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Ra's Al Ghul

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

Probably the biggest threat to the world in Batman's Rogues Gallery, Ra's al Ghul (Arabic for "The Demon's Head", and pronounced "Raysh Al-Ghool" or "Rahz Al-Ghool" depending on the adaptation) is a centuries-old man who leads an enormous international terrorist organization known as DEMON (as well as the League of Assassins). Unlike most of the other Bat-rogues, he is actually quite cultured and polite, if ruthless, and genuinely believes his goals to be noble. Of course, since his goal is to "purify" the world by killing off ninety percent of its population, Batman disagrees.

Being an intelligent and Wicked Cultured man, Ra's Al-Ghul takes some cues from the James Bond villains popular at the time. He first appeared in 1971 but took much of the 1980s "off", rarely appearing as a Batman antagonist, before being revived in a big way for the 1990s.

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Ra's is second only to The Joker in Batman's Rogues Gallery, and is a more straightforward Evil Counterpart to the Dark Knight. Like Batman, Ra's has wealth, skills, charisma, intelligence, and cutting-edge-technology, but unlike Batman, he also has the League of Assassins, 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 (though this does have the side effect of temporarily driving the subject insane). Such a practice has allowed him to live centuries, if not millennia, and he's taken advantage of such a long lifespan to master swordsmanship, war strategies, various fighting styles, and many other skills. 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...

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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, who later gets better. 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.

Ra's has come to blows with both Batman and the rest of the Justice League of America many times, one time unleashing a genetically engineered virus on Gotham, and on another occasion, taking down most of the JLA with Batman's contingency files. He himself, however, was killed by one of his daughters, also a user of the Lazarus Pits, who was furious at him for leaving her to die at a Nazi Concentration Camp. Though he eventually returned to life, Batman was able to imprison him in Arkham Asylum under the guise of an inmate named Terry Gene Kase, and assigns him "medication" that keeps him highly sedated.

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.

Ra's Al-Ghul has appeared in:

Earth-One

Post-Crisis

DC Rebirth

Elseworlds

Film — Animated

Film — Live-Action

Live-Action TV

  • Arrow: Ra's al Ghul is referenced as early as the first season by former League member Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), with Sara Lance/The Canary as one of his agents in Season 2. He appears in person in the third season, played by Matt Nable. It's revealed Ra's is a Legacy Character, with individuals taking the name having their life extended by the Lazarus Pits. At the end of the third season, Malcolm Merlyn ends up taking the title of Ra's al Ghul.
  • Gotham: Ra's al Ghul appears in the second half of the third season, played by Alexander Siddig.

Video Games

  • Batman: Arkham City: Ra's al Ghul appears played by Dee Bradley Baker. Ra's turns out to be the Man Behind the Man regarding the events of the game. He is still referenced either in story dialogue or easter eggs in the other Arkham Series games.
  • Batman: Dark Tomorrow: Though most of the game is set in Gotham and Arkham Asylum, after defeating the Joker, it is revealed that Ra's is the mastermind behind the game's events, and Batman must go into the Himalayas to stop him from using a satellite to wipe out Gotham.

Western Animation


Tropes which describe Ra's Al-Ghul:

