A friend on the social medias asked about the origin of the Penguin character. I’m not absolutely sure if this is completely correct, but the wonderful thing about comic characters now is that there are so many story streams and reboots, and delivered in so many forms, that accuracy kind of doesn’t matter.
Besides, no matter what you do, everyone will argue over it as if it mattered A LOT anyway.
The Penguin was originally Oswald Olsin, a child prodigy who had made billions in business, despite being born with the inability to smell toast, due to his parents’ both working on the Manhattan Project, though as we found out later, they were not his real parents, as his real parents lived on a super-advanced planet of super-science superhumans whose only weakness was that they could build really good rockets, but not very big ones.
When he was 18, Oswald was away training in the Marine Special Delta Force SEAL Astronaut Ninja Assassin Cyber-Ops Squirrel Suit Sniper Gourmet Corps (in a special Nuclear Black Ops unit of it that was kept secret from everyone except General Carborundum and somehow, a mole within the team). Oswald’s parents, wife, child, neighbors, sainted aunt, high school shop teacher, the kid who bagged his groceries, 4 missed connections on Craigslist and the kindly uncle who had taught him kung-fu, metallurgy, knife-throwing, hapkido, circus acrobatics and rope-swallowing had been killed by “The Pants”—the head of a secret underwear-smuggling cabal called “The Cabal.”
Oswald came home on sympathy leave for the funerals, an unthinkably difficult 8 weeks of dark suits, potato salad and tears. As each funeral passed, he noticed something strange: All the corpses were going commando. It was through his investigation of this that he uncovered evidence of “The Pants” and the Cabal. Oswald swore his revenge, and used his training to go AWOL, disappear and take on a new identity.
He created the new identity of Oswald Olson, a mild-mannered 98-pound billionaire reporter for the Gotham Grit, who appeared to have a severe hairlip and a pompadour. Secretly, he was also Trunksman, who fought crime wearing a mask and his underwear over his pants, and DIDN’T have a hairlip and a pompadour. By using his own greatest fear as the weapon to fight the thing he hated the most, Oswald became more powerful. Think of an arachnophobe who hates paying tax having spiders thrown at him by a tax-collector. THAT kind of powerful.
The Cabal—and The Pants in particular—was in contact with the world’s most sensitive areas, and would often work their way into places where it was difficult to get at them discretely, so Oswald’s fight took him all over the world, where he often had to depend on the enormous clandestine network of buddies and contacts he had developed during his military career.
Oswald was flying his prototype rocket motorcycle one evening when he was teleported aboard the spaceship of a dying intergalactic superhero named Mm’m Mmm’ Ghu’d, who told Oswald that he was the Chosen Human to become the Guardian of This Part of The Galaxay (including parts of Burnaby). Oswald was given a Galactic Earring, which granted him the ability to create almost anything out of energy, though the preferred method of using it was to make really detailed models of things like guns and giant Hot Wheels cars and really big fists. The earring had to be recharged every 8.5 hours, including a half-hour lunch, and was powerless against anything yellow. This meant Oswald was pretty much powerless during the day, because he lived on a planet with a yellow sun, so the earring mostly just sat in Oswald’s sock drawer. Sometimes he would take it out at night for party tricks, or if he needed to reach something up high and had remembered to charge it up, but it mostly just sat there, because cleaning your gutters at night kinda sucks. Who has time for that?
Oswald took part in The Marketing War, a giant battle in which every superhero fought side-by-side against something or other, sponsored by caffeine and sugar in water, and happened to be on a planet with a red sun. At the time, Earth was being targeted by Anaphlaxus, who roams the universe destroying planets he’s allergic to. Anaphlaxus had watched “The War Behind the Marketing War” (a reality show on Nat Geo) and was impressed with Oswald, who had taken advantage of a rare opportunity to use the mostly useless earring and distinguished himself in The Marketing Wars. Anaphlaxus agreed to spare Earth in return for Oswald’s pledge to become Anaphlaxus’ herald, gave Oswald incredible powers, a nigh-invulnerable shiny crimson skin, and a wobbly metal plank with a handle and needlessly small wheels. Thus, the Red Razor was born.
As the Red Razor, Oswald travelled to thousands of worlds, passing the time by reciting huge portions of the journal he kept during his second year at community college, where he couldn’t decide whether to major in philosophy or English, so he took both but didn’t really finish the textbook and mostly just smoked weed. It was inevitable that that almost limitless power and the ability to meet pretty much all the sentient beings in the universe, while never being afraid of anything, aging or dying would become just too much of a burden to bear, so one day The Red Razor turned on Anaphlaxus and tried to fight him in order to save one of these hundreds of thousands of worlds that had bored Oswald so much. Gosh, people sure are funny that way, eh?
Oswald learned a valuable lesson about picking a fight with the infinitely powerful guy who gave you your scooter, and found himself exiled back to Earth, about 20 minutes before the beginning of The Marketing War, which was this time known as The Marketing WarS, and went pretty much the same way as the previous Marketing War, except on thicker paper, and for some reason, everybody said a lot more and it was harder to follow who was saying what.
After the Marketing Wars, Oswald tried having a girlfriend who didn’t know his secret identity, then a sidekick who didn’t know his real identity, then a girlfriend who was an enemy of his secret identity, then a girlfriend who was a sidekick, then a boyfriend who knew his secret identity, then an intelligence-enhanced robot monkey who had a secret identity, and then marketing decided he should be a penguin.