Friday, September 02, 2016

Killer's Bane (DC)
Batman #489 When: February 1993
Why: Doug Moench How: Jim Aparo

The Story So Far...
Once upon a time, Killer Croc was the new King of Gotham City's criminal underworld! Alas, much time has passed since the day he took out top boss: The Squid! N
ow the labyrinthine bowels of the city's literal underground devour him -- just another freak flushed away by The Dark Knight who protects this city.

Dazed and confused, Killer Croc is deposited on the banks of the vast urban sprawl. He escapes the torturous flood of his nightmares into a vacant stupor, feasting on rats as the autumn rain turns to winter snow.

When wayward humanity inevitably intrudes upon his solitude - the Killer awakens with a terrible vengeance! A nearby shopping mall is the recipient of his madness, spreading panic through the city's shoppers!

The public display summons Batman & Robin, but they aren't the only ones to witness Croc's strength through the eyes of live broadcast news. Bane has come to Gotham City, and in the former crime boss he sees opportunity to announce his arrival with a brutal test of strength!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Killer Croc 5 (Super-Human)
Intelligence: Bane 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Bane 5 (Marathon)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting: Bane 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Draw 1 (None)

Bane's true name is unknown, but his history as an inmate of notorious Peña Duro is well documented. He was imprisoned as an infant with his rebel mother, to satisfy the criminal life sentence incurred by a mercenary father: King Snake.

At age six, Bane's mother died, leaving him to endure the unforgiving trials of prison life alone. The threat of other inmates honed his survival instinct and ruthlessness, while a kindly Jesuit priest nurtured his inquisitive mind.

By maturity, Bane had accomplished a classical education through extensive reading, while also developing his fighting ability by theory and intense physical training. This attracted the attention of prison officials, who subjected him to experiments with the chemical drug Venom, which only served to enhance his already impressive strength!

Venom featured prominently in Bane's early attacks on Gotham City, regulated by a wrist-worn device that controlled the feed directly into his brain. Chemical enhancement gave him the physical edge when he broke Batman's back [Batman #497], but he would eventually purge himself of the drug, relying on his already impressive, natural physical strength.

Killer Croc could probably relate to Bane's harsh upbringing. Waylon Jones was born with a rare condition of atavism that rendered his skin tough and scaly. His mother died in childhood, and his father disowned him. As he matured, his condition made him increasingly reptilian in appearance, further ostracizing him.

A byproduct of his grotesque condition was also phenomenal natural strength! Jones honed his power wrestling alligators as a carnival attraction of his native Florida. Adopting the Killer Croc moniker earned in sideshows, he soon turned his skills to a more profit potential career in crime. This led him to Gotham City.

Croc made an impact early in his attempts to overthrow the criminal establishment, but Gotham would be as unkind as any other home. Even after he was mutated to more closely represent his namesake, Croc continued to suffer defeats against the likes of Batman [Batman #608] and Solomon Grundy [Faces of Evil: Solomon Grundy #1]!

Our Tale of the Tape reflects later incarnations of both characters, when the Venom-less Bane could plausibly accept defeat at the hands of Judomaster's son [Checkmate #12], for example. In 1993, Bane was at the height of his juicing - which should make him more than equal to Killer Croc!

Will enhanced strength be enough to defeat Killer Croc? Let's find out!...

The Math: Bane Ranking: Bane (#343)

What Went Down...
Like the crocodile's natural predator, Bane stalks through the emptied shopping mall with the purpose of a jungle panther. When he reaches his prey, Killer Croc is already on the floor -- upended in a skirmish with The Batman and Robin!

Bane introduces himself to his target, hitting the button that sends the drug Venom flowing through his body! Killer Croc isn't impressed with the sudden bulge of muscle. He throws a scaly fist at the bulging predator -- a mistake!

Bane snatches Croc's wrist and looms. He sees similarity in the fearless eyes of his powerful opponent, and the bat-demon that haunts his nightmares. He violently twists Killer Croc's arm backwards -- snapping it! He howls in agony!

The pair tumble to the ground, allowing battered rookie Batman and The Boy Wonder to escape unnoticed. Killer Croc's focus narrows on the man who broke his arm. He lunges at him in a rage with one good arm!

Had the punch hit its mark it would've been devastating, but Bane sidesteps the wild blow -- leaving Croc to shatter an indoor tree! He's momentarily stunned.

Bane sizes his foe up: "You're too ugly to hit."

The hulking convict thrusts his boot into Killer Croc's stomach! He follows the staggering blow with a second kick -- this time sending Croc uncontrollably tumbling into the display window of a nearby toy store!

Bloodied and broken, Killer Croc slumps amongst stuffed toys. Defeated.

The Hammer...
Just like that: Bane announces his emphatic entry into Gotham City nightlife!

He leaves the battlefield the same way he came: walking with silent purpose. In five months, this path will take him from emptied shopping mall to Wayne Manor, where in Batman #497 he succeeds in breaking Batman's back!

Even the most oblivious fan will tell you Bane "broke the bat", but not everyone remembers he broke Killer Croc first! It's an interesting side detail that gives a little texture to both villains.

Their dramatic showdown would lead to a bitter rematch some months later. It provided a rare distraction for Bane, who was otherwise pre-occupied with  preparations for Knightfall's dramatic conclusion. The rivalry was notable enough to inspire a memorably succinct retelling in Batman: The Animated Series. With any luck, we'll get a chance to look at the rematch in the near future!

Bane could've taken a shot at Batman right after he'd beaten Croc as early as Batman #489, but the studied villain knows a fake when he sees one! Indeed, this issue is noteworthy for also being the first time Jean-Paul Valley assumed The Dark Knight's mantle.

Valley would later adopt his own infamously nineties armored cape and cowl, becoming a replacement Batman while Bruce Wayne's broken back healed. He would later become better known under the persona of Azrael. We haven't featured him on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths yet! We will have to at least return to this issue in the future to take a closer look!

We have featured Killer Croc several times in the past, in appearances subsequent to this one. If there's one drawback to the otherwise thrilling detail of Bane & Croc's villain-on-villain vendetta, it's that it may have popularized Killer Croc as a fall guy. After today he'll be the fifth lowest ranked character on The Comic Book Fight Club! A hard fall for a villain who once took top spot amongst Gotham City's criminal underworld!

Browsing the letters page from this issue, I noticed readers feeling Jim Aparo had fallen from grace, as well. I didn't like some of the published vitriol, but I have to admit, his Bane and Croc weren't always dynamic. It definitely wasn't quite the same artist that thrilled me just a few years earlier. I've described his Batman of the late eighties as projecting an intimidating, stern fatherly quality. That sharpness is definitely missing from some of these panels.

Of course, the legendary artist was entering his early sixties by 1993. Which kind of flips the script on criticism he would've faced amidst the Image hype of the day. I hope I can do anything as well as Aparo did by the time I'm that age! I'm reminded that Jim Aparo passed away in 2005. A sad loss.

Killer Croc is our current Hero of the Week - inspired by recent appearances in the Suicide Squad film and comics. The ensemble cast featured in Friday Night Fights throughout August, and with five weeks in September, this is an extra bonus before we move on to a solo spotlight!

Winner: Bane
#112 (+231) Bane
#837 (-8) Killer Croc

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