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So, Who is Bane?
Author: Chris Clow
February 1, 2011
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There’s no getting around what he will always be known as, and that’s “The Man Who Broke the Bat.” This is kind of a shame, I think, because if people decided to look just a little bit deeper, they’ll see a character that many writers and artists have woven a unique tapestry for.

This is the reason, I believe, that director Christopher Nolan has chosen Bane as the next cinematic adversary for Batman in next year’s film, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.

As far as speculation is concerned, I could spend pages and hours of your precious time in trying to guess what Nolan and company will do with this villain, but that’s what the BOF PODCASTS are for. I’m here now to tell you about Bane, where he came from, what makes him tick, where you can find him today, and the indelible imprint he has left on the mythology of Batman in his relatively short lifespan.

The most fascinating thing about him, I think, is the fact that he’s been able to make a mark on the Batman mythology, since he’s only been around since the early 1990’s. Bane made his first appearance in a one-shot aptly titled BATMAN: THE VENGEANCE OF BANE, cover dated January 1993. Conceived by writer Chuck Dixon as a “dark mirror” of sorts for the timeless pulp character Doc Savage, Bane was designed by artist Graham Nolan (no relation) and given the go ahead by DC editorial to be let loose on the status quo of The Dark Knight.

In his debut one-shot, we are greeted to his rough and violent history, where a group of revolutionaries on a governmentally unstable island called Santa Prisca is killed, one of which was a man who had been married to a woman now taken prisoner, heavy with child. In accordance with the island’s laws, since the father did not survive to live out his sentence, the boy was born only to become a lifelong prisoner. When he turned six years old, Bane’s mother died, and he witnessed before his very eyes soldiers throw his mother’s body unceremoniously into shark-infested waters, only adding to what would become his legendary rage.

With no one else to confide in, the young man became prey for the other inmates in the prison, but instead of falling victim to the daily pressures surrounding him, the young man only grew stronger from them. He took for himself the name Bane, disconnecting himself from the life he had once had, and banding himself as a formidable adversary to anyone that dare stand up to him. As the young Bane aged, he gained confidants in fellow inmates in the prison, particularly an old doctor named Zombie, an American prisoner named Bird, and brute named Trogg.

Bane as featured in (clockwise from the left)

Gaining power and fear-spreading esteem within the walls of the prison, the warden saw Bane as a threat, and that there was far more incentive for the other prisoners to do Bane’s bidding than that of the warden’s. In a desperate attempt at demoralization, the warden placed Bane in strict solitary confinement for over a decade. Instead of having the effect the warden wanted, however, this only served to strengthen both Bane’s resolve and to elevate his reputation from one of esteem to one of legend.

Later, a scientific research team had created a compound steroid that was codenamed “Venom,” and rather than risk killing test volunteers, it was reasoned that prisoners would be more acceptable. While a number of other prisoners died during testing, Bane survived through sheer determination and unprecedented resistance. In addition to his legendary resolve, Bane gained the muscle mass to become truly powerful, as the drug radically increased his size, strength, and speed to those of nearly superhuman proportion. Finally feeling ready to leave his lifelong home for good, Bane gathered his friends, killed the warden, and left the prison without looking back.

Upon their escape, Bird tells Bane of his hometown: Gotham City. Bane pays close attention when Bird describes the city’s nocturnal avenger, an apparent champion that inspires fear in those who commit wrongdoing in his domain. Bane relished both the perception and stature of Batman, and was given a new lease on life by having a goal: discover the strengths and weaknesses of Gotham’s champion, and defeat him.

You know the story from there, I’m sure. Bane employs brilliant tactical analysis on Batman and uses the classic strategy of “distract-and-deploy,” freeing many inmates from the confines of Arkham Asylum, and when Batman is at his weakest rounding all of them up, breaks the Dark Knight’s back and throws him into the streets of a shocked Gotham City.

The article continues after the jump!

