How Paul Williams Made Me Like The Penguin

I gotta tell ya, Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot is not one of my favorite Bat-villains. He's got a pretty cool comic book origin. An outcast, he walks in and takes over a gang from it's leader. By. Killing. Him. That's pretty hardcore. Burgess Meredith was an incredible actor. He starred in a couple classic Twilight Zone episodes. He was Stallone's trainer, Mickey, in the Rocky films. He was George in the classic adaptation of Of Mice And Men. But his The Penguin? That's just fingernails on a chalkboard.

It didn't help that the '70's cartoon version was just as annoying. That Cyrano de Bergerac schnoz, and that grating voice.

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Maybe it's the whole fish thing. The only thing I can stomach is fish sticks. I do like shrimp. But most seafood is just slimey and tastes like chewing gum. That's kinda what I thought of Danny DeVito in Batman Returns. Now, no disrespect. If you enjoyed it and thought it was the greatest depiction of the character, hats off to ya. The whole thing was just weird and trippy. An homage to Penguin stealing the Batmobile - pretty much any rogue stealing the Batmobile on the '60's series. The whole Mayor storyline, which was a re-hash, too. Then there was the whole kidnapping Gotham's firstborn, elevating Cobblepot to Pharaoh of the Underworld.

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It wasn't until Bruce Timm and Paul Dini developed Batman: The Animated Series that I started to like The Penguin. He was given a personality outside of an umbrella and fish theme. He became a sympathetic social climber. A "wanabe." Most of his crimes had an ambition to them. He wanted to improve his social status. The whole Mayor thing made sense. On the '66 series most of these schemes like marrying an heiress or running for Mayor were just cover for some elaborate scheme to either kill Batman and Robin, or steal something. He'd always go to a lot of effort, for what? What Timm and Dini did was give him an ulterior motivation, I think. I could totally understand Penguin. Especially in his first appearance, kicking off The Batman Adventures. Not only is he planning a crime, but he's teaching his gang manners and sophistication, too! Helping them enrich their word power. Brilliant!

So, maybe it's not singer/composer/actor Paul Williams, who voiced The Penguin on The Animated Series that really did the trick.

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The guy is best known for writing Kermit's "Rainbow Connection" for the first The Muppets movie; the theme from the '70's The Love Boat; songs for Helen Reddy, The Carpenters and "Evergreen" from A Star is Born, with Barbara Streisand. He was Little Enos in the Smokey and the Bandit movies.

And then, he turned his career around; and, became one of the greatest adversaries ever.

What are your thoughts on Penguin? Any insights on how the character comes across on Gotham? What's your favorite Penguin comic story?

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