The Penguin is one of Gotham’s most brutal mobsters, but what he ultimately wants isn’t power or money, it’s what almost everyone wants.
The Penguin is one of Gotham’s biggest gangsters and has amassed a great deal of wealth and power. Almost everyone in the criminal world knows and fears the name Oswald Cobblepot, but that’s not what Oswald actually wants, his true desire is much more heart-breaking.
Oswald had a difficult life, while most characters in the DC Universe have had rough childhoods or complicated lives at some point, Oswald’s was uniquely terrible. He was born with a birth defect that gave him a long beak-like nose, which caused his Father to drop him in horror the first time he was ever held. From then on, Oswald’s father hated and belittled Oswald every chance he got for his strange looks. This bullying continued from both his peers, the only person in his life that ever showed Oswald any form of affection was his mother, Esther. It’s hard to believe this little boy would grow up to become the villain that defeated the entire Batfamily, but all of this came from one single desire: to be loved.
Despite amassing a huge empire of money and power, the likes of which allows Oswald to have, really anything he wants in Gotham City, the one thing he truly wants is what he can’t buy. Readers finally get to see Penguin’s ultimate desire in Detective Comics #13 (2011) by John Layman and Jason Fabok. In a private moment with Penguin’s right-hand man, he finally admits that what he wants more than anything else, above power, wealth, and fear, Oswald just wants to be loved. He doesn’t want the people of Gotham to fear him or hate him, he wants to be loved by the masses, much in the way Bruce Wayne is. Bruce Wayne is Gotham’s real hero, and it’s clear that Penguin desires that adoration above anything else, which isn’t hard to understand given his childhood.
All Penguin Has Ever Wanted Was LoveBatman villain the penguin talks about how all he wants is to be loved.
This idea of Penguin needing to be loved above all else has been explored in depth several times but the story that really dived into it was Penguin: Pain & Prejudice by Gregg Hurwitz and Szymon Kudranski. In this heartbreaking story, Penguin meets a blind woman named Cassandra at the local zoo. He manages to defend her from some children mocking her over her inability to see. The pair immediately bonded over the fact they’re used to being mocked by others. In a lot of ways, this is the first relationship Penguin has ever had. Unfortunately, this romance ends in disaster, Penguin refuses to allow Cassandra to feel his face, for fear that she’ll reject him if she does. Eventually, she accidentally touches him, and in response, Penguin kills her, only for her last words to be about how handsome he is.
Penguin is someone who rules Gotham through fear and money, but he’s also ruled by his own fear. While Penguin absolutely wants to be loved and adored, he is also terrified that the people of Gotham will never see Oswald Cobblepot, only the Penguin.