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First Image Of Tom Hardy's Bane Online

Holy sneak peek at Batman villain!

Holy clever viral marketing campaign, Batman!

Filming is only a week underway on The Dark Knight Rises, but Christopher Nolan has already whetted our appetites by revealing the first look at Tom Hardy as Bane, the muscled maniac who'll be facing off against Christian Bale's Batman.

And, true to sneaky form for Nolan, the pic has been revealed via the kind of fiendishly clever viral campaign that The Joker might devise on his days off.

Today, for example, saw the launch of the official website for The Dark Knight Rises. Clicking on it only revealed some chanting - but they're a clever bunch, Bat-fans, and soon figured out that the chant was saying The Fire Rises.

Now, if you tweet #thefirerises repeatedly on Twitter, your reward is the first shot of Hardy, bald and bulked-up, and sporting a mask that looks reminiscent of the classic Bane look from the comics. The plan was apparently for this to be revealed gradually, but the Lucius Fox-like intellects online have deciphered it very quickly indeed.

It should be noted that Hardy looks huge, but not as cartoonishly bemuscled as Bane is on paper. And, in the mostly realistic world of Nolan's Bat-movies, that's a good thing. We applaud Nolan, and WB, for getting something out there nice and early.

As ever, though, this raises more questions than it answers. What is the fire? Why is it rising? If The Dark Knight is rising, and the fire is also rising, which will win? And how long will it be before we get to see Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, or Marion Cotillard, or Joseph Gordon-Levitt, or the latest incarnation of the Batsuit?What do you think, readers?

The Dark Knight Rises is out on July 20, 2012. Can't. Wait.