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Friday, 20 July 2012

In 1993, Dennis O’Neil and the Batman team at DC Comics envisioned a long story of the Dark Knight meeting his match and having to retire from crime-fighting for a while. This story got the overall title of Knightfall.

What villain would be worthy of breaking Batman’s back? As with the concurrent “Death of Superman” storyline, the company thought that job called for a completely new character. Writer Chuck Dixon and artist Graham Nolan came up with Bane. He wore the full-face mask of a Mexican luchador wrestler and pumped himself up with a steroid-like drug called “venom” (thus making his victory over Batman a cheat). The name Bane reflects the character’s function within Knightfall: he was the bane of Batman’s existence and his name an abridgement of “Bruce Wayne.”

Knightfall led to a character named Azrael taking over as Batman and going crazy with great power and responsibility, to the Robin solo series, and eventually to Dick Grayson wearing the cape and cowl for a while in Batman: Prodigal. It remains one of the most popular Batman sagas, recently reprinted.

Bane has also remained a formidable villain. He’s smart as well as muscular, and knows Bruce Wayne’s secret. His upbringing, as a poor boy in a horrible prison, is the mirror image of Wayne’s privilege and creates natural sympathy. In subsequent stories, Bane teamed up with the Batman family. After Batman appeared to die, he even toyed with the possibility of taking the Caped Crusader’s place.

The character of Bane has also appeared in other media, including nearly all the DC television cartoons, several videogames, and the 1997 Batman and Robin movie. A few years ago, writer-director Christopher Nolan decided to make Bane, as played by Tom Hardy, one of the main villains of his highly-anticipated The Dark Knight Rises, opening today.

Earlier this week right-wing commentators began to speculate about what that character’s visibility might mean to the presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney, until 2002 the chief executive and sole stockholder of Bain Capital.

Dixon, a vocal political conservative, wrote on his website that any connection was “Ridiculous…Tho’ I got a cold feeling in the pit of my stomach that Rush may pick up on this.” (Dixon gave similar comments to Comicbook.com.)

And indeed Rush Limbaugh felt the need to comment on Bane. One might think that he’d feel some affinity for a drug-dependent character, or notice that the story of a heroic multimillionaire might make moviegoers more willing to admire Romney.

Instead, Limbaugh let his paranoia flow. “Do you think that it is accidental that the name of the really vicious fire breathing four eyed whatever it is villain in this movie is named Bane?” he asked, according to his own transcript. He declared that “a lot of brain-dead people, entertainment, the pop culture crowd” would indeed connect Bane and Bain when they voted. “You may think it's ridiculous, I’m just telling you this is the kind of stuff the Obama team is lining up.”

Of course, this conspiracy theory has no historical or logical basis. Limbaugh could have easily dismissed it. But he couldn’t resist any chance to say bad things about President Barack Obama. As has been clear for years now, the racist blowhard suffers from OIP Derangement Syndrome.

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