Who is Bane?

The Dark Knight, the second installment in Christopher Nolan's Batman series, owed much of its popularity to the astonishing performance of Heath Ledger as the Joker. Speculation since then abounded about who would play the villain in the Dark Knight Rises, the final piece of the trilogy: Johnny Depp as the Riddler? Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the Penguin? Wrong, and wrong.

For people with only a passing knowledge of comic books, Catwoman -- to be played by Anne Hathaway -- should be a familiar staple of past Batman renditions. But Bane, who will be portrayed by Tom Hardy, is a bit more obscure (he did appear in the 1997 film Batman & Robin, but it was a minor part). The newly released trailer offers a glimpse of Bane's face, and ends with a shot of the hulking villain lurching towards Batman. But his back story remains a mystery for many.

In the comics, Bane is born on the fictional Carribean island of Santa Prisca. He is incarcerated in Peña Dura prison -- Spanish for Hard Rock -- serving out a term for his father, a revolutionary who managed to evade punishment. Bane develops his mind at the prison library, relying also on the tutelage of a Jesuit priest, while bulking up at the gym. His intelligence and ruthlessness allow him to become the prison kingpin, and the prison authorities punish him by using him as a guinea pig to a test an experimental drug known as Venom that has killed all previous subjects. The drug ends up giving Bane superhuman strength but he needs to regularly take doses of it to avoid side effects, which may explain the metallic-looking mask he is wearing in the trailer.

IGN comics ranked Bane as the 34th best villain of all time, praising the character not only for his immense physical strength but for his intellect:

Bane emerged as one of Batman's most intelligent foes. His plan to break the Bat was methodical, and worst of all, patient. Bane realized something his fellow Rogues did not: A full frontal assault against Batman is futile.