'The Dark Knight Rises'

Explainer: The Weak Link Between Former Bain Man Mitt Romney and Batman Bad Man Bane

Sarah Hedgecock on why Rush Limbaugh is saying the villain who broke Batman is now looking to cripple Mitt Romney.

Ron Phillips / Warner Bros.

The long and winding path politicos have drawn this week from the man who broke Batman to the man who founded Bain Capital begins in 1993, when DC Comics introduced a steroid-riddled, super-genius terror-enthusiast named Bane. A born killer and leader, Bane was raised inside a hellish Caribbean prison, where he killed his first man at the age of 8, was classically educated by a Jesuit priest, and eventually became “king”, teaching the other inmates to fear him. But his rise led to the prison administrators making him a test subject in an experiment with the potent – and until then fatal – super-drug Venom, which gave him super human strength but also an addiction that needed to be fed every 12 hours to avoid painful withdrawals and losing his power. After escaping prison along with two infernally talented henchmen, Bane made his way to Gotham with the express plan of again becoming “king”—by “breaking the bat.”

Which he did a year later, breaking the back of Bruce Wayne over his knee and leaving the man behind the cowl paralyzed from the waist down, thus making way for someone new to take on the role of Batman.

As it happens, the arc was written during a time when DC Comics was on a tear with killing off and “rebooting” its iconic superheroes, after a villain named Doomsday had killed off Superman in 1992, landing a wave of press and huge sales for the company.

While the Batman creative team had no idea while they were hatching their scheme that the Superman team was doing the same thing, the company took advantage of the potentially lucrative new superheroes, including the new Batman, a monk-hypnotized ninja with a hyper-violent streak. Of course, by having Wayne crippled rather than killed, they made it that much easier to eventually restore him to his super-heroic states after his successor went crazy. (Then again, death is anything but permanent in the comic world, as Clark Kent, Jean Gray, and Elektra, among others, can attest.)

What’s with the robo-mask?

In the comics, Bane gets his massive strength from Venom, which has an instant effect—he literally swells with each hit of the performance-enhancing drug that preceded the villain (Bruce Wayne had his own struggle with it in a few years earlier and briefly risked becoming the Barry Bonds of superheroes before painfully breaking his addiction.) Because of its addictive nature and physical effects, Bane has it constantly injected into the base of his neck via a mask. Unfortunately, the movie won’t feature a CGI depiction of Tom Hardy suddenly exploding into a giant hunk of muscle. Christopher Nolan’s version of Bane needs not a super-steroid, but a potent painkiller to keep him functional after some long-ago trauma.

So what else happens in the movie?

We’ll find out Friday, but from reviews, trailers and early leaks, it’ll be similar in some ways at least to the Nightfall story arc, where Bane releases all the prisoners from Arkham Asylum and lets chaos reign free and drain Batman’s energy and spirit before he emerges to physically confront the enervated hero. It seems that Bane’s goal is to take over Gotham, with a ragtag army fighting against the police force. Knowing how these things go, he presumably wants to eventually emerge as Gotham’s ruthless dictator, the leader of the faceless masses. Of course, while the movie was shooting and again when the trailers came out, commenters were quick to point out the similarities between its depictions of chaos and the Occupy Wall Street protests.

What does Rush Limbaugh have to do with all this?

It all goes back to coincidence of using a villain named Bane in a major blockbuster during this particular election year. The company Romney founded is Bain Capital. Bain is the bane of the Obama campaign. Bane is the bane of Batman’s existence. Coincidence? Limbaugh doesn’t think so. On his show on Tuesday, the conservative radio host expounded on the significant role of The Dark Knight Rises in the vast left-wing conspiracy, asking rhetorically if the similarity was “accidental.” He continued, “You may think it's ridiculous, I'm just telling you this is the kind of stuff the Obama team is lining up. The kind of people who would draw this comparison are the kind of people that they are campaigning to. These are the kind of people that they are attempting to appeal to.”

This conspiracy would presumably entail a group of comics writers (Illuminati?) convening sometime in 1992 to design a villain for a 1993 story arc that would influence the third movie in a franchise begun in 2005, which would be released in time for the 2012 presidential campaign—which they somehow knew would heavily involve a Republican candidate tied to a company with a name that sounds the same as that of their villain. To better cover their tracks, they made sure to use a different spelling.

It could happen…

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Did I mention that one of Bane’s creators, Chuck Dixon, is a noted conservative? Responding to Limbaugh, he was quick to point out that Bane is “more of an Occupy Wall Street type” and, if anything, Romney bears a much closer resemblance to the Dark Knight himself, Bruce Wayne.

So is it a coincidence?

Sorry, Mr. Limbaugh, it is. It might be time to give your theories a gritty reboot.

But don't smooth out your tin-foil hat just yet…

Coincidence though it may be, some Democrats have gleefully seized on the Bain-Bane homonymity. Said former Clinton aide Chris Lehane, “It has been observed that movies can reflect the national mood. Whether it is spelled Bain and being put out by the Obama campaign or Bane and being out by Hollywood, the narratives are similar: a highly intelligent villain with offshore interests and a past both are seeking to cover up who had a powerful father and is set on pillaging society.”

We’ll just have to wait for the election to see if the masterful plan pays off.