The villains are taking over the DC Universe this September – and in one case, one of Batman’s biggest villains is reunited with the artist who helped create him. In Batman #23.4 (we know, it’s complicated), Bane, the man who broke Batman, hits the New 52 – and his original artist, Graham Nolan, is there to depict him from a script by fan-favorite Peter Tomasi. We caught up with Nolan to talk about Bane, what makes the character so enduring, his thoughts on The Dark Knight Rises and more.
Newsarama: Graham, first off – how does it feel to be back on Bane? How long has it been since you've done a story with the character?
Graham Nolan: Great! I did an origin sequence in the Countdown to 52 a couple years ago. Before that I think the Bane of the Demon series was my last encounter with Bane.
Nrama: Tell us a little about the storyline for the book.
Nolan: We bring the readers up to date on Bane's background in the New 52 as he heads from Santa Prisca to begin a war in Gotham.
Nrama: How did this project come about?
Nolan: No idea. I got an email from Mike Marts asking if I would be interested in working on a Bane book.
Nrama: Did it take you any time to consider whether you wanted to do this book after Mike contacted you, or was this something where you couldn't wait to get back to the character?
Nolan: I've been looking for a project to do with DC, and that it's a Bane project that came about was a win-win. It didn't take too long to say yes, once I could work it into my schedule. It's not really a question of "getting back to the character." When you are involved in his creation, you never really leave him.
Nrama: What's your collaboration with Peter Tomasi been like?
Nolan: I just got the script yesterday so we haven't actually "worked together" yet. But Peter has a good feel for who Bane is and is leaving me a lot room to tell the story visually, and I appreciate that.
Nrama: Now that you've had a chance to read Peter's script, what's your immediate reaction to it?
Nolan: I think it will be a blast to illustrate. As I mentioned, Pete "gets" the character. I'm looking forward to introducing Bane to a new generation of readers.
Nrama: Has your approach to drawing Bane changed any since you first rendered the character?
Nolan: DC has changed his look a bit from my original design, but how I approach the character will be the same. Bane is very intelligent, so when he is not in action I draw him contemplative and I try to have his body language indicate he is a man of thought. But when he is in action, he is feral and explosive.
My Bane has a more "real world" physique. He may look like the biggest bodybuilder in the world, but he never has "Hulk" proportions.
Nrama: Last time we spoke, The Dark Knight Rises hadn't been released yet. What did you think of the final product?
Nolan: I don't think any of the movies have captured who Batman is. I liked how Bane was portrayed by Tom Hardy, but I'm not a fan of the mask or the fact that Talia was pulling the strings. Bane would not be manipulated by any man...or woman for that matter.
Nrama: For that matter, I know you receive royalties from use of Bane in other media – without getting into specific numbers, I'm curious as to how profitable The Dark Knight Rises proved for you. Was it the largest amount of royalties since "Knightfall?"
Nolan: No comment.
Nrama: What do you feel is the most enduring quality about Bane that has made him popular for so many years?
Nolan: His mysterious look and the fact that among all of Batman's rogues gallery he is the only one that is his physical as well as mental equal. Let's face it...he's a bad ass.
Nrama: What makes Bane such a complex character for you?
Nolan: He came from a place of innocence. He never did anything wrong other than to have the bad luck to be born in Pena Dura. The life he lived in there made him the monster he is. For all the horrible things he's done, he still views himself as an innocent.
Nrama: What does he represent that none of Batman's other rogues do?
Nolan: Like Batman, he overcame a horrible childhood by his own willpower and dedication. He also sees Batman as his only equal.
Nrama: What are some other DC villains you'd like to tackle?
Nolan: None in particular. There are DC heroes I am interested in though.
Nrama: Who are some of the DC heroes you'd like to draw?
Nolan: I practically grew up in the Atlantic Ocean on Long Island and in Florida, and always wanted a shot at Aquaman. The Phantom Stranger is another oddball character I'd like a crack at. Green Lantern, Superman and of course, Batman would be characters I would like to revisit.
Nrama: What's fun about doing a story from the villain/antagonist's point of view?
Nolan: All of the Bane books I've done, outside of any “Knightfall” chapters, were all told from his point of view, so this is not new to me. Since Bane is a complex individual, it's interesting to see how he justifies whatever it is he wants to do. If Bane believes in God, then the god's name is Bane. That makes his motivations interesting.
Nrama: What else are you currently working on?
Nolan: I am working on a horror/action, creator owned mini-series with my Bane partner, Chuck Dixon called Joe Frankenstein. It will be published by IDW when I finish it. The first issue is done and I've got three more to go. I'm also publishing my first book/collection of my humor strip, Sunshine State. It will be available through Amazon shortly.
Nrama: What are some other comics/creators you're currently enjoying?
Nolan: This will sound terrible, but I don't follow a lot of current comics. Most of them all look the same to me. The visual storytelling is convoluted and over rendered to the point of being incomprehensible. The great Roy Crane once told a young Alex Toth to "throw out anything that isn't needed to tell your story clearly and draw the hell out of what's left". I wish more artists would do this.
Nrama: Anything else you'd like to talk about that we haven't discussed yet?
Nolan: Yes. How is it that Edgar Bergen, a ventriloquist, could become so popular on...radio?! [laughs]