to suddenly sounding as if he'd swallowed a thesaurus, he's been bypassing it lately to prevent communication error.
  • Supervillain Lair: Comes with the job description. Whether it's the Iceberg Lounge, his family's mansion, or an Absurdly Spacious Sewer, he makes it work.
  • Talking in Your Sleep: He once mumbled "penguin party in my pants" while sleep-frenching. Second-hand embarrassment is real and can strike without warning.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil
  • Too Kinky to Torture: During "Secret Six", when Bane starts whaling on him, he asks Bane to be replaced by a female member so he could enjoy it more, and he develops a crush on Dove after she knocks him out in "Birds of Prey".
  • Trademark Favorite Food: He prefers to dine on seafood, especially incarnations that embrace his penguin theme. Sardines, shrimps, oysters — as long as there's a table's worth of it, Oswald will enjoy himself.
  • Training Montage: Briefly shown during "Secret Origins Special" #1, where he was shown lifting weights and practicing with a punching bag as a kid. Result? He knocks out a bully's teeth with a single punch.
  • Tranquil Fury: If he has just cause to be outraged and is instead calm, understanding, and cheerful instead of dryly sarcastic and snide…be afraid.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Relentlessly exploits this trope.
  • Verbal Judo
  • Villain with Good Publicity: In the mainstream DCU continuity, he is a successful businessman and mob boss. In the DCAU and "Gotham", he had a tenure as Gotham's mayor.
  • Villainous Crush: Seemed to have a thing for Dawn Granger (Dove II) for a while. He did creepily stare at her boobs, though.
  • Villainous Friendship: With The Riddler and sometimes The Joker and Catwoman.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Oswald tried his hardest to gain the approval of his mother.
    • "Once Upon a Midnight Dreary" revealed he feared his mom never truly valued him as much as his brothers and father and pretended to love him because no one would. Sadly, there may be some truth to it because while she treats him fondly in flashbacks, she never defends him either.
  • Wicked Cultured: Faithful to his origins, the Penguin maintained a classy attitude even in criminality and clung to formal wear, with a tuxedo, a top hat, and a monocle.
  • Wicked Pretentious: The Penguin is from an upper-class family and a brutal gangster. Several stories indicate that he just doesn't fit in among Gotham's social elite despite his best attempts, particularly in "Birds of a Feather" and "Call of the Cobblepot".
  • With Friends Like These...: Sums up his on-again/off-again fellowship with the Joker. Despite their fundamental personality differences, frequent power struggles, and having practically made a hobby out of their multiple betrayals, numerous murder attempts, and constant verbal sparring, they've been pals for years.
  • Would Hurt a Child: When investigating the Red Triangle Gang in "Batman Returns", Batman notes that the Red Triangle Circus was shut down, shortly after announcing an "aquatic bird-boy" in the freak show, due to an alarming number of children disappearing or turning up dead in the wake of the circus' visits, with "one freak" evading capture and interrogating. Combined with the fact that Penguin's plan is ultimately to murder every first-born child in Gotham City, it's obvious Penguin has been a child murderer since he was rather young himself.

Alternative Title(s): The Penguin