There’s something about Batman villains that makes them stand out.
Poison Ivy controls nature and is usually almost naked; Catwoman is a hot burglar (and occasionally romances Batman), Talia is a hot heiress of an evil empire (and in on/off relationship with Batman). Two-face is a gangster with a coin. Penguin is also an underworld operator. Scarecrow is a psychologist gone psycho. The Riddler riddles while Freeze freezes everything (ok, those two were obviously not very well thought out). And the Joker is probably the best known of them all… he’s the Moriarty to Batman’s Sherlock.
But if you aren’t a hardcore Batman fan, chances are that you haven’t heard of this ‘Bane’ that everyone is talking about. Not your fault. Off all the Dark Knight’s foes, Bane is probably the least well-known.
This, by the way, is Bane – the guy who once famously said “I was born to break people!”.
And what’s special about Bane? Well, he’s almost all muscle. And doped up on steroids. Oh, and he was created for the express purpose of ‘breaking the bat’ …but we’ll get to that in a while. For now, we’ll start at the beginning.
Bane first appeared in Chuck Dixon’s Vengeance of Bane (1993) which gave his origin as that of a man born in Pena Dura (‘Hard Rock’) prison in Santa Prisca – a fictional Caribbean island ruled by a military dictator. The son of Edmund Dorrance, a revolutionary who escaped the law, Bane was given a life sentence as a child – as punishment for the sins of the father.
Surprisingly, he didn’t grow up to be just another thug. Apart from the prison education system, he read every book he could get his hands on – building up his knowledge of the outside world – worked out in the prison gym for years, and learned to fight by scrapping with his ‘colleagues’. At one point, he was even taught by a Jesuit priest.
Never the model prisoner, Bane was named by the prison warden after committing his first murder (a fellow prisoner) at the age of eight. Growing up with this take-no-shit attitude, he worked up the chain till he established himself as the ‘king’ of Pena Dura prison. Not bad for a white guy, you say? Agreed.
The only problem with being the monarch of a prison, is that you get noticed by the authorities and get branded a ‘troublemaker’ – rather than a ‘His royal highness’ pre-fix to your name. And if they’re really corrupt and think of prisoners as volunteer candidates for human testing, you’ll get sold to the nearest scientist who’s testing out a new steroid. Well, that’s pretty much what happened to Bane – the drug was called Venom, and is pumped directly into his brain!
While the drug increased his strength several times over, it also meant he needed a dose every 12 hours to keep from suffering the mother of all withdrawal pangs.
Now, since childhood, Bane has had recurring nightmares about a demonic bat. And given the company he’s kept, he’s also heard of the Batman, and therefore of Gotham. So when he finally escapes from Pena Dura, guess where he goes – Gotham! This is the beginning of the Kinghtfall storyline.
The way Bane sees it, Gotham is exactly like a prison, where Fear rules. Only, in Gotham, that fear comes in the form of Batman. Being a creature of reason, Bane reasons that:
- Batman is the creature of his nightmares, and it is fate that they should tangle.
- By defeating Batman, he can be the one they all fear – thereby ruling Gotham.
Now, unlike other criminals, Bane doesn’t go head-first into battle. He watches Batman, determines that he’s more a man (than the ‘monster’ he’s heard of), and plans his moves. And not a Joker-like plan where he simply plays with the mind – but a battle plan (think tiny toothpick flags on a map).
Bane first wears down Batman by freeing all the inmates of Arkham Asylum – letting them wear down the Dark Knight. And by keeping a close watch on Batman while he catches them, he determines his true identity. And only after 3 months (when all the inmates are back in their cells) when a tired Bruce Wayne emerges into his manor from the Batcave does Bane go in for the kill and break his back!
Impressed, right? But that’s not all.
The Knightfall story arc continues with a new (more violent) Batman who temporarily takes on the mantle from Bruce – and defeats Bane by cutting off the hose that pumps him with Venom.
Bane’s story then continues in Vengeance of Bane II: The Redemption where we find him a prisoner in Blackgate Prison. Now, going by Batman’s usual list of villains, you’d expect him to be swearing an oath for a Batman-Must-Die Club membership – but you’d be wrong.
Bane studies what he did and comes to the conclusion that he lost because of his addiction to Venom. He doesn’t hold it against Batman, but against the drug itself. Surprised? Read on.
Bane uses his time at Blackgate like a rockstar in rehab. He kicks the habit! And then escapes to Gotham to find the source of the drug and shut it down permanently. And he does it back-to-back with the guy whose back he once broke!
