Idiot Savant Online

John Lichman's third attempt at a personal blog and online savanting idiotic.

The Bane of the Comic Illiterate

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Casting notices only can go so far, but under a “comic book film” they take on a new life of speculation and wonder in our current media stream. Confirmed earlier today via Deadline’s first dibs on the four paragraph press release were Anne Hathaway joins The Dark Knight Rises; and Tom Hardy would take the role of bat-villain Bane.

Like most costumed folk, this isn’t the first time at the rodeo for those very characters. Catwoman came to 3-D realms during the original Batman TV show complete with multiple actors revolving through the positions: first Julie Newmar, then Eartha Kitt and finally…two other women who would forever be overshadowed by the first two. Quickly glossing over the animated roles, Catwoman would next get a healthy dose of reel life from Michelle Pfiffer in Batman Returns. Her Catwoman, a neophene gloss of DIY mixed with poor I meant purrly defined cat-based resurrection powers, would become a template for a future sidequel with Halle Berry known simply as The Film That Won Four Razzies And Further Destroyed Sharon Stone and Hey, Didn’t Halle Berry Once Win an Oscar? Holy shit.

Or, as most remember it, Catwoman.

Then comes our friend Bane. Perhaps one of the first modern characters that would dominate the infamous rogue’s gallery of Batman villainy. Bane came along at a point in mainstream comics that was rather interesting: Superman was dead and Todd McFarlane’s extremely dark Spawn was outselling traditional cape comics. DC Comics seemed to wonder where readers’ allegiance lied so a six-month series kicked off throughout the Batman titles known as Knightfall. The threat? Batman would be broken by the here-to-unknown character Bane. Powered by a super-steroid that he built his entire lifestyle around, Bane emerged as a true unknown threat in the world inhabited by Batman.

At the time, this seemed insane to the people who grew up fearing Harvey “Two-Face” Dent, The Joker, The Riddler, The Penguin, Killer Croc and all sorts of other animal-themed villains. The idea that “Bane” would, as he constantly repeated, “break the bat” sounded like a bluff. Of course, it wasn’t: Batman was drained emotionally and physically until Bane stepped in and dropped him across his knee. The resulting Knightsquest storyline saw the mantle of Batman be given to a hallucinating zealot that decided to use angular and edgy armor focusing on flamethrowers, blades and guns over batarangs–a clear big toe in the water from writer Dennis O’Neil to test the readers. Then, of course, readers demanded the original Batman back, Bane was re-defeated and the status quo came back as the (literally) edgier Batman was forced to see the light (since he had night vision turned on and was blinded by the original Batman.)

But, a majority of the public don’t know this back story. They’re not even aware since this plot, Bane has been a frequent rogue and anti-hero in the DC universe. The Bane that they remember is thanks to Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin: a mindless drug-addicted manservant to Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy. This Bane grunts and looks like an S&M luchador, which–to be honest–is a very apt depiction from the comic book version. Yet no one knew the fear held among the children in Batman & Robin when Bane hoisted Batman above his head. Thousands of parents couldn’t comprehend why children gasped at this, nor could they understand why teenagers were on the edge of their seat about to witness the impossible on their multiplex.

Now he’s back from dream space and all the awkward Gloria Gainer jokes I could ever hope to make. But the point remains that to the average person that watches TNT most Saturdays, Bane is a muscle-head idiot. He is not the calculating psychopath who–in DC canon–figured out Batman’s identity in under a year and would yearn to himself be a symbol on par with what “Batman” represents.

Of course, when it comes to representing, Christopher Nolan  and brother Jonathan do it in spades with the assist from David S. Goyer. This is the central point of Batman Begins: Bruce Wayne, college-age trauma victim, realizes he wants revenge for his parents’ death. Originally he prepares for this by shooting his parents’ killer, only to be robbed of that moment and left emotionally empty after confronting a crime boss. Begins’ central focus is how Bruce Wayne transitions from a rich WASP into a highly-motivated vigilante. Namely, he has the drive, but not yet the tools or functionality that being dosed on a fear gas or having Morgan Freeman as your weapons pimp. But still, this is the birth of Batman who is forged from the common fact that there was no opposition to the crime in Gotham City.

