Comicbook / Ra's Al-Ghul

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"A criminal mastermind more dangerous than The Joker and Lex Luthor put together."
Batman

Ra's Al-Ghul (Arabic for "the Demon's Head") is a DC Comics supervillain and is considered a second Arch-Nemesis for Batman.

Ra's Al-Ghul first appeared in 1971 to provide a new type of villain, and Worthy Opponent, for the Dark Knight. Though created at the dawn of The '70s, he is more accurately a product of The '60s, and was influenced by the popularity of James Bond. Ra's is a archetypical Bond Villain, but slightly tweaked to fit in well with Batman and the greater DC Universe.

As stated, Ra's is second only to The Joker in Batman's Rogues Gallery, and may better fit the mold of an Evil Counterpart than the clown does. Like Batman, Ra's has wealth, skills, charisma, intelligence, and cutting-edge-technology, but unlike Batman, he also has an entire shadow organization at his beck and call which follows him like a devoted cult, called either the League of Shadows or the League of Assassins. Ra's' ultimate goal is to stop the slow death of the planet Earth... by wiping out most of humanity. In its place, he plans to build a new society which will be overall superior.

Ra's is nearly immortal—he is literally Really 700 Years Old. His life is extended by repeated usage of the Lazarus Pit, a mystical spring which can retard the aging process, heal virtually any wound, and even bring back the dead (temporarily driving the subject insane, however). However, repeated use of the Pit has made him addicted, and he has grown more and more reliant upon it as his time grows short. Which brings us to our next point...

The next thing Ra's is most famous for is his beautiful daughter, Talia Al-Ghul. After Catwoman, Talia is Bruce's second great love. And like Catwoman, being on opposite sides keeps them apart. Talia is often conflicted by her loyalty to her father and her love for Batman. She will often pick one over the other, only to change her mind again later.

Ra's whole-heartedly approves of the relationship between Batman and Talia, but only insofar as it will produce him an heir should Batman himself comply. He finally got his wish when Batman and Talia had a one-night-stand (or she raped him, Depending on the Writer) and she gave birth to Damian Wayne. However, Damian later defected and Talia had him cloned. Then the clone later kills Damian. In other realities, Bruce and Talia's son is Ibn al Xu'ffasch, and he does take over for Ra's; in a mild twist, Ibn is a benevolent leader.

Ra's and Batman have a mutual respect for one another, and Ra's has even helped Batman at times as a show of good faith. However, he will just as easily disavow their "friendship" and declare that he and Batman are fully enemies (this has happened at least a billion times), and he's not above using brutal, efficient, and downright inhumane tactics to defeat his nemesis.

And if that weren't enough to make him awesome, Ra's is one of the few Batman villains that is fully aware of Batman's Secret Identity, even knowing the location of the Batcave.

Ras Al Ghul and/or Talia have appeared in other works:

