You knew The Joker. Catwoman, sure. Even Two-Face rang a bell. But unless you’re a fairly faithful Batfan, you may be wondering, on the heels of last week’s “The Dark Knight Rises” villain announcement, “Just who the heck is Bane?”
To help educate you about Batman’s impending big-screen adversary – the super-steroid-fueled Bane, to be played by Tom Hardy – PopcornBiz went straight to the source: comic book writer Chuck Dixon, who co-created the character with artist Graham Nolan back in 1993.
“The crowning achievement of all my work is definitely Bane,” says Dixon, who wrote around 500 stories starring Batman and his supporting cast over an 11-year period and was as surprised as anyone that his creation had been called to the big leagues. “Graham called me yesterday morning. I had no clue. He said he'd just read it on the Internet. We were both as giddy as schoolgirls that Bane is going to get another shot at cinema stardom.”
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Another shot? We’ll get to that.
Bane came to being as a result of a multi-creator storyline called “Knightfall” in which, to facilitate a new, darker hero taking on the cowl, Batman would have his back broken by a major new enemy created just for the occasion. Among the editorial team Dixon in particular was concerned that the newbie baddie be well-received by readers.
“If we failed in creating this new villain it was going to seem like a lame stunt,” he recalls. “I argued that it's nearly impossible to create a character to be popular. Comic book characters who become popular tend to be almost created by mistake: One-off characters like Wolverine, who's now iconic, or the Silver Surfer, who was created just to be a friend for Galactus.” Thus legendary Batman editor Dennis O’Neill charged Dixon and Nolan with creating a compelling origin for the villain in a one-shot special titled “Batman: Vengeance of Bane.”
“The parameters for him had to be that he must be the intellectual and physical equal of Batman, that it would be believable that he could beat Batman and injure him badly enough to put him out of action for a year,” he says. “He is in every way a self-made man, just as Bruce Wayne made himself into Batman. Bane made himself into Bane, but with much darker purposes.”
“We created a backstory for him where you had a little bit of sympathy for him because his circumstances were so lousy: Bane basically grew up in prison serving his father's life sentence in some Central American hellhole,” says Dixon of the initially nameless character who uses cunning and brute strength to escape his prison home, arrive in Gotham and pump up his physique with Venom, a steroid once used and rejected by Batman after it made him a hyper-aggressive, nearly insane addict – Venom quickly unbalances the driven Bane as well. “It's always good to have a little sympathy for the bad guy if you want him to stick in the public's mind.”
“He turned out to be popular,” says Dixon. “He's had about a dozen action figures, he's been in cartoons, he's been in one of the other movies, and he's got a whole new level of popularity from the 'Arkham Asylum' video game.”
As that “other movie” was the universally reviled, Joel Schumacher-directed, Bat-nippled “Batman and Robin,” it something of an ignominious film debut for Bane. “He was handled poorly in a movie that was lousy,” admits the writer. “Bane was a thug. He only had a couple of lines – and I wouldn't even call it dialogue.”
Nevertheless, with modern comic book creator profit-sharing being much improved in the years since Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman, financially Dixon and Nolan “did all right off of 'Batman and Robin' – and it was a bomb and Bane was barely in it! Obviously now Bane will be much more prominently featured in a film that promises to be a huge hit. So, yeah, I'm not complaining at all. DC has been taking care of me every step of the way. I got money when Bane was a pasta shape in Spaghetti-O's.”
Given that director Christopher Nolan’s previous Batfilm “The Dark Knight” was one of the most profitable movies in cinema history, Dixon can expect a nice chunk of change from “DKR,” but he’s really excited about what Nolan and Hardy have in store for his creation.
“I'm real confident that we're going to get something close to the Bane that appeared in the comic book,” says Dixon, who currently writes titles including the “G.I. Joe” comic book for publisher IDW and “The Simpsons” for Bongo Comics. But he’s not expecting to be brought in as a consultant. “It'd be nice to hear from them, but it’s not like I'm going to wait by the phone. They're going to do what they're going to do. I'm not going to worry about that.”