In memory of Adam West, here’s a recap of Batman ’66, issue 27, featuring the debut of luchador Bane.
Growing up, I caught a few episodes of the old Adam West Batman series and became familiar with the tropes and campy tongue-in-cheek nature that made it endearing to anyone who watched it. In the last few years, in an effort to capitalize on fan boys’ nostalgia, highly detailed action figures depicting the characters from the old 60’s series (which I myself bought) were released, and in 2014, DC Comics started putting out this on-going comic book series as a continuation of the old show. I thought it was a cool idea, but never bothered to pick up an issue, until I saw that they were introducing Bane as a character within that 60’s Batman TV show universe, and even better, they were actually going to heavily focus on Bane’s sometimes background of being a professional wrestler. In this case, a luchador. I didn’t waste any time picking this issue up. It just took me a while to finally get around to posting up a recap on here.
The story opens with The Riddler lifting a rare crystal skull from some rare collectible store. The Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder get there in time, but have little luck apprehending him, as Riddler makes his escape thanks to some green gas he emits from his cane, and not his ass, like you often see green gas emitted from in cartoon form. The Riddler being The Riddler, stays true to his name and leaves behind a riddle concerning him stealing a ring, because he’s the worst, or best, at self sabotaging. Batman and Robin aren’t able to solve it, but Batgirl points out that The Riddler might be talking about a different kind of ring. To which she directs their attention to the Local Sports and Entertainment page section of the newspaper, which is a nice wink and nod to Vince McMahon’s preferred term for pro wrestling. And sure enough, within that section, is an article about current wrestling champion of Gotham, The Hangman, and his upcoming match against the “Mystery Man from Mexico,” Bane.
The trio are able to snag themselves some front row seats, because that’s just how famous people do, even when they’re superheroes. The Hangman is already in the ring, and looking like the hooded version of Cobra Commander, but with a skull drawn on it. This goes against wrestling tradition, as the champion is usually the one to enter the ring last, but we’ll give the DC a pass seeing as it’s all meant to build up the hype for Bane. Which they deliver on, as you can read a word bubble exclaiming how big Bane is. Bane makes his entrance, sporting a more traditional lucha mask, with his own stable of masked luchadores. Even Batman is taken aback, as he wasn’t expecting a “luchadore.” Why’s Batman concerned with Bane being a luchador? Well, he’s clearly seen enough El Santo vs. movies to know that they deal in supernatural forces. And he’s Batman, so when he sees The Riddler seconding Bane, Batman puts two and two together and figures that the crystal skull Riddler stole is supposed to have mystic powers and it must tie in with Bane somehow.
You got to give the creators of this issue credit for making Bane a criminal mastermind, and not some other villain’s henchman, as he is often depicted in the movies. In Batman & Robin he’s Poison Ivy’s bodyguard, and in The Dark Knight Rises we find out he’s been Talia al Ghul’s protector the whole time. But Mexican luchador Bane is operating on another level. He even has Riddler acting as his manager and taking his ring jacket. Batgirl asks if they should go arrest him, but being the true wrestling mark that he is, Batman would rather wait until the match is over. You can’t blame him for wanting to see who’s going over, especially since wrestling in this world isn’t predetermined. After the second round – yes, there’s rounds – The Hangman gets Bane in the Hangman’s Noose, his own patented sleeper hold. Bane laughs off the hold and clotheslines Hangman over the top rope. Batman proves to be a stickler for the old NWA rules, and responds to that DQ move by flying into action and confronting Bane. Bane responds with another clothesline. They continue fighting, and at one point, Batman even gets some help from Robin and Batgirl as they attempt to tie up Bane, but he easily gets rid of them. Bane then lifts Batman over his head, and in homage to that famous “Knightfall” Batman story arc, gives Batman a backbreaker that would make Roderick Strong shed a tear.
Bane, along with Riddler, leaves behind a broken Batman and heads to Yucatan, Mexico, where la Ciudad del Craneo (Skull City) is. Clearly, the townspeople are not fans of Bane as he plans to rule over them as a super king. His words, not mine. I’m not sure how much time has passed after presumably being broken in half, but by the next panel, Batman, healthy as can be, is in the Bat Boat, along with Batgirl and Robin, hot on Bane’s trail. Turns out, Batman always keeps a trusty Batarang tucked in the back of his utility belt, which saved him from becoming a paraplegic. How convenient. But given that this is a one-off story, I guess they only had so many pages, and having Batman recuperate from a broken back and vigorously train like never before would’ve taken up too many panels. In the meanwhile, Gotham PD’s Chief O’Hara and Commissioner Gordon have infiltrated Bane’s Mexican village and are fitting in nicely according to them and their stereotypical outfits (mariachi suit and serape).
Bane then enters the town in his own Banemobile. As the crowd gathers around in this make-shift parade, The Riddler overhears Gordon’s radio go off and captures him and O’Hara. Later that night, a lucha libre show takes place outside, next to an Aztec pyramid, with an Aztec shaman type as the master of ceremonies. It’s like something straight out of Lucha Underground. In fact, Lucha Underground should conclude the entire series somewhere in Mexico with a ring either on top of an Aztec ruin, or at the very least, right next to it. The shaman announces that they’ll be paying respect to Bane later on, but first, he brings us our opening bout between Mil Mascaras and El Santo. That’s right, in Bane’s version of lucha libre, Mil Mascaras and El Santo are curtain jerkers. Even with the demotion, I’m pretty certain Mil Mascaras refused to do the “yob” to El Santo.
The bat trio arrive and break out Gordon and O’Hara, along with the actual mayor of Skull City, Martine. Martine was locked up for destroying the original crystal skull that was the secret ingredient in an elixir that gives Bane his power. Hence, the need for that second crystal skull. Turns out Bane is just another wrestler who juices up, only instead of injecting needles in his butt, he’s gulping down colorful potions from lab beakers. Luckily, Batman had prepared for just that kind of tactic, having already read up on this ancient Aztec method of hulking up.
Just before Bane can get started in his one versus all match, which involves all of the luchadores as his opponents, Batman volunteers to take “the first round.” Again, with the rounds! You’d think they’d have him say first fall, seeing as this is supposed to be lucha libre, where most matches are contested under the two out of three falls rule. Naturally, Bane is shocked that Batman is walking and before he can take a swig from his new drink, Batman slaps on some kind of muzzle guard (BatMuzzle?) across Bane’s mouth, keeping him from drinking. It’s actually a pretty cool wink and nudge to the mouthpiece Bane wears in The Dark Knight Rises, except for the giant Batman sticker on the front of it. Does he have to copyright every weapon he uses?
Without the elixir, Batman is able to have a fair fight with Bane, and even though Bane’s still able to overpower the Caped Crusader, Batman utilizes his speed to get around him and punch and kick the crap out of him. Robin and Batgirl handcuff The Riddler, and before they can step in to help Batman, Batman turns the match over to the actual luchadores that have been waiting to get their revenge on Bane. To which El Santo says “Mil gracias, Batman!” Instead of Mil Mascaras, which would’ve made way more sense. With the town now liberated, and Bane getting his comeuppance against all the luchadores of Mexico (which includes drawings of Blue Demon and Tinieblas in the background), Batman, Batgirl, and Robin head out smiling having given the Mexican people the true meaning of lucha libre… free wrestling.