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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

To Better Know A Villain: Bane

This Friday sees the release of The Dark Knight Rises, the third film in Christopher Nolan's acclaimed Batman trilogy, featuring Christian Bale as Batman and Captain Picard's clone as Bane, that guy in the trailers with the speaker over his mouth you couldn't understand very well at first, but now can. With the film poised to make all the money, ever, and since, relative to the likes of the Joker or Penguin, Bane is a pretty unknown Batman villain, I figured he was worthy of some discussion (and also be sure check out Dr. Bitz's 100% accurate rundown of Batman himself here. Don't forget to click on the pictures).

Real Name

First Appearance
Batman: Vengeance of Bane #1 (Jan. 1993)

Powers and Abilities
Bane has trained himself to peak human physical condition, and when augmented by the drug Venom, his strength, speed, agility and durability is pushed to super-human levels. Bane also possess a genius-level intellect and is a master strategist and martial artist.

Weaknesses and Achilles’ Heels
An addiction to Venom, deep-rooted bat-based fears, a fondness for the daughters of immortal cavemen super-villains.

Gadgets and Accessories
For a time, Bane wore a control mechanism on his wrist which dispersed Venom throughout his system via hoses connected to ports in the back of his skull. He also rocks a mean luchador mask.

Friends and Allies
Trogg, Zombie & Bird (his former prison mates and original accomplices), the Secret Six, the Suicide Squad, Ra's al Ghul.

Foes and Antagonists
Batman, Robin, Azrael, Nightwing, Commissioner Gordon, the GCPD.

Movies and Appearances
Bane appeared in one episode of Batman: The Animated Series, as well as 1997's camp-tastic Batman & Robin, as Poison Ivy's Hulkish lackey. Neither appearance was a very good representation of the character.

Tom Hardy, of course, plays Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, and while he has (not surprisingly) lost the luchador mask, at least based on the trailers, this version of the character seems more in line with the scheming, "big picture" villain of the comics.

One-Sentence Origin
Born and raised in the Pena Dura prison in Santa Prisca for crimes his father committed, haunted by nightmares of bats, Bane trained within the prison to hone his mental and physical abilities before escaping and journeying to Gotham City, determined to destroy Batman.

Memorable Moment
Batman #497: The culmination of Bane's plan against Batman, as he defeats the weakened hero inside Wayne Manor and breaks his back.

Fun Fact
For a brief period of time, Batman and Bane believed Bane to be Batman's half-brother, the son of Thomas Wayne and a Santa Priscan woman. Though the evidence suggesting as much was ultimately refuted, it did lead to Bane fighting at Batman's side for a time.

Teebore's Take
The 90s were a weird time for comics. Sales of books, steadily climbing since the 80s, reached new peaks, helped in part by a booming speculator market of casual and new fans who were determined, having realized those old comics they read as kids were worth serious money now, to stockpile "the next big thing" in order to pay for their kids' college educations down the road. At the same time, you saw a rise in popularity of "grim 'n' gritty" characters, tough antihero types who made the hard decisions and took no prisoners, as well as a shift away from the writer to the artist as the dominant half of the creative team, with the vast majority of the superstar artists at Marvel and DC defecting to form their own company, Image Comics, and publish comics with an emphasis on style over substance, the pages filled, for a time, with grim 'n' gritty characters wielding guns, swords, and a ludicrous number of pouches.

Partially in response to the "darkening" of superhero comics, partially in an effort to attract speculator sales by publishing big events, and partially to attract Image fans looking for ludicrously-pouched characters, DC responded to these changes with a pair of events: 1992's "Death of Superman" and 1993's "Knightfall". The former dealt with, appropriately enough, the death of Superman while the second involved Bruce Wayne having his back broken and passing on the mantle of Batman to a darker, edgier hero who replaced the traditional Batman costume with "kewl" armor. Both acts were carried out by villains, Doomsday and Bane, created specifically to serve as the antagonists of their respective events (of course, while the marketing department was touting these big changes to the status quo, the creators behind the events were using them to affirm the importance of their "old-fashioned" heroes; at the end of the day, the point of "Knightfall" was that not everyone could be Batman, and that Bruce Wayne, traditional he may be, was the best man for the job).

As a result, Bane has always a suffered a bit through comparisons to Doomsday, the monosyllabic creature who punched Superman to death. Though both were created for similar purposes, the two are vastly different characters. Doomsday is little more than a monster, a creature created simply to be able to match Superman's raw strength. Bane, on the other hand, functions as a dark mirror of Batman. Like Batman, Bane is smart, driven, and an excellent fighter. Under different circumstances, Bane could have been Batman. Like Batman, he is also a planner. Just as Batman constantly prepares for a variety of contingencies, Bane thought out and carefully orchestrated his plot against Batman, using various villains as his unknowing pawns, wearing down Batman before striking when the hero was at his weakest. Dirty pool, but it ensured Bane victory, just as Batman feels no compunction to play fair with criminals.

Bane, then, is a far more interesting and well developed character than the one-dimensional Doomsday, and while both have made subsequent appearances following their big event debuts, Bane has managed to stick around as a significant, albeit sparingly-used, member of Batman's rogue's gallery (after all, there's a certain cachet to being the guy who broke the Bat), having somewhat transcended his origin as the driving force of a 90s event, whereas Doomsday remains little more than a footnote in DC history. Bane recently spent a good chunk of time as part of a mercenary team in Gail Simone's delightfully macabre Secret Six series, and has appeared in DC's relaunched "New 52" resembling his appearance in the Arkham Ayslum video game. But I wouldn't be at all surprised if the likely success of The Dark Knight Rises leads to a higher profile for the character once again. Despite his genesis in a 90s event crossover, in the right hands, that wouldn't be a bad thing at all.


