The Penguin (Oswald Cobblepot): Mob Boss or Oddity

By  Phil Perich for Before the Bat: The Gotham Podcast


Continuing the theme of characters from the TV show Gotham, this week I’ll explore the life of Oswald Cobblepot (The Penguin).  The Penguin’s first appearance was in Detective Comics #58 (December 1941).  Storylines that chronicled his childhood showed Oswald Cobblepot to by a short, chubby young boy with a big nose that was constantly harassed by the neighborhood bullies.  His situation did not improve when his mother made him carry an umbrella at all times, even in sunny weather after his father’s death from pneumonia.  With some of his only happy childhood memories coming from his mother’s pet birds, its no surprise Oswald went to college years later and earned a degree in Ornithology.  After his mother’s death, Oswald turns to a life of crime always wearing a top hat, monocle, and tuxedo as his “uniform”.  He commits crimes (mostly robberies) using trick umbrellas that conceal guns, gases, knives, and other weapons.

In the 1966 Batman TV series, The Penguin is portrayed by actor Burgess Meredith.

Starting in the late 1980’s, The Penguin began to be portrayed in the comics as more of a mastermind.  An Example of this is when Penguin used the hypnotist Mortimer Kadaver to fake his death to escape prison until Batman (the only one to figure out Penguin was still alive) recaptures him in Detective Comics #611 (February 1990).

Another example is when Penguin tricks mute inventor Harold Allnut into building him a machine that could control any number of birds to behave however he wanted. (Batman #448-449, Detective Comics #615, June 1990).

In the 1992 movie, Batman Returns, a more hideous version of The Penguin is played by actor Danny Devito.

As time went on, The Penguin became more Oswald Cobblepot, behind the scenes crime lord, sending his men out to actually pull the crimes while he sat in his legitimate business, the Iceberg Lounge and Casino.  It was here that Batman could find him to “question” him about his gangs activities.  

After DC Comics New 52 reboot, Oswald continued his crime boss ways until he had to go into hiding, and handed his empire over to his lieutenant Ignatius Ogilvy, thinking his man would turn the reigns over when he returned.  Instead, Ogilvy attempted to take everything Oswald had and become a new crime lord calling himself Emperor Penguin to rub Oswald’s nose in it.  After Ogilvy takes the Man-Bat serum, it takes both Batman and Penguin to defeat him.  After regaining his empire, Oswald returns to a more hands on approach.  In the Batman prequel TV show Gotham, Oswald Cobblepot is portrayed by actor Robin Lord Taylor.

In the show, Oswald is show to be at the bottom of the food chain of the Fish Mooney Mob.  After giving the Major Crimes Unit a tip about the Wayne Murders, Oswald’s death is faked by Detective Jim Gordon.  After surviving a fall to the river, Oswald leaves Gotham for awhile, but he has now returned, plotting revenge.  That’s it for this week.  Please contact me with any thoughts on this week’s blog or any Batman related topic at:

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Until next week, be good. Remember no one comes away from Gotham City unscathed. 


Posted on October 13, 2014 .