SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Batman #58 by Tom King, Mikel Janín, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
The Penguin has come a long way since his first chronological DC Comics Rebirth appearance in Tom King and Mikel Janín's "War of Jokes and Riddles" flashback story in Batman. Once one of Carmine Falcone's henchmen, Oswald Cobblepot now holds his own power over Gotham. In King and Janín's Batman #58, Cobblepot seems to hold some power beyond that of a simple crime kingpin, though. Either his stoolies are merely demonstrating unlimited and sacrificial devotion to their boss, or the Penguin is getting an assist from some unknown source.
Gotham's Most Powerful Crime Lord
Oswald Cobblepot isn't the first crime lord in comics to command absolute obedience in his minions, but the extent of his sway is formidable, by way of the unwavering kissing up shown by everyone in his employ. When a woman close to Cobblepot -- Penny Cobblepot, presumably his unseen wife -- is found murdered, his subjects demonstrate an extreme level of reverence for their employer. Similar behavior is seen throughout her burial process.
While the unflinching devotion could initially be construed as extreme kindness being shown for the benefit of a grieving husband, their demeanor continues through later events. When the Penguin sends one of his henchmen to assassinate Alfred Pennyworth -- at the behest of Bane -- the crook stands ready to obediently comply, but when Cobblepot aborts the mission and orders the assassin to kill both himself and a fellow henchman, he unhesitatingly does exactly that, albeit off-panel. That's right: The Penguin just ordered his goon to commit a murder/suicide... and his minion readily obeys.
By all appearances, Cobblepot's thug didn't have to follow through. The command was given by radio from a distance, and the two were in a helicopter. He could have easily disobeyed, preserving the lives of himself and his pilot, and easily fled in the process. Unless the Penguin's minions are so fearful of their boss that they wouldn't hesitate to end their own lives rather than face his eventual wrath, something more seems to be at play regarding his crew's behavior.
How Does The Penguin Do It?
Does the Penguin have some kind of dirt on each and every one of his henchmen, something so compromising that they would rather die than have it exposed? Does he hold loved ones of these individuals prisoner? Has he somehow brainwashed all of them into blind and total obedience?
Not likely. Oswald Cobblepot has never demonstrated that kind of ability, and the logistics to ensure such loyalty would be all but impossible to overcome. More likely, Cobblepot had some kind of help. The kind of help that some of his fellow Bat-villains could provide.
So who in the Penguin's circles has that kind of technology? One potential supplier could be Jervis Tetch, aka the Mad Hatter. Tetch's signature power is mind control, via technological means. Cobblepot could have employed similar tech in his own signature top hat, although he demonstrates the same command of his crew even without his hat. Tetch has been shown to do the same, though, and it's not like his tech couldn't work outside the brim of someone's chapeau.