Some believe Bane is a man who relies on sheer strength. Others think Bane needs venom to pose a threat. Maybe some out there just think of Tom Hardy in The Dark Knight Rises while picturing the character. And some may even think he's just a silly looking wrestler who earned a cheap victory over Batman. Well, we're here to set the record straight and tell you all why Bane is a noteworthy addition to the Dark Knight's rogues gallery and not just some dumb brute or Talia al Ghul's muscle. First and foremost, we understand a number of you may not be all that familiar with Bane, so we're going to recap the villain's origin and explain what makes him special.
Back in 1993, writer Chuck Dixon and artist Graham Nolan introduced to the world to Bane with BATMAN: VENGEANCE OF BANE #1 (Doug Moench also helped create the villain, but didn't work on the first appearance). Bane was born in a harsh prison called Pena Duro. Located in the fictional country Santa Prisca, Bane was forced to serve his father's sentence -- a life sentence. Calling the prison home made the child tough and, when his mother passed in front of him, he didn't shed a single tear. Shortly later, a creep name Puerco approached him, but a strong fellow named Trogg guarded the kid. During the scuffle, Bane fell over a ledge, smashing his face against the ground. While knocked out, he had a vision of himself from the future -- a tall, muscular man still in prison attire -- and this vision told Bane he is destined to rule the world and only fear stands in his way. His fear: a bat with glowing eyes. Bane awoke from this nightmare, killed the man who assaulted him, and then insulted the Warden upon getting in trouble for the crime. His punishment: over a decade in Cavidad Oscuro, a.k.a. the hole.
The pit was dug three centuries ago and often drives people mad or kills them. The cell was constructed low enough that high tide would flood it each and every day. So, on top of being infested with rats and crabs, Bane also had to fight to survive every day for more than ten years. Instead of crumbling under the weight of these challenges, Bane thrived. He had yet to learn how to read and write, but these challenges boosted his focus and determination. As Dixon wrote, "hatred gave him the strength to hold on. Hatred and the promise of the man he would become." This hardened both his personality and body and, while the lack of activity may take a toll on others, he overcame his fear and thought about slaying a giant bat. He went into the hole as a boy and he emerged as a man without fear. Unfortunately, that nickname was already taken.
Now free of the hole, Bane sharpened his mind, absorbing all of the knowledge he could. He quickly learned how to read and write, would breeze through three books a day, learned six different languages, and continued to read every book the library had to offer. When he completed the thousands of books in the library, he had hundreds more smuggled in, covering all different kinds of subjects. The villain was making sure his body was every bit as impressive as his brain, too. His daily workout consisted of a thousand push-ups, a thousand sit-ups, and a thousand pull-ups. The man wouldn't sleep, either. Instead of dozing off, he meditated for four hours per night. He was able to rule the prisoners and take down every challenger in his way, but the authorities had to step in when he killed more than thirty inmates.
It turns out the prison's infirmary was testing a drug called "venom" on inmates and no one survived the tests. Upon seeing Bane's strength, the decided to give it a shot with him. As we all know by now, the test was a success. The drug would not only boosted Bane's strength (Pre-52 Bane was debatably in the 1-2 ton range, but New 52 Bane is even stronger), but it also increased his pain tolerance. But Bane's aspirations go beyond being a test subject. He's heard Gotham is the greatest city and it's ruled by Batman, and he dreams of conquering it. So he told Bird, one of his numerous allies, about his plan to escape. Basically, he had such control over his body that he was able to lower his vitals to a point where the machines declared he was dead. The fiend was tossed into the water to serve as food for the sharks, but he was able to elude them and even killed one with his bare hands. He returned to the prison, tossed the warden into the shark infested waters, and stole a helicopter with his allies, Zombie, Tragg, and Bird. He finally arrived in Gotham and successful stalked the Dark Knight. Bane made his presence known to Batman and, before fading away, he promised that the hero would one day scream his name.
"Get in line" is exactly what Bane did. As you probably know, Bane crippled Batman by smashing the hero's back against his knee. If not, apologies for the way old spoiler. The humiliating defeat came after Bane and his forces released several villains and allowed them to create all kinds of chaos across Gotham. The constant need to clean up the streets took a huge toll on Batman. He was getting a minimal amount of sleep and the steady fighting was beginning to hinder his body and his mind. When he was at his lowest point, Bane was waiting for him right in his very own home. Yes, Bane was able to find out who's behind the mask and then dished out one of Batman's most embarrassing defeats. Now, some discredit Bane's victory by saying he assaulted Bruce when he was at his weakest, but that was the entire point. Batman was practically "broken" before Bane shattered his back. Bane wanted to destroy the "ruler of Gotham's" body and mind. And when Gotham's protector couldn't take much more, Bane was there to let the Justice Leauger know that he was behind all of this madness and he would be the one to deliver the final blow.
