Bane can be seen in action in the six minute 'Dark Knight Rises' prologue on Dec. 16.

Thousands of Bat Fans will be flocking to the opening of ‘Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol’ in IMAX theaters, not for Tom Cruise but for the most anticipated six minutes of footage this year. Details have emerged about ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ prologue, which introduces us to Bane, as played by ‘Inception’ vet Tom Hardy.

There has been a barrage of Bane related information coming to light as Christopher Nolan has revealed the prologue to the media, leading up to the the release of ‘Ghost Protocol.’ Piece-by-piece, fans are gaining a picture of the mysterious new menace.

In an interview with Hero Complex, the director said, “Bane, to me, is something we haven’t dealt with in the films… He’s a primarily physical villain; he’s a classic movie monster in a way — but with a terrific brain…I think people are going to get a kick out of what we’ve done with him.”

A couple days ago, the audio of the prologue leaked (and the powers-that-be quickly put the kibash on it), allowing fans to hear the voice of Bane for the first time. The Internet had previously been abuzz with criticism that the penultimate villain of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy was nearly incomprehensible, owing largely to the mask and accent. Hardcore fans, an excitable and internet savvy lot, hit the comments sections questioning even the mighty Nolan. He assured everyone that the audio was not done and the visual action would be enough to overcome the character’s hidden mouth.

I had a chance to listen to the audio before it was taken down. The post featured subtitles, but, personally, I was able to understand Hardy’s dialog without them. Nolan’s track record and the audio should reassure us all that ‘Rises’ is on track to top billion dollar grossing ‘The Dark Knight’ and introduce moviegoers to an intimidating new antagonist.

Those who never read the comics will only remember Bane as a throwaway supporting character from the insipid ‘Batman & Robin’ from 1997 or the ridiculously voiced, muscled-up luchador from ‘Batman: the (excellent) Animated  Series.’ But longtime followers of the Dark Knight’s exploits on the page remember the classic ‘Knightfall’ story line of 1993, casting Bane as Batman’s equal in intellect and the hero’s physical superior. ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ should make Bane an adversary worthy of our hero once again.

If you don’t want any SPOILERS about Bane’s comic book background, read no further.

Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan (no relation) and Doug Moench created Bane especially for the ‘Knightfall’ storyline. The villain was born and rose to power in a fictional Caribbean called the Republic of Santa Prisca, and more specifically in the prison, Peña Dura. That’s right, he was born in prison, serving his father’s sentence. The story features characters that reek of the 90’s style that would later define Image Comics, such as Jean-Paul Valley a.k.a. Azrael. Bane, himself, was perhaps inspired by the steroid era of professional wrestling, but the writers fleshed him out to be more physically dangerous than classic Batman villain Killer Croc and more cunning and in control than the Joker, making Bane a lasting presence in the DC Comics Universe.

Will 'Dark Knight Rises' include this iconic scene from the comics?

Bane, made supernaturally strong by a steroid stand-in called Venom, wore Batman down by proxy, pitting the hero against some of Gotham’s worst baddies all at once. Then, he confronted the Dark Knight in person, breaking the heroes back and selling millions of comics in one fell swoop.

The story would have consequences for years to come and although Bane’s roots were in the excessive early 1990’s era of comics, he would return to popularity in the outstanding ‘Secret Six’ (starting in 2008) as a more rounded anti-hero at the hands of superstar writer Gail Simone (currently working on ‘Batgirl). That title restored Bane to prominence, making him, again, a fan favorite. But don’t look for the feature film incarnation to be a sympathetic character.

Nolan explained in yesterday’s interivew, “I didn’t know him very well. David Goyer got me a bunch of stuff on him and we looked into him. I only knew him by name, I wasn’t familiar with his back story. He’s a very cool character.”

After 2008’s ‘The Dark Knight,’ which featured the most iconic of all Batman adversaries, the Joker, fans primarily familiar with Nolan’s films balked at the rumors of Bane’s inclusion in the upcoming ‘Rises.’ Despite a robust viral marketing campaign and thousands of words of internet speculation, the director is notoriously secretive and the recent interview is our first real clue–straight from the source–as to why Nolan used a relatively recent addition to the Bat-stable of bad guys.

Bane’s inclusion in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ came as a shock after months of speculation that the Riddler (rumored to be played by Robin Williams) would be at the center of the hotly anticipated film. Although better known than the Santa Priscan muscle man, this would have been a huge letdown after the titans of Heath Ledger’s joker and the incomparable Liam Neeson’s Ra’s al Ghul.

The poster, the build up of Hardy’s Bane and the promise that this is the last Bat-outing for Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan makes Batman’s very survival in the film questionable. Despite the optimism of the title, there is no guarantee of where the plot will go in the final chapter of the wildly successful trilogy.

Unlike comic books, where a quick trip to a lazarus pit or another fantastic contrivance can restore a character to life (see Bruce Wayne’s resurrection from last year), the Nolan films have their feet firmly planted in real world logic. Never shying from bold moves, it is remotely possible that Christopher Nolan commits what would be the most shocking fan boy blasphemy possible, killing Bruce Wayne.

The death of one of the most recognizable superheroes of all time, seems unlikely, however. ‘Dark Knight’ demonstrated how Batman could negatively effect Gotham City by creating psychotic killers like the Joker and the Rachel Dawes character showed us what Bruce Wayne had to sacrifice by taking up cape and cowl. If the comics are any influence, the third film will show the audience and Batman himself what the hero’s limitations are. If indeed Bruce is paralyzed, we could see him walking away from his alter-ego. But the title of the film leads me to believe otherwise.

While some aren’t happy that the better known members of Gotham’s rogues gallery weren’t employed for the final act, Bane is the best character for testing Batman physically and mentally. Newer fans will have the chance to see a unique and compelling character that comic book readers have appreciated for years. The threat that Bane represents is the best way to challenge the Caped Crusader in a manner divergent from the first two films.

Heroes have always been defined by the tasks they face. Luke Skywalker had to face Vader. Hercules had his twelves labors. The point of the shattered mask shown in the ‘Dark Knight Rises’ poster is that Bane is capable of taking down Batman, but the point of three films about a hero could never be accepting defeat. We might see Batman fall in the film, but as Alfred will tell you, we fall so that we can pick ourselves back up. Or in this case, rise.

Planning to see ‘Mission Impossible’ for the prologue? Is Bane a big enough villain for Nolan and Bale’s final act? Let us know in the comments.