The Dark Knight Rises: the history of Bane

Feature James Peaty 1 Jun 2012 - 07:41

James looks back at the history of Bane, the villain Batman is currently limbering up to face in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises

With his upcoming appearance in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, the character of Bane completes his graduation onto the A-list of Batman villains. But who is Bane? Where did he come from? And what elements of his storied past have Team Nolan keyed into for his second big-screen bow?  

Obviously, if you want to go into The Dark Knight Rises knowing nothing, then this is an article best avoided.

Unlike the other ‘classic’ members of Batman rogues gallery, Bane was created in the early 90s to fulfill a specific story function: he was to be the man who would ‘Break the Bat’.

In the same way that Doomsday was introduced into the pages of the early 90s Superman books with the express purpose of ‘killing’ the Man of Steel, Bane would serve the equivalent purpose in the Bat-titles Knightfall storyline. 

Debuting in January 1993 in the pages of Vengeance of Bane, the extra-sized special, written by Chuck Dixon and illustrated by Graham Nolan, served as both introduction and origin story to this mysterious character.

Born inside the prison known as Pena Dura (‘Hard Rock’) on the fictional Caribbean island of Santa Prisca, Bane was sentenced from birth to serve time for his absent father’s revolutionary crimes. Training both his mind and body inside the prison, Bane would soon rise to become the unchallenged king of Pena Dura.

However, Bane’s rise to the top of the prison food chain had gained him a reputation with the prison authorities and it was they who forced him to become a test-subject for a mysterious new, super-steroid known as Venom.

Pumped directly into his brain, Venom vastly increased Bane’s physical strength, but left him addicted to regular infusions of the drug. Enhanced by his treatment, Bane - along with his three prison flunkies; Trogg, Zombie and Bird - escaped from Pena Dura and set his sights on Gotham City.

Inside the prison, Bane had heard rumours of Gotham and its protector Batman. As a child, Bane had suffered from nightmares of a bat-demon that would terrify him. Seeing Batman as a representation of that fear, Bane vowed to go to Gotham and literally conquer the embodiment of his childhood terror.

Coming to Gotham with his team in tow, Bane began a military style campaign against the Dark Knight. Releasing the inmates from within both Blackgate Prison and Arkham Asylum out into the city, Bane forced an increasingly pressured Batman to recapture all of his major foes in a campaign lasting several months.

With that mission completed, Bane then faced his exhausted nemesis in one-on-one combat within the confines of the Batcave, resulting in both Bane’s victory and Batman’s back being broken.

With the original Dark Knight now out of the way, Bane began his mission to take over Gotham’s criminal underworld and soon rose to the top of the food chain, much as he did inside Pena Dura.

Unfortunately for Bane, the rumours of Batman’s demise were somewhat exaggerated as Wayne’s chosen replacement, the assassin-turned-hero, Azrael, sought out Bane and took on Gotham’s new criminal mastermind to prove his own worth as Gotham’s new protector.

Beaten to within an inch of his life by the increasingly brutal new Batman, Bane was defeated and once again incarcerated, except this time it was inside the walls of Blackgate Prison rather than Pena Dura.  

Kicking his Venom addiction while inside Blackgate, Bane eventually escaped from prison (as seen in Vengeance of Bane II: The Redemption) and ended up taking down a ring of Venom suppliers before seemingly leaving Gotham for good.  

With that story concluded, Bane next appeared in the mini-series, Bane of the Demon, which found him searching for his long-lost father and crossing paths with the Demon’s Head himself, Ra’s Al Ghul. 

Impressed with Bane’s qualities, Ra’s bestowed the title of heir upon him – an honour that Batman himself had rejected in the past – and together this new partnership would face the Dark Knight once more during 1996’s Legacy storyline.

It was during this arc that Bane and Bruce Wayne – now back in the Bat-suit – would finally have their rematch. However, this time around Batman would emerge victorious and this would ultimately lead to Bane becoming estranged from both Ra’s Al Ghul and the League of Assassins.

With the Legacy storyline tying off strands first begun in Vengeance of Bane and Knightfall, the character of Bane now found himself at something of a crossroads.

Appearances in No Man’s Land (1999) and Gotham Knights (2002), the latter of which toyed with establishing Bane as Bruce Wayne’s long-lost half-brother, smacked of various creative teams struggling to find a role for Batman’s one- time arch enemy.

After several less than memorable appearances during the Infinite Crisis and One Year Later DC events, from 2008 Bane seemed to finally find a home in the pages of writer Gail Simone’s Secret Six series.

