Batman has faced down some of the most dangerous villains imaginable: psychopathic clowns, mad scientists, untouchable crimelords, genocidal masterminds, mutated monstrosities, and even those who have been able to get close to him as Bruce Wayne. But through it all, he remained unbowed and unbroken—until he met his match in the form of a new threat, a man who trained himself to peak of mental and physical perfection, all with the goal of proving his worth in taking down The Dark Knight.
That man is known as Bane, and (as portrayed by Tom Hardy) he returns to menace Batman in "The Dark Knight Rises," the culmination of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of Batman films. But who is behind Bane’s mask? For the answer to that, we’re going to take a look back at Bane’s roots in the Batman comics.
The brainchild of writers Chuck Dixon and Doug Moench, and artist Graham Nolan, Bane first appeared in the 1993 one-shot Batman: Vengeance of Bane, a tale that served both as his origin story and as his introduction to Batman. Bane was a tortured soul from birth, having been born into the tyrannical Caribbean dictatorship of Santa Prisca, where, as the first-born son of a dissident who had escaped punishment, it was decreed that he would serve his father’s sentence of life in prison. His life growing up in the prison environment only served to push him to hone his physical and mental abilities to the fullest, striving to dominate all those around them. He gradually earned the respect and following of the other inmates, particularly three who became his closest aides; Trogg, Bird, and Zombie.
The prison officials came to recognize him as a threat to their authority however, and selected him for experimentation of a drug that had killed all previous test subjects. But like everything else in the prison, the drug, known as “Venom,” did not kill Bane; it only made him stronger. With the assistance of his aides, he devised a plan to escape the prison, and take revenge on his tormentors. Yet dominance of the prison world was not enough for Bane; Bird told him tales of a faraway place called Gotham City, where one man ruled unchallenged. Bane became determined to take on the challenge of defeating this man: The Batman.
Now equipped with a device that could feed the Venom directly into his brain on command, giving him a temporary strength enhancement whenever he sought it, Bane took up residence in Gotham City and began observing Batman in action. He came to the conclusion that in order to beat Batman, he would first have to wear him down, and Bane saw no better way to do that than by unleashing a horde of Batman’s greatest foes on Gotham City, launching 1993’s Knightfall storyline. Arkham Asylum, the facility where the criminally insane in Gotham City are housed, provided a convenient target for his objectives, and when Bane attacked it, Batman’s worst fears were realized; he now was forced to chase down some of the most dangerous criminals in existence as they rampaged across the city, including The Joker, The Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, and many more. This provided Bane with further opportunity to study Batman, and soon he deduced Batman’s greatest secret—his identity as Bruce Wayne.
At Wayne’s weakest moment, Bane infiltrated his last refuge, Wayne Manor, and challenged him to a final confrontation. Despite a valiant effort, the exhausted Batman was no match, and Bane pummeled him ruthlessly before delivering the final blow; snapping Batman’s spine over his knee.
Batman’s life was ultimately saved through the intervention of his partner Robin and his loyal butler Alfred, but he found himself paralyzed and relegated to a wheelchair, while Bane claimed Gotham City for his own and ignited a bloody gang war. Seeing the urgent need for a Batman, Bruce passed the mantle of the bat on to Jean Paul Valley, formerly known as the villain Azrael, whom Bruce had taken under his wing in an attempt to guide him on a more righteous path. The new Batman proved to be a far more violent and dangerous incarnation, designing a suit of armor for himself to complement his new role, and adopting a philosophy that new methods were needed to take down a new generation of more dangerous villains, as exemplified by Bane. When the two finally had their showdown, the result was a brutal slugfest with Valley triumphing by discovering Bane’s weakness: by severing the tubes that provide Bane with his infusions of Venom, Bane began to go into withdrawal due to the addictive nature of the drug. Valley came very close to killing Bane, but stopped just short of crossing that line.
Bane was incarcerated, and during his time in prison kicked his addiction to Venom, coming to see the dependency as a weakness, and swearing off the drug for good. But that would not bring an end to the threat he posed to Batman, who had reclaimed his mantle, and they would face off several more times, with Bane even allying himself with the likes of Batman’s arch foe, Ra’s Al Ghul. At times, however, a truce endured between Bane and Batman, with Batman even assisting Bane in the search for his father, who turned out to be the notorious mercenary King Snake. Bane eventually went on to join the Secret Six, a team of supervillains turned mercenaries who walked a fine line between heroism and villainy.
With DC Comics having revamped the history of their universe in their New 52 line, Bane now seems to be back to his old tricks, having most recently gotten involved with a scheme to distribute a new form of Venom to the population of Arkham Asylum. Given this often circuitous history for the character, Christopher Nolan’s vision can’t be expected to include every twist and turn, but if the previous two films are anything to judge by, fans can hope for a take that will capture the essential aspects that have made Bane such a compelling and enduring foe for the Dark Knight.
What’s your favorite Bane story? Let us know what you think in the comments or on Twitter!