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Ra's al Ghul, sometimes written Rā's al Ghūl ( ), is a DC Comics supervillain and is one of Batman's greatest enemies. His name is Arabic for "The Demon's Head," and references the name of the star Algol. Created by writer Dennis O'Neil and artist Neal Adams, he was introduced in Batman #232's "Daughter of the Demon" (June 1971). Given his high status as a supervillain, he has also come into conflict with Superman and other superheroes in the DC Universe. Ra's al Ghul has been featured in various media adaptions, most notably the 2005 Christopher Nolan film, Batman Begins, where he was portrayed by actors Liam Neeson and Ken Watanabe, the latter being a decoy.

IGN's list of the Top 100 Comic Book Villains of All Time ranked Ra's al Ghul as #7.

Character overview

Ra's al Ghul is an international terrorist and assassin whose ultimate goal is a world in perfect environmental balance. He believes that the best way to achieve this balance is to eliminate most of humanity. Ra's usually tries to assault the world's human populace with a biological weapon, such as a genetically-engineered virus. He is aided in this quest by the Lazarus Pits, reservoirs of rejuvenating chemicals that restore the dying to life; these pits have granted him a lifespan of several centuries.

He regards Batman (whom, out of respect for his intellectual brilliance, he addressesas "Detective") as his most worthy opponent, and has frequently sought to make the Dark Knight his successor. He is one of the few criminals in Batman's rogues gallery to have deduced his secret identity as Bruce Wayne. For his own part, Batman's opposition to Ra's is complicated by his love for the villain's daughter, Talia.

Fictional character biography


Ra's al Ghul's early life and exact age have been described differently by various writers. His current, Post-Crisis origin story is told in the graphic novel Batman: Birth of the Demon (1992) by Dennis O'Neil and Norm Breyfogle.

As told in Birth of the Demon, Ra's al Ghul is born over 600 years before his first appearance in Batman comics, to a tribe of nomads in a desert somewhere in Arabia, near a city whose inhabitants' ancestors have journeyed to the Arabian Peninsula from Chinamarker. Ra's is interested in science from an early age, and abandons his tribe to live in the city, where he can conduct his scientific research. He becomes a physician and marries a woman named Sora, the love of his life.

Ra's discovers the secret of the Lazarus Pit, and he saves a dying prince by lowering him into it. The prince, who is sadistic to begin with, is driven completely insane by the Lazarus Pit. He proceeds to strangle Sora, on whom he has already had his eye for some time. The ruler of the city, unwilling to admit to himself his son's culpability, declares Ra's guilty of the crime and sentences him to a slow, tortured death in a cage with Sora's corpse.

Ra's is set free by the son of a dying elderly woman, whom Ra's had earlier examined. The son feels that he owes Ra's a debt for easing his mother's suffering during her last few hours. Ra's and the son head into the desert to seek the tribe of Ra's birth. Ra's convinces the head of his tribe, his uncle, to follow Ra's in his quest for revenge by promising the downfall of the king of the city. By understanding the germ theory of disease hundreds of years before anyone else, Ra's is able to infect the prince with a deadly virus by sending him contaminated fabrics. When the ruler of the city comes to ask Ra's to cure the prince again, Ra's kills both him and his son. Ra's then leads his tribe to raze the city to the ground and kill all of its inhabitants. Subsequently, Ra's declares himself the "Demon's Head."

Note: Batman: Birth of the Demon provides a rough figure of 500 years for Ra's al Ghul's age. Due to living so long, he assumes to have lost track of how old he is. However, Azrael #6 (July 1995; written by Dennis O'Neil) places Ra's age closer to 450 years. As he tells Jean Paul Valley; "I appear to be a vigorous fifty. I am actually a very vigorous four hundred and forty-eight...or is it four hundred and fifty-three? I lost count during the Black Plague. No matter." However, in Batman Annual #25 (published in 2006), Ra's al Ghul is described as a "700-Year Old International Terrorist."

Ra's spends the next several centuries journeying the world. He fights in the Napoleonic Wars and the French Revolution and becomes a formidable warrior. During this time, Ra's, his uncle, and the boy are all using the Lazarus Pits to prolong their lives until an incident in Londonmarker. Ra's catches the boy writing his own memoirs in their original language, of which Ra's has forbidden all records. During a battle, Ra's kills the boy and flees to a Lazarus Pit, which he uses. When he returns to their home in London, his uncle has vanished with the remnants of their historical records.

Over time, he becomes a master of many forms of combat, notably fencing. He also builds up vast wealth and creates The Demon, a huge international organization. According to Justice League of America (1st series) #94; "It has been whispered in the darkest places for 500 years that a cartel of criminals has slowly sucked its way into the rich veins of the Earth. Many are its names spit from the mouths of men, but most often it is cursed only as ...The Demon. It has a leader ... a Head." The League of Assassins, one of the many smaller organizations making up The Demon, is thus sometimes called "The Demon's Fang" or "Demonfang."