From here, the KNIGHTFALL story becomes less about Bane and more about his defeat at the hands of Jean-Paul Valley, and later the power struggle between Valley and Bruce Wayne over the cowl of Batman. But Bane’s place in Batman’s world would be far from forgotten, and his place as a Batman rogue was cemented with his unique origin and his breaking of the Bat. After this story, Bane hasn’t seen significant usage in the comics except for recently, where he has joined the cast of Gail Simone’s SECRET SIX as a moral and intelligent voice of the group.

Today, Bane has kicked his Venom habit and is a father figure to the damaged daughter of Vandal Savage, showing her the compassion that she has deserved but has never had. Simone also regularly references Bane’s pragmatism and strategic brilliance, as well as showing that beyond strategy, his time as a prisoner and his stint as an “A-list” opponent of the Dark Knight have provided him with the worldly wisdom necessary to be both formidable and deft in everything from academics to combat.

I said in a recent podcast that Bane has been consistently portrayed as both an extraordinaryary physical threat to Batman, but also as an intellectual equal to him, and perhaps even intellectual superior. Since Chuck Dixon left the Batman titles in the mid-1990s, many other creative teams have lent lasting work to Bane’s character in other mediums as well, particularly in the Animated Series. One of my favorite episodes, “Over the Edge,” has Bane show up rather surprisingly as a strong physical opponent, but Bane also tries to “psyche” Batman out with a few off-handed remarks.

The less said about Bane’s part in Joel Schumacher’s 1997 film BATMAN & ROBIN, the better. He was little more than a mindless brute that stupidly and slowly moved, and had absolutely none of the psychological substance that has become a main tenet of the character in the 18 years of his existence.

Bane did have a high profile turn as a boss in the critically acclaimed BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM video game, and his Venom steroid was a key part of the overall story presented there. While the game didn’t have time to exploit the more intelligence-based aspects of Bane’s character, you definitely knew the power that he had at his disposal, as the game forced you to think like Batman: attacking straight on would be suicide. Find another way.

And now we arrive at Tom Hardy’s casting for THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. As Sean Gerber pointed out in a recent podcast, Bane was initially ruled out by many fans as a possibility for Nolan’s films for two basic reasons: his “super-strength” aspect would make him too “unrealistic” for Nolan’s film series, and he’s not a character that’s very representative of Batman’s formative years (shown in such stories as YEAR ONE and THE LONG HALLOWEEN).

Tom Hardy will play Bane is THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

My response to that is A) neither was Ra’s al Ghul, and B) Bane’s origin story seems like something that would automatically attract Nolan to him. While initially conceived to mirror Doc Savage, Bane and Batman’s origin stories are constructed rather similarly, which I’m sure is no accident. Both endure trauma as children (although Bane endures more) and both achieve “success” (although separately defined) through the sheer force of their respective wills. If Nolan decides to utilize those basic components of Bane’s comic book incarnation, he already has a rather unique and well-defined adversary for Batman in the film.

Tom Hardy’s casting, while not obvious, is also positive from my point-of-view. Both Sean and I talked about how we felt that Hardy’s performance was a “breakout” in INCEPTION, and I believe very firmly that Hardy can project intelligence and thoughtfulness very well. He proved this inINCEPTION, and I also believe that he proved it in 2002’s STAR TREK: NEMESIS, where he played, guess what? A brilliant, strategizing villain that was a (more literal) mirror to that film’s main protagonist. So in a way, Hardy has experience in playing a somewhat similar character, he’s worked with Nolan before, and he’s shown an ability gain considerable size from another great performance of his in the film BRONSON.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a great villain ready for what’s sure to be a very ambitious film. Coupling Tom Hardy’s proven acting ability with the dimension of a character like Bane, there is also plenty of room for interpretation that Nolan can play with. He will put his stamp on this character as he’s done with everyone else he’s played with in the Batman world so far, and the inherent complexities already present in Bane’s psyche will make this a confrontation definitely worth the price of admission.

When he arrived in the comics, Bane blitzed the entire comic industry and turned it on its heels. Now, Christopher Nolan’s giving him the same opportunity on a much wider cinematic audience.

Guard your spines, folks. Bane is coming! on Facebook

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