Thursday, January 20, 2011

A (not so) Brief History of Bane

Since Bane is the lesser-known of the two confirmed villains in The Dark Knight Rises, I thought it might be good idea to get a little more detailed about the character than I did in my original post. Some spoilers for Bane's comic book appearances will follow, which may turn out to be in the movie, so proceed with caution.


Legendary Batman writer Dennis O'Neil laid the groundwork for Bane in his work on The Question and in the Batman: Venom storyline in the Legends of the Dark Knight comic series. He created the fictional island of Santa Prisca and the highly addictive, steroid-like drug Venom. He also served as the editor of all the Batman-related comics when Chuck Dixon, Doug Monech, and Graham Nolan (no relation to Christopher, as far as I know) created the character of Bane in the highly popular 1993 storyline Knightfall.

Bane in Comics

Bane was born in the fictional Caribbean island nation of Santa Prisca, son of a revolutionary who sought to overthrow the government. His father escaped capture, so the corrupt government decided Bane, at a very young age, would be punished for his father's crime. He grew up in the notorious prison Peña Dura. Being surrounded by prisoners and corrupt guards, he was never taught any moral behavior, but he was a voracious reader and spent hours in the prison gym. As he grows up, his intelligence, strength, and ruthlessness lead him to a position of authority among the prison population. The prison authorities, beginning to fear him, forced him to be a test subject for the experimental drug Venom. Though it killed previous subjects, Bane manages to survive. It makes him preternaturally strong, but he is immediately addicted to the drug. He requires regular doses of Venom, or he suffers severe withdrawal.


While in prison, Bane heard tales of Gotham City's legendary crime fighter, Batman. Like Batman, Bane is an ordinary man with an relentless drive for excellence, so he sees Batman as the ultimate challenge of his worth. Bane escapes from prison with a small group of followers and heads straight for Gotham. Bane dons the mask of a luchador, a Mexican wrestler, and has a steady supply of Venom pumped directly into his bloodstream.

At first merely observing Batman in action, Bane believes the secret to defeating him is through careful planning rather than simply challenging the Bat to a fight. So Bane decides to break in to Arkham Asylum and release dozens of prisoners, including some of Batman's most dangerous foes.

Batman spends months rounding up the escapees, and by the time he captures the last of them, he is completely exhausted. Which, of course, was Bane's plan all along. When Bane finally challenges Batman directly, pumped full of Venom, he is able to take down the Dark Knight without much trouble. In one of the more recognizable panels in Batman comics history, Bane lifts Batman high over his head, and drops him on his knee, breaking Batman's back. Bane declares himself king of Gotham's criminal underworld.

Bruce Wayne is left paralyzed from the waist down, and is forced to hand over the title of Batman to Jean-Paul Valley, aka Azrael. Azrael gradually becomes more and more violent, and Batman's costume becomes armored and full of weapons. Though Bruce ordered him to avoid taking on Bane directly, Jean-Paul does, and actually defeats Bane by cutting the lines that feed him his Venom. Bane is taken to Blackgate Prison, where he overcomes his Venom addiction.


He eventually escapes and helps Bruce (now back to being the one and only Batman) take out a drug ring dealing in Venom. Bane now believes that Venom was responsible for his criminal acts, and sets off to find his father. Bane discovers that the revolutionary for whom he served a prison sentence may have not been his real father.

Bane of the Demon and Legacy

Soon, he meets Talia al-Ghul and her father Ra's. Much as he had been with Batman, Ra's is impressed with Bane's intellect and after some time working together, believes Bane to be a suitable heir for his empire and wants him to marry Talia (an idea that, as seen above, Bane is totally cool with). He and Talia have a brief affair, but she ultimately rejects him, seeing him as a poor substitute for Bruce. Bane and Ra's conspire to release a bioweapon in Gotham City, but Batman puts a stop to their plans and defeats Bane in a rematch of their earlier contest. Bane and Ra's end their partnership and Bane vows revenge, traveling to Ra's Lazarus Pits and destroying them.

Tabula Rasa

Bane then returns to his quest to find his father, and discovers that Thomas Wayne visited Santa Prisca and knew Bane's mother around the time of his conception. Having previously deduced Batman's identity, and maintaining a great respect for Bruce's abilities, he thinks its only natural their similar strength, cunning, and dedication come from being half brothers. Informing Bruce of what he learns, and awaiting a blood test to determine their relation, Bane lives in Wayne Manor, fighting crime alongside Batman for a time. When the blood tests come out negative, Bane leaves vowing to find his true father.