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    A to M 
  • Abusive Parents: Despite fancying himself a Family-Values Villain and a Papa Bear, he's often been an emotional and physically abusive parent to his children:
    • While Talia is his favored child and he has shown to love Talia in his own way, he's often been portrayed as a terrible father:
    • He seemingly held a grudge against Nyssa when she defected from the League to live a normal live, and as such, refused to assist her when she and her family were captured by Nazis in World War II and sent to concentration camps. Needless to say, Nyssa also grew to hate Ra.
    • His only known son, Dusan, was born a frail albino and was then immediately considered an Inadequate Inheritor and suffered from Parental Neglect from that moment on, despite the fact that Dusan devoted his entire life to serving Ra's.
    • The animated series gave him a son named Arkady Duvall who takes after his father in several ways, megalomania especially. Seemed all set up to take over before a clash with Jonah Hex left him amnesiac for the rest of his life. Ras tried To save him with a Lazarus Pit but it was too late for his son.
  • Adaptation Name Change: The League of Assassins is sometimes renamed in non-comic works. Batman: The Animated Series called it the Society of Shadows, and the Dark Knight Trilogy called it the League of Shadows, as does Young Justice (2010).
  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul: Just how healthy of a relationship he has with his children and subordinates shifts from adaption to adaption.
    • More directly while Sensai was revealed as his father for the mainstream continuity in Resurrection, other comics such as Batman Odyssey have him as Ras son.
  • Adaptational Sympathy: He was already an Anti-Villain and his Post-Crisis origin story establishes him as having a Tragic Villain backstory in "Birth of the Demon". However, even that can fall apart a little when you consider how he willingly worked for a fickle Sultan with an evil son and engaged in open athletic horse races with the Prince that seriously injured bystanders, not to mention he had a twisted look on his face when he first brought back the Prince through the Lazarus Pit like he enjoyed playing God. His Rebirth incarnation in the "I Am Robin" storyline gives him a much more understandable reason for willingly becoming a court physician, because he had his elderly and sick mother, Ruh al Ghul, traveling with him and Sora at the time. Ultimately, his mother died before the tragic events that ended Sora's life and began the Start of Darkness for Ra's but it was because of his desire to help his mother and to use a Sultan's resources to cure her that Ra's is given much more rhyme and reason for working under a capricious Sultan and his evil son.
  • Affably Evil: Genuinely courteous to his antagonists, especially Batman who he respects and sees as an equal. To the point he casually knows many of Batman's secrets, such as his Secret Identity, but rarely makes use of them to try to actively ruin Batman's life.
  • 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".
  • Age Without Youth: He becomes this if he doesn't periodically rejuvenate himself in the Lazarus Pits.
  • Alternate Company Equivalent:
    • Played With, as in modern times, Ra's has been considered DC's answer to The Mandarin from the Iron Man comics, despite Ra's being Arab and the Mandarin being Chinese. This is due to both characters being the foreign archnemeses of American billionaire superheroes, their comparable intellects, resourcefulness and fighting prowess. However, this was not DC's original intent for Ra's, as they based him more on James Bond villains. Nowadays, it's rather that the Mandarin's current characterization in the comics has been off of Ra's, not the other way around. Considering how Iron Man himself has been considered Marvel's answer to Batman, the parallels between Ra's and the Mandarin make sense.
    • More directly, he was created as Batman's equivalent of Ernst Stavro Blofeld of the James Bond film series.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Ra's is Arabian, though possibly with some mixed Chinese ancestry. Depending on the Artist Ra's and Talia are subject to looking anything from East European to Arabic to Asian. Notably in Batman Begins, Japanese actor Ken Watanabe as Ra's al Ghul was a decoy for the reveal that Henri Ducard, played by Irish actor Liam Neeson, is Ra's al Ghul at the end (it's left ambiguous if Watanabe's Ra's was the actual Ra's 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.
