Batman (various comic book titles, video games, cartoons, and movies, 1993-now)
The boy born in a prison with no name to speak of… except BANE! Bane has always been one of my favorite characters in comics for several reasons. I will say that he is commonly misrepresented in popular media and sometimes even lesser comic book story arcs as a big-dumb-steroid abusing guy when he is actually a brilliant self-taught master of mind and body who has fought off the addictive properties of the strength enhancing drug called Venom since 1995 (two years after his introduction). He’s even been described as Batman’s intellectual rival and holds a scientific acumen equal to leading experts in some fields…Yep, you would have never guessed that from watching the 1997 film, Batman and Robin, huh? Why else do I like him? Well he was raised in a hardened prison to serve out a life sentence and despite all reasons to not have hope he chose to develop his own hand-to-hand fighting style, his own calisthenics program, his own form of meditation, he chose to develop his mind by using what little resources were provided for him (via a church library under the prison) and learned six different languages as well as many other disciplines. Screw Hal Jordan, this guy should have received like a dozen Green Lantern rings already, because THAT is willpower. Since I view my childhood as somewhat overly sheltered (because I’ m an introverted person by nature) I kind of relate a lot to Bane in the aspect that he had to have spent a lot of time within the confines of his own imagination and self-pondering. While I’ve talked about good villains such as the Joker and Owlman mirroring Batman, Bane pretty much IS Batman with the exception that Bane was born with a much darker inheritance from his parents.
He wouldn’t learn this until several decades later, but Bane was the child of the British supervillain/martial artist, King Snake. While hired as a mercenary to fight and train rebels against the communist government of the (fictional) Caribbean island of Santa Prisca, King Snake had impregnated one of the local rebels and fled the island after an attack on their camp. Bane (who had not been born yet) and his mother were sentenced to carry out King Snake’s punishment for his crimes in the “most dangerous prison in the world”, Pena Duro. And that is how you justify someone being born in prison… Obviously the laws of Santa Prisca were a little harsh. Luckily, Bane’s mother was able to care for her child in the prison infirmary for six years before she died. After that he was thrown to the wolves with the other inmates. After being pushed off a railing Bane went into a coma where he had a dream of his older-self advising him that he would eventually become a physical and mental paragon and the living embodiment of human superiority. His older-self told him that in order to do this he must conquer fear which came in the form of a giant glowing eyed bat creature in the dream.
When he came back from the coma he traded his fears for determination and set out to kill the inmate who pushed him. After his first kill at the age of six, he was sent to isolation for ten years in a room that would flood every night because it was below sea level and under the prison. No one had previously survived their time in the isolation room but his dream of conquering fear pushed him to survive. When he was finally released he spent his next few years learning as much as he could, developing his body, and gaining a trustworthy gang to have his back. One day during a prison riot, Bane was able to defend himself by killing thirty men with his bare hands. When the warden became frightful of what Bane could accomplish he forced him to undergo the experimental treatment of introducing the Venom compound into his bloodstream (another something no one else had yet survived). When he was able to survive the drug, Bane devised a plan of getting off the island to conquer Gotham, which he saw as a hardened place much like he was accustomed to that happened to be enthralled by fear.
After escaping with his gang made up of Zombie, Trogg, and Bird; Bane set out to defeat the current “ruler” of Gotham; Batman. By besting Batman (AKA metaphorical fear), Bane would achieve inner peace as the superior man from his dream. Although his gang was able to recreate the Venom compound so Bane could utilize it as a strength enhancing weapon, the drug was highly addictive and it would be required to be fed into his bloodstream every 12 hours at the risk of severe pain, weakness, and disorientation. Bane then came up with the strategy of breaking down the walls of Arkham Asylum and allowing a majority of Batman’s villains run rampant so it would in turn exhaust Batman physically and mentally trying to recapture them before a face-to-face confrontation. Before Batman was done rounding the criminals up, Bane had deduced Batman’s true identity as Bruce Wayne and ambushed him in his own home. Here Bane utterly destroyed Batman in a brutal fight that resulted in an epic back breaker that… broke Batman’s back as well as his spirit.