Thus, The Dark Knight Returns is entirely about escalation via Heath Ledger’s Joker. Criminals adapt to how the Batman operates and learn how to push back–the rather fun scene where Eric Roberts taunts him since “The Batman don’t kill” and Batman responds by dropping him from a fire escape, breaking both of his legs. Roberts’ crime lord, in obvious pain, still laughs that he won’t kill him, but the Joker would. The Joker invokes crime amping up, as Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) responds at the end of Begins. In fact, Joker mistakenly assumes he’s like Batman when they’re polar opposites; Batman is focused and directed intent, Joker is anarchy and all sorts of fun buzzwords mopey teenagers like to pretend they are thanks to Hot Topic. Ultimately, Batman proves that anarchy and escalation can be dealt with by overcoming and preying on fears. Namely by pretending he murders Harvey Dent, which sends a message that any other escalation would result in Batman killing someone.

Which leads to The Dark Knight Rises. Now no one really knows what the film will tackle, the synopsis or anything aside from glorious list-based speculation that the Internet loves so much that there’s even a site dedicated to that very thing. So let’s just take a few ideas to mind, shall we? Hell, we could even list it out!

But we won’t.

Maybe we’ll section it. Sectioning…sections could work.

Catwoman!

Ok. Bold works for this. Now, Catwoman aka Selina Kyle aka OMFGANNEHATHAWAYINLEATHERCATSUITIHAVETHEWEIRDESTBONERNOWCOMMUNITYLULZ: previously, the women in Bruce Wayne’s life have not had a good time. For example, Rachel Dawes burned to death in a fire. But Selina Kyle represents everything Bruce wants: a strong woman who–in comics canon–has a strong sense of morality to help those that can’t help themselves. On the flip side, Catwoman is a strong woman that can defend herself and is athletically on par with Batman. Further, she identifies with Batman being against the law–publicly–and would note that the two of them are both frequent targets of organized crime. The inevitable reveal of each other’s duality would lend further bonding/undressing moments for each, but it would solidify the intensity that Bruce Wayne feels for his own crusade versus Selina Kyle’s care-free attitude. So, there could be that.

Then, there’s

BANE

Out of most Batman villains, Bane stands out because his ultimate goal wasn’t to kill or destroy Batman. It was to take over the role. Bane doesn’t want to watch the world burn or throw Michael Caine back some jewels; he wants to be the protector that a city as lawless as Gotham deserves. And it just so happens he never realized this until after the Batman appeared. What better way to do that than create a criminal empire, prove how tired and weak the current Batman is and then break him? Bane is perfect for a trilogy since his character is exactly why Bruce Wayne would’ve been with the same training if someone dared beat him to cleaning up Gotham the first time. Which is why Hardy works–he’ll be the anti-hero Batman. Of course, there’s a huge possibility for the same type of swerve Nolan did in Begins where Hardy will be Bane in mask, but have a different name for his initial introduction a~la the False Fase Society, which gangsters met under in early Batman works to avoid being discovered by the caped hero.

Bane also relevant for another reason: he beats Batman. Of course, Batman can be hurt and injured. But Bane is the first to ever “break the Bat.” He sufficiently puts him out of commission to the point that, in the comics, Bruce Wayne had to seriously consider who he’d make the next Batman.  In the Nolan franchise, that can’t happen since the various Robins or other heroes don’t exist, but it’s a humbling moment: what do you do if you lost the only thing you’ve dedicated your life for?

Anyway, random thoughts on why Catwoman and Bane work and Christopher Nolan won’t disappoint. Pointlessly nerdy, of course, but what else can one do?

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Written by john lichman

January 20, 2011 at 11:27 pm

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