Chuck Dixon is known for many thing in his long career, but one of the things he is best known for is his work in The Batman Universe. We have spoke at length with Dixon in the pas about his work and now for the first time in years, he returns to DC Comics to write a new series called Bane: Conquest. Dixon co-created Bane along with Doug Moench and Graham Nolan, with the latter providing the art for the new series. TBU had a chance to sit down with Chuck Dixon and discuss the first issue of the new series and allow him to give a sort of page by page commentary of the issue of him returning to the character that he helped create.
TBU: Starting off with the character, what did you think of Bane in The Dark Knight Rises?
Chuck Dixon: It’s funny because the only line I remember from the movie isn’t in the movie. Somebody did a satire site where they redubbed the dialogue and it was about Bane being concerned if people were getting enough fiber. So the only thing that I remember is ‘what did you have for breakfast’ but I loved that they made him a household name. That was cool and they treated him like he was a mastermind, he was a chess player so it’s all good.
TBU: What are the biggest changes in comics since you and Graham were doing Bane back in the 90s and the way that comics are made now?
Chuck Dixon: Well they got thinner and there’s more of a, much more of a concentration….
TBU: ..on the trade paperbacks?
Chuck Dixon: Yeah, I mean I was going to say there’s more of a concentration on the trade than there used to be when we were doing it. The monthly sales were the thing, that was where the money was now it’s trades and digital and of course ancillary.
TBU: We have a copy of Bane: Conquest #1 in front of us and Chuck is kind enough to give us a “writer’s commentary”. Looking at the first page, the first thing that hit me when I was reading it was holy cow that Graham Nolan art. I felt like I was ten years old again and reading Knightfall. We see one of these, I guess it’s we’re still not quite sure what they’re up to but terrorists, they have kind of a red skull with a knife on their hand tattooed and the detail stands out in the panel. Was that on purpose is that coming back or is that just you know for the…?
Chuck Dixon: It connects to Damocles and the sword of Damocles who we meet at the end of the issue, but Damocles is just the beginning. Anybody who knows their mythology or Greek history ancient Greek history probably know what’s coming next.
TBU: The sword of Damocles hanging over my head. On page two we get the return of Bird, Zombie and Trogg and it only hit me last night when I was reading this like “holy cow I’m so stupid Bird, Zombie and Trogg the three 60s bands” you know, how did I miss that for all these years? So, talk about you know bringing those guys back.
Chuck Dixon: When Graham and I worked on the title, our idea was that Bane is an evil Doc Savage and of course Doc had his Fabulous Five. I might not be getting that name right and you know they’re each distinctive and had their own character. That’s where Bird, Trogg and Zombie come from. Three very distinctive, very different comrades for Bane to have and rely on.
TBU: We get a great full-page reveal on page three of Bane and it looks like he’s using venom again which is something that’s been consistent/inconsistent you know, depending. Is Bane back on venom? I guess it’s a stupid question considering I can see the stuff in front of me, but you never know in comics. Sometimes things aren’t as they seem so I don’t want to take it for granted.
Chuck Dixon: He’s definitely an addict, he’s a juicer, he’s on hormones and steroids of whatever the hell else is in venom. He fell off that wagon because you know basically he was already all in on venom. When he doesn’t take venom, the withdrawal symptoms are horrible and the withdrawal effects are horrible on him as we’ve seen in the past. So yeah, he’s a lifer.
TBU: And page four, one update that I like you know that you did with Bird is instead of using birds like he used to, you know in a very 2017 move, he’s using drones.
Chuck Dixon: Yeah, we named the drone Sergio. Graham and I are very good friends with Sergio Cariello, who is a drone fanatic, so we couldn’t resist naming it for him.
TBU: Another thing that you probably would not have been able to do in Knightfall, on page five Bane chops off a guy’s arm and you see the severed hand, Empire Strikes Back style.
Chuck Dixon: Yeah even bloodier. That’s a pretty messy guy, pretty messy panel but yeah we get away with more now obviously.
TBU: Is this going to be like a more violent and adult book?
Chuck Dixon: It rises to the summer blockbuster action film level.
TBU: Was that something that you guys were encouraged to do or was that something that you guys came to DC with and they were more receptive to it than it would have been in the past?
Chuck Dixon: We haven’t heard one thing from DC as far as any other material. I mean, Graham and I aren’t R-rated guys. We’re not going to push it too far. We’re not interested in alienating but it’s a thirteen and up book.
TBU: It’s a good thing, it keeps you on your toes and much like the sequence that we’ll get to later. One thing that strikes me on the sequence with pages 6 and 7… Bane is very protective over Gotham and calls it “my city”. When we get the reveal that it’s Gotham he’s protecting, where’s this mentality coming from?
Chuck Dixon: Well I think Bane sees Gotham as his and he doesn’t want some other criminal organization homing in on his business. It’s a gangster story at the very bottom, so he’s protecting his turf.
TBU: He considers himself another protector of Gotham right now?
Chuck Dixon: Well he’s protecting his own interests. You know I don’t know how much he really cares about Gotham or its citizens. Obviously, he doesn’t care the same way Batman does.
