Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot - better known as The Penguin - is one of Batman's oldest and most devious adversaries. Throughout the DC Comics and most other Batman-related media, he has portrayed himself as a "gentleman of crime", living a high-class lifestyle and catering to the elite citizens of Gotham City in both legal and illegal affairs. A short, physically awkward man, Cobblepot compensates for this by dressing in classy attire and surrounding himself with women of lesser intellect. As with all of Gotham's most notorious criminals, Penguin's crimes tend to revolve around a particular gimmick, in his case, umbrellas and bird-themed paraphernalia.
The Penguin's only cinematic demise occurs in Tim Burton's second Batman film, Batman Returns. This particular incarnation of the Penguin, portrayed by Danny DeVito, is significantly different from his comic book counterpart.
Oswald Cobblepot was born to a wealthy family, but was also born deformed: his skin was deathly pale, his nose long and pointed like a beak, and his fingers were fused together on both hands giving them the appearance of flippers. These physical deformities led to Oswald's parents locking their son away in an iron box, but as well as his grotesque appearance, the infant Oswald was also prone to homicidal behaviour, as demonstrated when he attacked the family cat. Ashamed of their hideous offspring, the Cobblepots abandoned their baby on Christmas Eve by placing him in his pram and sending it floating down into the Gotham sewers.
Thirty-three years following his abandonment, the man known in infancy as Oswald Cobblepot is now known only as The Penguin. He resurfaces in Gotham leading a criminal freak-show called the Red Triangle Circus who kidnap multi-millionaire Max Shreck. Penguin blackmails Shreck into helping him make a public appearance by staging the kidnapping of the Mayor's infant son and rescuing the child from his own gang. Formerly nothing but an urban legend, the "hideous penguin-man" emerges from the sewers as an apparent hero, winning the public's trust and admiration. With public support, Penguin discovers the identities of his parents as well as his own birth name, while at the same time he secretly gathers the names of all of Gotham's first-born children as part of his plan to wreak revenge on the city.
With the public enamoured by Cobblepot's tragic origins, Shreck encourages Penguin to run for Mayor. In order to make certain that his plans are unimpeded, Penguin decides to take Batman out of the picture and enlists the aid of Catwoman to keep Batman distracted while he sabotages the Batmobile. Later, Batman is framed for the murder of a beauty queen who was to light the Christmas Tree in Gotham Square. As the Dark Knight makes his getaway in the Batmobile, the Penguin uses a remote jamming device to hijack the vehicle's controls, all the while mocking Batman over a video feed and gloating about how he manipulated the people of Gotham. Batman, however, records the Penguin's words to use against him later.
Batman of course, survives the Penguin's hijacking of the Batmobile, and the following day Bruce Wayne interrupts a speech by Cobblepot using the recording he made of the madman's slurs against Gotham. The public quickly turn against Penguin and he retreats back into the sewers, his plans to run for Mayor thwarted. So Penguin falls back to his original plan of vengeance against Gotham's elite by arranging the abduction of their first-born children. He tries to take Max Shreck's son Chip personally, but Shreck convinces Penguin to spare his son and goes in his place.
The Red Triangle's abduction of the children is stopped by Batman and so the enraged Penguin decides to destroy Gotham by sending an army of mind-controlled penguins into the streets armed with missiles. Batman thwarts this attack by jamming the Penguin's control signal and turning his army around and sending them back to the Penguin's lair. Batman follows the penguin army back to their base where he engages in a final confrontation with Cobblepot. During the fight, Penguin wrests Batman's remote from him and presses it, but this causes the penguins to launch their rockets upon Cobblepot's hideout, destroying it and killing the rest of his gang. Batman also summons a flock of bats to attack Penguin and he stumbles through the glass window above his lair. He plunges into the toxic waters below, emerging minutes later to try and shoot Batman with one of his umbrella weapons, only to find that the umbrella he picked was a harmless toy. As Penguin bleeds black, oily blood from his mouth and nose, he complains of being thirsty before collapsing dead to the floor. Upon Penguin's death, six emperor penguins appear and shuffle Cobblepot's body into the poisonous waters that had killed him. Cobblepot sinks to the bottom, engulfed in a cloud of his own black blood.