With the TV influx of these two chilly knaves, I was thinking about their roles in the both the Silver and Bronze Ages and why are they still popular. Or are they?

First the Bold Bird of Banditry,

  • I always got the impression that the Penguin was the leader of Batman's foes from both the comics and the TV show. Was he the smartest bird of the bunch?
  • He juggled several gimmicks at the same time and despite his outdated look, was always thinking outside the box and embraced new technology. Could they have evolved him into a less-comical character?
  • I'm not 100% sure but I don't think that Carmine Infantino drew him in any of his "New Look" Batman stories though he did the covers. Did he not like the Penguin?
  • Gardner Fox did as did Bob Haney as the Penguin appeared in both Justice League of America and Brave & Bold. Did he rank high on the super-villain scale?
  • The Penguin has appeared in every incarnation of the Dark Knight excluding the last trilogy. Why has he remained so popular? Was he automatically assumed to be Batman's #2 nemesis? Was it Burgess Meredith's wonderful portrayal? Was he simply kid-friendly?

Next the Frozen Felon,

  • In his origin, Len Snart somehow infuses his gun with ice powers. He didn't know why nor did he understand the process. After he was defeated, why wasn't the coldgun destroyed? And if it was how could he build another one?
  • Was he the leader of the Rogues? Or was it Mirror Master? Both seem to be in charge at different times.
  • Speaking of the Rogues, if Cold wasn't teaming with them, he was fighting them. Yet he seemed to enjoy hanging out with them on their "off" days. Was he really friends with any o them?
  • He was lonely though and looked for love in all the wrong places. At least it gave him an unique motivation. Does anyone think that he would have retired if he met Miss Right?
  • With Mister Freeze in BATMAN & ROBIN, Iceman in the X-MEN movies, Blizzard in AGENTS OF SHIELD and now Captain Cold in THE FLASH, is this the best time to be an ice character? Maybe Polar Boy has an agent now?

My own personal theories is that both have a good side to them. Captain Cold has been shown to have a benevolent nature underneath the ice. And I could see a retired Oswald Cobblepot running an exotic bird shop, regaling the neighborhood children about how often he baffled the Bat while giving them a safe haven from the streets.

Anyway, how do you feel about DC's newest TV stars? And where would you rate them in their respective (or disrespective) rogues galleries?

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  • I always got the impression that the Penguin was the leader of Batman's foes from both the comics and the TV show. Was he the smartest bird of the bunch?

I never got that impression. Sure, he wanted to be the leader, but so did the others. More often than not, they'd fight one another anyway unless Batman was around, and even then sometimes they couldn't focus.

As far as smartest, I don't really think so.  I'd say the likes of the Riddler, the Joker, the Scarecrow and Roy Reynols the Getaway Genius were just as smart if not significantly smarter.  He had an air of sophistication but he was mainly a brutal thug with a gimmick.

  • He juggled several gimmicks at the same time and despite his outdated look, was always thinking outside the box and embraced new technology. Could they have evolved him into a less-comical character?

I think that's happened over the last 20 years. Shifting him from a burglar with a gimmick to a crime boss has done a lot along those lines.

  • I'm not 100% sure but I don't think that Carmine Infantino drew him in any of his "New Look" Batman stories though he did the covers. Did he not like the Penguin?

I'm sure someone can cite chapter and verse, but when the New Look debuted, there was an effort to stay away from the costumed villains in those stories. IIRC, the only old villain to show was the Joker, and him only once.

  • Gardner Fox did as did Bob Haney as the Penguin appeared in both Justice League of America and Brave & Bold. Did he rank high on the super-villain scale?

I don't think so. He wasn't considered minor, and had had a lengthy career by the time those stories were printed, but I don't think he was ever considered a major baddie either.  He was a thief with a gimmick and a certain amount of ruthlessness.

  • The Penguin has appeared in every incarnation of the Dark Knight excluding the last trilogy. Why has he remained so popular? Was he automatically assumed to be Batman's #2 nemesis? Was it Burgess Meredith's wonderful portrayal? Was he simply kid-friendly?

