BANE of His Existence: From DC Comics to DARK KNIGHT RISES
Newsarama readers might be aware of a little movie called The Dark Knight Rises that comes out on July 20. They might also be aware that this movie pits Batman against Bane, the main antagonist of the bestselling “Knightfall” storyline of the 1990s. With that in mind, we contacted Bane’s original creators, writer Chuck Dixon (www.dixonverse.com) and artist Graham Nolan (www.joefrankenstein.com), for a look back at the character and his creation.
Over this candid two-part interview, we found out their reaction to Bane’s inclusion in the film, got into the process of the character’s development and use in “Knightfall,” and were even allowed to run some of Nolan’s original designs for the character. It’s more Bane than you can possibly handle as Th Dark Knight Rises is upon us, and you can only read it here at Newsarama!
Chuck Dixon: I found out about Bane’s appearance in the new movie like everyone else, when Warners announced it. I wasn’t contacted beforehand or since, and I don’t think Graham was either. All I’ve seen is what’s available on the web. I’m going to have to buy a ticket to see it once it’s out.
Graham Nolan: I found out about Bane being selected for the movie by my daughter, Sarah. She saw it on the Internet. So I went on the web and saw Warner Bros. made an announcement confirming it, so I called Chuck. We were thrilled. Nobody consulted us on the use of the character, not that I expected them to.
Nrama: What effect has creating Bane had on your careers? As creators of the character, I'm curious as to whether you receive royalties for his use in other media.
Dixon: We’re both a part of a participation program from DC Comics in which we share a percentage of whatever profits Bane produces. I’m not sure what affect creating Bane has had directly on either of us. But I’m sure adding a permanent member to Batman’s rogues gallery will probably be our signature achievement as comic book guys.
Nolan: At the time, Bane was just another assignment. In the course of a career you create a lot of stuff and move on to the next. You always hope that something you create will hit but you never know what it will be. As Chuck mentioned, we are in a royalty pool for any use of Bane outside of the comics.
Nrama: I'm also curious as to your reaction as to how Bane's been depicted in other media – cartoons, video games, whatever that was in Batman and Robin – vs. the character you created. Part of me is morbidly curious as to how it felt the first time you saw a Bane action figure with "breaking" action.
That movie, the Schumacher Travesty, was an embarrassment though. I’ve never seen it the whole thing. In fact, Graham and I were at San Diego Comic-Con the weekend it came out. We went two nights in a row to a nearby theater, but couldn’t make ourselves sit through it.
Nolan: I've liked Bane's depiction in just about every aspect of the media he's appeared with the exception of that awful Batman and Robin movie.
I particularly liked him in the first animated series. His look, particularly his mask, was the closest to my original design than any other version. I've always loved toys and the first time I actually saw him as an action figure was a thrill. I think it was the animated series version.
Nrama: So let's get down to brass tacks – the creation of Bane. How did the initial idea come about? Was the concept of "Knightfall" in place first, or was this a case where you had the character and he became the focus of this crossover? Some writers have also pointed out similarities to the "Bonecrusher" character in the Sam Hamm-scripted "Blind Justice" a few years prior, so I was curious as to whether you were familiar with that storyline?
Dixon: “Knightfall” had been in place for a few months and we were all working on issues leading up to it. It was understood that we wanted to create a brand new villain to break Batman’s back, but nothing had been discussed about him. A lot of the elements of the event had been worked out around the creation of this new character, but no ideas had been put forth by anyone about who this new badass would be.
My wife was pregnant and I couldn’t travel to New York, as she was close to her due date. Denny O’Neil kindly travelled down to Pennsylvania with Scott Peterson, his associate editor at the time, for a kind of mini-summit. I think Jordan Gorfinkel was along too. Part of the agenda was suggestions for this new villain.
It was understood that he would basically be replacing KGBeast in the role of the brutal- yet-intelligent badguy. KGBeast had become passé with the collapse of the Soviet Union. We also knew that he would be powered by Venom, the addictive super-steroid that Denny had come up with for an arc in Legends of the Dark Knight. And Denny promoted the idea of creating new villains with each event, in the hopes of lightning striking.
I liked this idea because I always thought DC’s villain bench was weak, unlike Marvel, where there are hundreds of great bad guys to choose from. I think that’s still true today, especially with DC’s penchant for knocking off characters left and right.
Anyway, I was concerned about trying to manufacture a character based on the need for him to be popular. I told Denny that popular characters were often created as afterthoughts or accidents. Wolverine and Silver Surfer come to mind. A lot of people have failed in trying to cobble together a character based solely on their desire that the comic readers love him.
Since I was so skeptical about our success, Denny assigned me to come up with the origin of this character, who we were calling Doc Toxic at the time, and write an extra-length special for me. I think Denny was relying on my obsessive approach to this stuff. He knew I’d sweat it.
The name “Bane” popped out at me while looking through a thesaurus to compile a list of possible names. That’s the name I kept coming back to when I thought of him and I eventually brought everyone else around to calling him that.
I’m sure I read that Sam Hamm series. I remember the covers. I also recall that every writer at DC was being beat over the head with Hamm’s script for the first Batman movie and being told how brilliant it was. I recall when I saw the movie thinking, “THIS is brilliant?”
