Putting the "Science" in "Science Fiction": Bane
Bane, often known as “the man who broke the bat,” is one of Batman’s deadliest foes. The villain earned his nickname by breaking Batman’s spine and leaving him as a paraplegic for a period of time, becoming the only villain who has ever immobilized Batman. Besides being a master martial artist, Bane is a criminal genius and one of Batman’s most intelligent foes, as well as one of the deadliest in hand-to-hand combat.
Bane’s physical strength and endurance push beyond human limits, but in most versions, with Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises being a notable exception, Bane increases these attributes still further through using the super-steroid known as Venom. While dosed with Venom, Bane’s strength and endurance move up to superhuman levels and he becomes an almost unstoppable force in combat, able to defeat Batman in a fight despite the Dark Knight’s training and many technological tools.
Although the benefits of Venom are numerous, they also come with side-effects, among them a major increase in aggressive behavior. The reason for Bane’s trademark mask and the tubing that connects to it is that it is part of a system that pumps the drug directly into his brain every 12 hours in order to maintain the drug’s benefits and avoid the crushing side-effects of chemical withdrawal.
Although fictional, Venom is based on anabolic steroids, a group of chemical compounds that increase muscle massand can also cause other changes in the human body. These chemicals are used in therapeutic ways to increase bone marrow, muscle mass, and appetite in people who have serious wasting illnesses. However, the most widely known use for anabolic steroids is the practice known as “doping”, where people take it in order to quickly build up muscle mass. Anabolic steroids produce an increase in muscle mass and strength, but unlike Venom, this increase seems to reach a maximum 20% increase and this increase is only achieved after weeks of taking the drug when exercising. While the benefits of steroids are much less significant than Venom, their side-effects are much more severe.
Anabolic steroids have been shown to be addictive, with withdrawal side-effects including fatigue, pain, nausea and fainting, and these drugs have also been shown to increase aggressiveness in users. Unlike their fictional counterpart, modern anabolic steroids can also have severe negative side-effects, including liver damage, cholesterol problems, the premature cessation of bone growth, delusions, infertility, and even cardiac problems or strokes that can lead to death. These side-effects are a major reason why the trade in anabolic steroids is illegal in many countries, and their use is outlawed in regulated sporting events.
Although the idea of a drug that grants its users enhanced strength is tantalizing for some people, the side-effects of real anabolic steroids show just how devastating the health problems caused by a drug like Venom, which pushes the human body completely beyond its normal limits of endurance, would be. A drug that gives a person superhuman strength while also increasing their aggression is a frightening concept, and it is a good thing for everyone that super drugs like Venom remain fictional.
Top Photo: batman.wikia.com