Why Danny DeVito returned to the Penguin for new Batman comic Gotham City Villains

Danny DeVito has done so much in his decades-long acting career. But, according to EW, when DC Comics called him last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, DeVito was offered the chance to do something new: write a comic book. 

In Gotham City Villains, the new one-shot anthology comic out this week featuring short stories about Batman’s greatest enemies, the publication says, DeVito returned to the character he previously played in Tim Burton’s 1992 superhero film Batman Returns: the Penguin.

Set in “another time, another place,” the Penguin story in Gotham City Villains shows the bird-themed villain romantically involved with fellow antihero Catwoman. In Batman Returns, the Penguin’s advances were rejected by Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman, but in this version the two have forged a solid romance based on stealing from the rich and giving back to everyone else.

“I loved working on the movie and I loved working with Tim, and the whole ideas of Oswald was so much fun to do,” DeVito tells EW. “At first I was a little bit hesitant about doing the comic, but then I got into the fact that I’ve always been a big fan of Michelle Pfeiffer’s, and the Penguin obviously lusts after Catwoman. So I figured I’d put those two together, and then it was also in the middle of the pandemic, which we’re still fighting with. I thought it would be good if Penguin had a little bit of Robin Hood in him.”

DeVito continues, “If you’re going to exercise the part of you that wants to put people through hell, it’s good to take it out on the people who are dishonest, the profiteers of the world. Not that Oswald’s not into money. You gotta support those lairs! You need all your clowns. Everybody’s gotta get paid. It’s very democratic. But he’s the king.”

Among their various heists in the story, Penguin and Catwoman strike a blow against pharmaceutical companies trying to hoard COVID-19 vaccines. The issue arrives on stands this week amid news of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19. Medical experts emphasize that new variants could continue to emerge unless the whole world gets access to vaccines. In this story at least, we can fantasize about what that might look like.

“I just want this pandemic to be behind us,” DeVito says. “Without the vaccines, I think we’re going to be in trouble. It seems like, at the moment we’re doing this interview, we’re having some problems — not only in our country but all over the world. That’s what Oswald wants: Get everybody vaccinated and give science a chance to get ahead of this. The thing mutates, and if we don’t give the vaccine to people all over the world, it’s going to keep mutating.”

One of the things DeVito is looking forward to about a more vaccinated future is returning to movie theaters. It would be particularly nice if that happened before The Batman hits theaters in 2022. The next big-screen adaptation of the Dark Knight will see DeVito’s Dumbo co-star Colin Farrell taking over the role of Penguin.

“I can’t wait to see how Colin handles Oswald,” DeVito says. “I don’t know anything about the movie or what the shape of it is going to be like, but I’m really looking forward to it.”

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