Eventually, he does find his father. King Snake, a British martial artist and mercenary who became a drug kingpin in Asia. Bane confronted him, but at the same time Batman and Robin appeared to stop King Snake. Though briefly conflicted, Bane sided with the dynamic duo, eventually taking a bullet to save Batman's life. Near death, Batman decides to take Bane to one of the few remaining Lazarus Pits, restoring Bane's health and giving him a fresh start.

Post-Tabula Rasa

Bane then returns to Santa Prisca. Claiming to be again addicted to Venom, he infiltrates the government, deeply entangled in the Venom trade. He tries to end the Venom production, take down the corrupt government, and give his homeland free democratic elections. He is ultimately unsuccessful, and for a time joins Amanda Waller's Suicide Squad.

Secret Six

His time in the Suicide Squad is short-lived, and he eventually joins the villains-for-hire group The Secret Six, alongside, among others, Deadshot, Catman, and Scandal Savage (pictured). Bane feels an instant bond with Scandal, the troubled daughter of the immortal Vandal Savage. He remains in the Secret Six today, and his time there is noted by a fatherly concern for Scandal's well-being.


Bane's first appearance in Knightfall as the man who broke the Bat was well-received and Knightfall was an extremely popular comic. Fans eventually soured on the storyline as it focused more on Jean-Paul Valley/Azrael than on Batman and Bane, but it is still Bane's most popular and recognizable appearance.

His subsequent appearances have been a mixed bag. Though his initial battle with Batman was notable for his unusual and effective strategy, most of his appearances since have portrayed him as simply a fighter, occasionally mentioning his intellect but rarely putting it to use.

However, since resurfacing in Secret Six, Bane has gained some new fans. Though it's nowhere near as popular as Knightfall, Secret Six has been well-received by critics and fans have praised writer Gail Simone's treatment of the character.

Outside of Comics

Unfortunately, Bane's most recognizable appearance was in 1997's Batman & Robin, where Bane, played by wrestler Robert Swenson (pictured), was re-imagined as a plant monster created by Poison Ivy. Both Batman & Robin and its treatment of Bane are pretty much universally hated.

He also appeared in Batman: The Animated Series voiced by Henry Silva. He did not appear until very late in the series. Reportedly, the producers did not feel that he fit well in their vision of Gotham City, but eventually decided to take a stab at him. They re-imagined Bane as an assassin hired by a local Gotham mobster to take out Batman. He retained the luchador mask and the venom habit, but though he posed a real threat, Batman is eventually victorious.

Bane has made further animated appearances in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, The Batman, Batman Beyond, and will reportedly make an appearance on the new series Young Justice. He also showed up in the popular video game Batman Arkham Asylum.

Recommended reading

Many of Bane's appearances from the 90s have not been collected in trade paperbacks, and some that were are no longer in print. The popularity the character will presumably gain from appearing in The Dark Knight Rises may result in DC reprinting more comics featuring Bane.

Batman: Venom by Dennis O'Neil, among others, doesn't actually feature Bane, but introduced the concept of Venom.

Knightfall, Part One, Part Two, and Part Three, by Chuck Dixon, Doug Moench, Jo Duffy, Alan Grant, Dennis O'Neil, Graham Nolan, Jim Balent, Jim Aparo, Norm Breyfogle, Klaus Jansen, and many many others. This is Bane's first major storyline and still his most famous.

Batman: Legacy, by Alan Grant, Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, Jim Aparo, and Graham Nolan.

Secret Six Vol. 1: Unhinged, Vol. 2: Depths, Vol. 3: Danse Macabre, and Vol. 4: Cats in the Cradle, by Gail Simone and various artist with occasional guest writer John Ostrander. Bane joins a villains for hire group. Though technically not a "mature readers" title, Secret Six is not for kids.


disco3 said...

Nice recap on Bane. Imagine if they used the same storyline as in 1997's Batman & Robin replacing Poison Ivy with Catwoman.(joke) I bet Nolan would still manage to make it a decent of it.
P.s Knightfall is one of my favourite series of comics.

Bill said...

I loved the first part of Knightfall, but I didn't like Azrael as Batman at all.

Liou said...