  • Animal Wrongs Group: He has tried multiple times to wipe out more than eighty percent of Earth's population, because it would allegedly return Earth to a more stable ecosystem. However, the moments at which he really shows his Animal Wrongs side are when dealing with the menagerie of endangered animals he collects and keeps. In the opening of "Tower of Babel" in particular, he was shown to have had a henchman murdered because he'd accidentally killed a rare sort of tiger cub by feeding it chocolate, dooming its species to extinction according to Ra's.
  • Arch-Enemy:
  • Arch Nemesis Dad:
    • Often to his own children, who oppose his ideals.
    • He sees Bruce almost like the son he never had, and he actually plans on making him both his heir and his son-in-law by marrying him to his daughter Talia, something both Bruce and Talia are seriously tempted to do.
    • His own father, Sensei, often struggles with him for control of the League of Assassins. He and Batman teamed up to defeat him.
  • Archnemesis Dad: Often to his own children, who oppose his ideals.
    • A similar situation exists between Batman and Ra's al Ghul. He sees Bruce almost like the son he never had, and he actually plans on making him both his heir and his son-in-law by marrying him to his daughter Talia, something both Bruce and Talia are seriously tempted to do.
    • Talia al Ghul has a complicated love/hate relationship with Ra, and has fought him many times, to the point it's not unreasonable to say he's one of her greatest enemies.
    • He became Nyssa's sworn enemy when he abandoned her and her family to the Nazis during World War II, leading her entire family save for her to be wiped out in their concentration camps.
  • Back from the Dead: To the point that he's become a Plot Device for resurrecting other characters in the Bat-family.
  • Badass Cape: As if the trope pic couldn't tell you that his heavy green cape edged in elaborated gold embroidery doesn't create an imposing figure.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Being a Man of Wealth and Taste, he prefers to dress immaculately. Especially when meeting with other villains, such as in the Secret Society.
  • Badass Normal: He's a normal human with no superpowers, although access to the Lazarus Pit has made him Long-Lived and thus has allowed him to learn many combat techniques through his many years.
  • Battle Butler: He's usually accompanied by his Giant Mook manservant named Ubu. It's sometimes implied Ubu is a title and thus a Collective Identity or a Legacy Character.
  • Beard of Evil: His beard's design has consistently invoked a very "Fu Manchu"-esque appearance, especially in works which leaned more heavily into his roots as a Yellow Peril antagonist.
  • Big Bad: For lots of storyarcs involving Batman and his related characters, and sometimes even the Justice League. The most notable one is Justice League of America: Tower of Babel. In fact Ra's is commonly seen as the top gun of Batman's rogues gallery in terms of threat level and ambitions; even the Joker, while insanely dangerous on his own, serves more as a personal threat toward the Dark Knight.
  • Body Backup Drive: Has a lot of "spare bodies" (read: his own children) ready for use.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: He's often a Non-Action Big Bad that has his servants to the heavy lifting, and is usually accompanied by bodyguards, usually his Giant Mook Battle Butler Ubu. Despite that, Ra is actually an incredibly skilled fighter and a Master Swordsman, usually stronger than his actual bodyguards. One notable example being in Bane of the Demon when he delivers Bane a Curb-Stomp Battle to Bane even after he made short work of Ra's bodyguards.
  • Body Surf: Has done this on occasion while "dead". It usually never sticks, however, as he will often find his way back into his old body (or, sometimes, a cloned one greatly resembling the original).
  • Born in the Wrong Century: In the time era where he came from, Ra's Al-Ghul was a kindhearted physician who had a mindset that was progressive and charitable to all men, even evil men like the prince who lusted after his wife. Unfortunately, his era was also a time of brutality, conquest, palace intrigue, and the strong taking what they wanted from the weak. Sadly for Ra's, he was on the wrong end of his time era's ugliness which destroys his idealism and kickstarts his Start of Darkness.
  • Breakout Villain: Debuting decades after Batman's creation, Ra's is a relatively newer addition to his rogue's gallery, but still considered one of the best and most memorable. Even in continuities or stories that have nothing to do with Batman whatsoever, Ra's will often appear as a major threat, Big Bad or Arc Villain, demonstrating his massive appeal.
  • Cain and Abel and Seth: More family members of his keep popping up, not just more children but also his sister and even his original wife.
  • 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.