Casting Bane as the de-facto leader of this group of B-list villains, Simone’s book gave Bane a platform and visibility that he’d not enjoyed in years. Sadly, in 2011 that book – along with every other DC title – was cancelled to make way for the companies ‘New 52’ line wide reboot. However, despite this seeming setback, there was something far more exciting looming on the horizon…

With rumours of the Riddler, the Penguin and even Hugo Strange circulating in the press, it was something of a surprise when it was announced that Bane would be the villain of Christopher Nolan’s final Batman picture, The Dark Knight Rises.

Bane’s previous big screen outing had been in 1997’s Batman & Robin. A lot has been written about that film, but suffice to say that Joel Schumacher’s recasting of Bane as a mindless monster with a penchant for dressing up in pink Gorilla suits was definitely one of the film's low points.

The casting of actor Tom Hardy in the part was certainly one way of erasing the memory of wrestler Jeep Swanson’s previous ‘performance’ in the role, but the question remained: how was Bane going to work on screen?

Judging by what we’ve seen so far, the answer appears to be: incredibly well.

As with every Bat-villain so far Nolan and co-plotter David Goyer have gone back to the root of the character and isolated what worked in their most successful incarnations.

From the prologue and trailer material released so far it seems that the creative team have decided to give Bane a plan and military mindset that evokes his first appearances back in Vengeance of Bane and Knightfall. 

While dispensing with the whole Venom angle, the filmmakers have cleverly maintained Bane’s dependence on some form of narcotic, except this time it’s a form of pain relief, which potentially gives Bane both an Achilles heel and – more interestingly - an element of sympathy. 

However, most impressive has been the redesign of Bane’s mask. By making it a muzzle-like breathing apparatus, they’ve taken the weakest aspect of the comic book design (his Luchador-style face mask) and turned it into his defining feature.

The teeth-like mandibles on the mask are reminiscent of a gorilla’s mouth, yet also evoke the fangs of the Mutant Leader from Frank Miller’s seminal The Dark Knight Returns.

That character was clearly – along with 30s pulp hero Doc Savage – an influence on the Bat-office when they were creating Bane, so it’s interesting to see that getting a nod in this big-screen incarnation. 

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I see... So the whole 'venom' premise is completely absent from the movie? Does Bane's painkiller provide him with the strength necessary to defeat Batman, or is he skilled enough in combat to do the job himself? Is Batman, much like in Knightfall, in a weakened state and this vulnerability allows Bane to defeat him? So many questions! But only a few weeks to go until we all find out... :)

So no Poinson Ivy? Ah shucks! :-)

I believe the that an anesthetic is pumped into the mask, which while does't enhance his strength, gives him incredible reslience to pain.

it has been said that bane resembles clubber Lang and Ivan drakko from the rocky series. And batman resembles a lazy rocky whose gone "soft" in his celebrity and when he has his first bout with Bane. Bane SMOKES him. I like this cause it is so unlike the other batman movies. Cause for the first time we will see a "defeated" batman. For those who are unaware of this(and there are a few) it will be interesting to feel the air escape from the theater when bane has physically humiliated batman in bout one.

 Adrian... i mean Alfred says. "You can't beat him. Your not the man anymore." Cue that montage of the workout warrior preparing for his final battle... I love it!

Ok all jokes aside...i love the way nolan has approached this villain. Some have complained that hardy isn't big enough(although i think that is a rival studio trying to muddy the water with doubt) but i like the intention to seek a real actor instead of a wrestling nut or a work out freak. Even though Hardy does look good. This is a character that for most intensive purposes hasn't been tapped yet. So Nolan can pretty much do what he wants with him. He has a clean canvas.

Having seen some of the footage it makes me feel proud that Nolan is distancing himself from that 97 debacle. Bane was never supposed to be a "henchmen" he was supposed to be the equal to Batman. His ultimate nemesis. He was so bad@ss he was supposed to have his own movie. not be a villain sidekick in a trashy porno (batman on ice).

This is the man who could go toe to toe with batman and actually put fear in his eyes. He's not supposed to be defeated just because of a nozzle on his venom supply. He's a menace that poses a unique challenge to batman mentally as well as physically. The man is a hand full.

I can't tell you how mad i was when i saw that movie in the theaters. I literally laughed like a crazy person for a week following that movie. I knew it was going to be bad. But it's atrociousness, it's god awfulness was stunning..

This is a chance at redemption. From the wicked fang like mask to the military attire. From Nolan suggesting that the essence of bane is "military power" bringing to mind a conqueror of men.  to the images of bane leading an "army." this is going to be the conclusion that third acts rarely are but should be.

