Excerpt from the book Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight.
© 2012 Travis Langley (Wiley-Blackwell)

Case File 6–1: Bane

Real name: Unknown

First appearance: Batman: Vengeance of Bane #1 (January, 1993).

Origin: A corrupt court system imprisons a woman in a hellish South American prison, Peña Dura, for the crimes of her lover, a revolutionary who evades capture. After she dies, their son has to serve out their sentence in that prison where he was born. He grows up among killers and madmen. He plays with the rats. Bane, this child of two fierce warriors, learns from hardened criminals and a visiting Jesuit priest, whose books provide the boy a classical education and whose gifts of toys give him some solace—especially his teddy bear, Osito, which the boy considers his only friend. A hole in Osito’s back conceals a knife that Bane uses against those who bully him. Bruce Wayne at age 8 sees his parents murdered whereas Bane at 8 commits his first murder. Bane pushes himself to become harder, stronger, deadlier every day, to do more than survive there. He means to thrive. Killing dozens of other inmates along the way, Bane establishes himself as king of the convicts. An experimental drug called Venom, expected to kill him like previous test subjects, instead gives him monstrous strength. He engineers a jailbreak and heads for Gotham City, attracted by the challenge of beating Gotham’s Dark Knight. After exhausting Batman by freeing all of Arkham Asylum’s villains, Bane attacks him at Wayne Manor and breaks the hero’s back, earning Bane his reputation as “the man who broke the Bat” and forcing a recuperating Bruce to enlist a hero called Azrael to take his place temporarily as Gotham’s guardian.

“I’ve known you since I lived in the hell of a dark hole thousands of miles from here. I’ve known you in my dreams. And I escaped from that hell—escaped from my dreams—for one reason only. To find you—and to break you.”

—Bane to Batman in Batman #496 (July, 1993)

* * *


Bane breaks Batman's back.

Bane is to Batman what a juggernaut called Doomsday is to Superman: a brand-new Big Bad who comes out of nowhere, causes chaos all around, and then delivers the hero his greatest defeat. Bane’s drive to beat Batman for the sheer sake of beating Batman illustrates his strong achievement motivation, Need for Achievement: the need to overcome obstacles, to attain a lofty standard, and to rival and surpass others. Biochemist Henry Murray, who turned toward a career in psychology after psychiatrist Carl Jung guided him through his personal dilemmas, identified a variety of needs that motivate and direct human behavior. Not everyone has every need. Over the course of a lifetime, a person might or might not experience them all. Needs can influence particular individuals so regularly that the possession of a consistent need becomes part of those individuals’ personalities. Following up on this, psychologist David McClelland asserted that three dominant needs comprise human motivation: Need for Achievement (NAch), Need for Power (NPow), and Need for Affiliation (NAffil). A person could feel driven toward achievements unrelated to power and affiliation. Bane yearns for power, too, but belittles affiliation.


“It is the nature of plans involving others. They are flawed because humans are flawed. I will miss the antics of my foolish associates, especially the girl. But I cannot be Bane with them attached to me. The authorities think they have won. But my plan left no room for error. Either I conquered my enemy or I was set free of all encumbrances, even the girl. It was caring. It was emotion that made me weak. And now I am free of it. As I planned all along.”

—Bane in Secret Six #36 (October, 2011)

He understands strength in numbers and can enjoy a few people’s company, but as he lacks incentive to maintain that enjoyment, he demonstrates low Need for Affiliation, the need to belong with others. Those who value affiliation most, requiring approval and interpersonal connection, make good team members but poor leaders. Reflecting on his few tentative attachments makes Bane decide they put him at risk because enemies could use those bonds against him, so he parts ways with a group called the Secret Six.

Subsidiation refers to situations in which one need activates to satisfy another. Bane’s Need for Power, secondary to his Need for Achievement, supplements that greater motivation. Power helps him achieve. Personal power, power over himself, he believes helps him attain power over others. The everyday management of any criminal organization would leave him dissatisfied if that power posed insufficient challenge. He weans himself off Venom, a source of physical might, when he decides addiction to Venom would be weakness, and yet he risks addiction again at times when the Venom offers him an advantage in pursuing a valued goal.

“It doesn’t matter who we are. What matters is our plan. No one cared who I was until I put on the mask.”

—Bane (Tom Hardy) in The Dark Knight Rises (2012 motion picture)


Bane leaves Batman physically broken but not done for good.


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