Working hard on Good Neighbors, Mouseguard, and a mystery project that I won’t announce till I get the full go-head. Here’s the latest Bat-Villain.
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The Penguin often struck me as a victim of the Batman world’s narrow focus. All the villains have colorful and various styles and methods, but in the end, they all ended up being robbers, and the story plots all followed the same formula, with different palettes painted over it. One themed villain, 3-5 henchmen, one elaborate caper involving the robbery of an object in keeping with the villain’s theme, etc. Even the 90s cartoons stuck with this formula, though the prodigious talents of Paul Dini managed to find new meaning in the tired old tropes by granting each villain a theme-appropriate pathos.
Yet only in recent years has the formula started breaking up. Tim Burton’s version ran for mayor, which was a clever twist. But Burton, ever the stylist, felt the need to enhanced the visual aspects of the character to monstrous proportions, making a man who’s a bit short and homely with a funny walk into something barely human.
These days, the Penquin is Gotham’s premiere nightclub owner; a reasonably interesting change. Yet he’s still depicted as though he’s, well, a freaky Batman villain. And it seems to me that being short, big-nosed, and duck-footed doesn’t actually make you a freak, certainly not of the same caliber as the Joker. He’s not really a “new breed of criminal” engendered by the existence of Batman. But for a few belabored bird metaphors, the guy’s just a crook in a tux.
Anyway, my point is that I see the Penguin, potentially, as the Batman world’s answer to Goldfinger, so that’s how I approached him. He’s not a freakishly deformed outcast, just a short guy with a big nose trying to become the richest man in Gotham. It’s doesn’t have to be what he looks like that’s impressively horrible. It’s what he does to get rich that would make him a monster. He need not be all that different from any other mobster or ponzi-scheme crook. And wouldn’t it be nice to see Batman take down a guy like that? Why do they all have to be freaky outcasts? As a bit of an outcast myself, I take issue.
Oh, and the bird jokes are really tired. Is that the best we can do? His name is Penguin, because he looks like a penguin, AND he’s obsessed with birds? Really?