Tag Archives: Bane

The Many Incarnations of Bane

Throughout the history of entertainment, mankind has seen their favorite characters told again and again through different voices, different media, and different times. Such stories as Alice in Wonderland, Sherlock Holmes, and Wizard of Oz are great examples of how these characters have been interpreted for more than a century. In particular, Batman, and his gallery of foes, have probably seen the most iterations out of any character in human history.

The irony of it all is that while Batman remains (relatively) unchanged, his foes can vary wildly. In some universes, Poison Ivy is an ordinary person and in others she has supernatural powers. Oswald Cobblepot is a rich underworld boss or a poor thief and Killer Croc’s disease ranges from mild to severe. These changes neatly reflect each incarnation’s universe whether they be realistic (Christopher Nolan), goofy (Adam West), or ridiculous (Gotham).

As such, I wanted to explore these different facets of the same character and understand their transformation throughout the years. What has stayed the same and what has changed. What makes that character who they are and ultimately which is the best incarnation? With so many versions, I decided to just stick to the ones that I could readily access and were featured prominently in their respective media.

For my first character, let’s explore the man that broke the Bat.


Bane

Despite being a relatively new foe (~25 years), Bane quickly found himself in Batman’s top rogues gallery since his debut in the infamous comic, Knightfall. In this comic, Bane had systematically broke both Batman’s spirit and spine in a long series of issues that led to a climatic battle in the Batcave. If there was a Top 20 moments in Batman’s history, this would surely be in there.

The thing is, Bane has something that few of Batman’s enemies can bolster, mainly, a high intelligence matched with brute strength and an uncomfortable calmness. And I would be reprimanded if I didn’t talk about Venom. Bane’s Venom probably attracts a lot of fans to this character as it makes him all the more menacing to the point of ridiculous. Even without Venom, Bane is an incredible foe and can (almost) match Batman in hand-to-hand combat.

Unfortunately, after Knightfall, Bane had reached his apogee. From there, Batman recovered, triumphed over Bane and Bane went into hiding, never achieving his former glory again.

Unlike Batman’s other foes, I honestly think the best Bane incarnation is his first one in Knightfall. Everything that makes Bane great was spelled out magnificently in those comic pages. From there, other creators have only tweaked, and sometimes downgraded, Bane into a shadow of his former self. There has yet to be, to my knowledge, a major character upheaval similar to Two-Face or Mr. Freeze. As such, any new interpretation of Bane harkens back to this Knightfall which leaves Bane’s character evolution almost stagnant.

The Tried and True Dance

One overarching theme between the many incarnations of Bane and Batman is the formulaic dance of Bane beating Batman then Batman making a triumphant return and defeating Bane. During these bouts, Bane would comment on breaking Batman’s spirit or back but never succeeding in either of those. These can be seen in the Animated Series (tAS) and The Batman (TB). In the Dark Knight Rises (DKR), Bane actually does succeed in both of his boasts making the DKR version one of the most effective Banes to date.

Some interpretations acknowledge that Bane had once broken the Batman’s back and that he will do it again. This can seen in the Arkham video game series and Justice League: Doom. I like both of these incarnations as they retain Bane’s competence and his fighting skill perfectly. Doom was particularly brutal as he threw Bruce Wayne into his parents’ coffin and buried him beneath it. That’s savage but man that pissed the hell out of Bruce.

Menacing

Bane, unlike many Batman villains, can successfully pull off a threatening . Although some interpretations drop the ball on this (Batman and Robin mainly), there are a few that outright nail it. The two best ones, not counting Knightfall, would be DKR and tAS. Dark Knight Rises Bane is menacing from the getgo as he hijacks a plane in one of the most awesome heists in film history. He breaks Batman, isolates Gotham from the rest of the U.S., and has his own army. This makes Batman’s victory over him that more triumphant.

The second incarnation of the Animated Series also brought a more menacing Bane, replacing his luchador mask with a gimp mask that strangely works. Truth be told, I don’t know what to think about this Bane as his major appearance in the second Animated Series was in Barbara Gordon’s dream. Nonetheless, this Bane is sooo great as he basically kills Batman and James Gordon even when he’s Venom-deprived. This was one of the best episodes in the series and it doesn’t hurt that his voice is so kickass too.