And when the Batman wants to get him, Bane convinces him that he is “innocent” of his past crimes and goes to find his Dad! (Is this guy awesome or what!!)
Bane’s story continues with his search leading him back to Santa Prisca where the Jesuit priest (the guy who once schooled him) tells him about four men – any one of whom could’ve been his father: a local revolutionary, an American doctor, an English mercenary, and a Swiss Banker.
Bane begins his search with the Swiss Banker – who is now in Rome – and runs into Ra’s al Ghul (remember him from Batman Begins?) who’s so impressed, that he makes him his heir (which was an ‘honor’ previously given to Bruce Wayne – along with the hand of the sultry Talia in marriage).
After ascertaining that the Swiss banker is not ‘Daddy’, Bane helps Ra’s launch a plague attack on Gotham (see Legacy storyline for details). Unfortunately for him, Batman foils the plot.
Bane then resurfaced a couple of years later in the Batman: Bane story to fight Azrael before disappearing again. Gotham, in the meantime, suffers an earthquake, and with the rising crime, is declared No Man’s Land by the US government. Bane makes a short but significant appearance here as Lex Luthor’s chief enforcer in what’s probably the largest land-grabbing scam of all time (the ‘land’ here being most of Gotham!).
Now, continuing with the search for dear old Dad, Bane looks up the American doctor – one Dr. Thomas Wayne! He takes his suspicions to his old pal Bruce – who agrees to a DNA test to see if his Dad had a thing for Caribbean gun-toting revolutionary chicks while volunteering in Santa Prisca. Bane actually lives in Wayne mansion while the samples are being matched and even fights Gotham’s baddies by night with his possible half-brother (whose back he had once broken – in case you forgot).
But, as it turns out, Dr. Thomas Wayne never hit on hot chicks after marriage (at least there’s nothing to prove otherwise). So Bane leaves once again to continue his search – only now, it’s a mission that’s funded by Bruce Wayne himself (who understands Daddy issues only too well)!
To cut the who’s-your-daddy story short, Bane eventually discovers that it’s actually contestant number three – the English mercenary who goes by the name of King Snake (and remember, this is the guy who’s life sentence he was serving out since birth).
Now, King Snake has all the makings of a Bond villain – complete with a plan to destroy the world. Bane doesn’t just save the world, but also saves Batman by taking a bullet for him. Batman puts the mortally wounded Bane in a nearby Lazarus Pit (which Ra’s famously uses to live for centuries) and saves him.
This, in retrospect, was a bad call. Bane went on to become the leader of the Secret Six – a seriously organized villains-only version of the Avengers.
And that brings us to the end of this arch-villain’s resume!
Now, depending on how geeky your friends are, you may hear some (disturbing) stuff about Bane and question your faith. Here are a few common FAQs on the subject:
- Is it true that the big bad Bane carried around a wittle teddy bear? Yes. He named it Osito. It had a hole in the back which hid a knife.
- Is it true that Bane and Bruce are half-brothers? No. There was a story that suggested it, but no.
- Does Bane have a claim on the Wayne foundation? No. Bruce just seems to fund him from time to time.
- Did Dr. Wayne cheat on Mrs. Wayne while he was playing doctor on Santa Prisca all those years ago? While Dr. Thomas Wayne may have had a thing for gun-toting Caribbean chicks, there’s no biological evidence to suggest that he was anything more than ‘good friends’ with one.
- Is Bane’s rivalry with Batman all over some chick with great legs? Yes and No. It didn’t start that way, but along the way, Bane did fall for the lovely Talia (who wouldn’t!), and wanted to kill Batman partially out of jealousy.
- Why is Bane sometimes shown with holes in the back of his head? Is he also like Neo from The Matrix? Bane was addicted to Venom – a steroid that’s pumped straight into the brain. Hence the holes.
- What’s his deal with Lex Luthor? Luthor uses him as an enforcer to break into Gotham when it’s declared a No Man’s Land to burn all land ownership papers.
- Who’s his Daddy? A British mercenary called King Snake – who wasn’t too happy to be reunited with his son once the son derailed a world domination plan.
- Where can I get some Venom? Sorry! Bane not only put the original Venom out of circulation, but even got rid of the guy who’d come out with a ‘new and improved’ version (there’s just no half measures with this guy!).
- Where is Bane today? Following a failed attempt to psychologically break Batman, he was arrested and on his way to prison.
(I am waiting for him to break out).