  • Came Back Wrong: Sometimes Depending on the Writer, but using the Lazarus Pit makes R'as a little less sane every time he uses it, which is why he tries not to. Future stories have the Pit having diminishing returns using after a thousand years.
  • 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.
  • Cerebus Retcon: In Ra's Al Ghul first appearance, he wanted Batman to marry his daughter and have children with her. That was shown as him wanting a male heir to the point where Batman called him the world's oldest misogynist. But then, when he was resurrected, he planned to take over his grandson's body which was his plan all along. Showing that he did not want a male heir to continue his legacy; he wanted a male heir so he could have a new body to be immortal.
  • 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: He picks the mates for his daughters based on their worthiness, often genetic, as he once discarded Azazel as a potential mate for Talia when he found his genes wanting.
    • For Talia, he has chosen Batman as the ideal breeding partner and mate. Ironically they both are attracted to each other, and would have likely ended up together if it wasn't for Ra's ideals clashing with Batman's.
    • Nyssa, Talia's sister, once chose Tim Drake, but failed. This was arranged by and eagerly watched Ra's himself as part of his ongoing very uncomfortable interactions with Tim that started around the time Damian first came to Gotham.
    • Ra's himself has done this with more women than you can count. In Birds of Prey he actually tries to marry Black Canary / Dinah Lance, even having her bathe in one of his Lazarus Pits so she could restore her ability to bear children,
  • 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. Ra's is often regarded as a prophet (or sometimes, even a god that will lead humanity into a new age. By, of course, killing off billions of the ones currently alive and remaking a new society in his image.
  • Darwinist Desire: Ra's desires a biologically optimal mate for his daughter. He dismissed Azrael as a possibility when his biology showed some traces of other animals (specifically, a gorilla was used as a surrogate mother to carry him to term).
  • Dating Catwoman: During one story arc in Birds of Prey he started dating and almost married heroine Black Canary, much to Oracle's distress.
  • Death Is Cheap: Thanks to the Lazarus Pits, Ra and his close associates have easy access to extending one's lifespan and resuscitation. The Lazarus Pits were actually far more limited before, being one-use only and couldn't truly bring someone Back from the Dead, only heal fatal wounds and restore their youth. But over time they started to be the go-to Plot Device for all sorts of immortality and resurrection shenanigans in the DC Universe, to the point they have been used to resurrect various 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.
  • Depending on the Writer:
    • In some continuities, Ra's Al-Ghul's centuries of fighting abilities are too much for Batman in a fight and Batman isn't able to do much more than foil his plans. In other incarnations, however, Batman is quite capable of defeating him in combat (albeit with some effort) and Ra's usually ends up getting humbled in some way at the hands of the Dark Knight.
    • His villainous plots and the motives behind them can vary depending on the continuity. Originally he was a fanatical eco-terrorist who wants to purge the world of most of humanity. Later writers note  present him as being a Well-Intentioned Extremist who desires to combat crime and civilizational decadence through extremely brutal methods that Batman has a hard time getting behind. And of course, there are also some writers who don't even bother giving him more sympathetic motives and just present him as a murderous global terrorist who does what he does For the Evulz or to just personally spite Batman.
    • Does he truly respect Batman or is he being Faux Affably Evil? Writers approach him different ways:
      • Some writers treat Ra's as someone who truly wishes Batman no harm, but sees him as someone who unfortunately must go For the Greater Good.
      • Others portray Ra's as an ultimately selfish bastard who only "respects" Batman as far as it furthers his goals, and who will mercilessly destroy Batman's life in extremely petty ways for daring to refuse his offer.
    • Some portray Ra's as someone who is willing to die for what he believes in, whereas his life is secondary to the Utopia he envisions. Others make him a megalomaniac who just wants make his own personal paradise, with people who further his schemes, and more women whom he can impregnate and discard at leisure.
  • 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.