Defeating Bane

With such a ferocious juggernaut, Batman would have to defeat his opponent through cleverness instead of brute strength. Most of the time, this involves messing with Bane’s Venom system by either overdose or cold turkey. Batman usually solves this with his batarangs (though in Batman and Robin they just simply kick the tubes out). This can be seen in Arkham, tAS, and Doom. The Batman, however, finds a different solution via the Batbot, a giant Batman robot which Bruce pilots. Though Bane has the upperhand for most of the fight, Batman wins by electrocuting Bane’s Venom supply which malfunctions him back to his original state. Since Bane in the DKR doesn’t have Venom tubes, Batman defeats him on sheer dominance rather than strategy.

The Worst Interpretations

I think most of everyone would agree that the worst Bane interpretation is in Batman and Robin. Before I divulge my reasons why, let’s count off the five things that define Knightfall Bane. First off, Bane is a strong, highly skilled fighter which Venom (second) enhances. Third, Bane is intelligent and even cunningly smart. Fourth, he’s from the Caribbean. Fifth, his tranquility focuses his strength and mind to be an effective strategist and fighter.

Batman and Robin’s Bane fits just two of those (Venom and Caribbean) while everything else is thrown aside. There’s no intelligence or acumen and he’s just a lackey to Poison Ivy. Hardly a criminal mastermind. All he does is just grunts and moans. Never really contributing the plot and never instilling the same sense of fear that Knightfall Bane imposed.

I would say the second worst interpretation I’ve seen is TB version as although this Bane is from the Caribbean and is a decent fighter without Venom, he lacks the intelligence (again) to take down Gotham once he defeats Batman. All he does after his first fight is smash cars and cause havoc. Bane in this version is also a one-man-show as he basically shows up for one episode (and that’s the second episode of the first season) and that’s pretty much it besides a few cameos.

The Best Interpretations

Obviously besides the Knightfall version, there are two Banes I appreciate. The DKR version is great as it retains all the characteristics of Knightfall with the slight exception to the modified Venom (although it works rather well). I love this Bane, he has a kick ass voice, great style, and actually broke Batman’s back and spirit and that was awesome. He brought Gotham to its knees and ruled the city with an iron fist. This is a fantastic Bane and truth be told, this would be my favorite Bane had it not been for one conversation I had with a friend several years ago. After I praised Bane in DKR, my friend commented how she thought Bane was a rather weak character after it was revealed that he was just serving Taliah Al Ghul. Bane wasn’t the mastermind, she was. After the reveal, and after Batman gets his shit together, Bane becomes a stepping stone to the grand finale and loses all his composure and intimidation. Ooooh, I dislike this. Bane should be an intelligent crime lord yet he’s just a façade in the movie! Regardless, Bane is still a memorable antagonist and one of the best in comic book film history.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Secret Six Bane. Secret Six is canon with Knightfall so we see a Bane that’s both similar, and not, to that version. One thing that I respect about this Bane is him swearing off Venom despite losing his superhuman strength. Unfortunately, this makes Bane a prime punching bag which makes him somewhat of a joke but he does have some badass moments in the comic. This Bane is probably the most chill out of all the Banes as he’s stoic, kind, and can be a source of humor at times.  Probably the best thing about this Bane is his fatherly love and affection for Scandal Savage which at first was played for laughs but then developed into an actual effect on the storyline.

This Bane also shows his obsession for Batman which harkens back to Knightfall. In Knightfall, child Bane develops a fear of bats which soon transforms into a lust to defeat Batman.   After Batman defeats Bane, this lust morphs into an addiction to conquer Batman. In Secret Six, after Bane breaks his vow and temporarily uses Venom to save Scandal, we see from Bane’s Venom view that everyone looks like Batman and that his rage drives him to kill the Dark Knight.

