The Penguin is depicted as a short, obese man and is one of Batman's greatest enemies. He is known for his love of birds and his specialized high-tech umbrellas. A mobster-type criminal, he fancies himself a "gentleman of crime"; his nightclub business provides a cover for more low-key criminal activity, which Batman tolerates as a source of criminal underworld information. Actor Burgess Meredith popularized the Penguin in the 1960s Batman television series, partially because of his signature squawking laughter. Danny DeVito played a much darker version of the character in the 1992 film Batman Returns; this version is a physically deformed, psychopathic mass murderer. Subsequent Batman animated series have alternately featured the deformed Penguin and a more traditional version.
The deformed version of the character has also appeared in comics, most notably in the miniseries Batman: The Long Halloween and its sequel Dark Victory. He only appears for a minor cameo at the end of the Long Halloween, and has no lines. He plays a slightly more notable role in Dark Victory, when Batman goes to him for information. This incarnation also added elements of the 1966 TV series character, as he shouts the well-known "waugh waugh" while talking.
The Penguin received his alias from a childhood nickname, bestowed by his peers, who teased him because of his grotesque appearance and love of birds. (Retellings of his origin suggest he also suffered from some sort of hip ailment, which caused him to waddle when he walked. The Penguin shows no signs of suffering from this affliction today.) Some comics suggest that he tried to abandon the nickname, which he hates, but it has been permanently brought into popularity by his high-profile criminal career. He has cashed in on its popularity with his Iceberg Lounge nightclub in Gotham City.
Unlike most of the Batman villains, the Penguin is in control of his own actions and perfectly sane, features that serve to maintain a unique relationship with his archenemy, Batman. This has extended into the current situation with the Penguin ceasing his direct involvement in crime, instead running a nightclub that is popular with the underworld. As such, he is an excellent source of information on crime, so Batman grudgingly tolerates his operations. However, the entrepreneurial Penguin is often fencing stolen property or arranging early furloughs for incarcerated former criminal associates - for a hefty fee, of course - on the side. During the storyline "No Man's Land", when Gotham City is nearly leveled by an earthquake, he stays behind when the US government shuts down and blockades the city. He becomes one of the major players in the mostly-abandoned and lawless city, using his connections to profit. One of these connections is discovered to be Lex Luthor and his company, LexCorp.
The Penguin keeps a presence in Gotham as it is rebuilt, mostly due to the efforts of Lex Luthor.
While the Penguin is away from Gotham City, the Great White and Tally Man kill many of the villains who worked for Penguin, and frame Harvey Dent. Great White had planned to take over Gotham's criminal syndicate and weaken all his competition - Penguin included. Upon his return to Gotham, the Penguin continues to claim that he has gone "straight" and reopens the Iceberg Lounge nightclub, selling overpriced penguin merchandise. He urges Riddler to avoid crime, as it's more lucrative in their current, non-criminal lifestyle.
The Penguin always carries an umbrella due to his Mother’s fanaticism. The umbrellas usually contain weapons such as guns, missiles, laser guns, flame-throwers and acid spraying devices. He usually carries an umbrella with the function to transform its top into a series of spinning blades. This can be used as a mini helicopter or as an offensive weapon.
The Penguin was played by Burgess Meredith in the Batman television series of the 1960s and the spin-off movie. A largely campy interpretation because the series was essentially a situation comedy, Meredith's performance is perhaps best remembered through his signature laugh, meant to mimic the squawk of a penguin. One cause of the laugh was the smoke from the cigarettes the character always smoked, which irritated Meredith's throat and made him cough, as he had already quit smoking in real life. The Penguin's thugs wear black bowler hats, with dark clothing adorned with names of various animals of prey; these are either birds ("Hawk") or fishes ("Shark").
Burgess Meredith, as the Penguin made a brief cameo appearance in the 1968 episode of The Monkees entitled "The Monkees Blow Their Minds".
On Late Night With Conan O'Brien, Dick Cheney is often played in fake TV movies by Meredith's Penguin. Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, also frequently uses Meredith's Penguin laugh to imitate Cheney.
In Batman Returns, the Penguin was portrayed by Danny DeVito. Director Tim Burton, inspired by the film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, re-imagined the character not as an eloquent gentleman of crime, but a physically deformed sociopath with a homicidal grudge against Gotham City. While this Penguin retained a number of trademarks, such as a variety of trick umbrellas and the use of a monocle, he was given a huge visual makeover. Where the comic version had varied between a full head of hair and varying degrees of thinning, this Penguin was bald at the top, with his remaining length of hair long and stringy. His hands were now flippers, with a thumb and index finger, and the remaining three fingers fused together. An unidentified thick, dark green bile-like liquid sometimes trickled from his nose and mouth.