Tropes which describe Ra's or Talia Al Ghul

  • Affably Evil: Genuinely courteous to his antagonists, especially Batman.
  • Affectionate Nickname:
    • Refers to both Bruce and Tim as "Detective" as a sign of respect. He also never uses the title "Batman", since he views Bats as Bruce with a mask on.
    • Likewise, he refers to Superman as "Icon".
  • Ambiguously Brown: Ra's is Arabian, though possibly with some mixed Chinese ancestry. Depending on the Artist Ras and Talia are subject to looking anything from East European to Arabic to Asian. Notably in Batman Begins, Japanese actor Ken Watanabe as Ras Al Ghul was a decoy for the reveal that Henri Ducard, played by Irish actor Liam Neeson, is Ras Al Ghul at the end (it's left ambiguous if Watanabe's Ras was the actual Ras or was a pure decoy on the part of Ducard). In any case, both actors were a decent match for the character.
  • Anti-Villain: He has good motives, is highly respectful to heroes, and has strong ties of loyalty. On the other hand, he's a Social Darwinist, and considers anyone who doesn't agree with him to be an enemy.
  • Arch-Enemy: He's Batman's secondary nemesis, after The Joker.
  • Arch Nemesis Dad:
  • Assassin: Leads a league of them.
  • Back from the Dead: To the point that he's become a Plot Device for resurrecting other characters in the Bat-family.
  • Badass Beard: LOOK at it.
  • Badass Cape: As if the trope pic couldn't tell you.
  • Badass Grandpa: In some cases, he's more of a great-great-great-great-(add a few more greats)-grandpa.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Again, look at the trope image.
  • Badass Normal: Lazarus Pit aside, he's completely human.
  • Beard of Evil: Oh yes.
  • Big Bad: For lots of storyarcs involving Batman and his related characters, and sometimes even the Justice League.
  • Body Backup Drive: Has a lot of "spare bodies" (read: his own children) ready for use.
  • Body Surf: Has done this on occasion while "dead".
  • Breakout Villain
  • Calling the Old Man Out:
    • Did this to his own father, who was revealed to be "The Sensei", his second-in-command.
    • Many of his children have done this. In particular, Talia has shown extreme displeasure whenever he uses her feelings for Batman to lure her beloved into a trap.
  • Canon Immigrant: Ibn al Xu'ffasch first appeared in the Elseworlds story Kingdom Come. Bruce suspects he's his son, but it isn't confirmed til near the end.
  • Characterization Marches On: For the longest time, he was known as an environmentally sensitive villain who believed nature should be treated with respect. However, by the time of "The Hunt for Robin" storyline, Ra's al-Ghul seemingly has no problem using whales as incubation factories for his new Damien clones, causing them great pain and death in the process. And considering whales are considered a very vulnerable species in general, Ra's, at this point, doesn't appear to be as environmentally sensitive as he used to be.
  • The Chessmaster: Better at it than any other Bat-villain. Even The Joker.
    • Ironically, the Joker is one of the few characters to actually beat him in literal chess (the others include Batman and Bane).
    • Many of his plans involve using Batman's own gambits against him.
  • Chosen Conception Partner:
    • Talia has chosen Batman as her ideal breeding partner and mate.
    • Nyssa, Ra's sister, once chose Tim Drake, but failed.
    • Ra's himself has done this with more women than you can count.
  • Combat Pragmatist: While he'll often fight Batman in a one-on-one duel as a show of respect, he'll start fighting dirty when it looks like he's actually gonna lose.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: Talia's anguish stems from her desire to please her father and live happily with her beloved Batman.
  • Crazy-Prepared: The sheer number of methods this guy can use to bring himself Back from the Dead is staggering. But we wouldn't know about them if he weren't forced to use them.
  • Daddy's Girl: Talia is certainly this. She is torn by her loyalty to her father and her love for Batman.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: Talia has done some really, really, abhorrent things to please her father.
  • Dark Messiah: This is how his followers, including his loyal children, see him.
  • Death Is Cheap: To the point that his Lazarus Pit has become the go-to Plot Device for resurrecting other characters (such as Lady Shiva, Jason Todd, Batwoman, and others).
  • Depending on the Artist: The trope picture shows gives him a lighter complexion than usual.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: His backstory in Birth of the Demon reveals that was on the receiving end of some serious injustice from his hometown (namely, his wife got killed by a spoiled prince, and then the king convicted him for it). Once he's escaped, he leads a band of marauding nomads to slaughter the entire city. This is somewhat deconstructed, though, as he acknowledges that the experience doesn't really make him feel any better.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: The League of Assassins employs people of every nationality and ethnicity.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: He generally opposes measures such as nuclear weapons that do more harm that good to the World's environment and he is often shocked by the savage, sadistic nature of villains such as The Joker. Ra's may not have a problem spilling blood but he won't do it unless he feels he must.
  • Evil Counterpart: Designed to be this for Batman.
