Going Inside the Penguin with Jason Aaron

Jason Aaron on the Penguin

Introduced in 1941's Detective Comics #58, Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot received the moniker of 'The Penguin' from childhood when he was teased because of his abnormal appearance and love of birds. Initially reviling in it, the Penguin later relented and "played the part" as high-society supervillain in Batman's rogue's gallery. In recent years, he's publicly reformed for his criminal past and started a nightclub called the Iceberg Lounge. While it provides a cover for the Penguin to continue some low-key illegal activities, Batman has let him slide in light of the spot being a source for criminal underworld information.

In the upcoming one-shot The Joker's Asylum: The Penguin, rising star writer Jason Aaron takes on the self-described "gentleman villain" into the dangerous waters of romance. Is he a better lover or a fighter? Let's ask Aaron.

Newsarama: Jason, who is the Penguin as a person to you?

Jason Aaron: He's a gentleman's villain, not a psychopath like Joker or Two-Face.

NRAMA: I think he'd appreciate that, Jason.

JA: [laughs] He enjoys the finer things of life and tends to abhor physical conflict. He's never going to intimidate anybody, except perhaps with his wealth and his intellect, both of which he uses to build umbrellas that shoot fire or fly like helicopters and to train birds to rob jewelry stores.

He's almost always seemed like something of a joke, especially when compared to Batman's more formidable enemies. But beneath that dapper exterior lurks an angry and lonely little child who still yearns to crush everyone who's ever laughed at him. That's the part of the character I wanted to explore.

NRAMA: There's a common saying that everyone does something for a reason, and no one plans to be 'evil' but are merely doing things they think is right. Is that the case for Penguin - is he doing bad things to people on purpose?

JA: I don't think the Penguin sees himself as evil at all.

He understands the difference between right and wrong, but to him it's the world that's really evil. A world that has cursed him physically and failed to recognize his genius. A world that forces him to break the law in order to achieve the position of power he feels he so rightly deserves. The way he sees it, the natural order of things should have him loved and admired and respected. Everything he does is merely meant to bring about that order, consequences be damned.

NRAMA: As of late Penguin has tried to reform his villainous ways, at least in the eyes of the public. Where is Penguin at in this story?

JA: He's still running the Iceberg Lounge and still keeping all of his criminal dealings in the shadows. And he still seems like a relatively harmless gentleman's villain. At least on the outside.

NRAMA: These series of one-shots are called 'The Joker's Asylum'. so what role does the Joker play in this?

JA: The Joker is the narrator, which was fun to play with. Just being able to write dialogue for that character was a huge thrill. I also got to write Batman for about two panels, so that ain't bad either.

NRAMA: I've been told that there's a bit of romance in this one - who's doing the romancing and who's getting romanced?

JA: Despite all the money and power Penguin has amassed over the years, the one thing that's always alluded him has been true love. Sure, he always surrounds himself with beautiful women, but he's smart enough to recognize that they're only attracted to his wealth.

In this issue though, Penguin meets a woman who's able to see him in a totally different light, and for the first time he dares to hope that she might actually be the one who could finally love him for who he really is. But when he gives her that glimpse of his deepest darkest secrets, just what exactly is she going to see?

NRAMA: For anyone who's played the game of love, it can be a big boost or a big bang to the ego. Penguin doesn't seem like someone who can take that kind of hit-what do you think?

JA: I'd say he's a bad breaker-upper.

NRAMA: How do you think Penguin fits into the bigger picture of Batman's Rogues Gallery?

JA: I think he has the potential to be just as creepy and interesting as any of the rest.

Joker's Asylum: Penguin is due in stores on July 9th.

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