While the Christopher Nolan movie, The Dark Knight Rises, spent a few scenes on Bruce Wayne’s recovery and being in a mental slump in a sort of montage fashion, the comics left him out of commission for months even depicting him as fearfully telling his replacement Jean-Paul Valley (AKA Azrael) to stay away from Bane because he was way too dangerous. Of course, Valley confronted Bane and got his ass kicked but the fight left Bane with severe blood loss on account of the Azrael-Batman’s metal claws he appropriated onto the batsuit. As a result, Bane panicked and attempted to increase his dosage of Venom as a restorative replacement for blood while Valley hastily came back for a rematch in a completely metal batsuit. By severing Bane’s Venom tubes this fight leds to Bane’s first defeat where he was then imprisoned in Blackgate. During this time Bane faced incredible amounts of withdrawal but used his prison time to remold his body into physical perfection without Venom. WILLPOWER.
He eventually broke out of prison only to become a short lived anti-hero in a quest to rid the world of the addictive drug that gave him so much weakness. Here he swore off Venom and helped Batman bring down a local drug ring of Venom in Gotham. This convinced Batman to let Bane go, as he had decided his new mission in life was to search for his father. His search eventually led him to the doorstep of the League of Assassins where his reputation impressed Ra’s al Ghul so much that he offers him not only the potential inheritance of his legacy but his daughter, Talia, in marriage. Of course since Batman had come back out of retirement Ra’s pitted Bane against him only to lose this time around. After the shocking defeat Ra’s denounced Bane’s engagement to Talia and disowned him. When Bane gets back on track about finding his father he entertains the possibility that Thomas Wayne, Batman’s father, may be his biological father as well. During this time Bane undergoes a DNA test from Batman and forges another alliance with him until the results come back negative and Bane leaves peacefully yet again. Shortly after this, Bane found out that his father is King Snake. After randomly killing a superhero named Judomaster with a back breaker during Infinite Crisis, Bane returns to his life of crime and eventually winds up back in his home of Santa Prisca where he leads the country into a civil war. Later, he is recruited into the Suicide Squad and the Secret Six where he developed a fatherly relationship with Scandal Savage to the point of breaking his vow not to use Venom in a last ditch effort to save her life.
In DC Comics reboot, the New 52, Bane was first shown allying himself with a new female villain, White Rabbit, as they were feeding the inmates of Arkham small daily amounts of Venom and fear toxin which gradually increased their strength and made them immune to fear. Since the New 52 is a reboot, Bane has been revamped as the Venom using giant he’s always portrayed as but it doesn’t seem to be as addictive as it’s past incarnation. It’s more of a tool in his arsenal these days. After discovering the presence of the Court of Owls, Bane became obsessed with conquering them and taking control of their assassins, the Talons, for his own. Bane returned to Santa Prisca and recruited an army to specifically go to war with the rest of Gotham’s criminals to obtain Talons that have been stored at Blackgate Prison. In an attempt to strike fear in Gotham’s criminal underworld, Bane has recently donned a batsuit of his own design (which is a little silly because it looks like a giant Batman busting out of a suit that’s too tight… but cool in a way). And that’s pretty much his comic book history in a nutshell.
Looking back; Bane’s track record is very wishy-washy when it comes to who he is aligned with or what his goals are. One minute he’s obsessed with Batman, one minute he’s obsessed with taking over the League of Assassins, one minute he wants to find his father, etc. etc. Most of the time he was actually a pretty good guy despite how horrifically shitty his life is. Another string of odd occurrences show Bane depicted with Venom tubes attached to his head despite denying the use of Venom since 1995. I would accredit both of these “flaws” as writers and artists of DC not paying much attention to the core of the character. I’m a big fan of Bane’s first few appearances along with the Bane of the Demon series where he’s trying to win over Ra’s al Ghul’s respect (which had a lot of influence on The Dark Knight Rises as well) but like I said; Bane is repeatedly misrepresented. If he’s Batman’s intellectual equal (and I’d argue physical superior) why isn’t Bane forming his own groups of anti-Justice Leaguers or running around with Lex Luthor double masterminding plots that the Justice League would never figure out? I get that he’s a big guy and his code of honor probably begs him to be down in the gritty thick of things but he should be on a Batman-level. Highly capable in both the shadows and on the field. He should be more of a standalone villain that is able to take on multiple heroes at once despite not having any powers (Venom doesn’t count; he quit!). That’s what I think of Bane. Everytime I see a new cartoon or movie where Bane is defeated by getting his Venom tubes cut (or his mask… punched?) it makes me put my head down in shame! He is better than that! If you want to see a perfect Bane, I strongly suggest playing the video game, Batman: Arkham Origins… which is brilliant until the very end where he is reduced to a big dumb guy as a result of experimental amplified Venom overdose and memory loss.