  • Evil Old Folks
  • Exit Villain Stage Left: Unlike most of Batman's rogues, Ra's tends to escape capture rather than repeatedly break out.
  • Expy: A little Ernst Blofeld and a lot of Fu Manchu.
  • Flash Forward: He once fought (or will have fought) the Legion of Super-Heroes, a thousand years from now. However, it turns out that this Ras is just a clone of the original, who was presumably long dead. The clone did not know this, and takes the discovery very badly.
  • Fountain of Youth: The Lazarus Pit, which has prolonged his life.
  • Freudian Excuse: He had his wife murdered before his very eyes by the spoiled prince he had just saved. He was then wrongfully accused of murdering his own wife. Then he was left in a cage in the desert to rot before finally being saved. The kind of tragedy Ra's went through would screw just about anybody up. All it took was one bad day to turn him into the would-be world conqueror that he is now.
  • Friendly Enemy: He can be very amiable to Batman when he wants to be.
  • Gaia's Vengeance: His prime motivation is to destroy humanity for the harm it does to Mother Nature.
  • Genre Savvy: One of the few villains who thought about Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys? and figured out Batman must be loaded. Egghead in the live-action series also thought about that but Bruce managed to mislead him. Ra's actually discovered Batman's identity.
  • Grand Theft Me: One of the ways he prolongs his life.
  • Greater Scope Villain: A number of villains are, or used to be, minions of his.
    • David Cain is an instructor for the League of Shadows.
    • Lady Shiva was intended to be one of his finest warriors, but she prefers being on her own.
    • His daughter Nyssa has troubled the Bat-family at times.
  • Heir Club for Men: He has lots of daughters, but considers none of them adequate to the job of being his heir. So he tends to throw them at men to produce better candidates.
  • Hypocrite: Depending on the Writer, but many depictions of him focusing on his villainous nature tend to highlight how, under his grand goals and lofty plans, Ra's is really no better than the petty, shallow and selfish "common masses" he rails against.
  • I Want Grandkids: Well, he has them, but not enough for an heir.
  • Immortality
    • Resurrective Immortality: The Lazarus Pit can bring him back, if he needs it. But, it is less and less effective as he naturally ages.
  • Immortality Seeker: One of his defining traits, and often used to push his more hypocritical depictions; Ra's is absolutely terrified of dying and will do whatever he can think of in order to preserve his own existence. Although he has the Lazarus Pits as a matter of course, he knows they're not 100% reliable — they can be exhausted, tainted or destroyed, and are either very hard or even outright impossible to replace — and so he's always looking for alternatives, either metaphorical (having worthy heirs) or literal.
  • Immortals Fear Death: Technically. He hates the idea of dying without his vision coming to fruition, and will do whatever it takes to prolong his life. If he had a worthy heir, he might be able to rest more comfortably—but even then, he'd probably stick around just in case, probably by taking the heir's body for himself. Even after his pits are destroyed, he still plans on using cloning to keep going.
  • Insistent Terminology: Ra's always calls Bruce "Detective", almost never "Batman", if ever.
  • It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY"!: The first part of his name has been pronounced at various times as "Roz," "Raz," or "Raysh," but never by its Real Life Arabic pronunciation "Ross."
  • Legacy Character: A couple of adaptations, The Dark Knight Trilogy and Arrowverse, have taken to using this as an alternate to his Lazarus Pit immortality. Batman Begins has the characters talk of his immortality and The Reveal in the climax has the Henri Ducard Ras Al Ghul whimsically talk of how myths and legends have mundane explanations. Arrow has Ras explain that even with the Lazarus Pit he is only 150 years old (normally Ras is upwards of 600 years old), but that he had succeeded the Ras Al Ghul before him.
  • Longevity Treatment: He needs more and more frequent trips to the Lazarus Pit remain young.
  • Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter:
    • Talia to Batman, but rare for the trope, Ra's approves. But only because Talia might be able to seduce Bruce into becoming his successor, or at least produce a grandchild that will.
    • His sister tries this with Tim Drake as well. Although in her case, she doesn't actually "love" Tim.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: He expresses a fondness for the finer things, particularly truly exceptional works of human triumph.
  • Master Swordsman: He's boasted of having fenced in the courts of King Louis XII through XVI, and surviving Cossack dueling circles - right before kicking Bane's ass in a swordfight.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: Doesn't care about killing millions or even billions of people, but is distressed when Joker kills Jason Todd in Batman: Under the Red Hood. Bats calls him out on this, and this is Ra's explanation.
  • Misanthrope Supreme: Has nothing but contempt for humankind, aside from his "chosen" people.
