Conquering the industry with Chuck Dixon

 

Bane, rendered by Graham Nolan

Bane. A name that sends chills down the spines of generations of Batman fans. A name that invokes the ultimate threat. A villain who could have easily faded from consciousness as a one-time event series gimmick, but instead has only grown in popularity. Under the veteran craftsmanship of Chuck Dixon, Bane has developed into a compelling, complex and multi-faceted supervillian – a perfect foil for the anti-hero he was created to combat. Conceptually brilliant, Bane would quickly transcend comics and permeate the Batman franchise through movies and Batman: The Animated Series as well as video games.

In comics, Bane would prove equally resilient, appearing in many comics that exist outside the Batman family of titles. Currently, Bane is again terrorizing Gotham City’s Dark Knight within the pages of Batman’s own title. Launching immediately following the events unfolding within Batman will be the newly announced series titled Bane: Conquest and, much to fans’ delight, Dixon will be returning to the character he was so instrumental in creating. With his legendary name behind this title, anticipation for this series could not be higher.

Bane first appeared in a one-shot comic, “The Vengeance of Bane”, which was designed to introduce the character and lead into the now famous Batman: Knightfall storyline. Here Dixon reveals that Bane grew up as a prisoner on an island called Santa Prisca. While on the island, Bane developed a fear of bats, came to rule the prison of Pena Dura, and became the subject and sole survivor of an experimental drug known as “Venom” which is the key to his superhuman strength. Bane would go on to escape the prison, break Batman’s back, become a member of The Secret Six, and plague Batman many times over.

I had the good fortune of interviewing the man himself, Chuck Dixon. I asked Dixon how the twenty-plus years since he put Bane on paper changed how he views the character he was so instrumental in creating.

“My perspective hasn’t changed at all,” he responded. “Bane’s got a lot of depth to him and I never got to even scratch his full potential as a major player in the DCU. I know there have been many permutations of the character in movies, cartoons, games and such. But Bane lives in my head as Graham and I created him. It’s that core that people responded to.”

This core aspect of Bane will be explored more deeply in Bane: Conquest, as Dixon originally envisioned him.

But which aspects of those core elements of Bane has resonated so profoundly with readers?

“Well, he’s a badass. Everyone likes a true badass. The fact that he’s the biggest badass in the Batman universe makes him even badder,” Dixon said. “Add to that the tiny bit of sympathy we have for him and it brings more to him than just being a villain for the sheer hell of it. His origin is rather heartbreaking. And it’s hard to separate the child from the man. I think he’s a character like Tony Soprano. Just as we’re starting to root for him he does something so monstrous that we have to re-adjust our moral compass. Plus, he looks so damned cool.”

That iconic look can be largely attributed to Graham Nolan, Bane’s co-creator and returning partner of Dixon’s in Bane: Conquest.

An intriguing element of the new title is that its protagonist is also a notorious villain. Rarely do villains head their own titles. So the trick for Dixon was to persuade readers to root for a villain. His solution?

“In any anti-hero story you need bad guys worse than your main character. Like Italian westerns or Dexter,” Dixon analogized. “Sure, the hero’s a rotten guy with no principles, but the people opposing him are so much worse. We’re going to pit Bane against the worst of DCU’s global underworld. Plus, there’s all the aspects of a classic gangster story with a lot of heist story elements. Graham and I are working hard to make this a fast-paced and exciting crime epic with lots of twists and turns.”

Dixon gave a pointed response when asked about which aspects of Bane’s character may be least understood, and further explored, in his upcoming maxi-series: Comic fans know the guy is smart, a true intellect with a ruthless competitive streak. Perhaps casual readers who only know him from the games and movies have a different impression. Bane is Batman’s intellectual and physical equal (before Venom) in every way.”

It can be easily argued that, with the possible exception of the Joker, Bane is the consummate foil for Batman.

And speaking of other member of the Batman family cast, I asked Dixon the obvious question: Will there be appearances by other members of the DCU?

“Yes, and they will be surprises,” he replied without further elaboration.

So what else do readers have to look forward to?

“Bane moves beyond Gotham to fight his way up the world underworld food chain. One city isn’t enough for him anymore. He and his gang are going to go through the bad guys like crap through a goose. The question is, will the big bad hombre run into a bully bigger and badder than him? Look for summer blockbuster level action and plenty of reveals about who Bane is and what makes him tick.”