It was a display of tactics topped off with physical might. Could Bane -- while on venom -- defeat Batman while the he's at 100%? We've never seen that fight happen before the New 52 because Bane's off venom in all of their brawls after their encounter in Knightfall. Would Batman's equipment and clear mind allow him to overcome Bane's ferociousness, and might? We know Bane is very skilled, but he isn't as skilled as Bruce. Would his boosted physicals compensate for that gap and grant him the edge? Maybe, maybe not. The point is Bane wasn't afraid of Batman and didn't attack him when he was at his weakest due to a lack of confidence. The encounter was meant to utterly break Batman and that's exactly what it did. After breaking the Caped Crusader's back, Bane took the hero's limp body and tossed it onto the streets of Gotham. He accomplished the one thing he set out to do: defeat the Bat and take over Gotham.
Okay, so that was exactly a quick recap, but if you're going to know what makes a character unique, understanding where they come from and what they've experienced really is critical. Bane's origin story turned him into a being that could challenge Bruce Wayne on both a physical and mental level. He's skilled and conditioned enough to engage Batman in hand-to-hand combat, and even Ra's al Ghul has praised Bane's sharp mind. Some villains can mess with Batman's mind and his personal life and others tend to offer purely physical challenges. Bane's intellect and gifted physicals and skills as a combatant means he has unlimited potential when it comes to opposing Batman on both levels.
Bane's grip on Gotham obviously didn't last forever and a man named Jean-Paul Valley assumed Batman's mantle. He was the one to savagely defeat Bane by severing his connection to venom and then dishing out an absolutely brutal beating. Some reflect on this fight -- as well as appearances Bane has in TV, movies, etc -- and think it means one can easy best Bane by cutting off his supply on venom. However, it worked in that fight because it was the very first time Bane truly suffered withdrawal. He was addicted to this drug and when he was cut off from it, he lost his mind and panicked. He was no longer able to fight and all that makes him formidable quickly faded away. As you know after reading his origin, he's plenty frightening without venom, but he was an addict at that point and, in his time of need, he couldn't get his fix. He became a mess and tried to flee, but Jean-Paul Valley showed no remorse.
Bane's an intelligent and confident man, so after this violent defeat, he realized he doesn't need venom to be the man he wants to be and, if anything, it's a weakness. In fact, his most commendable and entertaining fights are off venom. He was tempted every now and then to use the drug and went back on in in SECRET SIX (a thoroughly excellent series, by the way), but a good amount of his appearances are off the drug and he was every bit as dangerous. He swiftly defeated Dick Grayson two times in a row, gave Batman a tough fight at least twice, and had a remarkable rematch with Jean-Paul Valley. Needless to say, venom doesn't define who he is and he's perfectly capable of thriving without it.
The New 52 brought various changes to several characters and, of course, Bane was one of them. In this new universe, Bane still broke Batman's back, but he's back on venom in the current stories and the drug is far more powerful. His physicals have been boosted and, in his first story arc in the New 52, he appeared to be unstoppable against Batman. He showed no signs of skill and technique, but he claimed to be smarter than before, faster, and most definitely stronger. During Forever Evil, a venom fueled Bane took over Gotham and claimed to be the new Batman. He had no problem beating all of the villains that stood in his way. However, when Batman returned, the two engaged in a fierce slugfest and the Dark Knight walked away as the victor.
Bane may be a stern man, but he's more than just rage and strength. We've seen a more compelling side of him as he fell for Talia al Ghul and had a strong desire to protect Scandal Savage. There's no doubt about it that he's a villain, but in a twisted sense, he wants to protect Gotham and previous writers have successfully worked past his callous nature and shown his more vulnerable side. The New 52 has displayed Bane as a physical and ruthless obstacle that wants to rule, but they've yet to show a more humanizing approach to the character. A long, bloody and dark road molded Bane into the man he is today, and that character has the potential to be the primary antagonist in a gripping story that shows off his mind and emotions. There's more to Bane than just muscles and he deserves a New 52 story that shows this.
Bane's humiliated Batman, earned Ra's al Ghul's respect, and has a thoroughly impressive body and mind that allows him to compete with a wide variety of obstacles. Despite what some may think, he doesn't require venom to make a name for himself and addressing his addiction opens the door to more engaging dialogue. He's cold and calculating, but there's so much possibility when it comes to giving us insight into the character and putting him on a path that's loaded with action and emotion. He doesn't even need to have his big story in Batman's title, either. Imagine if he became the threat in SUICIDE SQUAD, GREEN ARROW, or BIRDS OF PREY? There's plenty of room for new character dynamics to explore there and it would avoid familiarity. Bane's had some exciting brawls and cameos in the New 52, but we're really hoping he will one day be the focus of a phenomenal story.