EXCLUSIVE: Graham Nolan Discusses Bane's Original Mask & THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

Co-creator of Bane, Graham Nolan, discusses the villainous character in-depth, from his original mask design to sharing his opinion on Christopher Nolan's take. Also, Graham spoke of his work on The Phantom, and his current comic Sunshine State.

Interviews Opinion

Comic book artist Graham Nolan was kind enough to spare us some more of his time for an interview. He is best known for his work on Batman, specifically Knightfall. Graham Nolan, Chuck Dixon, and Doug Moench are the co-creators of the villainous Bane. Currently Graham is working on two syndicated comics, Rex Morgan, M.D. and Sunshine State.

Graham Nolan on the left of the Bane cosplayer, and on the right is Chuck Dixon.

You had the most influences on the visuals of Bane. Did you nail down the look of Bane right away or were there several variations?
I got about 95% on the first try. The only major changes were to the mask. His original mask was more of a Mexican wrestling mask. His eyes, nose, and mouth holes were open. I did it this way for two reasons. 1) to be able to show expressions. 2) Because of where he's from, it's probably the only type of mask he would have been exposed to. Editorial decided they wanted a more mysterious look so those holes were covered up. I think they made a good call on that.

What would you say Bane's true intentions are?
Bane is a narcissist. Since the world revolves around him he feels he should own it. Bane wants control.

Would you say Bane's venom is a necessity or an addiction?
An addiction which he overcame in VENGEANCE OF BANE 2.

You have ventured to comic book conventions in the past, is it odd seeing people dressed up as Bane?
I don't do many shows and as such I'd never seen anyone in a Bane costume until MegaCon this year. Saw a few guys dressed up as Bane. I love their passion and had my picture taken with all of them.

Do you feel like your creation and vision for Bane is being respected by the character's appearance in film and comics?
To be honest, I don't follow his appearances in comics. As far as his appearances in cartoons and films with the exception of the horrid BATMAN AND ROBIN version, I've enjoyed all of them.

In a previous interview you mentioned that you haven't seen Joel Schumacher's Batman and Robin, that featured a version of Bane, but you've seen photos. Would it be fair to assume you weren't pleased with the look of Bane?
I didn't have a problem with his look so much as his portrayal as a muscle bound dope. What separates Bane from other villains is his amazing cunning and intelligence.

You've seen some footage of Tom Hardy's portrayal do you feel the character is in the right hands? Knowing that an acclaimed director like Christopher Nolan is working on it must make you feel more comfortable?
Absolutely. Everything I've read about their take on Bane tells me they "get" him.

Many fans have quibbled over Tom Hardy's lack of size. Does it bother you at all that Tom Hardy isn't exactly a hulking figure like Bane is in the comics?
We don't know that they won't CGI him up when the film is released. But even if they don't, a lot of size and menace can be conveyed with camera angles and lighting.

Another debate I see online between fans is about Bane's heritage. So once and for all is Bane Latin American?
I hadn't heard about a debate, but since Bane was born in Santa Prisca he is most definitely Latin American.

Do you wish a Latin American actor would've been cast in the role of Bane?
It doesn't matter as long as they are a good actor. It's all make believe anyway. Just because a character is one thing doesn't mean the actor has to be. That's why he's called an actor. Does anyone think John Wayne was really a cowboy?

Do you think at the least it would've been nice if Bane had a Latin American accent?
I don't know what Bane's movie background is. Maybe he was raised in Siberia or some other eastern block nation. Who knows? Whatever accent is used is only important in establishing where he's from and I'm sure they took that into consideration.

What was your first reaction to seeing the new Bane mask that Tom Hardy is wearing?
Again, the look doesn't concern me. It might make more sense based on the script.

Currently you're illustrating the long-running comic strip Rex Morgan, M.D.. The strip has been praised for it's realism when tackling touchy medical issues. Does that job require enormous amounts of research?
Not any more than any other storytelling assignment. Of course if a medical device is mentioned then I have to make darn sure I get it right.

You also worked on The Phantom comic strip from 2000 to 2006, a dream job for you as you were a fan of the comic growing up. Was it difficult to leave that behind? Did you feel as though you had accomplished everything that you wanted with that property?
I left the strip under unhappy circumstances due to a disagreement with the management of the time so it wasn't difficult to leave it behind. I have "unfinished" business on that strip and would like to return some day. When the writer was injured I took over the scripting for the Sunday story arc and became the first writer/artist in it's history. I would like to return to write and draw my own stories some day.

I'm sure you've seen the film adaptation that starred Billy Zane in the lead. From someone like yourself, who is very familiar with the property, what did they get right, and what did they get wrong?
I think it's one of the few comic movies where they got everything about the character right. The villain was a bit cartoony and the nonsense about the skulls was silly, but a fun film all around.

Another comic that you are currently working on is Sunshine State could you tell us a little about it?
SUNSHINE STATE is my baby. In our complicated hustle and bustle world it's a welcome respite from the doom and gloom that is the newspaper. I call it your "vacation on the comics page". It's really a buddy strip about two best friends that are opposites. Mel the alligator and Dink the pelican as they try to navigate through the ever encroaching technological world.

What are some unexpected sources for the humor?
The best humor always comes from from a place of truth. SUNSHINE STATE isn't a traditional "gag a day" strip. I take my characters on little adventures of whimsy and sometimes nonsense but the humor always comes from the characters.

As a successful artist what is the best advice you could give to a newcomer in the field?
Please yourself first. If you like something you've done it's a good chance others will too. But also be tough and honest with your work. Know your weaknesses and work on them.

By the way you look like you're in amazing shape for an artist, perhaps even strong enough to take on Bane. Got any tips?
Ha! Thanks. I played a lot of sports as a kid but also exercise every day. I eat 6 balanced meals a day which helps to keep my metabolism revved up. Diet and exercise is the key. It's use it or lose it as we age!

Many thanks to Graham Nolan for giving us this great opportunity, and also thanks to my Twitter followers who submitted several of the questions above.

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