The Penguin (Batman Returns)
In Tim Burton’s second Batman installment, he held nothing back with his second major supervillain. Danny DeVito played Oswald Cobblepot, who came to be known as The Penguin. His natural habitat are the sewers of Gotham, so naturally, he’s the most disgusting thing you ever seen. In this scene, businessman Max Shreck (played by Christopher Walken) is attempting to team up with Cobblepot in order to ultimately quash Batman for good. It’s a great introduction to The Penguin because it’s a perfect example of his animal-like contrast in regular society.
Similar to The Joker, the devil’s in the details with Penguin. He’s hard to even look at because of his bizarre physiognomy, his dirty clothes, his black teeth and lips. But we feel for him from the outset — as we see in the beginning credits, Cobblepot is born of cold, rich parents who didn’t know what to do with him. They were terrified of him, so they kept him in a cage in his infancy. After he killed the family cat, they decided to cast him away on Christmas Eve (of all days they could’ve picked). His bassinet floated down the river and into the slimy underbelly of Gotham, where he lived ever since. It’s actually a really sad story!
The Penguin is so compelling because we see his origin, and we can’t help but feel a sense of justification in all of his vindictive action. This is a man who has simply been dealt a bad hand in life. To see him make the most of it as The Penguin is, well, satisfying in some ways.