Follow TV Tropes

Following

Comic Book / The Penguin

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/the_penguin.jpg
"You don't really think you'll win, do you?..."

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
Advertisement:

The Penguin, real name Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot, is a comic book supervillain who appears in comic books published by DC Comics, and is one of the most iconic members of Batman's Rogues Gallery.

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 the majority 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. All of that, in addition to his notable love for birds and the lessons in cruelty he was taught in childhood, 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.

Advertisement:

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 who specializes in committing crimes beneath a façade 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 appearence. Over the years, he gradually moved away from thievery and assault to arms-dealing and operating as a legitimate business man 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, although 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.

Advertisement:

The character is one of the most prominently featured Batman villains, having appearences in virtually every Batman-related media, his most iconic depictions being in the 1960s Batman television series, portrayed by Burgess Meredith, and in the 1992 film Batman Returns, where he was portrayed by Danny Devito. 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. He is rumored to appear in the 2021 scheduled Batman film directed and written by Matt Reeves.

In 2009, the Penguin was ranked as IGN's 51st Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time.


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 clearly traumatized his child making Oswald watch him and his wife engage in sexual activities (Although Baby Oswald fortunately fell asleep). Mrs. Cobblepot, meanwhile, was certainly not up for any parenting awards herself. Any time Mr. Cobblepot said or did something to their son she would either downplay it or take his side. She would 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 whenever he went outside, and beat 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. 33 years later, he corrupted Gotham by running for mayor during Christmastime.
    • Averted, however, in Gotham. His single mother Gertrud Kapelput, a poor German immigrant in this continuity, adored him, and 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 old 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”.
  • 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 and 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 throwing 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 and 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 (such as when he sold drugs to CHILDREN in the guise of popsicles) but there's 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 their brother was harassed by other children.
  • 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, and 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 Telltale version actually looks quite handsome and has a somewhat average 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 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 indeed highly educated, and has been drawn wearing glasses when not using his trademark monocle. One book even 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, he will not hesitate to brutally murder and abuse his minions at the slightest transgression. Particularly if he thinks they are mocking his appearance. In “The Batman”, while not as insane as the Joker, he still gets sent to Arkham for convenience’s sake.
  • 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: there is typically a back room where the super-villains and criminals hang out, deal illegal weapons, drink and shoot the breeze / threaten to kill one another. It's 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 hobnob with famous "gangsters" and "supervillains" as the main draw to the establishment.
  • The Beastmaster: Especially in his pre-Iceberg Lounge days, he would often employ 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 afterwards. 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 a good amount self control over it but when he feels that circumstances are such that he can allow himself a proper smack down 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, as mentioned in “The Batman”.
  • Bodyguard Babes: Usually employs at least two of these in most incarnations, often with bird-themed names. In “The Batman”, after a trip to Japan, 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 effect 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 hung himself.
  • Camp Straight: 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 homosexual or 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.
  • The Charmer: Strangely enough for someone who considers himself The Grotesque, Oswald really 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. Although he once said “penguin party in my pants” while sleep-Frenching. It’s hilarious and disturbing all at the same time.
  • 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. In one comic, he has an elderly aunt who is unaware of his criminal history, but she’s quite skilled with his umbrellas when she was about to be 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.
  • Consummate Liar: Comes with the job description. Whether it’s the Iceberg Lounge, his family’s mansion, or a sewer, he makes it work.
  • 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 (familial abuse, bullying, being rejected by a girl, etc.). In one story, even the gangsters he attempted to work for rejected him.
  • 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 has a tendency towards being rather 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 creature with a two foot nose and sharp piranha teeth, and sometimes he just looks like a perfectly ordinary mildly chubby man with a Bob Hope face in a suit. In Gotham and Telltale he is quite thin. 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 he'd still 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, but how depraved he is depends 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 middleground 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 and while usually he 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 nonetheless have the last word.
    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 an artistic choice or that in the interim, DCAU!Oswald got corrective surgery.
    • In the choronogically 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.
  • 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 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 hung himself, and it wasn't even certain that the guy was laughing at him!
    • 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.
  • 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: In most of his backstories he has a loving if strained relationship with his controlling and sometimes abusive mother. Although his mom was a sweetheart in some versions.
  • Everything's Better with Penguins: He loves all birds, but identifies most with Penguins.
  • Evil Brit: Sometimes. Otherwise, this is an affectation, if something implied at all. In some video games, he speaks with a British accent, while in “The Batman”, he simply had relatives from Newcastle. However, in “Gotham”, his mother is 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 actually uses those gadgets for evil.
  • Evil Debt Collector: More Apathetic than evil. Not long after graduating college and prior to officially becoming a criminal, Cobblepot is unable to make a required payment because his mother's long illness had run up enormous debts, and everything in his store including the birds who were Oswald's only companions were seized by creditors.
  • Evil Is Petty: Make sure you mind your manners around the guy. If you do something 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 owl-like “Hoo hoo” laugh. In “Gotham”, he has a normal laugh. In “Batman Returns” and the Arkham games, he has a deep, husky cackle. 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, but instead 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 but 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 being 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 to survive his childhood now prevent him from welcoming decent people into his world and are now a part of who he is. Unlike many of the 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 fairly 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, but on a handful of occasions he's made attempts 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 and have a deep understanding of what it is to feel obligated to their family's legacy and for that obligation to cause them to be dysfunctional in their relationships with other people. 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, however, 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 others'.