  • The Dreaded: Everyone, wheter they're heroes or villains, is terrified of Ra's and even the toughest characters become frightened when they learn he's involved in a scheme or they've provoked his anger. He regularly shows exactly why he has such a reputation every time he shows up.
  • Eco-Terrorist: Ra's is dismayed at the human population boom and the way nature has suffered as a result. He plans to kill off most of humanity to forcibly restore the balance between humanity and the world.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: While he mostly operates in Asia, his criminal empire and 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. In Death and the Maidens, he indirectly acknowledges that he takes no pleasure in the deaths he has caused in the name of his crusade, viewing those deaths as "necessary" while making it clear he doesn't want to face them again. He also makes no effort to hide his contempt for Lex Luthor, seeing him as representative of everything Ra's hates about modern society.
  • Evil Is One Big, Happy Family: Subverted quite often. In particular, Ra's is typically disgusted by maniacs such as the Joker, who would have no place in the greater world he dreams of building (although he often does respect the Joker's "purity". He has also shown disdain for opportunitic moguls like Lex Luthor, who epitomizes the greedy, capitalistic society that Ra's wants to tear down, although he respects Lex as an intellectual equal. And Ra's also butts heads with Vandal Savage, which usually reveals a lot about both men, as their ultimate goals tend to overlap, but neither would accept the other ruling at the top of the "new world" they wish to build.
  • Evil Old Folks: Emphasis on old. A Long-Lived terrorist and mass murderer who abuses his own daughters and grandson and has predatory grooming interactions with Tim Drake starting when Tim was in high school and culminating in Ra's very eagerly arranging for Tim to be raped and murdered when Tim was 18. Tim and Cass weren't putting up with that though.
  • Exit Villain, Stage Left: Unlike most of Batman's rogues, Ra's tends to escape capture rather than repeatedly break out. Justified since Ra is an international criminal, and Batman can't simply just throw him at Arkham or give him to Jim Gordon to arrest.
  • Expy: A little Ernst Blofeld and a lot of Fu Manchu. And the bit about wanting the hero to marry his young daughter is Marc-Ange Draco.
  • Familial Body Snatcher: Some stories and adaptations have him branch to this type of immortality, as an explanation of why he wants grandkids so bad. Of note is the "Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul" story arc, where Ra came Back from the Dead after a long period of time after he got Killed Off for Real by Nyssa in Death and the Maidens. He returns using the body of a League servant, but it starts to fall apart quickly due to it being incompatible, which leads to him seeking out Damian, who is his ideal host. But when he's prevented from taking Damian's body by Batman and Talia, his unfavored albino son Dusan, sacrifices himself to give Ra's a compatible body, causing Ra to actually have an albino appearance for some time.
  • 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 Ra's 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 at the cost of degrading his mental faculties.
  • 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 and the other Bat-Family members when he wants to be, sometimes just because he's a Noble Demon who considers them Worthy Opponents, sometimes because he's trying to manipulate them.
  • Gaia's Vengeance: His prime motivation is to destroy most of humanity for the harm they do to Mother Nature.
  • Genius Bruiser: He's a brilliant intellect, having gained extensive knowledge in a variety of fields over the course of his lifetime, and has centuries of experience in various forms of combat including numerous martial arts and sword fighting, able to defeat even Batman.
  • Grand Theft Me: One of the ways he prolongs his life. It's left ambiguous how many times (if at all) he's ever done this, as most of his children are blood-related, implying that he's only used the one body over the various centuries. Other works have stated that he's attempted this, but the transfer failed for one reason or another. It's also one of the main areas of research for the League of Shadows, as the number of available Lazarus Pits he has begin to dry up or become less potent.
  • 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's had a least two daughters who were extremely competent at managing his criminal empire, but he still considered them inadequate to the job of being his heir, purely due to being women. So he tends to throw them at men to produce better candidates. Ironically the only male heir he's known to have, Dusan Al Ghul, was born a frail albino, and thus also considered an Inadequate Inheritor.