IMO, it was mostly the portrayal of the character by Burgess Meredith, and later Paul Williams character on the BTAS series. Meredith made him a a standout character, and the writing of the cartoon show turned him into a somewhat sympathetic character. He has an iconic look of the gentleman thief that I think gives him a certain popularity as a stock character.

  • In his origin, Len Snart somehow infuses his gun with ice powers. He didn't know why nor did he understand the process. After he was defeated, why wasn't the coldgun destroyed? And if it was how could he build another one?

I believe it was retconned in later stories that he'd figured out what he did initially and was able to recreate the gun and endow it with new capabilitles.

  • Was he the leader of the Rogues? Or was it Mirror Master? Both seem to be in charge at different times.

I think Snart was the leader solely because he had the most tenure as a Rogue.  I'd say most of them were very independent and deferred to him and Scudder because they generally had decent ideas.

  • Speaking of the Rogues, if Cold wasn't teaming with them, he was fighting them. Yet he seemed to enjoy hanging out with them on their "off" days. Was he really friends with any o them?

Supervillains are wont to fight much moreso than team up. However, I think he did enjoy spending time with some of them, although I'm hard pressed to name specifics.

  • He was lonely though and looked for love in all the wrong places. At least it gave him an unique motivation. Does anyone think that he would have retired if he met Miss Right?

He did go straight for a while, so I suppose it's possible.  Of course, he didn't stay straight, so...

  • With Mister Freeze in BATMAN & ROBIN, Iceman in the X-MEN movies, Blizzard in AGENTS OF SHIELD and now Captain Cold in THE FLASH, is this the best time to be an ice character? Maybe Polar Boy has an agent now?

I think it has more to do with the idea that anyone who can create intense cold and ice would be a formidable opponent. Same with flame or intense heat.

In his origin, Len Snart somehow infuses his gun with ice powers. He didn't know why nor did he understand the process. After he was defeated, why wasn't the coldgun destroyed? And if it was how could he build another one?

I kicked off a discussion awhile back on guys like Snart "lucking into" their devices:

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/villains-who-lucked-into...

The amazing thing often was how the baddies, who didn't invent their devices, suddenly became experts who could (like Lex Luthor) whip one up from chewing gum and paper clips from a jail cell.

He was lonely though and looked for love in all the wrong places. At least it gave him an unique motivation. Does anyone think that he would have retired if he met Miss Right?

His lovesick approach to a new woman each appearance served to humanize Snart. It was appealing to someone my age who would similarly become lovesick, but even I knew that kidnapping women wasn't the way to go. When this unique personality stopped being emphasized they lost something.

A number of Batman's foes made repeat appearances in the Golden Age, but most didn't appear very much. For example, the Riddler appeared twice, in Detective Comics #140 and #142. Note that these appearances were close together.

I would think that the Joker, the Penguin and Catwoman were easily the three villains with the most appearances before the New Look. Two-Face managed seven (and in three of the stories the Two-Face was someone other than Harvey). The Silver Age Clayface managed five.(1) The Cavalier managed four. There might not be any others who managed more than three.(2) These counts are based on GCD searches, and don't include newspaper strip stories or reprints.)

The idea that the Penguin is Batman's second greatest villain goes back at least to "Knights of Knavery" in Batman #25 (1944), in which he and the Joker team-up and then argue over who is the bigger crook.

Signet published three paperbacks collecting Batman stories in 1966 as tie-ins to the TV show (along with a novelisation of the movie). These were Batman, Batman vs. the Joker, and Batman vs. the Penguin. The first apparently only had one costumed villain story, featuring the Joker; Batman vs. the Joker was all Joker stories; Batman vs. the Penguin had four Penguin stories and a Catwoman story.

What set him apart might be that he was both a comical figure and a challenge to Batman. He couldn't challenge Batman physically, so any Batman/Penguin story had to be about him challenging Batman mentally. His design was good, the bird motif could be variously used, and his trick umbrellas were fun.

