Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot
Born Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot, the Penguin was teased very much in childhood due to his short stature, obesity, and bird-like nose. These traits made him an outcast in his rich, debutante family. Their rejection drove him to become a violent criminal (at least one Origin story claims The Penguin and his mother owned a pet shop, and he became a criminal after neighborhood bullies murdered all the animals in the shop, including his beloved birds). In keeping with his family's tradition of wealth, the Penguin lives a life of crime and evil, yet executes it with his own self proclaimed high society class and style. He commits crimes with the theme of the various birds he loves.
Unlike most of the Batman villains, the Penguin is a gentleman villain, in control of his own actions and perfectly sane. This lends itself to a unique relationship with his archenemy, Batman. This has extended into the current situation with the Penguin ceasing his direct involvement in crime, instead running a nightclub that is popular with the underworld. As such, he is an excellent source of information on crime and Batman grudgingly tolerates his operations because of that. However, the entrepreneurial Penguin doesn't exactly keep his beak clean; he is often fencing stolen property or arranging early furloughs for incarcerated former criminal associates - for a hefty fee, of course - on the side. During the period when Gotham City was leveled by an earthquake (the "No Man's Land" storyline), he was one of the major players in the mostly-abandoned and lawless city, using his connections (one was eventually discovered to be tied to Lex Luthor and his company) to sell necessities at outrageous prices.
The Penguin's trademark are the various deadly umbrellas he uses to execute his evil plans. Several Origin stories say he was forced as a child to always carry an umbrella by his over-protective mother, due to his father dying of pneumonia after being drenched in a downpour. In keeping with his pretensions of being a refined gentleman, he also prefers to wear formal wear such as a top hat and tuxedo during his jobs.
The Penguin received his alias from a childhood nickname, bestowed by his peers, who teased him because of his grotesque appearance and love of birds (some retellings of his origin suggest he also suffered from some sort of hip ailment, which caused him to waddle when he walked. The Penguin shows no signs of suffering from this affliction today). Some comics suggest that he tried to abandon the title, which he hates, but it has been permanently brought into popularity by Batman. While he hates the nickname, he has cashed in on its popularity with his 'Iceberg Lounge'.
His appearance,a usual a fat human in formalwear has alternatively changed with Tim Burton's version of The Penguin, a grotesque murderuous psychopath who is a cross between an actual penguin and a man. This freakish appearance inspired comic artists and for a while the cartoon series to base itself off Burton's vision, although now his old and new appearance alternate, despite their being no clear explanation or basis in reality for this to happen.
Powers & Abilities
Assorted "trick" umbrellas. Usage of birds in crimes