In the early days of its marketing campaign “The Dark Knight” relied heavily on viral marketing in the form of puzzles and games for fans to decode in order to reveal information or images from the film. The upcoming sequel, “The Dark Knight Rises,” has begun its own viral campaign in much the same fashion. It has lead to the reveal of the first official image from the film, which has only just begun shooting. That image is of actor Tom Hardy as the villain Bane, and in this one image it reveals a surprising amount about the film’s approach to this character.

The viral campaign began with the launching of the film’s official website. Those who visited the site were greeted by an aggressive and persistent chanting. Most fans believe this is meant to be chanting of the League of Shadows, a villainous group who helped train Bruce Wayne in the ways of combat in “Batman Begins.” Hidden within the chanting was the phrase “the fire rises.” Those who then went onto Twitter and included “#thefirerises” in a tweet saw their Twitter profile picture added to a growing image on the film’s site. Each profile image would be arranged so that it became a single pixel in a much larger image. However as Collider.com has reported some tech savvy players of this little game dug around in the website’s source code. In doing so they were able to uncover what the ultimate image was going to be. This forced those running the viral campaign to reveal the complete image sooner than was likely intended to avoid bootleg versions of the image spreading across the internet before it was even completed on the official site.

First Look at 'The Dark Knight Rises' Villain Bane Viral MarketingThe image of Bane is from over the shoulder with the character looking back at the camera. The lighting is harsh; to the point that at first glance it almost seems like a black and white photograph. In the image Tom Hardy is shirtless which, even from the back, shows off the impressive amount of bulk and muscle he has put on to play the part. The most striking part of the image is the mask the character is wearing. The Mexican wrestler inspired mask from the comic books has been replaced with something more akin to a stylized gas mask. The bulk of the mask completely obscures Hardy’s mouth and parts of it wrap around over the top of his shaved head to connect at the back of his neck with other parts of the mask that wrap around from the sides. There is tubing apparent on the mask which would seem to indicate that it will serve as delivery system for Bane’s empowering drug known as “venom.” As depicted in the comic book the drug bolsters Bane’s already considerable muscle mass and makes him and even more dangerous opponent than he would be normally. It’s interesting to note that in the image the tubing on the part of mask covering Hardy’s face brings to mind skeletal fingers covering the mouth.

In the comic book Bane was a lifelong prisoner in a South American jail, incarcerated for the crimes of his father. Growing up within the walls of the prison he built up his body and strength and became the dominant force amongst the inmates. He would eventually volunteer for an experiment involving the “venom” drug, and would escape prison soon after that. Bane then targeted Batman, believing him to be the embodiment of a demonic bat that haunted his dreams for years. Despite the somewhat psychotic motivation Bane was a cunning opponent. He set free all of Batman’s major enemies from Arkham Asylum and then confronted an exhausted Dark Knight after he had rounded up his entire rogue’s gallery. Bane was able to best the worn down vigilante easily, and broke the crusader’s back. Batman would ultimately recover from his injuries while Bane was defeated by a temporary Batman replacement.

It’s very unlike that much if any of the above cited comic book story like will be used in “The Dark Knight Rises.” Very few details of the story have been revealed but it has been deduced that the League of Shadows will be a major part of the story and it is thus believed that Bane will be associated with that group. It’s possible that the film may keep Bane’s prison life and venom drug use origins intact but the tactic that Bane used against Batman in the comic will almost definitely not be featured on film. Of course this is only the first reveal of a new character, and fans will likely now be clamoring for images of Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman.