Brainiac On Banjo #064: What? The Penguin is Jewish?

‘Tis the season, so if Adam Sandler is making a new list and, you know, checking it twice, he can add the name Oswald Cobblepot.

Well, it does explain that hat.

I’ve carped a bit about how The Joker is the most overexposed character on Earth, apart from Donald Trump. We can argue that Harley Quinn is in competition for that title, but, as a rule, I try not to get in the middle of a fight between a person and his or her ex. Besides, this Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey movie has hit trailer status, so inundation comes with the job. When the DC Universe steamer launched its new animated and X-rated (no, it’s for language, you pervert!) Harley Quinn series, which starts with the enthralled shrink dumping her dangerously insane boyfriend, they managed to ring the overexposure bell with her mallet. But… it works.

If you haven’t seen it, and you’re not adverse to your favorite DC characters swearing like Popeye without his speech impediment, and for some reason you like your grim superheroes with a glandular sense of humor, then this Harley Quinn series is for you. Personally, I love it, and I just might break my rule and watch the remaining episodes on the DC Universe press site. Sorry, civilians, but the only reason to go into journalism is for the perks.

This week’s episode is set at the bar mitzvah party held for the Penguin’s nephew. Now that does not mean Oswald is Jewish, he could just be highly considerate of his nephew. Right. The Penguin. So, the Penguin is Jewish. Got it. As is the standard practice, the tables are arranged by affiliation – the honoree’s friends, sundry relatives, and, in the case, the Legion of Doom.

(I’ve always felt the Legion of Doom was a dumb name. Usually, villains are not that self-aware.)

Kaley Cuoco, aka Harley Quinn

Harley wants to embarrass her ex. Understandable. Harley also wants to join the Legion of Doom. Understandable. Her best friend and ersatz mommy figure Poison Ivy wants to keep Harley from doing anything dangerously stupid. Understandable, but unlikely in the best of circumstances. But these are not the best of circumstances, Harley remains highly pissed at The Joker and, hey, girls just wanna have fun.

Some of the best scenes in the episode involve the table conversation among the attending members of the Legion of Doom – particularly Bane. They are respectful of the Penguin and of the bar mitzvah event; evildoers, even in “real” life, often respect family affairs. However, The Joker scares them shitless.

And then there’s Kite-Man and his über-macho attraction to Poison Ivy. As she points out, he doesn’t really get the “poison” part of her name.

SPOILER ALERT: In the mandatory death-trap scene where Oswald’s nephew is ordered to prove he is a man by killing Harley, our “heroine” proclaims he can’t commit murder because he has yet to fingerbang anybody. I’d say something cute like “this ain’t your father’s Penguin story” but I’ve read The Joker’s Comedy of Errors (Batman #66 by Bill Finger, Dick Sprang and Charlie Paris, August-September 1951). In fact, I’ve got it on my iPhone.

I can’t help thinking our friends at Warner Bros Animation took a bit of a risk in defining the Penguin as Jewish. Most people these days define themselves, in part, by their levels of victimization and the Jewish community has been around that block quite a bit. I don’t think many will be upset that the Big Bad is Jewish – Meyer Lansky, Arnold Rothstein, Bugsy Siegel and Jake Guzik got there first. No, I think the risk comes in defining the guy with the huge ugly schnozzle as Jewish. If this offends you, get over it. It’s an X-rated cartoon based upon a PG-rated comic book, not part of a pogrom. Is next-Penguin Colin Farrell Jewish? As it turns out, yes. For 11 years now.

I’ve seen all the original shows on DC Universe except Swamp Thing (thus far) and, unbelievably, I’ve enjoyed them all. When it comes time for me to decide among streaming services, I’ll likely keep this one.

And if DC Universe provokes Popeye into taking elocution lessons, so much the better.