“Bane? Who’s He?”: Your Introduction the ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ Bad Guy
As both a Batman and movie nerd this is a question I’ve asked every time a non-geek has learned that there’s a sequel to The Dark Knight on the way. The exchange goes a little something like this:
“Who’s the bad guy?”
“Bane? I haven’t heard of that one…”
“He’s awesome! He’s the character who broke Batman!”
“Oh. I thought they’d go with someone better known like The Riddler.”
“Christopher Nolan seems to be focusing more on the story than fan service.”
“They should just use someone they’ve used before.”
At this point I usually make my ‘are you series?’ face. Given his track record I’d like to think we can give Nolan the benefit of the doubt. But still – Bane is not especially known outside of geek circles, so let’s give everyone a primer on this fan favourite…
(At this point we’d like to note that Nolan’s film version is likely to differ from the comic book version much like The Joker and other characters. This feature refers to the character who appears in the comics.)
No doubt by this stage you’ve one if not all of the trailers for The Dark Knight Rises and noticed a strong focus on a large bald man wearing a gnarly looking gas mask strapped tightly to his face. This is Bane. He made his comic debut in 1993 and quickly became a popular villain due to the competitive edge he held over Batman. Although the character is sometimes dismissed as another super-strong foe to batter the hero around, Bane is an intellectual and strategic match for the Dark Knight. This trait leads to his continued popularity over the years. He’s depicted in the comics as a very large, muscular man sporting a Mexican Wrestling mask and a series of tubes connecting his head and neck to a device on his back. This device pumps ‘venom’ into his system – a drug that greatly enhances his physical abilities.
Bane has had an unorthodox upbringing…to put it extremely mildly. His father was a revolutionary in South America who escapes justice. According to local law the sentence could then be passed on to his kin – the then unborn Bane. The child was born into the island penitentiary Peña Dura (“Hard Rock”). Nino, as he was originally named, was born into a violent ecosystem where he grew up surrounded by savages, his only connection to childhood being a teddy bear he kept with him at all times. His mother died when he was six, taking away the only person who was invested in protecting him, forcing Nino to fend for himself. At the age of eight another prisoner tried to force Nino to collect information for him, leaving the boy with an almost fatal injury when he refused. Upon his recovery Nino murdered the man, making him Bane’s first victim.
As punishment for the crime Nino was placed in isolation for over a decade. Trapped in a five-by-four foot cell with no human contact Nino had to fend of rats and crabs every day. During the night the rising tide around the island caused the sea to flood into the cell making every night a fight for survival as he clung to the bars in the ceiling of his cell. This nightly flooding also provided Nino with the seafood that he survived on. To pass the time he’d practice meditation, working his imagination, and develop his physical strength. Upon his release, now an adult, he’d adopted the name ‘Bane’ after a guard described him as the warden’s bane.
Back amongst the prison population the story of his years in isolation had made him a legend. He was quick to assert his authority and rise to top of the hierarchy. Having developed an unusually focused mind in isolation he spent his time working out to build his strength and endurance while reading every book he could obtain. Fearing his influence over the prison population the warders force Bane into an experimental surgical procedure that had killed all previous test subjects. Bane resilience to the procedure makes him the first successful candidate, the ‘Venom’ drug that was introduced into his system drastically enhancing his physical and mental capacity. He must take a dose of Venom every 12 hours injected directly into his brain to avoid fatal side-effects, hence his set of tubing plugging into his head.
During his time in the prison Bane heard frequent stories about the Batman, a figure who terrified the prison populace. Bane, seeking to prove himself against this foe, broke out of the prison and headed for Gotham.
Quickly deducing that Batman’s real identity is Bruce Wayne. In his first comic appearance (his backstory was told later) Bane unleashed a plan to drive Batman to his physical and psychological breaking point before launching a direct assault. Bane destroys the walls of Arkham Asylum and unleashes the inmates, leaving Batman to try and round them up. After dangerous encounters with the likes of The Joker, Mad Hatter and Victor Zsasz Batman returns to Wayne Manor to find Bane waiting for him. After a brutal showdown Bane picks the defeated Batman up and breaks his spine over his knee.
Bane’s legacy is as the villain who finally ‘Broke the Bat’. He’s been a consistent member of the rogues gallery since then with his bachground and abilities being explored in depth. It has been revealed that in addition to a genius level intellect Bane has a photographic memory, is an expert in multiple scientific fields and speaks dozens of languages. Whilst in prison he created his own style of meditation, calisthenics and a unique fighting style. He’s a master strategist, escapologist, and tactician.
Since his debut in the Knightfall story arc he’s appeared in almost every version of the Batman animated series’, various video games including Arkham Asylum and a movie that we won’t name here. In the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises he takes the role of arch-villain, played by the exceptionally well suited Tom Hardy. Information from the set indicates that the mask is not related to Venom but is some kind of breathing apparatus relating to a throat injury.
Suggested Reading: For your homework the key reading materials relating to Bane is the recently released trade Batman Versus Bane that recounts his backstory and other relevant tales and Knightfall, his original encounter with Batman.