  • Motive Decay: Frequently and often, versions of Ra's Al Ghul are introduced as a genocidal Well-Intentioned Extremist who wishs to turn the Earth into a paradise, but later on be pre-occupied with ever more selfish and heinous methods of just cheating death. Its implied that Batman, however, views him as a selfish bastard through and through, who hides behind eloquent philosophical excuses to dress up what is nothing more than egotism and megalomania.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Ra's al Ghul means "the Head of the Demon".
  • Noble Demon: He has a code of honor which he adheres by.
  • Old Master: Emphasis on old.
  • Ominous Opera Cape
  • The Paranoiac: Ra's Al Ghul has all the hallmarks of a paranoiac Narcissist cult leader. Most notably, he is a Control Freak whose League of Assassins has a policy of punishing failure with death, something that rarely seems to produce results but would serve the purpose of making the worlds deadliest assassins more eager to succeed than turn against him. In addition, he never once accepts responsibility for messing up his family nor any blame for any of the murders and atrocities he has committed over the centuries, or plans to commit in future. He is also prone to Revenge on everyone who isn't Batman, whom he admires and perhaps secretly envies, although his gigantic ego is rebuffed by the Detectives refusal to marry his daughter and become his heir. He is utterly cynical about the rest of humanity and is a firm believer in Might Makes Right and Violence Is the Only Option, punishing any follower- or Dark Knight- who disagrees with him with object lessons. Essentially, he comes across as a man who secretly fears that he isn't as special as he always thought he was, and falls back on increasingly violent and extreme methods to both prove that wrong and stop anyone from questioning his superior image.
  • Really Gets Around: Has lots of kids, from a lot of mothers around the world, but none that are apparently worthy to be his heir.
  • Restart the World: Ra's' basic modus operandi.
  • Secret Secret-Keeper: He knows Bats is Bruce Wayne, but considers it irrelevant, and revealing his identity would be counterproductive towards his goals.
  • Sinister Scimitar: He's commonly depicted wielding one of these, cementing his "evil ancient Arabian" origin.
  • Sketchy Successor: What his father views him as.
  • Skunk Stripe: As pictured, he tends to sport these to demonstrate that he's old, but not quite washed up. However, when his Lazarus rejuvenation begins to wear off, his hair rapidly turns white.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Interestingly, Bane beat Ra's at actual chess without having ever played the game before and the Joker also beat Ra's at a game as well by constantly switching strategies during the game.
  • Social Darwinist: His entire philosophy is a combination of this and eco-terrorism; Earth's population has grown too large, and the vast majority of those souls are unworthy to live, especially as they defile the precious ecosystems of fragile Mother Earth. Consequently, he wants to cut out the "dead wood" of humanity and leave only the worthy to rebuild and repopulate.
    • Fittingly, at least one comic claims he actively worked with the Nazis as part of his goals to exterminate as many people as possible.
  • Sparing the Aces: One of the reasons he's so determined to lure the Bat-family to his side.
  • Stalker with a Test Tube: He has targeted Batman and his "sons" to produce a "worthy heir". He encourages his daughters (and his sister) to accomplish this by any means necessary. While Talia herself would rather do this the old-fashioned way, both she and Ra's sister have stooped to rape to accomplish it. Allegedly.
  • Tautological Templar: Fully believes that Humans Are Morons and wants to wipe out ninety-percent of the global population to create a utopia. And he decides who lives in that utopia.
  • ‹bermensch: He believes he lives up to this ideal and, as such, he's justified in his goals to take over the world.
  • Unwanted Assistance: Ra's often lends assistance to Batman when he sees need to, but it isn't always the kind of help he wants.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means; Willing to kill billions of people in order to save the Earth from collapse.
  • Villainesses Want Heroes: Ra's encourages to the point that you almost believe he wishes he was Talia. In Batman Beyond, he was Talia thanks to a Grand Theft Me. He later tried to pull another one on a rejuvenated Bruce and pass as son of Bruce and Talia so he could merge his empire with Wayne Enterprises.
  • Villain Respect:
    • The villain that most respects Batman, to the point that he always refers to him as "Detective".
    • He later begins calling Tim the same thing.
  • Visionary Villain: The top one in Batman's Rogues Gallery, if not the entire DC Universe.
  • We Can Rule Together: To anyone whom he believes is a worthy heir.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: His son, Dusan, couldn't rest after death until he got Ra's approval, which Ra's finally grants him.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Will go to any length to do what he believes is the right thing.
  • Wicked Cultured: He's certainly lived long enough to become adept in many different philosophies, cultures, languages, and customs.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Every time he uses the Lazarus Pit, he loses some sanity - and he knows this.
  • With Us or Against Us: Will show no mercy to anyone who opposes his ideals.
  • Worthy Opponent: Considers Batman one.
  • Yellow Peril: Well, he's actually Arabian, but he's modeled after these kinds of characters.
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