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I do not believe that I have ever seen a more fervent case of Batman fever than the current phenomenon that the DC comics legend is experiencing, with a countless number of Batman movies and TV shows on the way. One of these series is a prequel to Matt Reeves’ The Batman that will reportedly focus on the rise of crime boss Oswald Cobblepot (played by Colin Farrell in the upcoming film), who is better known in Gotham City by an unflattering nickname that calls to mind a certain flightless bird. While the Penguin TV show at HBO Max is reported to be in the early stages of development, we cannot help but wonder what other Batman characters could also play a role, such as the Dark Knight’s own dearly departed flesh and blood.
Thomas And Martha Wayne
Bruce Wayne believed his mother and father were models of innocence before their murder, which especially contributed to his vengeful crusade for justice. However, later interpretations of Dr. Thomas Wayne and his wife, Martha, in the comics and other media reveal that they actually had secret ties to Gotham’s criminal underworld and a rivalry with Oswald Cobblepot’s family that led to his life of crime. It sounds like this important detail of the Batman: The Telltale Series video game would be important to include on the Penguin TV show in some variation.
Batman: The Telltale Series reveals that the Waynes’ criminal ally is also one of the most powerful (and dangerous) people in Gotham City: Carmine Falcone. His own personal rivalry with Oswald Cobblepot’s family was also a prevalent detail of the Gotham TV show on Fox. Even without that adversarial history, it would be a missed opportunity for the Penguin prequel series to not feature this ruthless mob boss, who was also previously portrayed in Batman Begins by Tom Wilkinson and will play a role in the upcoming The Batman movie, as played by John Turturro.
Another big name appearing in The Batman is Jeffrey Wright, who will also play Jim Gordon on another HBO Max original spin-off about the Gotham City PD and even voices the Dark Knight himself on the platform’s original podcast, Batman: The Audio Adventures. There is no word at the moment if he will also reprise the role on the Penguin TV show, which might require a younger actor anyway, given the earlier time period in which the series is expected to take place. Nevertheless, it is always fun to see Batman’s most trusted ally with a badge in his pre-commissioner days and hopefully this show delivers at least a glimpse of that.
Colin Farrell is not the only The Batman cast member playing a villain, as Paul Dano’s new take on The Riddler appears to be an even worse thorn in the side of Robert Pattinson’s new version of Bruce Wayne. The enigmatic criminal has gone through various alterations since his 1948 DC Comics debut, such as his given name changing from Edward Nashton to the more apt Edward Nygma, as well as many other variations of his origin. I would be curious to see how the Penguin TV show might try to reinterpret and shed light on the earlier stages of the character’s evolution into a puzzling foe.
The Court Of Owls
A more recent addition (or, I should say, additions) to Batman’s rogues gallery is the Court of Owls, which hid in plain sight in Gotham City for generations before Bruce Wayne learned the truth behind them in Scott Snyder’s 2012 storyline. The comic has previously been adapted for the 2014 DC animated movie Batman vs. Robin and on Gotham - neither of which quite lived up to the same acclaim (depending on who you ask, that is). Perhaps making them a major plot point of the Penguin TV show in a way that better represents their elusive, mysterious repertoire could be the redemption moment they need.
The Red Hood
Of course, if you ask any Batfan to name the most prolific and recognizable member of the Batman villains, they are obviously going to say the Joker - whose absence in any story set in Gotham City never goes unnoticed. However, I think it would be unfair (and, possibly, inaccurate to the timeline) to see the Clown Prince of Crime steal the Penguin’s thunder in his own prequel series, but the show could still pay subtle tribute to him with the inclusion of the Red Hood, who has been associated with several characters (such as a resurrected Jason Todd). However, DC Comics first mentioned the masked criminal in 1951 as a way to explain who the Joker was before his criminal accident, which Alan Moore also revisited with his iconic one-shot, The Killing Joke, in 1987.
The cold open for Tim Burton’s Batman Returns (starring a scary Danny DeVito) in 1992 and former Gotham cast member Robin Lord Taylor’s unique take on the character are the closest we have gotten to an onscreen interpretation of Penguin’s personal life thus far, which is why the announcement of this prequel series is so exciting. Like, I am sure, many other fans are, I am looking forward to learning more about certain members of Oswald Cobblepot’s family, which hopefully includes his own son, Ethan, who would go on to become a high-tech member of Batgirl’s rogues gallery known as Blacksun.
Despite evidence that the upcoming Batgirl movie takes place in the DCEU and confirmation that this series does not, bringing a younger Ethan into the mix could be a fun way to introduce him to the mainstream in case he does face off with Leslie Grace’s Barbara Gordon.
I am very intrigued and very much looking forward to seeing this new Penguin-centered series, the HBO Max premiere date of which will not appear on the 2021 fall TV schedule if you go there looking for it. My only hope is that the show (like The Batman seems to be doing) takes a more grounded approach than other DC TV shows have to explain the origin story of a villain like Oswald Cobblepot. In other words, I think I would be a little put off if he fell off the side of a building and was magically resurrected by a group of flightless birds that suddenly appear in Gotham City somehow.
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Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.