The search for a missing child revealed that harming children is the one line the Penguin will not cross, perhaps stemming from his abusive origins.
WARNING: The following article contains spoilers from “Little Pyg. Little Pyg.” in Batman: Urban Legends #8, on sale now from DC Comics.
Batman was on the trail of a kidnapped child. A young girl named Jessica had been kidnapped by Professor Pyg. Knowing what happens to people who Pyg gets his hands on, Batman was pressed for time to find the girl before it was too late and she was made “perfect.” He delved into all of his underworld contacts and even began shaking down some of his more significant enemies for leads in “Little Pyg. Little Pyg.” from Batman: Urban Legends #8 by Christian Ward and Steve Wands. But it was the Penguin who gave Batman the true location of Pyg, citing that he only told him this because he is opposed to harming children. This reveals an interesting facet of the Penguin, tying back to his various origins in comics and in other mediums.
It’s rare for Batman to use Gotham City’s rogues as a source of information, usually because they’re so out of reach. But a child in Professor Pyg’s clutches is a tragedy that he could not allow. Anyone Pyg captures is brutally mutilated, their mind broken in the process as they accept Pyg’s warped sense of perfection onto themselves. For that to happen to a child is something Batman wasn’t going to let happen, so he’d turn over every stone he could think of.
The Penguin’s intel was about a slaughterhouse that had been fortified by Pyg, becoming the last on a list of places Batman would search. But his begrudging admittance of this was motivated by the missing child and not because he was frightened of Batman.
This actually tracks considering Penguin’s origin. In most instances of his beginnings, Oswald Cobbeplot is typically a fairly lonely child or one that is highly abused, finding love in protection in only a few individuals during that formative stage of life. So it stands to reason that, having been exposed to abuse as a child, he does not approve of it occurring to other children.
This strange moral code would probably only apply to the Penguin out of all of Batman’s rogues. Unlike most other villains in Gotham, Penguin is sane and in complete control of his actions. Everything he does is for a specific reason and ultimately made to benefit himself. To him, there would be no benefit in harming a child.
Most origins paint Penguin as incredibly lonely due to his physical appearance. This often led to him being bullied, which is how he discovered his love of birds: they were the only friends he could make that would not tease him for his appearance. Of course, this is just the comic version of events. Other tales portray Penguin’s childhood as much more difficult than a case of bullying.
In the television series Gotham, young Oswald faced bullying as a child, but the tragedies that were inflicted upon him occurred well before his birth. His mother had been forced away from his father by Oswald’s disapproving grandparents, who did not want their son to marry one of the servants. As a consequence, Oswald grew up with very little, his mother being his only true source of affection. This left him no choice but to enter the criminal underworld to find a way to prosper.
Decades earlier, the Penguin’s origins in Batman Returns were far darker. Being born deformed, his parents abandoned him, letting him float down a stream into the Gotham sewers where he was discovered and raised by penguins, transforming into a psychopathic monster with a thirst for revenge again Gotham’s elite. But all of it spawned from his own abandonment.
So ultimately, it makes sense that Penguin would be opposed to hurting children. Damage at an early age can affect how they turn out, and though the Penguin probably wouldn’t want to change himself, he also wouldn’t want another child to go through what he did. And his tip did help Batman find the girl, allowing him to arrive just in time to save Jessica and capture Pyg.
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