I notice that the Joker, the Penguin and Two-Face all wore semi-costumes - stylised normal wear - rather than true costumes. Arguably the Penguin was an unusual gang leader rather than a costumed crook in the Signalman sense. (But I've not see the Penguin's earliest appearances, so I don't know if he was a gang leader or a loner in them.)

 

(1) The Golden Age Clayface was an entirely different character an managed two.

(2) In his own series in Star Spangled Comics Robin four times met a crook called the Clock. Crazy Quilt appeared in one Robin story, but had previously appeared in a surprisingly large number of Boy Commandos ones. (A different Crazy Quilt appeared in Blackhawk.) Cat-Man appeared in three Batman stories, but it might be possible to argue he was the same villain as the Cat-Man who appeared once in Blackhawk (compare the covers of Blackhawk #141 and Detective Comics #325).

The "lovesick Len Snart" angle was never one I noticed as a kid... perhaps because most of my earlier experiences with the Captain happened after they'd pretty much dropped that angle. So when the (much-missed) podcast Tom vs The Flash mentioned it as a recurring theme, it really showed me something new in the character. Perhaps that was why his sister Lisa's relationship with The Top cheesed him off so much -- she was finding happiness that always eluded him. 

I also find it interesting that Mirror Master has never been shown to be particularly vain, despite his weapon of choice -- that's a facet of Abracadabra's shtick instead.

When I was still reading Batman, the Penguin was I think the only one of the major baddies who went to regular prison instead of Arkham Asylum. I think his sanity in some ways made him more of a challenge. It's not comics but in Red Dragon, the first Hannibal Lector book, the following exchange occurs (paraphrasing):

Hannibal (from his cell): Since you caught me then you must be smarter than me?

Will Graham (FBI): I'm not smarter. You had a disadvantage.

Hannibal: What disadvantage?

Graham: You're insane.

I'm sure someone can cite chapter and verse, but when the New Look debuted, there was an effort to stay away from the costumed villains in those stories. IIRC, the only old villain to show was the Joker, and him only once.

The stories didn't always feature them, but neither did the pre-New Look stories. Schwartz and co. used the Penguin fairly early on (Batman #169; he appeared again subsequently), exhumed at least four Golden Age villains (the Mad Hatter, the Riddler, the Scarecrow and Killer Moth), added new ones (Poison Ivy, the Outsider, Blockbuster, Dr. Tzin-Tzin etc.), and also made use of the Weather Wizard (in Detective Comics #353).

He was lonely though and looked for love in all the wrong places. At least it gave him an unique motivation. Does anyone think that he would have retired if he met Miss Right?

Personally, I think he would have gone on a crime spree with her. I got the impression he really liked his work

Your questions seem to be mostly answered, but I'll chime in:

PENGUIN

When I started reading Batman comics, he was already into the New Look, which as others have said, largely eschewed "supervillains." When supervillains came back, so did The Penguin. I never thought of him as Batman's No. 2 foe per se, but if you asked me in the 1970s to name Batman's rogue's gallery I'd probably go, "The Joker, the Penguin ... ah, does Catwoman count? ... Two-Face, that new guy, Ra's Algol or something ... oh, Riddler ... um, Cluemaster? Ummm, I think Catman's dead, and Signalman is stupid ... wait, who was that moth guy with a flamethrower? He was pretty neat, but he doesn't show up much ... " So in that sense, yeah, I guess he's No. 2, since he' has a memorable look/gimmick and has had significant longevity.

No, I don't think he's the smartest of Batman's foes, although he probably thinks he is. As others have said, Riddler is clearly supposed to be a genius nowadays, and Joker's so unpredictable that he's certainly more formidable. In current comics, Penguin, like most sane people, is as afraid of The Joker as ordinary Gothamites.

The fact that Penguin appeared once in Silver Age Justice League of America isn't terribly significant to me. Every time Gardner Fox did a story using one of each superhero's villains, it didn't seem to revolve around who was the character's arch-enemy, or even who was important -- sometimes it almost seemed random, or maybe what was useful for the story. I mean, we saw Clock King, Monty Moran, Blockbuster ... a whole host of second bananas appeared in Fox's JLA, whereas many major foes, like The Joker and Lex Luthor, never did. Often I learned of the existence of a foe in Fox's JLA!