  • 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.
  • It's Personal Over time his status as a Friendly Enemy to Batman has deteriorated and he's become a bitter enemy instead, as he started to personally blame Batman for Talia and Damian abandoning him.
    Ra's Al Ghul: [while talking to Lady Shiva] I fear I have become petty, Shiva. "Batman" has shattered my family. So I must shatter his.
  • I Want Grandkids: Ra's is in search of a worthy male heir, since his only "worthy" child, Talia, is a woman, and he constantly plans to have her married to a Chosen Conception Partner, whether she wants to or not. (Talia and Nyssa have claimed the only reason he doesn't sire one himself is because he's usually celibate and doesn't want to marry just any woman). He did get his wish when Damian was the produce of Talia and his Worthy Opponent Batman, but much to Ra's ire, Damian chose to follow his father's footsteps instead of being the heir Ra wanted.
  • Iconic Sequel Character: Despite his importance, and that of various relatives, to the Batman franchise, he wasn't introduced until 1971 in real-world time, 32 years after the debut of the Dark Knight himself.
  • Immortality
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: On several occasions, R'as had the opportunity to kill Batman and his allies after foiling his plans, but instead congratulated them and let them go. Highlighted in a Batman/Daredevil crossover, when Bats quietly tells DD and the Kingpin to just leave and not try to get some karmic revenge on him.
  • Immortality Promiscuity: Ra's has had many lovers and many children across the centuries, though rarely considers them worthy of being heirs.
  • 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. When he does call him Batman, it's usually meant as an insult.
  • It's All About Me: The degree can vary depending on the writer, but the only thing Ra's consistently cares about is Ra's himself. It's all about his plan to create a utopia, his plan to take on Batman as his heir, and his desire to live for as long as he possibly can, no matter the mental or moral cost.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Stories about Batman are not normally light-hearted or comedic, but Ra's al Ghul's first appearance "The Demon's Quest" in the 1970s is an early example of Batman becoming darker. Coming just a scant few years after the campy TV series, following a legacy of over three decades of gimmicky, costumed villains, Ra's was simply a very wealthy and very warped (albeit semi-immortal) man who, for reasons that made perfect sense to him but no one else, wanted to wipe out 90 percent of the human race. This was also the point in history at which Batman himself began to change, returning from the Dudley Do-Right archetype he'd cultivated during the 1950s and '60s to the stern, brooding, and slightly unhinged "dark" vigilante he was always meant to be. It's notable that the "Demon's Quest" storyline had the same effect two decades later when it was incorporated into the animated series, and then again a decade after that with Batman Begins, which was quite the palate-cleanser after Batman & Robin. Even the grisliest Joker stories are guaranteed to have a few laughs; Ra's al-Ghul stories are invariably about genocide, which is almost never funny, especially when the character is no-nonsense.
  • Large and in Charge: He's the head of a vast international network and stands at a very imposing 6'4 with a muscular build to match.
  • 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 Ra's al Ghul whimsically talk of how myths and legends have mundane explanations. Arrow has Ra's explain that even with the Lazarus Pit he is only 150 years old (normally Ra's is upwards of 600 years old), but that he had succeeded the Ra's 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.
    • Her 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 sword fight.
  • Middle Eastern Terrorists: Hardly a conventional example; he doesn't appear to even be religious, let alone a fundamentalist Muslim. But he is Arabic- specifically, descended from a nomadic Central Asian tribe that settled in the Arabian peninsula (possibly something like the Uyghurs).
  • 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 wishes 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.
  • Moving the Goalposts: Some depictions imply that this is the reason he will never find a "worthy" heir. Ra's has lots of children, but none of them (especially the women) ever met his standards. He thus charges his daughters with siring a worthy grandson, but even when they do, he will typically invoke some Secret Test of Character with rules only he can understand, which the heir-to-be usually fails. He'll then send his daughters after more men to sire more "heirs", and the cycle repeats.