Instead of a tuxedo, he wore a more gothic, Victorian-style outfit, with a jabot as opposed to a bow tie. Other instances show him in black boots, a dickey, and something akin to a child's blanket sleeper, or the old long john-style underwear of the 1800s. However, Burton's design maintained the top hat seen in the comics, along with a monocle and a cigarette in some scenes.
In the film, the Penguin is born disfigured and his wealthy parents throw their infant son into Gotham's sewers. The child survives, floating down Gotham's sewers and under the city zoo, where he is taken in by a group of penguins and later joins a circus freak show. While researching Penguin, Batman speculates that the Penguin was responsible for the disappearance of children during his time in the circus freak show. At the end of the film he sends his clowns to steal all the first born children, and his penguins with missles on their backs to blow up Gotham leading to a showdown with Batman who manages to knock him off a platform, through a skylight and into the icy waters below. He later emerges from the pool ready to kill Batman but he is weakened from the impact of the fall. He draws an umbrella from his collection, but accidentally draws a harmless toy, "the cute one". Complaining of the heat, and bleeding profusely from his mouth and nose, he collapses to the concrete, and dies. An honor guard of penguins emerges, and slowly drags him into the water, where he sinks into oblivion.
When Batman: The Animated Series debuted in 1992, the Penguin was voiced by Paul Williams. Due to the close relation in time between Batman Returns and the animated series, the freakish look of the film's version of the character remained, although somewhat toned down. While physically altered, The Penguin returned to the gentleman of crime of the comics, fancying himself a high society elite.
In the 1997 follow-up to the original animated series, The New Batman Adventures, the Penguin returned to an appearance more like his traditional comic book look. He also assumed a role similar to the one in the comic books: a "legitimate" businessman and mob boss who runs a night club called the "Iceberg Lounge".
The character has also appeared on The Batman, voiced by Tom Kenny. In this continuity, the Penguin is primarily concerned with reestablishing the Cobblepot family name in society by stealing from the citizens of Gotham to rebuild his wealth. His speech is often peppered with confused squawks. He does, however, possess a few of his key personality traits from the comics and earlier animated series, such as his enormous greed and his way of considering himself a high society elite.
He is sometimes aided by two henchwomen: a masked pair called the Kabuki Twins. (Although their names have never been mentioned in the show, the first The Batman comic book, which starred Penguin, Penguin reveals their names to be Gale and Peri.) In addition, it is clear that he also knows some form of martial arts, and is athletic enough to engage in hand-to-hand combat with Batman, dodging and parrying with his various trick bumbershoots. He also seems to be in a rivalry with The Joker (and, to a lesser extent, the Riddler) for the title of Gotham's most dangerous criminal. This Penguin also regards Bruce Wayne as a personal enemy and has held him hostage on multiple occasions (though he is unaware of Wayne's alter ego). In one episode, he even infiltrates Wayne Manor, though does not discover the Batcave. He also has a grudge against Wayne's butler Alfred Pennyworth, due to the Pennyworths having left the service of the Cobblepots generations ago.
Unused concept art from the show indicates that a more classic version of the Penguin was considered for the show.
Danish building toy maker Lego's Lego Batman line includes one particular set, 7783-The Batcave: The Penguin and Mr. Freeze's Invasion, which features The Penguin. He appears as a minifigure in the set, with short, unbending legs, the classic top hat and monocle and a purple pin-stripe suit. The Penguin rides in a submarine reminiscent of the one in the 1960s TV series and is assisted by miniature penguin robots. The Lego also includes a depiction of the Batcave.
He also appears in the Batman Lego promotional video. He is the final crook to be caught (after Two-Face, Mr. Freeze and Joker).
At one point he was planned to appear as a boss in The Adventures of Batman & Robin for the Sega CD, in which he would try to kidnap Summer Gleeson. The Penguin was cut from the game because it was tight on villains, but the storyboards for his animated cutscene are displayed in Paul Dini's book, Batman Animated.
He is the main enemy in the Batman: The Cobblebot Caper. First he is in the bank attacking with his umbrella which fires an electrical rope. On Level 2 he blows up the lab but Batman eventually escapes the building. On Level 3 he orders the Kabuki Twins to rob the Gotham Steelworks and at the end of the game he is in a giant robot bird that can spit flame and shoot missiles.
Penguin is appears in Lego Batman: The Video Game, as one of the leaders of the Arkham breakout. His plan is to use mind-controlled penguins to wreak havok in Gotham, to this end he employs Bane, Killer Croc, Catwoman, and Man-Bat