When it opens in two days, Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment's "The Dark Knight Rises" – director Christopher Nolan's final installment in his Batman film trilogy – is expected to rake in record box office and critically put a fine cap on the franchise's previous installments. But as much as fans may be hoping for from the film and its battle between Batman and musclebound mastermind Bane, writer Chuck Dixon may have more invested in the event than any other outside viewer.
Dixon co-created the villain, played in the film by Tom Hardy, with artist Graham Nolan (with a credited assist from writer Doug Moench) back in 1993 with their "Vengeance of Bane" story that served as prelude to the classic Batman storyline "Knightfall." And by all indications, "The Dark Knight Rises" will draw heavily on that work in its presentation of Bane as mysterious foe hellbent on dismantling Bruce Wayne's alter ego in the eyes of Gotham City's public.
Recently, the writer spoke with CBR News about his expectations for the film as both a fan of the franchise and as a creator invested in where and how the villain appears. "For the most part, [Nolan] gets the core character," Dixon said. "I've read interviews with him, and his understanding of the character comes right from what Graham and I did. He seems to get it. And it's also really gratifying that I recently found that he planned on using Bane in the third movie from the beginning. And he resisted Warners efforts to stick the Riddler in the third movie instead of Bane because it didn't fit in with where he was going. Bane was a key part for him."
Dixon has been making the rounds on the web of late as imagined political controversies have sprung up around the villain, but mostly, he's just happy that the movie will be giving the character his due. "It's gratifying that Bane's going to be played by a real actor," the writer laughed, referencing the ogre-like performance wrestler Jeep Swenson gave the character in 1997's "Batman & Robin" movie. "It looks like he's in the movie a lot, and it should be good. I don't know anything more than anyone on the internet does, but it looks very encouraging."
Of course, in an era where creator's rights – particularly in regards to media adaptations – is a hot topic in the comics community, Dixon and his collaborators enjoy what he classifies as solid, fair contracts for their contributions. "Graham and I both signed participation agreements, which are good in perpetuity. So it's not up to them whether they take care of us. We're taken care of. We've seen money from Bane all along – the Lego games and the little Bane-shaped piece in the Spaghettios. We always get a piece of what Bane makes. We'll see money from this movie. They have graphs and charts to figure out how much based on how many lines of dialogue he has and how much he's in the movie and how much impact he has on the story. We were part of it the last time when Bane was in the last [Joel] Schumacher film really briefly. We participated in that."
In fact, though the writer hasn't worked for DC Editorial in a number of years, Dixon spoke highly of his connection to the other services that Bane participates in throughout the company. "I still talk to Licensing at DC. They still e-mail me and talk to me on the phone. We're copacetic there. I can't say a bad word about DC there. They're very diligent about following up on that front."
One outstanding question surrounding DC Entertainment films moving forward is how all creative contributors will be connected and compensated from the movies. For years, previous DC Publisher Paul Levitz was often credited amongst the creative community for opening doors to the likes of Denny O'Neil, Neal Adams and Len Wein to share in the money earned from their characters appearing on screen. The company even arranged a special "Creative Consultant" credit for Joker co-creator Jerry Robinson during the production of "The Dark Knight" film.
Dixon agreed that DC's policies have always been open in regards to proper credit and pay during recent years. "When Paul was running the show, if I saw something I could call him," he said. "Graham and I created a Batman vehicle that was the subway rocket in the '90s. Corgi was getting ready to put out a toy, and they were crediting it as coming from the '70s where no one was going to get the participation money from it. So I called Paul and said, 'That's Graham and I' and he said, 'I agree with you.' So he had Corgi change the packaging and everything on it.
"Then on 'Batman Begins,' the scene in which Bruce Wayne picks out the Batmobile from his own garage – I called Paul up and said 'I'm the only guy who ever wrote that scene in "Detective" #0. Every other version has him and Alfred building the car.' And Paul said, 'You're right' and they cut a check. Today, I don't even know who I'd call about something like that. But at least Graham and I have all the Bane paperwork, so we're covered."
When reached for comment on whether Levitz's policies in regards to creator participation in media have continued under the current regime, DC Entertainment Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee were quick to respond with the following statement: "Our creators enjoy in DC Entertainment’s successes in many ways when they create original comic book characters and storylines. However, per company policy we don’t discuss the details of their contracts or compensation."
For now, both creators and company are enjoying a film launch that can be celebrated for both its creative accomplishments and its sharing in credit, leaving fans to make up their own minds about how "The Dark Knight Rises" will match up when it opens this Friday.