The Penguin: Who is the Bumbershoot Bandit? – Movie Rewind Backstory

You Can Stand Under His Umbrella-ella-ella, eh, eh, eh

The Penguin: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 #9

A man reviews business papers. He glances at the rich and powerful dining in his lounge as classical music swirls around them. There is a commotion at the entrance as men waving machine guns storm into the building. They gun down the club’s security team while the patrons duck underneath tables. The man grabs a nearby umbrella. This requires his personal intervention.

He points the umbrella at the attackers and presses a button. A smoke bomb explodes near them. He twists the shaft and aims the umbrella at the coughing attackers. Three bursts of gunfire kill most of them. 

A bulletproof canopy blocks their return fire. The man leaps from the second floor as a blade flicks out from the umbrella and impales the final attacker. As his guests panic, The Penguin motions for his remaining men to clean up the mess. Heads will roll for this insult.

The Penguin is one of Batman’s oldest foes. This fine feathered fiend’s schemes have kept heroes and police on the back foot for decades. So who is he? How did he become a villain? Why does he use an umbrella as a weapon? Let’s find out.

Rain, Rain, Go Away: The Penguin’s Backstory

The Penguin: [removes a painting from a wall] “Ah, Audubon. My personal favorite. [passes the restrained owner] Sorry about the intrusion, sir, but at least you’ve been ransacked by a man of impeccable taste.”

Batman the Animated Series “Birds of a Feather” (Season 1, Episode 52)

The Penguin debuted in Detective Comics #58 in 1941. He was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger and inspired by the Willie the Penguin mascot of Kool cigarettes. Fittingly, The Penguin is usually portrayed as a smoker.

Oswald Cobblepot was bullied as a child for his obesity, oversized nose, and tendency to waddle when he walked. Even worse, his overbearing mother forced him to bring an umbrella everywhere because his father had caught a terminal case of pneumonia during a rainstorm. Oswald’s only friends were the birds from his family’s pet shop.

That shop was bankrupted after Mrs. Cobblepot died. Oswald turned to crime, hoping to become rich and powerful so no one would ever dare mock him again. He dressed in formal wear to complement his planned future and named himself The Penguin because of his appearance.

The Penguin began a crime spree, stealing jewelry and art while leaving behind eggs as a calling card. Batman and Robin tracked The Penguin down and overcame his bevy of ballistic bumbershoots. Cobblepot escaped from jail and swore revenge on the Dynamic Duo.

Break the Ice: The Penguin’s History

The Penguin:I’ll go legit.”

Batman: Penguin Triumphant

The Penguin’s character was reinvented following the Crisis on Infinite Earths. The Cobblepot family was old money that had been entwined with Gotham City since the Revolutionary War. Oswald was an outcast from the family because he was born with physical deformities. The umbrella’s origin remained the same, but the bird motif now stemmed from an interest in ornithology.

The Penguin tired of his battles with Batman and chose to semi-retire from crime. He opened an upscale club called The Iceberg Lounge, which served as a legitimate front while he worked as a fence and information broker in the VIP areas. The Iceberg Lounge was a hit with Gotham’s elite and thrill-seekers drawn by the allure of dining with Gotham’s many villains, who frequented the Lounge.

Fight, Not Flight: The Penguin’s Powers and Personality

[Batman’s foes are swapping stories of times they almost killed him]
The Penguin: [narrating] “Welcome, my ebon-winged adversary! You have taken the bait, as I knew you would. Now, prepare to meet your end within my aviary of doom!
Poison Ivy:Aviary of what?
The Joker:Yeesh, Pengers, how corny can you get?
The Penguin:Fah! Just because you mundane miscreants have no drama in your souls! Anyway, there he was in my avi- [sighs] big bird house…

Batman the Animated Series “Almost Got ‘Im” (Season 1, Episode 46)

The Penguin lacks superpowers, but his skills and arsenal make up for it. He is an expert martial artist, skilled at training birds, and a cunning mob boss. The Penguin’s wealth allows him to purchase better equipment than most criminals and routinely hire villains to do his bidding. Some versions (most notably the one from Batman Returns) are born with syndactyly fingers, causing them to resemble flippers.

A Bulgarian umbrella is The Penguin’s signature weapon. No one would expect an umbrella to hide a machine gun, flame thrower, sword, rocket launcher, or other weapons. Some trick umbrellas allow him to fly via collapsible helicopter blades, have bulletproof canopies, and keep rain off of the user. It’s the perfect accessory to go with this year’s Spring Collection.

The Penguin acts like an affable gentleman, often peppering his speech with five dollar words. He is one of the only sane Batman villains, loathes being insulted, and will gladly destroy anyone he perceives as not showing him respect. The Penguin is also one of the few people The Joker considers a friend, possibly a result of the Diabolic Duo appearing together in many cartoons.

The Actors Who Play The Penguin

Burgess Meredith – Batman, Batman: The Movie, The Monkees
Ted Knight – The Adventures of Batman, The New Scooby Doo Movies
Lennie Weinrib – The New Adventures of Batman
Robert Morse – The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians
Paul Williams – Batman: the Animated Series, Superman: the Animated Series
Tom Kenny – The Batman, The Batman vs. Dracula, Batman: Ninja, Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Others
Stephen Root – Batman: the Brave and the Bold
Dana Snyder – Justice League Action
Wayne Knight – Harley Quinn
William Salyers – Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, Batman vs. Two-Face
David Ogden Stiers – Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman
Robert Lord Taylor – Gotham
Danny DeVito – Batman Returns
Colin Farrell – The Batman (2022)

Didya Get All That?

Gotham City’s faux gentleman thief.

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