Before Crisis on Infinite Earths, The Penguin sometimes fought Batman solo, more often (especially after the TV show) with a nameless gang of henchmen. It was after Crisis that he was re-invented as a gang boss who was largely un-convictable. How long after Crisis this re-invention occurred, I don't quite recall. In fact, it might have occurred in Batman: The Animated Series. I'd have to look it up.

CAPTAIN COLD

The Commander and Mr. Silver Age will likely correct me, but I think they dropped the angle of Cold looking for love after his second or third appearance, which I read as reprints. My childhood/Silver Age memory of Captain Cold is as a bank robber with a gimmick, like most of the other rogues. As for being leader, I don't recall the rogues even teaming up much until late in the Silver Age -- my vague memory is that the Rogues as a group is more of a Bronze Age invention. And Cold always seemed to be the boss.

As for his weapon-building skills, the early second appearances of characters like Captain Cold and Weather Wizard would give some brief rationale for how they had their weapons back, but after a while they stopped explaining it. The first time I read of Cold building his cold gun -- probably in the Bronze Age, but I don't really remember -- it surprised me that he knew how to do that. I don't recall any explanation for his new-found skills. (Or Weather Wizard's either -- he stole his weather wand from his brother.) Now, of course, it's just a given that all the Rogues are masters of their toys.

As for why there are so many characters with ice powers, it has always been so, going back at least as far as The Icecicle in Golden Age Green Lantern comics. It seems to me a pretty obvious super-power, with no explanation for its appeal necessary.

Captain Comics said:

I don't recall the rogues even teaming up much until late in the Silver Age -- my vague memory is that the Rogues as a group is more of a Bronze Age invention.

They weren't called the Rogues, but the whole gang got together in Flash #155 (SEP65) and Flash #174 (NOV67). For some reason the Trickster and Mr Element were not included. They worked together but I don't think there was any acknowledged leader.

Yeah, I recall all of them sitting on the Flash's logo on the cover of one of the issues you mention -- I think they were assembled by Gorilla Grodd in that story, who would've been the boss. And, as you say, they weren't called "Rogues" yet.

Captain Comics said:

Yeah, I recall all of them sitting on the Flash's logo on the cover of one of the issues you mention -- I think they were assembled by Gorilla Grodd in that story, who would've been the boss. And, as you say, they weren't called "Rogues" yet.

I was just rereading the two issues in Showcase Presents. In #155 Grodd teleports them one-by-one out of their jail cells. He isn't really their boss as they don't interact with him. He's using them to distract Flash from his real plot. They all individually decide to show up at their tailor's business to get replacements for their costumes, and thus meet. I don't think anything is said about their weapons. Maybe they were hidden somewhere outside the prison.

The one with them sitting on the logo was the second gathering in #174, which was the last issue Infantino drew before the Andru-Esposito run. This time Grodd isn't involved but the Mirror Master repeats the teleportation-from-cells bit, including teleporting innocent people into the cells just like Grodd did. Mirror Master seems to be taking a semi-leadership role in this one. The notable thing at the end of the story is Iris revealing that since Barry talks in his sleep she had known for years that he was the Flash. Think she was letting him know (from her expression) that she was a little pissed that he never told her.

Captain Comics said,

a whole host of second bananas appeared in Fox's JLA whereas many major foes, like The Joker and Lex Luthor, never did.

Fox did use the Joker in #34 and Luthor in #61. Did he use them properly is another question. I would say no, especially regarding Luthor.

Interestingly both stories revolved around schemes of Doctor Destiny and he included the Penguin in #61 as well!

But yes, look at all the villains Fox could have used in Justice League of America: Brainiac, Parasite , Outsider, Riddler, Grodd, Weather Wizard, Reverse-Flash, Sinestro, Star Sapphire, Evil Star, Black Manta, Shadow Thief, etc.!

Instead we got multiple appearances of the Tattooed Man and the likes of Killer Moth, Chac, Angle Man and Cutlass Charlie!

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