Ra’s al Ghul: Who is the Immortal Assassin?

Head of The Demon

Ra’s:Allow me to introduce myself. I am he who is called Ra’s al Ghul.
Batman: The Demon’s Head. I thought you were a legend.
Ra’s: I am quite real.

Batman: the Animated Series, “The Demon’s Quest” (Season 1, Episode 60)

Assassins gather in a cavern and wait by a glowing green pool for their master. A young woman brings an ancient-looking man to the pool, lowering him into the emerald liquid before retreating. The assassins draw their weapons, preparing themselves for the inevitable. A piercing shriek sounds as someone leaps from the pool. An old man entered the pool, but a young one emerged.

The young man watches the assembled assassins with ancrazed expression on his face. He rushes one of them, kills him effortlessly, and steals his sword. The gathered fighters are no match for him. His movements slow, his posture straightens, and his eyes focus on those still alive. They kneel. Ra’s al Ghul lives again.

Ra’s al Ghul is one of the DC Universe’s most skilled warriors. He leads the League of Assassins, routinely battles Batman to a standstill, and has survived for centuries. So who is he? How did he become immortal? What is his connection to the newest Robin? Let’s find out.

Lazarus Pit: Ra’s al Ghul’s Backstory

Ra’s:I wasn’t always here in the mountains. Once I had a wife, my great love. She was taken from me. Like you, I was forced to learn that there are those without decency that must be fought without hesitation, without pity. Your anger gives you great power, but if you let it, it will destroy you, as it almost did me.
Bruce: “What stopped it?
Ra’s: “Vengeance.

Batman Begins

Fun Fact: fans and creators cannot agree on the pronunciation of Ra’s al Ghul. The writer intended to use the Hebrew pronunciation Raysh, though others insist on the Arabic pronunciation Ross, and a third faction claims it is Razz. Tell us in the comments which one you prefer.

Ra’s al Ghul debuted in Batman #232 in 1971. He was created by Julius Schwartz, Neal Adams, and Dennis O’Neil. He was based on James Bond villains Ernst Blofeld, Marc-Ange Draco, and non-Bond villain Fu Manchu.

Ra’s real name is lost to history but all agree that he lived in Africa six hundred years ago. Fascinated by science, he became a doctor and made many medical breakthroughs. His greatest was discovering The Lazarus Pit, a pool of magical chemicals that can heal wounds, make the old young, and even resurrect the recently dead.

Ra’s used the Lazarus Pit to resurrect his homeland’s prince, only to learn that resurrection drives the reborn mad. The prince killed Ra’s wife and sentenced him to death. Ra’s patients rescued him and help him flee into the desert. 

A vengeful Ra’s took control of a clan of marauders and led them back to wage war on the prince. He poisoned the prince with a virus, killed him and the Sultan, and razed the capital city, taking the name Ra’s al Ghul.

Bat Out of Hell: Ra’s al Ghul’s History

Ra’s:My time is short. I have no sons. I need a man to assume my position when I am gone.
Batman:Then it was a test? But why me?
Ra’s:Because you are most worthy. That is now proven beyond any doubt. And because my precious daughter loves you.

Batman: the Animated Series “The Demon’s Quest” (Season 1, Episode 60)

Ra’s al Ghul traveled the world to study science, culture, and warfare. He discovered Lazarus Pits existed around the world. These pits allowed him to remain young as centuries passed. Not content with only learning, Ra’s reformed his army into the League of Assassins to serve as his agents across the globe, protect his interests, and kill his enemies.

As the Industrial Revolution began Ra’s worried about new technology polluting nature. Humans were growing more prevalent and spreading the technology further while wasting resources. He became an eco-terrorist, seeking to wipe out most of humanity to protect nature. He soon learned that the Lazarus Pits were having a diminished effect on him. For the first time in centuries, Ra’s was dying and needed a successor, but who?

The answer came when his daughter, Talia al Ghul, encountered a vigilante called Batman. Ra’s investigated the hero and quickly deduced his identity, finding a man with similar drive. Ra’s offered Batman command of his empire and Talia’s hand in marriage in exchange for taking up his crusade. Despite his feelings for Talia, Batman refused, sparking a feud between the two families.

Ra’s al Ghul got his successor when Talia drugged and raped Batman, soon giving birth to a son named Damian al Ghul. Ra’s trained Damian to be the ultimate assassin and considered putting his mind into Damian’s body. Batman eventually learned of his long-lost son and rescued him from the League. The Caped Crusader gave him the name Damian Wayne and trained him to be the new Robin.

Immortal Kombat: Ra’s al Ghul’s Powers and Personality

Ra’s:He murdered the boy. That was not by design. I underestimated my ability to control The Joker just as I underestimated his madness. It grieved me sir, to be a party to something so brutal.
Batman:You’ve never shied away from drawing blood.”
Ra’s:True, but always with purpose. Always with greater goals. This was simply an unnecessary casualty.

Batman: Under the Red Hood

Ra’s has no superpowers, but has honed his skills over centuries. He is a master swordsman who primarily wields scimitars. He is also an expert martial artist, escape artist, archer, infiltrator, and assassin. If that wasn’t enough, Ra’s is a genius who has studied medicine, strategy, philosophy, and chemistry.

The Lazarus Pits are Ra’s ultimate get-out-of-death-free card. The mystical waters heal his wounds, make him younger, and resurrect him if he is killed. This last effect is dangerous because the reborn are driven mad by the process, sometimes permanently. Ra’s gained an affinity for magic after bathing in the original Lazarus Pit, the Well of Sins.

Ra’s al Ghul is diabolical, but has a code of honor. He is unfailingly polite, loyal to his allies, and avoids killing where he can. He does not kill indiscriminately, and even his more genocidal plans have the number of victims carefully calculated. Ra’s and Batman frequently work together during tough situations, but always wind up at odds over his murderous designs and Batman’s refusal to kill.

The Actors Who Play Ra’s al Ghul

David Warner – Batman: The Animated Series
Peter Woodward – Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Oded Fher – Young Justice
Lance Reddick – Beware the Batman
Matthew Nable – Arrow
Alexander Siddig – Gotham
Giancarlo Esposito – Son of Batman
Jason Issacs – Under the Red Hood
Liam Neeson – Batman Begins

Didya get all that?

A demon hiding in the shadows.

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