(Metagame Archive) Infinite Crisis Preview: The Penguin, Arms Merchant

By Ben Kalman

Rumors abound about the upcoming Batman Begins sequel, and one of the hot rumors is an appearance by one Oswald Cobblepot, a.k.a. “The Penguin.” He might be an arms dealer from Britain, or possibly Russia (depending on which rumor you give credence to), and he might be involved with the Gotham City mob. Supposedly, Philip Seymour Hoffman is the front-runner for the role.

That seems like an interesting choice, as the previous screen adaptations of Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot have been very different. Burgess Meredith’s interpretation on the 60’s Batman TV show—with his penguin squawk and wise-guy dialogue—was as campy as the show, while Danny DeVito fulfilled Tim Burton’s vision of a dark, deformed, and deranged Penguin in the Batman movie sequel, Batman Returns.

One thing that is for certain is that The Penguin is a strong character. But enough about that—you want to see some Infinite action, so here it is!

His is a typical story of a villain who had a difficult childhood, due (in his case) to being a short and overweight kid with a beak-nose and homely visage. He was never popular by any means; not only did many make fun of him, but he was also rejected by women. What The Penguin did have was a love of birds, with whom he felt a kinship. He, like many of them, was trapped in a cage—a cage of society’s expectations, particularly those related to being “normal,” which he was deemed not to be. But his birds gave him solace, and their situation taught him patience and tolerance.

Oswald had a nemesis in school, Sharkey, who forced him to wear a tux at a parade when the school’s seniors were in costume. In retaliation, The Penguin learned the rudiments of boxing and certain martial arts and kicked the stuffing out of Sharkey for his constant humiliation.

The tables were turned, however, when Sharkey ravaged the pet shop owned by Penguin’s mother and killed all of its inhabitants, including the birds whom Oswald loved. This was the end of Oswald’s patience. He embraced and adopted his nickname, The Penguin, and he funded a life of crime for himself, combining style and high society with the grittiness of crime and evil. “Evil,” though, is a harsh word for The Penguin, who, for all of his quirks and bizarreness, never really displayed the extreme psychosis and sadism so prevalent in other Gotham villains. His quirks included his possession and operation of an aviary, as well as his use of the birds to aid his criminal endeavors, which were more often than not bird-themed as well. He also carried an umbrella (usually stocked with hidden weapons and other assorted trickery), which was his primary weapon. His weapon of choice supposedly stemmed from the death of his father—Mr. Cobblepot caught pneumonia from a day out in the rain, and his mother consequently insisted that Oswald always carry an umbrella.

The Penguin opened The Iceberg Lounge, a popular nightspot for super-villains (particularly Gotham ones). It was there that he made connections, fenced goods, and cut underworld deals with Gotham’s underground. He slowly climbed up the ladder of the Gotham underworld elite, and more recently he moved heavily into the arms trade, allying himself with the Secret Society and supplying weapons to them. The Penguin also put out a contract on Robin and Batgirl. He hired Deathstroke to do the job, and Deathstroke passed it on to his daughter, Ravager.

On to the card! This card shows The Penguin coming into his own. As his flavor text says, “He’s moving up in the world.” He’s the same drop as his previous incarnation, but a fair bit bigger at a 5 ATK / 5 DEF instead of 3 ATK / 3 DEF. This reflects how he moved up the food chain in the underworld, gaining access to powerful connections and weapons. His game effect is for each player to draw a card, then discard two cards or a single location. This furthers his previous theme of interacting with locations; his other version can ready locations or give him a stat boost by discarding them. The new Penguin’s effect is doubly useful. Certain Arkham builds demand a fair number of locations, which makes the draw and discard very effective in digging for useful cards. (Infinite Crisis features a pretty amazing location searcher for Arkham, as well!) But if you catch an opponent who’s not using many locations, or if he or she can’t afford to dump one, then you force a fairly vicious discard onto him or her. This can be especially brutal in Sealed Pack, where you can aim for a deck with a fair number of locations (and there are some good ones in this set), thereby forcing your opponent to give up some hand advantage in a format where losing a card or two can destroy one’s entire game.

Another thing to note about this card is the lack of dual-affiliation. This is the only Penguin in this set, and he’s not affiliated with Villains United or Secret Society. This makes perfect sense from a continuity perspective, as The Penguin is not and never has been a true member; he was on the fringes even as an ally. He is a merchant, a gentleman, and a villain, but the closest he has truly come to Villains United or the Society is through arms deals brokered with them and some investments in various schemes.

One final bit of flavor: You may note that the crate The Penguin is sitting on reads “BFG-2400.” This is actually a paintball cannon—the king of paintball cannons, in fact. It’s a .90 caliber, shoulder-mounted mammoth with a range of up to 5,000 yards, and it has one of the highest firing speeds paintball has to offer. While BFG doesn’t stand for Big Freakin’ Gun (it’s actually BrushFireGames), it’s still a good acronym for this puppy.

And if there’s anyone who can get you a good deal on some Big Freakin’ Guns, it’s probably the guy with the monocle, in the top hat and tails, sitting on the crate . . .

Questions? Comments? Send ’em along and I’ll try to get them answered in the column! Email me at Kergillian (at) hotmail (dot) com.

Also known by his screen name Kergillian, Ben Kalman has been involved in the VS community since day one. He started the first major online community, the Vs. Listserv, through Yahoo! Groups, and it now boasts well over 1,850 members! For more on the Yahoo! group, go to http://web.archive.org/web/20061210070444/http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Marvel_DC_TCG

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