As such, what Secret Six does, which no other interpretation even come close to, is respecting Bane not in the form of strength but in mind. His dual addictions to Venom and Batman are what both fuels and hamper him while his tranquil, intelligent mind is at odds with both. Perhaps future Banes should take note from Secret Six and transform Bane further into a man fighting addiction. To further complex a man that people simplify to his Venom gimmick. This was actually touched on in, of all things, Batman Beyond, where an elderly Bane is confined to a hospital bed where he’s given a steady dose of Venom to keep him alive. His addiction has become an outright necessity that without it he’d be dead. This is what I’m talking about! Someone needs to take this concept and run with it. Bane is on the verge of a rebirth, we just need a push from a Bruce Tim or a Christopher Nolan creator to make that happen.

 

What about you folks? Which is your favorite Bane interpretation? Any Banes I missed that you think I should check out? Let me know in the comments!

What is the Source of Batman’s Villains: Gotham or Batman Himself?

I’ve been doing research on a major upcoming article on Batman but unfortunately it is not ready.  However, while I have been combing the literature, films, video games, and TV shows, I came face-to-face with an interesting question that has pondered Batman fans and creators alike for the past 30 years or so.

What is the source of the Batman’s crazy villains, Gotham or Batman himself?

To the casual person, this may be surprising; Batman, one of the most famous superheroes of all time, is the source for his own antagonists.  But to anyone who has been exposed to Batman before, this idea is not farfetched.  There have been times where he not only causes a supervillain to be born but he actively encourages their existence as well.  Many of the supporting characters in Batman’s world, such as the Gotham Police Department, psychiatrists, hell, even Hugo Strange accuse him of making Gotham worse because of his supervillains.

Opponents to this argument, however, firmly believe that Gotham City is the source of madness.  This is perhaps a more recent argument though I could be wrong here.  While growing up, I always assumed Gotham was just like any other big city; yeah, it may have its fair share of problems but it’s still a place many people would call home.  This is further highlighted by the rest of DC’s cities as Metropolis, Central City, and so forth have their supervillains as well.

But Gotham’s status as a truly messed up city was not brought to my attention until Nolan’s Batman Begins where Ra’s al Ghul wanted to purge Gotham of its sin by killing everyone in it.  You might think this is an overreaction to how bad Gotham is but if you go through the literature, you begin to realize how right Ra’s was (except for the genocide, that’s bad).  Gangs own the city, police officers look the other way, city leaders are corrupt, and simple necessities like safety are just non-existent.  And through this corruption, normal people become corrupted and turn into the supervillains that we know and love today.

Both of these arguments have some merit of truth but which has the stronger influence?  Let’s dive in and find out.

Spoilers for Arkham Asylum and City, Gotham as well as a host of other Batman universes.

Batman initiates and encourages his own supervillains’ existence

Let’s start off with a controversial subject, the Joker.  I think the Joker is probably the best example for this argument.  In some interpretations (such as the Burton movies or the Killing Joke) Batman is indirectly involved in creating his arch-nemesis.  To me, I’m totally fine with that as it makes the rivalry that much stronger.  But many people like a Joker that has no background, one whose origins are as mysterious as his motives.

Even so, some people interpret Joker as the living embodiment for the force of Chaos with Batman as the symbol for Order.  Joker knows that Batman has a strict code of honor and he tests, goads, and pushes Batman to his limits.  I first became aware of this symbolism in the Dark Knight where Joker’s actions eventually came to experiments Batman and wondering if he can break him (“an unstoppable force meets an unmovable object”).  These two opposing forces, which have rarely been equaled, make them the most famous superhero and supervillain combination ever.

I think the best example of this comes from Miller’s Dark Knight Returns.  When Batman retired, the Joker became catatonic and could barely function.  He had lost his purpose, he had lost his drive.  But when he saw that his best friend had made a return, he fully recovered.  It was like nothing had ever happened.  And their rivalry and battles in the comic I think is among the best in Batman history.  Of all the sources you can use, this is probably the pristine example of Batman promoting his enemies.

