WHEN LONGTIME Batman comic book writer Chuck Dixon learned that his co-creation Bane (writer Doug Moench and artist Graham Nolan are also credited with co-creating the character) would be the main villain in "The Dark Knight Rises," possibly the most anticipated superhero film of all time, one word summed up his feelings.
"I thought, ‘Wonderful,' " Dixon said. "I kept thinking and hoping they would use Bane. It just made sense. For a big, climactic film like this, you need someone who can give Batman a real fight, who is really physically strong and intimidating and can go toe-to-toe with him. Though Batman's rogues' gallery is well known, his bench is pretty thin in that regard. The only other foe that rivals Bane in a physical sense is Killer Croc, and he is not as smart and is kind of science-fictiony, which goes against the realism in [Christopher] Nolan's Bat-films."
"Apparently, Warner Bros. was pressuring Nolan to use the Riddler, which would have been too similar to the Joker," Dixon continued. "Plus, the Riddler, like the Joker and so many of Batman's villains, is no challenge against him in a mano-a-mano fistfight. Batman will wipe the floor with him in that situation.
“I am beyond glad that Nolan had the juice in Hollywood to stick to his guns," he added. "From interviews I've seen, it's clear he understands the character and he gets what we were going for. It's not exactly what I created, but he's physically imposing and Tom Hardy is one hell of an actor. I can't imagine Bane being better portrayed."
Dixon did not have nearly the same feeling about his creation's last appearance on film, in 1997's "Batman and Robin," in which Bane was a monosyllabic "character" played by pro wrestler Robert Swenson and was almost a throw-in villain, behind Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mister Freeze and Uma Thurman's Poison Ivy.
"He's played by an actor this time!" exclaimed Dixon. "The last time they actually had to loop in some dialogue, which helped me financially, since our agreement was complicated as far as compensation, and the more lines, the more significant the character was to the story and screen time he got, the more we were compensated. ... It was so complex, Terri Cunningham, the managing editor of DC [Comics] at the time, had to draw up a chart to explain it."
But more important to Dixon than the money he was losing due to the way the character was handled was the feeling that millions of moviegoers and critics would be seeing a character that bore almost no resemblance to the villain he had taken great care to create.
"They had him as almost an imbecile, when in the comics he is extremely smart," Dixon said. Indeed, the Bane that Dixon helped create knew six active languages, two dead ones and was a master strategist and tactician. "They had him shrink instantly when he was no longer receiving the Venom that is an ‘immediate steroid.' In the comics, we had him go through a withdrawal that took months and in which he became flabby and out of shape — I could relate to him then! — which is the worst thing that could happen to someone who used to take such pride in his strength and appearance."
Dixon has always been proud of the character, which he said was created to be a new antagonist for Batman that would drive the Knightfall story line, which is famous for the scene in which Bane broke Batman's back and left him a quadriplegic.
"Denny O'Neill wanted to do a story where Bruce Wayne would be out of commission for a year as Batman. We were originally going to ‘kill' him, but DC had just done that with Superman, so Denny had this idea that Batman's back would be broken. Denny insisted on using a new villain and not have it be one of the old favorites like Joker or the Riddler. They weren't strong enough anyway. The only villain that existed at that time who could believably pull it off was Killer Croc, and he wasn't smart enough. We wanted to create a new villain who was Batman's physical and intellectual equal.
“I was worried about it, since this character would affect the Bat-books for not only this story line but a long time to come. I was so concerned, Denny finally said I should write the story that introduces him and create him with Graham. Denny insisted the character be popular and compelling or it wouldn't work."
Batman: Vengeance of Bane hit shelves in January 1993 and introduced fans to the character.
"We had him grow up living his father's life sentence in a brutal prison in a place called Santa Prisca. He built up his body to survive and killed his first man at age 8," Dixon said. "However, he also devoured books and educated himself. Toss in Venom, the super-steroid, and we had created a brutal new foe for Batman."
And over many subsequent battles, the character has stayed consistent to what Dixon envisioned.
"Besides myself, only Scott Beatty, Tony Bedard and Gail Simone have handled the character from 1993 to last year [when Paul Jenkins reintroduced the character as part of a reboot of the Batman: The Dark Knight title]. They are all not only excellent writers, but friends of mine and they pick my brain."
Dixon is also happy with how Bane has been treated in various animated series.
"I love how they treated him in the cartoons," he said.
Combined with the fact that the Knightfall trade paperbacks are still best-sellers two decades later is proof to Dixon that he created a character that is now a permanent part of the Bat-mythos.
"There has been a Bane children's book, and he was a pasta shape in SpaghettiOs," he said, chuckling. "It's kind of funny to see Chef Boyardee as part of my royalty check."
Of course, the character's popularity with the general public now will likely be dwarfed after "The Dark Knight Rises."
"He is going to be a household name after this weekend," Dixon said. ”Jay Leno is already making jokes about him in his monologue. The film will be played all over the world. It's pretty incredible when you think about it.”