I can guarantee you. this will not be a repeat of matrix revolutions...

The pain relief will work as a sort of venom. He will be able to push himself more and more, by having this pumped into him, he will not be able to feel the muscle pain a normal person would feel, if they were pushing themselves too much.

I think this is a more realistic approach to the venom used in the comics.

But the most intriguing part of all this, is that the movie has taken much of it's plot and structure from "Tale Of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens.

Also, the idea of superhuman ANYTHING doesn't really fit in with Nolan's vision of Batman.  It's one of the paradoxical strengths of his films.

Secret Six was brilliant! Really evolved Bain's character.
Seen someone on here call him a second rate villain the other day, clearly has no clue in my opinion

Great write-up on the character, and the interesting back story.
Looking forward to a battle of wits and brawn !

While i am not really sold on Bane, I think it was a bold move choosing a villain created so recently.  Some of the least successful superhero/marvel/dc movies have involved the youngest characters (punisher, jonah hex, ghost rider--all 70's unless i am mistaken), characters who don't have the same iconic value and meaning to general audiences.

i remember a storyline in the cancelled Batman comic 'Legends of the Dark Knight' from years ago called 'Venom' which was about the creation of the drug and if memory serves batman used the drug and got hooked on it, don't think bane was in it, but it was about 20 years ago so i may be wrong

yes i watched a "Tale of two cities." back in February just to familiarize myself with the story after i heard a faint rumor that "tale" was one of the inspirations. After having seen that movie it has become abundantly clear to me that Nolan has crafted an epic not some special effects dazzler.

Let's face it. Nolan is an unusual animal. People can claim his movies are too dark and  too depressing all they want but the fact of the matter is that his movies have less special effects than every other summer movie out there. his specialty and the main reasons dk was so renowned was because the story was so damn good. Think about that for a minute... He's using traditional story techniques and making more money with less than movies that cost 3x his movie and he's kicking @ss..

combine that story telling power with an extra 100 million to the tune of 250. Make it a "war picture" and this could be the mega blow out we've been waiting for.


Reminds me of the bad guy from The World is Not Enough.

Paradoxical how?

Oooh - incredible resilience to pain suddenly makes him seem like a much more interesting foe!

Exactly what I thought!

Well said! I absolutly cannot wait for this movie!!

True--I find it interesting that the new "character" based promos for TV are intent on making it clear that Bruce has, in fact, retired as Batman & possibly has been for quite a while (dont know if the general public is aware that this movie is set a full 8 years after TDK)

It certainly DOES seem as though they are doing this to prepare the few who don't know that he is gonna get beaten down VERY BADLY by Bane in their first encounter, even though the full previews certainly seem to make that clear. 

And, like yourself, I HATED the way they wasted Bane in B & R ( I'll always remember the review that called it "a candy colored catastrophe") and am thrilled to see Nolan bringing a fresh take to the character that makes him truly menacing even without the Venom angle. 

As awesome as the Avengers is, THIS movie is gonna rock in an entirely different, gritty, dramatic way --7/20 cant get here fast enough!

Correct--it was an earlier version of Venom--pre Bane(not pre his creation, but the story took place prior to his intro timeline wise since the "legends" title was supposed to be past untold stories) & ultimately Bruce locked himself in the cave with instructions to Alfred NOT to release him until he had "kicked" the addiction.

YES to your questions other than I dont think there is any strength enhancement other than that he feels no pain & he is described as a brutal fighter by the screenwriters.  Bruce has been retired for perhaps as much as several years at this point, so he is absolutely unprepared for Bane in their first encounter--hence the horrible beatdown he'll receive, which of course, sets up the "Rise" theme of the story

Paradoxical in the sense that a superhero film is bereft of characters possessing superhuman attributes. In Nolan's interpretation of Batman, more emphasis is directed towards a greater sense of realism.

When has Batman ever been superhuman, though?

 (To clarify: I'm not a huge fan of the franchise, but I have some exposure to the various versions, and in none of the ones I've seen is Batman portrayed as superhuman.)

I don't see Nolan's take on Batman as Superhero films. I doubt he's ever described them that way himself. I'm not sure that I fully understand Omniaural's post.

As i see it, they have made bane a more life like type of "monster". One with anger, destruction, intelligence and overall no fear/pain for any action/consequences. Thus, making it a threat to everything batman ever thought. As from what ive seen in the trailers, Nolan has "tapped" into the more direct/honest approach with how he wanted the DK franchise to feel. Especially since David S. Goyer being their from the start they had a idea where they wanted to take this Batman series. I commend Nolan for portraying a story driven and darker approach "a la Burtonesque feel to it" but also updating it and giving more of a raw/visceral in action/drama sense. I will be looking forward to seeing this A LOT! The question remains; is it even possible to out due TDK?