The Riddler is another fine example of Batman promoting his enemies.  This guy’s ego is something.  He yearns to prove his intelligence.  He wants to be three steps ahead of everyone else and laugh at them for their stupidity.  Only Batman can match his riddles and put a stop to his crime.  This only further stokes the Riddler’s ego as he wants to find that Riddle that can even outsmart the Batman.  I assume that if Batman decided to not even play Riddler’s game and leave him alone, the Riddler would go mad and not know what to do with himself (he would probably go into a catatonic state such as the aforementioned Joker in the Dark Knight Returns).

Bane is another villain that Batman inadvertently creates.  Bane’s nightmares as a child always took the form of a bat.  When he heard about Batman’s control over Gotham through fear, he realized it was his destiny to conquer his childhood fear by conquering Batman himself.   Much to Batman’s displeasure…

One of the most famous episodes in the Animated Series, “the Trial,” actually confronted this topic.  In this episode, Batman’s supervillains kidnap him and accuse him of making them who they are today.  Representing Batman was Gotham’s new district attorney, Janet Van Dorn, who herself accused Batman of promoting the supervillains and preventing them from facing true justice under the law since they were captured by a vigilante.  This accusation initially seems well-founded but…

Gotham is the source of Batman’s psychotic supervillains

…Janet Van Dorn defends Batman and breaks down each of the witnesses’ accusations by saying they were the cause of their insanity and crimes, not Batman.  Jervis Tetch would have still kidnapped the girl he pined for and Poison Ivy would have still been the Bioterrorist she is today.

Even so, the Animated Series does not support this side of the argument that Gotham causes supervillains, to find proof, we’ll have to look elsewhere.

I want to get the TV show Gotham out of the way first.  I think it would be cheating to use this as a source to prove that Gotham makes its own villains.  Mainly, when you see a Batman-prequel, you want to see all the bad guys and what they are up to.  As such, many of them are already messed up.  Zsasz, Penguin, and even Ivy are already sadistic, cunning, or just plain odd.  And Harvey Dent is…errgh…let’s not go there.

Regardless, there is one scene I want to talk about from Gotham.  In episode 8 of Season 1, “The Mask,” Gordon and his Captain were musing why Gotham had a sudden surge in crazy people.  They then supposed that the source was from the death of the Waynes.  Their deaths caused the city to lose hope and begin this spiral of insanity.  I kind of like that, it points to why we see these weird people coming forth and doing awful things.

I think one of my favorite explanations for crazies in Gotham, surprisingly enough, comes from the video game Arkham City.  Now, this is subtly imply so take this for what you will, but if you solve some of Riddler’s riddles, you are revealed the story about Wonder City and holy crap I love it.  In old Wonder City, Ra’s Al Ghul’s Lazarus Pit had caused all of the city’s inhabitants to go insane and be transferred to Arkham Asylum.  And guess what?  Lazarus Pit is directly beneath Arkham City!  I love it!  The Pit could be the reason why so many people just go insane in Gotham.

Real direct proof does come from Arkham City though.  In the Victor Zsasz side mission, he explains to you over a series of phone calls how he became the wonderful person he is today.  When he was financially broke, he decided to gamble his last bit of money at the Iceberg Lounge.  Eventually, he came to the final table with the Penguin himself.  However, the Penguin and his goons had scammed poor Victor and he lost everything he had.  Defeated, he walked through the streets of Gotham and found his first victim and…er…relieved him from his sorrow of this world.  This is pretty good proof how Gotham’s messed up nature can lead to its supervillains.

I think by far the best example of Gotham creating its own supervillains come from none other than Harvey Dent aka Two Face.  Here is a man who fought against the corruption and cowardice of Gotham.  Elected on a fair campaign of a promise for a better tomorrow, he fought tooth and nail to clean the streets of Gotham.  His do good attitude had even made him a suspect in many different universes that he may be Batman himself.

But his obsession and his passion drove him to a breaking point.  When the acid was flung to his face, he had changed.  A change that was driven by the incomprehensible evils of Gotham.  And through this change, he split.  Half still retaining his do-good attitude, and half mirroring the ugly city that had created him.

What do you think?  Both have their elements of truth but which do you think has the stronger influence?  The Caped Crusader or the Worst City Ever?  I want to hear what you have to say!