Ra's Al-Ghul (Arabic for "the Demon's Head") is a DC Comics
supervillain and is considered a second Arch-Nemesis
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 Seventies
, he is more accurately a product of The Sixties
, 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. 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 refuse to 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.
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".
- 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: You don't become equal to Batman by being anything less.
- 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.
- Bigger Bad: 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.
- 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".
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- Dangerously Genre Savvy: Many of his plans involve using Batman's own gambits against him.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: See Immortals Fear Death below.
- 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.
- 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."
- I Want Grandkids: Well, he has them, but not enough for an heir.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.