    N to Z 
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Ra's al Ghul means "the Head of the Demon".
  • Noble Demon: Pun inside, he may be a Well-Intentioned Extremist with genocidal goals, but he has a code of honor which he adheres by.
  • No Brows: In the original design, creators Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams specified that Ra's has no eyebrows; to give him a subtly exotic appearance. Many later artists have missed this detail, and draw him with eyebrows.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: Officially his name is said "Raysh Al-Ghool", but not everyone got the memo when it comes to Batman media with voice acting. While the "Al-Ghool" part sticks for the most part, the first part has variably been pronounced "Raysh", "Rash", "Raws", "Roz", "Raz", and more.
  • No Shirt, Long Jacket: Ra's really likes to loom about around Tim with no shirt under his long cape, starting with their meeting during The Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul.
  • Old Master: Emphasis on old. Ra's is over seven hundred years old, and has spent most of that time mastering various forms of combat — particularly, hand-to-hand. He is capable of giving Batman a run for his money.
  • Ominous Opera Cape: Many of his outfits have him adorn a high-collar cape, giving him the appearance of a very classical villain. Fitting, considering that he is very old and old-fashioned.
  • 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.
  • Parental Favoritism: Talia has been the only child he has ever truly paid attention to.
  • Prefers Proper Names: Ra's uses proper names for those on whom he has not bestowed a title like "detective", for instance he calls Tim "Timothy", Cass "Cassandra" and Dick "Richard".
  • Professional Killers: Leads a league of assassins. He is also trained in various forms of assassination and stealth himself, although his advanced age make it impractical to use them when he has thousands of minions more suited for the task.
  • Really Gets Around: Depending on the Writer, he's had 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. His ultimate plan is to destroy modern civilization (as he considers it terminally corrupt and unsalvagable) and then create a new, "better" world run by people he considers wiser and more worthy. Some depictions make this a sincere goal on his part, with Ra's willing to leave things to a capable and worthy heir. Other depictions treat this as sheer megalomaniacal fantasy on his part, whereas he only wants a "better" world if he is the one to rule it, and any "heir" would only be himself in a new body or form.
  • Secondary Color Nemesis: Ra's has a particular affinity for green, be it formal wear, robes, or whatever.
  • Secret Secret-Keeper: He knows Batman's Secret Identity is Bruce Wayne, but considers it irrelevant, and revealing his identity would be counterproductive towards his goals. Now that Damian’s around, it wouldn’t be hard to connect the dots back to him should his identity become public knowledge. Pre-Flashpoint, it was common knowledge that Talia Head (former CEO of LexCorp) was Damian’s mom but it’s unclear if they knew she was Ra’s daughter.
  • Sinister Scimitar: He's commonly depicted wielding one of these, cementing his "evil ancient Arabian" origin.
  • Sketchy Successor: What his father Sensei views him as.
  • Sleight of Tongue: At the conclusion of "The Saga of Ra's al Ghul", Batman is stung by a scorpion while fighting a duel against Ra's. Talia lingers by the dying Batman, saying she wishes to give him one last kiss. However, she uses the kiss to give him an antidote to the scorpion venom, allowing him to recover hours later.
  • 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.
  • Statuesque Stunner: An example himself given he's 6'4" and got a Silver Fox thing going on, it runs in the family too as Talia is incredibly beautiful and stands 5'8"
  • Straw Misogynist: Depending on the Writer, some versions of Ra's Al Ghul range from being skeptical of women's competence and capabilities, to downright despising the entire gender and seeing them only as servants and breeding stock. This is most often exemplified in his insistence that his daughters "sire" a worthy heir for him, while very rarely entrusting any of them with the role.
  • Suave Sabre: Uses these when he's not wielding a Sinister Scimitar when he does it's usually during his nobler depictions.
  • The Syndicate: Leads a vast criminal organization called "the Demon", (hence "the Demon's head") of which the League of Assassins is just the tiny part that reports directly to him.
  • Tragic Villain: His own wife was murdered and he was framed for it, which helped to kickstart his misanthropy. Over the many centuries of his life, he's made attempts to befriend individual people and has even attempted to see the good in mankind, only to be inevitably disappointed and have his disdain for humankind reinforced all over again.
  • 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.
  • Übermensch: 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: Having given up hope on humanity, Ra is willing to kill billions of people in order to save the Earth from collapse caused by humans.
  • 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. He sees his own work as a way to save the planet and guide humanity to a new path. Most heroes just see it as plain genocide and world domination.
  • 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: Ra is actually a passionate environmentalist who loves nature and the planet, and has started to see humanity as a cancer that needs to be removed so the planet can be restored, which means his plans to "save the world" are often genocidal in nature, with him wanting to kill most of the planet's population.
  • Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?: Most depictions have Ra's deduce Batman's Secret Identity as Bruce Wayne by answering this question, as Ra's recognizes that Batman uses so many gadgets (none of which could be affordable to most Gothamites) that Batman would have to be a literal billionaire under the cowl.
  • Wicked Cultured: He's certainly lived long enough to become adept in many different philosophies, cultures, languages, and customs and his houses often contain vast libraries which he's constantly perusing.
  • 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 and later shows similar respect to Tim Drake, even calling him "detective" as well.
  • Yellow Peril: Well, he's actually Arabian with some Chinese ancestry, but he's modeled after these kinds of characters. In Ra's al-Ghul's case, he manages to not be too ethnically offensive as he's given a sympathetic backstory to make him a well-rounded and three dimensional Anti-Villain. And it helps in that in most media, his Ambiguously Brown ethnicity means he can be portrayed by different actors of European, East Asian, and Middle Eastern ancestry.
 
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Alternative Title(s): Ras Al Ghul

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Ra's Villain Song

Ra's Al Ghul brainwashes Kara Danvers through song.

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