Back Issues: Penguin's Storied History With the Batman Takes Flight

Batman has one of the most eclectic rogues galleries in superhero comics, with the villainous characters even assembling their own loyal fanbase. The Batman, the next DC film from Warner Bros., has no shortage of villains for the Dark Knight to encounter. One of the major bad guys is Penguin, portrayed by Colin Farrell. Created by the legendary creative team of Bill Finger and Bob Kane, Penguin is a classic Batman nemesis with a distinct visual look that stands out from the pack. Batman and Penguin's history runs deep, which is why now is the perfect time to catch up on some of their epic battles ahead of The Batman premiere.

Unlike some of Batman's more psychotic adversaries, Penguin is more likely to find himself imprisoned in Blackgate Penitentiary than Arkham Asylum. He's a sinister, calculated foe, who has an intellect that even rivals the Caped Crusader. Some of Penguin's iconic stories from the comics highlight these qualities while also displaying the tendencies that place him near the top as one of the Dark Knight's great enemies.

Oswald Cobblepot debuted in 1941's Detective Comics #58 in a story titled "One of the Most Perfect Frame-ups!" All of Penguin's vices were on full display, such as his stash of umbrellas, his shortened physique, and his ties to Gotham City's underworld. Getting your hands on the story is a must-read to see how Finger and Kane laid the groundwork for The Penguin's comic book roots. Cobblepot was much more hands-on back in his early days, using his trick-umbrellas to dish out punishment to those who wronged him. 

A modern reimaging of Penguin took place in Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's Batman: Earth One. DC's line of Earth One books were meant to put a fresh coat of paint on the publisher's iconic heroes. In Batman: Earth One, Penguin is the mayor of Gotham and also happens to have had a role in the killing of Thomas and Martha Wayne. This gives Penguin a personal connection to Batman, increasing their rivalry in the process. Penguin as a well-connected political figure sets him up as a criminal mastermind on the level of a Kingpin from the Marvel Universe.

Burgess Meredith's portrayal of Penguin in the 1960s Batman series starring Adam West is another example of the villain's crooked nature on display. Fans will recall the unmistakable laugh Meredith executed as Penguin on the series. Penguin was again adapted into a live-action movie by Danny DeVito in 1992's Batman Returns. The actor enjoyed his time as Penguin so much that decades later he penned a story for the villain in the Gotham City Villains Anniversary anthology. The story reunited DeVito's Penguin with Michelle Pfeifer's Catwoman in a follow-up love story for the film.

"I think it's a great series and I think it's a wonderful story and it's a lot of fun and a lot of energy and I loved Oswald Cobblepot, and I love Tim Burton," DeVito told in a 2020 interview. "We've done four or five movies together. I can't wait for him to come up with the next one, whatever we're gonna do together."

Colin Farrell's Penguin is slated to get his own spinoff series on HBO Max. The Penguin series will follow Oswald Cobblepot's rise to power in the Gotham underworld. From the sounds of it, the show takes place before the events of The Batman, since Penguin will be amassing his criminal empire. Of course, fans will need to watch The Batman to see how the film leaves the Penguin character.


The Batman arrives exclusively in theaters on March 4th. Be sure to let us know your favorite Penguin stories in the comments!