I woke up one morning and had a dream... Could I own every single issue of Detective Comics, Batman and all of the other subtitles in the Gotham universe?
Insane? Stupid? Inspired?
This can only end in obsession and financial chaos.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Holy First Appearances!!!

With the new Dark Knight film causing many fanboys to froth their pants about Bane. I think that its time we had a new Holy First Appearance! And invoking my personal favourite comment about the latest Dark Knight Rises image on the web. Inspired genius Gotham Spoilers, inspired genius...

So Vengeance of Bane #1

Bane probably was created by (and this comes from the sometimes dodgy Wikipedia) by Chuck Dixon, Doug Moench and the Graham Nolan. Bane was a character dreamt up to actually do something important.

Like Breaking The Bat important.

This was way before Batman became R.I.P, in 1993, the 'Knightfall' plans were afoot to break Batman's back. This would then cause Bruce Wayne to surrender the mantle to another new, unknown character, Jean-Paul Valley, Azrael.

For a while before 'Knightfall' the key Batman writers were slowly putting the foundations down in slow measured ways. The nasty drug Venom (imagine super-strength Anabolic Steroids combined with the addictiveness of Heroin) was introduced into the official canon in a 'Legends of the Dark Knight' story arc called, unsurprisingly, 'Venom'.

Elsewhere, Azrael was unleashed in a four parter by Denny O'Neill and Joe Quesada (that's some creative parentage isn't it?).

But obviously to complete a storyline that is this important you need a proper villain. One that isn't obsessed with riddles, bodycounts, fear or split personalities. A villain that plays the strings and comes into to do a job effectively and efficiently. And that job is simple, if you want to be the Kingpin of Gotham- to rule Gotham- you must break the Bat. And that is where the brilliance of Vengeance of Bane part I works, we get a fully developed character that in 64 pages.

As for Bane's d├ębut storyline introduction, this is his life story as to how Bane has become the man he has. A man raised in a Santa Priscan (a fictitious Latin American right wing dictatorship country) prison because he is to serve the sentence of the crimes of his father. Bane shows cunning and toughness. He gets respect through his brutality. He is then is experimented upon so that he becomes hooked on the drug of Venom.

Also there is a small in-joke at play. An Easter egg, if you will, Bane's henchmen are also introduced: Bird, Trogg, and Zombie. So what you do now, is go to Play.com or Amazon and put a search into their music department these names and experience the world of New York Punk (and here is you're opportunity to learn about the subtleties of the New York Dolls and the Sex Pistols). Legend has it that these were the favourite bands of Grant, Moench and Dixon.

One defining characteristic of Bane is his Mexican wrestling mask. This mask serves less of the need to hide Banes true identity. Nope, it's an efficient way of taking Venom. This drug makes Bane stronger and nastier. Of course, this will become his undoing... but, that's another story. If I'm really reaching I'd argue that the appearance of pro wrestler, Van Vader in the old WCW had an influence in the way that a Mexican masked wrestler could be a giant, nasty rotter as opposed to the traditional lucha-libre high flyer. Coupled to that, I suppose you could argue that pro wrestling is also referenced in this story was released just as the Zahorian/WWF in which steroids and wrestling would be forever linked (and the tragic link between Jeep Swanson and Bane in 'Batman and Robin', could illustrate this point, sadly). However, I would state that the use of the Venom, was more of a statement by the creators about the illicit drug trade, and it's influence upon the criminal underworld at the time. You see, Bane is the inevitable outcome of a government backed narcostate. This is a common theme of Chuck Dixon's work throughout the early nineties whether it be in his Batman or Punisher work.

If I'm honest, it is the Vengeance of Bane Part 2 that pops up a few years after that truly really makes the character whole. Dixon makes Bane a reformed drug addict, but has the refined the way that he operates. Less use of muscle (because Venom, is no longer needed- thus quite a lot of Cold Turkey here), and more brains. Crucially, though he is still a man of haunted by his abusive upbringing, and he has a proper purposefulness to his life. Even then, you can't like him, he's still a bastard.

As a fan of Batman though these titanic events of 'Knightfall' are fascinating. The execution of this storyline is excellent. For me, though, it was the completion of the trilogy 'KnightsEnd', and the psychological breakdown of Az-Bats that hooked me as a fan. But hey-ho.

With the new film on the horizon, and Bane being a crucial component in it, it appears that the Moench/Dixon/Grant era of Batman is finally getting the mainstream recognition that I feel has been long overdue.