I can’t say I remember much about Bonecrusher. It would have been fresh in Denny’s mind though since he was the editor on that and, I believe, was the one who convinced Hamm to write a few comic scripts.
Dixon: Well, the Doc Savage element made me think of Graham immediately. He’s a huge Doc fan, and we’d been friends for a while, and I was always looking for ways we could work together. We’d already done some Detective Comics issues and Scott Peterson was especially receptive to having the two of us on the Bane special.
I’ve long thought that every classic villain has something that makes you care about him and, if not sympathize, at least understand his motives. I proposed that Bane be an innocent man imprisoned for crimes he didn’t commit and this injustice twists him as well as drives him. And what’s more innocent than a child?
So, I presented Denny with this kind of Man in the Iron Mask idea; a character of mysterious origin locked away and forgotten. And what better place than the already-invented Santa Prisca? I think Denny suggested that so that the presence of Venom was more logical. Bane would be a subject of Venom experiments.
Nrama: And then there's the character's design. What were the major influences on the costume, the Luchador headpiece, and the Venom gauntlet?
Dixon: I recall Graham and I discussing how Bane would self-administer the Venom. I can’t remember who suggested what. I think the delivery port in the back of his head was Graham’s. The wrist control is the kind of anal retentive thing I would come up with.
I believe the wrestling mask concept kind of evolved as Graham did sketches. In his early designs we could see Bane’s eyes and mouth. He also needed to wear clothing that would adapt as the effects of Venom pumped him up. That singlet he wears was the most natural solution. I might have suggested his paratrooper boots.
If this man was going to create a "costume" for himself, I reasoned his influences would have to be the Mexican wrestling lucha libre look. His original mask looked a lot more like a wrestler's mask because I wanted to have his eyes and mouth exposed to be able to show his emotions. It eventually evolved into the "closed" mask we all now know and I actually think that was a better way to go. More mysterious.
The singlet is another nod to his wrestling origins. The military style pants and boots come from his revolutionary beginnings as well. I was thinking of the Cuban revolutionaries from the late 1950's. The belt is actually his venom packs. Now that I think about it, I don't think we ever showed that aspect. You heard it here first folks!
Bane's face without the mask is basically Doc Savage with half his head shaved. One visual aspect of Bane that nobody else seems to draw is the steroid hair and acne. I particularly liked this design element but I seem to be the only one that draws it.
Nrama: There was some speculation early on that Hugo Strange was the doctor who operated on Bane, though this was later disproven. Had this ever been intended as the case?
Dixon: No, that was never suggested.
Nrama: How did the different elements of Bane's character come together – for example, Doug Moench is credited in several places as a co-creator, and Denny O'Neil created Santa Prisca and Venom, obviously. How did the creative environment of the Bat-books at that time help shape the character of Bane in terms of motivation, background, abilities, etc.
Dixon: The Big Idea was to have a villain capable of defeating Batman in a serious way. You can’t just have any chump do that. The villain capable of putting Batman out of action had to be a serious intellect as well as physically imposing. He’d do it hands-on. He’d make it his personal crusade, Everything kind of coalesced around that.
I honestly don’t recall a lot of input from Doug except that he initially hated all the ideas I had for Bane’s origin. I think the sometimes byline from him is because he scripted some of Bane’s early appearances after the first Vengeance of Bane special.
Nolan: Doug Moench is an incredible writer and I been a fan of his all the way back to his B/W Doc Savage magazines for Marvel in the mid 1970's, but Bane was fully formed by Chuck and I in Vengeance of Bane, so in all honesty, I really don't know why Doug is credited as a creator.
Nrama: One thing that's also very interesting to me is that period of the Bat-books post The Dark Knight Returns, when the Tim Burton films were still going strong. What was that environment like, and what were some of the unique challenges of creating new Bat-villains during this period?
And one element I’ve always stressed in my writing is Batman’s intellect. When I was a kid there were plenty of characters who could punch and fly. But Batman more often thought his way to the solution of his problems. That aspect is essential to the character. He’s a problem solver. So anyone who would defeat him as utterly as Bane did would have to be a power intellect as well.
Nolan: This will sound like blasphemy, but I was never a big fan of DKR or the Tim Burton movies. Batman (to me) is always first and foremost a detective. He solves crimes using his superior intellect and incredible resources that the police can't handle. He works best as a character with a small group of supporting players.
My favorite periods were the early Bill Finger-scripted Detective Comics and the 1970's Denny O'Neil stories.
Dixon: Have to agree with Graham there. Bill Finger is the guy who worked so much of the Bat mythos out. And Denny made the franchise return to the original vision. I’m a fan of Frank Robbins’ contributions as well. He created Man-Bat and wrote some very hard-edged stuff contemporary with Denny’s stint on the books. Also, the 10-issue ruin of Detective Comics edited by Archie Goodwin had a big impact on me.
Next: Our interview concludes as Bane is unleashed on an unsuspecting world…
The Dark Knight Rises hits theaters July 20.More from Newsarama:
- The 10 Greatest BATMAN Villains of ALL TIME!
- Review: DARK KNIGHT RISES - Satisfying, Complicated, Great?
- Early DARK KNIGHT RISES Reviews Almost Universally Positive