  • 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, suffers a stroke and became invalid (and in some stories dies), leaving him with a great deal of debt that sent their holdings into foreclosure and he loses everything he had clung to for security, the 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 the cold, callous criminal he'd later become, and obsessed with proving his nay-sayers wrong, he'd return later to kill the head of the group and ensure the late criminal's accomplices were arrested as revenge for their ridicule. Having always ached to fit in among the social elite, he still seeks validation and acceptance, but uses illicit means to buy his way back into high society, as his mind had been far too twisted from his life experiences and his raging inferiority complex to believe he can 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 out this way before evolving into more of a mob boss.
  • Gonk: Depending on the Artist he may be deformed in some way, 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.
  • 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 actually 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 Batman: The Telltale Series 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 own bitterness and ego.
  • Impoverished Patrician: They would eventually fall on hard times due to some poor business deals made by Oswald's father, leading to his motive to restoring his family's former wealth and status, thus "proving" his own worth as a Cobblepot (and defeating his father’s despising ghost). His portrayal in The Batman revolves around him "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. Like his umbrellas, the Penguin appears completely harmless, perhaps even mundane, but also like his umbrellas he conceals a darker nature.
    • Averted in “Batman Returns”: “Shit! I picked a cute one!”
  • 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 been shown to be 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 clothing 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 has been shown to be a very effective combatant. Anyone who can beat up SUPERMAN is definitely 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.
  • Momma's Boy: Cares deeply for his mother. Almost to Norman Bates' levels in Penguin: Pain and Prejudice.
  • Monster Sob Story: Has, on occasion, used these to gain sympathy. Although the negative feelings are real.
  • Mister Big: Has always been depicted as a man of below standard height, sometimes comically so. The Batman: Arkham Series stats places his height at "4, 10" which is average... if you happen to be a 10 year old. In most books, he is 5 foot 2. His nicarnation on The Batman is one of his shortest.
  • Nice to the Waiter:
    • Subverted. Big tipper. Exemplary etiquette. Unquestionably evil bastard. However, he has rather disgusting table manners. We don’t blame Veronica for being disgusted: he ate those fish WHOLE and barely used that napkin.
    • See above for the shrimp puff incident.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Absolutely loves this trope. He is 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 a potential love interest, interestingly enough.
  • Only Sane Man: One of the few recurring Batman villains who is generally considered sane and as such rarely gets sent to Arkham. He usually goes to Blackgate Penitentiary instead. However, the “Gotham” and “The Batman” versions are far crazier.
  • Oral Fixation: The Penguin is almost never seen without his trademark cigarette holder. However, some more kid-friendly versions removed this for obvious reason. 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.
  • 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.
  • Playing Both Sides: While he manages to successfully manipulate 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 20something spoiled brat who’s not afraid to publicly throw a fit 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 American accent, Oswald is at least 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 will sell out his fellow rogues and his motive for doing so is Depending on the Writer.
  • Reformed, but Rejected: How most of his genuine attempts to turn over a new leaf turn out.
  • Secret Identity Identity: Does he truly fancy himself a refined gentleman who longs for the acceptance of his peers or does he think of the Penguin, his darkest, most vicious animalistic criminal nature as his true self and the gentleman criminal as 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 widely on the subject. In the live-action 1960s series, he sometimes wore paper-thin disguises that hardly fooled anyone.
  • 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 also played Mr. Cobblepot in Batman Returns) was poisoned by Oswald’s stepfamily and after he found out he came around by killing them.
  • Shadow Archetype: His public persona represents a dark, corrupted version of Bruce Wayne's Rich Idiot with No Day Job identity.
  • Sinister Schnoz: Regardless of the existence of his deformities across his various incarnations, he typically has a very prominent nose. Although it’s ridiculously long in most versions, it looks like an average Roman nose in Gotham and Telltale.
  • 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.
  • Stepford Smiler: Intelligent, rich and sophisticated; Oswald Cobblepot puts up a friendly gentlemanly front, but behind closed doors he is a power hungry criminal with quite a few easily pressed Berserk Buttons. He has flashes of compassion, but he is dominated by a desire to be respected and to 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 prominent gimmick of The Penguin in almost all of his incarnations, particularly the Paul Williams Paul Williams version.
    • While it still comes out, especially during moments of stress where he'll go from comparatively straightforward to suddenly sounding as if he'd swallowed a thesaurus, he's been shying away from it lately to avoid communication error.
    • He does not know what arteriosclerosis is and mistook it for a legal term.
    • He was far less articulate in “The Batman”.
    • Also he hates repeating himself.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Has been in both positions.
  • Red Right Hand: His short stature and beak-like nose are a more subtle version of this. In Batman Returns, Tim Burton decided to enhance Penguin's physical resemblance by giving him deformed hands, where the three lower fingers fuse together into ugly flipper-like paddles (syndactyly). This has enjoyed some vogue in animationnote , but has never been accepted in the comics.
  • The Resenter: Of almost everyone. note 
    But Bruce Wayne in particular. Cobblepot blames the Waynes and Thomas in particular for his family's fall from grace and this feeling put a bitter enmity between him and Thomas’ heir, Bruce, who he sees as spoiled and immature.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: As of now in the mainstream DCU continuity, he is a successful businessman and mob boss. In the DCAU he eventually became 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.
    • In Once Upon a Midnight Dreary, it was revealed that he feared that his mom never truly loved him as much as his brothers and father and pretended to love him because no one would, sadly there may be some truth into that because even those we see her treat him with fondness in the flashbacks, we also never truly see her defend him either.
  • Wicked Cultured: Faithful to his origins, the Penguin maintained a classy attitude even in criminality, and kept wearing formally, with a tuxedo, a top hat and a monocle.
  • Wicked Pretentious: The Penguin is from an upper class family but is also a brutal gangster. Several stories show 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 relationship with the Joker. Despite their fundamental differences in personalities, frequent power struggles, and having practically made a hobby out of their multiple betrayals, numerous murder attempts, and constant verbal sparring, they've been friends 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 quite obvious Penguin has been a child murderer since he was fairly young himself.

Top

Example of:

/

Feedback