  1. Not gonna lie - kinda turned on by this whole Batman/Bane thing.


  2. @Joan: Not gonna lie - kinda turned on by this whole Batman/Bane thing.

    I'd expect nothing less from you Joan. ;)

  3. mostly, this just gets me really exccited for the movie now.

  4. @Sarah: I'd say "mission accomplished", but it isn't like Warner Bros. is paying me to hype the film for them. Still, glad you enjoyed it.


  5. Huh. I'd completely forgotten about Trogg, Zombie, & Bird. Actually, I still only recall them vaguely; I'm not sure I ever read Batman: Vengeance of Bane #1 and I only read Knightfall out of professional obligation — mixed, to be sure, with fannish curiosity, but that curiosity was more than counterbalanced by a disgust over the whole idea.

    I can share a little tidbit about Bane's origins but I'm gonna keep the source vague since I don't recall if it was in a straight-up interview or an off-the-record chat around the same time — while it doesn't cast anyone in a negative light, I still feel like I should hedge the details.

    Writers Chuck Dixon and Doug Moench were located in the Philly area back then, as was Mike Manley (who came aboard with Batman #500) and some other artists in the Batman stable too. I got to interview most of them at least once, more than one more than once, and there was behind-the-scenes chitchat as well both during the interviews and at the odd dinner out after a signing at the comics shop where I worked or a local convention.

    Anyway, if I remember it right, the story goes like this: Graham Nolan, penciler of Detective Comics, was offered the Vengeance of Bane one-shot but wasn't sure that he wanted to put some weird out-of-nowhere special on his schedule. Dixon, writer of the one-shot, knew about the upcoming Knightfall plans and how big a deal Bane could be in terms of royalties (a real factor in those heady days, both in terms of print sales and merchandising). He told Nolan "You want to do this. Trust me!" Nolan did and he was sure glad he did when Bane finally came to Gotham. I know that it's not shocking or hilarious, but it is, to me, an interesting window into how these things go; had Nolan opted not to cobble up Bane with Nolan and Moench, another co-creator would have joined the writers instead — resulting in at least a slightly different look for Bane and some attendant moolah lining different pockets instead.

    I hated almost everything about Knightfall in both concept and execution. Much of The Dark Knight Rises disappointed me, too, but I will say without spoilers that its backstory for Bane and his antagonism of Batman is actually a pretty good one (excepting some larger issues I have with that aspect of the mythology in both the films and the comics). As much as I liked Devin Grayson's early work, the whole thing of Bane potentially being a Wayne in Batman: Gotham Knights was garbage too. Gail Simone can turn all kinds of turds to gold, and her Bane in Secret Six certainly had its moments, but her very facility with plumb near everything means that even that wasn't necessarily worth Bane's existence.

  6. @Blam: ...resulting in at least a slightly different look for Bane and some attendant moolah lining different pockets instead.

    Great story, thanks for sharing it. Just last week I'd actually read an article on Newsrama or some such talking with Chuck Dixon about Bane and he mentioned how solid a contract that had with DC over him - the creators have seen money for his use in the animated series, Batman and Robin, and now TDKR, and they've never had an issue with DC getting what they were owed per their contracts.

    Which isn't to say they aren't all hideously underpaid and/or are likely to get anything close to the kazillions of dollars TDKR is poised to make, but it was nice to hear a story about comic creators getting their due financially with minimal legal fuss for a change, and your story complemented that one nicely.

    I hated almost everything about Knightfall in both concept and execution.

    I'll cop to enjoying it, for the most part, though I'll claim some youthful ignorance to that end.

    "Knightfall" was pretty much my introduction not only to Batman, but DC comics, having been up until that point a Marvel guy, and was lured in by the talk of BIG THINGS happening to Batman (a character I was already a big fan of, despite having never read his comics) in a story featuring a bunch of his classic villains. I actually got a good chunk of the issues thanks to those three-packs at Toys R Us (remember those packs? Heck, remember toy stores...?).

    As a result, even though I know now he had done much better Batman work in the past, Jim Aparo's Batman is pretty much the definitive Batman for me, along with Norm Breyfogle and Graham Nolan's.

    I take some solace in my enjoyment of "Knightfall" from the fact that, at the end of the day, it's all about how Batman is ultimately better than all the superficial trappings and trends of the gritty "kewl" 90s, though I freely admit one still has to slog through some pretty wretched stuff featuring a grittier, kewler Batman to get to that conclusion. And as far as "run Batman through a gauntlet of his most famous foes" stories go (which was the big appeal of the story for me back in the day), it's still better than "Hush".

    As much as I liked Devin Grayson's early work, the whole thing of Bane potentially being a Wayne in Batman: Gotham Knights was garbage too.

    While I did, in general, enjoy a good chunk of Gotham Knights, that story in particular was never one of them, and I'm glad the idea of Bane being a Wayne was clearly something that was introduced only to be disproven relatively quickly, and it was never considered a legitimate new status quo for the character.


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