@Gina and badger2000: I didn't say he was. But in the comics, Bane was given superhuman strength thanks to 'Venom'. Poison Ivy and Mr Freeze could also be considered 'super-human'. Ra's al Ghul was pretty much magical in the comics (the Lazarus Pit gave him immortality), which again is super-human. I'm not looking for an argument here, though. I was just giving my interpretation of what I assumed Omniaural meant in his response to my comment.

Because what makes Batman so great in the DC comics is the fact that he often does go up against villains with superhuman abilities but still manages to defeat them despite being at a disadvantage in many ways.

In these movies Batman has the obvious advantage with his all his tech over any hoodlum that comes along with some minor gimmick, yet Nolan still manages to find ways to exploit his flaws.  It should be like shooting fish in a barrel for Bats but it never feels like that.

Maybe, this movie will actually touch on that fact that in a world where there is no superman and Batman is king that he is actually verging on the superhuman and he needs to be humbled in some way.

batman never dies... but lives on. make the dark knight returns. have u seen the lizard in the amazing spider man. the lizard looks nice so make killer croc.

oh shut up. your no fan of batman. go watch x-men


literally, just stfu about everything ever.


Lol Your whole post is nonsence but I just want to correct you on one thing. Bane is not and has never been mexican. He is of caribbean decent. Also his father is white. He is called the Snake King. Look him up. I hate that kids keep saying he's mexican because they watched the cartoons and he sounded hispanic.

Banes mask was the very symbol for bane. To simply change it and to make him British seems like a far cry from his origins.

no he's not based on clubber lang lmfao. he's supposed to be a dark version of doc savage down to his sidekicks Trogg, Zombie and Bird being Monk, Ham and those guys

the idea with Bane (although not really executed well) is that unlike Riddler or Croc, Bane would be Batman's equal in both body and mind. Savage was a character built in utopian mold... born to privilege and nurtured in ideal conditions. he embodied everything good: moral,physical, beauty intellect, science etc

Bane was raised in the most terrifying conditions and represented everything that was bad: violence, cunning, deformity, even addiction.

Bane was never meant to be a brute. He was supposed to be a tactician to match his strength and to overmatch Batman's attributes. the only thing Batman was superior in were the moral things like his conviction and even his goodliness in having true friends and allies

Storylines always evolve. That is just how it goes. Also storylines are subject to interpretation depending on experiences and views. So I am just curious how Nolan goes about them in this movie. That does not mean I cannot appreciate the original storylines.

B-A-N-E. Bane. Don't let Limbaugh ruin one of my long time favorite characters.

I otherwise agree with you.

I just watched it, sadly I had watched it in a bad theater. Anyway, I thought that his role in the movie was to "break" batman, not in the physical form but in the mental form,like joker was trying to "break" batman by letting batman kill him, so I thought bane was doing the same thing. but it is a good movie, a little bit different from the comics but it sure is more realistic.


Sadly Bane was once again reduced to nothing more than a pawn...

Not true. You forget his speeches. He believes that he is the Shadow or whatever incarnate. Just because he answers to someone else does not make him a pawn. He has his own convictions. Listen to the script, although I know it is hard during a few scenes. It's actually well crafted. That being said, he is more like a rook than a pawn.

I have agree with Supa on this one (other than that Bane was in fact not Mexican, but hispanic). Also, this could be justified by the idea that these movies are taken place in a seperate universe, (the same justification used for the Marvel movies) as opposed to the one in the comics. I mean, where's Superman and the rest of the leaguers, or any other DC Hero? They are apparently nonexistent. There also seems to be no mention of the Joker (RIP, Heath Ledger).

Well yeah, it was a good film, but there was nowhere near enough backstory; if you have such a multi-faceted villain like Bane, who coerces sympathy like he does in this incarnation, you should use that potential, not just have a total of maybe 5 minutes of his backstory. It was really interesting and I would have loved to have seen more.
The way they used the mask for his pain relief worked really well, I ended up totally rooting for Bane, like screw Gotham and Batman, just let Bane win.
His death? did he die? was really underwhelming...I mean, not even slow motion and some dramatic music? Come on, he was the best character in the entire trilogy.
If they do a Nightwing/Robin film, I would like Bane to return, in any capacity.
He could serve tea or whatever.
Anyway it was awesome but the potential for Bane's character and what they used of it was a real shame.
Hopefully there will be backstory in the deleted scenes?

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