TBU: It’s more about possession which actually sense because given what happens in the next few pages (8 and 9) when he’s remembering the shower sequence and he says people always trying to take what’s mine. So yeah, you’re right it’s more about a possession thing. The bear in the case, it reminded me of Jason Todd for a minute.
Chuck Dixon: That’s Osito, Bane’s earliest friend when he was back in prison at Peña Duro.
TBU: Yes and on pages 10, 11 and 12 we get Bane, Zombie and Trogg. They’re interrogating a group of people and it almost reminded me of something that I would see in a Batman family title where you would have like Nightwing, Robin and Huntress getting information. Was this done on purpose as an echo of that?
Chuck Dixon: No, just you know Bane is relegating. He trusts these guys. These are the only three guys in the world he trusts and they do what he says because it’s not really a master and henchmen relationship. They’re just they’re a gang and he’s the gang boss.
TBU: On page 13 we get just that hint of Batman. Part of his cape and then Sergio spots a Batarang. Is this indicative of what Batman’s role in the series is going to be, kind of like off to stage left in the shadows but never quite taking center?
Chuck Dixon: Well the cover for #3 has been made somewhat public on Facebook. So you know I think some people know that Batman takes a bigger role in the series early on. Not throughout the series, but early on in the series we’ll see Batman.
TBU: The sequence on pages 14, 15 and 16 when Batman captured the guy, they get him out of jail. I love this and then they torture him. First of all, Bird has got to be the worst public defender ever. I would not want him paying my bail but I…
Chuck Dixon: Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire.
TBU: Yeah, I love this sequence. The guy has no fear and then he sees the stiff you know under the water and it looks like his legs have been cut off and attached to a piece of concrete. To me that’s even more horrifying than the severed hand and he says ‘make it quick’. Am I to assume that Bane you know sent that guy away to Santa Prisca or he ain’t coming back (laughs).
Chuck Dixon: He’s not, we’re never going see that character again. So we pretty much establish that Bane has not changed his ways.
TBU: And things take a nasty turn for the team with pages 17 through 19 and we lose Sergio. Is there going to be a Sergio 2.0?
Chuck Dixon: I’m sure we’ll be seeing more Sergio’s. Sergio junior.
TBU: Yeah, we always got the Lazarus Pit for drones and stuff like that. Bane is very impulsive because he’s got his team and they’re telling him to stay back. Then he’s already on the heat-seeking thing. So he’s got I guess a bull in a china shop mentality. Is that accurate?
Chuck Dixon: Well, the venom plays a part here too. It makes him rather repulsive, his testosterone levels are off the charts. He’s not waiting for backup.
TBU: Are we going to be seeing more of his struggle with venom that like we talked about earlier?
Chuck Dixon: Not in this series so much, but maybe a little bit. He’s pretty much in charge for this one.
TBU: And on page 20… I was glad that you said “meet Damocles” because I was looking this up furiously before this. I was like “okay Bane’s familiar with him I just want to make sure that I’m not forgetting him from like you know a random issue of Showcase or something,” but Bane does seem to recognize him. So what’s their story?
Chuck Dixon: Well, there isn’t really a backstory just Bane. If you’ll remember from Knightfall, Bane has this intuitive way of reading people like the first time he saw Bruce Wayne he knew he was Batman. So basically, Bane knows ‘I’m right now meeting the guy in charge. I’m meeting the guy I was looking for.’ It’s just intuitive reaction.
TBU: Anything about Damocles that you can mention?
Chuck Dixon: He’s not the head of the organization. He is the beginning of Bane’s journey which we’ll obviously see a lot more of next issue. I think the next issue is going to be quite a surprise in quite a few ways.
TBU: What can we expect that is coming ahead?
Chuck Dixon: Bane goes on a global quest. Just as he was a head of Santa Prisca, he was the cell block boss at Santa Prisca and then gang boss in Gotham. He wants to be gang boss of the world. He wants to rule the hidden world of the underworld for the DCU. So he’s going to be going up against established familiar DCU organizations. Again it’s a gangster story, so he’s going to impose his supremacy over everyone.
TBU: Was there anything that didn’t make it into the first issue?
Chuck Dixon: There was a reveal that I can’t reveal now, but we had to move back to the second issue because there’s so many [things going on]. In the first issue it had to be all about Bane and had to be totally Bane centric, so there wasn’t room for the big reveal Graham and I planned. It wasn’t a natural fit, but we’ll see it next issue I can assure you.
TBU: I’ll be looking forward to the next issue. First Wednesday in June is when the second issue releases and the ones that follow until next year. Would you be willing to do a sequel or anything beyond that if it clicks with readers?
Chuck Dixon: Yeah. Graham and I, you can’t stop us. We’ve been on this for a while and we’ve got a number of ideas of where we’d like to go further with Bane. Bane to us is an ongoing story.
TBU: Lastly, are there any Batman characters that you would like to revisit from your old run?
Chuck Dixon: I would say any and all of them. I just like to revisit Gotham. I just love that whole world and I love all the characters in it.
Bane: Conquest #1 is in stores now. You can check out our full review of the first issue later today.