When most people are asked to name Batman’s greatest enemy, they default to the Joker - but the rivalry between Bane and Batman is way more deserving of the “archnemesis” tag. Though both villains have antagonized the Dark Knight plenty over the years, when it comes down to Bane vs. Joker, it’s really no contest. The man who broke the Bat wins every time.
Bruce Wayne is blessed with the best rogues’ gallery in all of comics, and most of his villains come with backstories every bit as sad as Batman’s. Only Bane, however, serves as a foil for the Caped Crusader in every regard. He’s a match for the Dark Knight physically, mentally, tactically, and even spiritually, and he’s the bad guy that most closely resembles the Batman. That’s reason enough to label Bane as Batman’s finest foe, but there is plenty more concrete evidence to support the notion.
Joker Crippled Barbara Gordon, But Bane Broke The Bat
In all his years of terrorizing Gotham City, perhaps the Joker’s most heinous transgression was what he did to Barbara Gordon (AKA Batgirl). The Clown Prince of Crime left her paralyzed and viciously exploited, just to prove a demented argument. While a disgusting and cruel act (and one later removed from continuity), it doesn’t carry the same intimidating cachet as Bane’s infamous breaking of the Bat.
In the Knightfall saga, Bane slowly wears the Dark Knight down by making him face a gauntlet of his greatest enemies - and then ambushes him in his mansion. The fight is a quick decision in favor of Bane, and ends when he lifts Batman up over his head and brings him down onto his knee - snapping the Caped Crusader’s back and taking him out of the crime-fighting game for a significant portion of time.
No one else has ever managed to damage Bruce Wayne quite so thoroughly.
Joker Has Maimed Alfred Pennyworth, But Bane Broke His Neck
To truly hurt Bruce Wayne, villains don't strike him directly; they go after his family. The Joker has had numerous run-ins with Alfred Pennyworth, Wayne’s father figure, over the years, including one memorable incident in which he chops off the loyal butler’s right hand. But even that pales in comparison to what Bane does to Alfred.
During the City of Bane storyline, Bane and his allies take over Gotham City, make Wayne Manor their headquarters, and keep Alfred inside as a hostage. Bane lets it be known that any sightings of the Bat-Family within Gotham will result in Alfred's demise, and when Damian Wayne tests his resolve, Bane follows through on the threat. He snaps Alfred's neck with his bare hands as Damian watches in horror.
This is no fake-out or dream sequence, either; Bane finishes off Alfred in cold blood.
Little Is Known About The Joker’s Origin, But Bane’s Is A Dark Reflection Of The Dark Knight’s
The Joker has said he prefers his origin story to be multiple choice, and has yet to receive a definitive backstory (some recent DC Comics even suggest there may be more than one Joker). That makes it impossible to compare his presumably troubled upbringing with that of Bruce Wayne's - but the same is not true of another prominent baddie.
In many ways, the origin of Bane is a dark reflection of Batman’s own personal history. Whereas Wayne was born into privilege, Bane was born in a prison, where he lost his mother at around the same age that Wayne lost his parents in Crime Alley. Wayne used his family’s billions to fund his transformation into the Dark Knight, but Bane is much more of a self-made monster - using the emotional challenges of his childhood as nothing more than fuel for the ceaseless rage that drives him.
Joker Regularly Terrorizes Gotham City, But Bane Made It His Own
If you’re a resident of the city Batman calls his home, then you likely live in fear of the Joker, who has terrorized Gotham too many times to count. From mutant fish to toxic parade balloons, Joker has consistently put Gothamites through the wringer. Yet only Bane has managed to truly call the city his own.
The City of Bane storyline sees the titular character quite literally take over Gotham City, booting out the Bat-Family by force and taking over all government functions. Bane runs his own police force, staffed by supervillains like the Riddler and even Joker himself, and rules with an iron fist before Bruce Wayne comes back to evict him - though not without paying a terrible price.