Contagion and Legacy

Ra's returns to prominence and comes dangerously close to realizing his dream of worldwide genocide in the "Contagion" story arc of the Batman titles. His organization unleashes a deadly virus known as Ebola Gulf A (a.k.a "The Clench") in Gotham City, putting Batman in conflict with a force he seemingly cannot defeat. A cure is eventually located by Batman and his allies, though the mastermind behind the outbreak is not discovered until the follow up story "Legacy".

Learning that the Demon's Head still lives, Batman and his team circle the globe, preventing further outbreaks of the virus. Ra's allies himself with Bane, the man who once crippled and nearly killed Batman. Ra's considers Bane a potential heir to his empire, despite his daughter Talia's distaste for the criminal mastermind. Eventually, Batman deduces a way to eliminate the Clench virus from an ancient "Wheel of Plagues" artifact whose knowledge has aided Ra's in the creation of the disease. The immortal madman again eludes justice, however.

JLA: Tower of Babel

In the "Tower of Babel" storyline, in JLA #43-46, Ra's discovers Batman's contingency plans for stopping the other members of the Justice League of America, should they turn or be turned evil, and uses them to try to destroy the group. Meanwhile, Ra's steals the bodies of Batman's parents. This theft prevents Batman from realizing Ra's is using his traps until it is too late, as he is distracted by the search for the corpses of his parents.

Though defeated, Ra's does cause the exit of Batman from the JLA, who now distrust the Caped Crusader. Though some of the Leaguers resent Batman's plans, they agree that the plans were created for the right reasons.

Talia, disillusioned with her father, leaves the League to run LexCorp for former U.S. President Lex Luthor, before selling the company to Bruce Wayne for his Wayne Foundation to aid Batman and Superman's victory over Luthor. Ra's blames Batman for his failed relationship with Talia, and stages a plot where he tries to separate Batman from his heir, Dick Grayson, shortly before Wayne officially adopts his former ward as his son. The plan fails, and Wayne and Grayson go ahead with the adoption.

Ra's is also featured in Birds of Prey #31-35, where he has a romantic fling with the Black Canary. The superheroine is injured and healed in the Lazarus Pit, which also restores the Canary Cry she lost years earlier.

Death and the Maidens

In Death and the Maidens (2004), Nyssa Raatko, furious at her father for abandoning her in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II, begins plotting to destroy him. Nyssa befriends Talia and then kidnaps and brainwash her. Nyssa plots to destroy all hope and optimism in the world by assassinating Superman with Kryptonite bullets she steals from the Batcave. While Batman stops Nyssa from killing Superman, he is unable to stop her from mortally injuring her father. A dying Ra's reveals that this is all part of his greater plan to ensure that his daughters will realize that he is correct in his perceptions about the world and what needs to be done to it, and that they would come to accept their destinies as his heirs. Ra's' plan works: both Nyssa and Talia become the heads of The Demon and the League of Assassins. Talia disavows her love for Bruce Wayne, and both sisters declare Batman their enemy. However, it is too late for Ra's, as Nyssa stabs her father through the heart, seemingly killing him for good. To ensure Ra's will not return, Batman oversees his nemesis' cremation.

Titans Tomorrow

In the Teen Titans "Titans Tomorrow" storyline, the Titans are transported into the future, where a future Bette Kane mentions a deal with Ra's to use the Lazarus Pits.

The Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul

In Batman Annual #26, Talia is prompted to read the history of Ra's al Ghul to her son Damian by a mysterious figure from Ra's past: the White Ghost. Unbeknownst to her, the White Ghost plans to use Damian as a vessel for Ra's return. However, mother and son escape before the plan is completed. After the escape, Batman confronts the White Ghost; he fights Batman, but accidentally falls into a Lazarus pit.

As of Batman #670 Ra's al Ghul has returned, having evaded death by transferring his consciousness into the body of another. Because his host body is decaying from radiation poisoning, he needs to transfer his mind into another host body. His first choice is that of his grandson Damian Wayne, but Damian escaped to alert his father.

Upon taking Ra's to a "Fountain of Essence," which contains the qualities of a Lazarus Pit, Batman is confronted with the sight of Sensei, who is revealed to be Ra's father. (Batman #671, January 2008) After defeating Ra's, Sensei fights and impales Batman with a cane. Determined to win, Batman drags the Sensei into the Fountain, where he is killed for not being a pure soul. Ra's, meanwhile, has taken over the body of a Nanda Parbat monk and departs. Healed by the Fountain, Batman emerges and yells for Ra's.

[[Image:Ra's al Ghul -White Ghost.jpg|thumb|130px|left|Ra's returns in the form of his own son, Dusan al Ghul, البيضاء مهجورة
(English translation from Arabic: The White Ghost).

Art by Ryan Benjamin.]]Ra's attempts to make amends with Batman after his resurrection, but Batman responds by crushing his decaying fingers.
Ra's accepts this latest rebuke and, with the help of his men, overpower Batman and capture Damian, who has arrived to try to help his father.
Ra's attempts to take over Damian, but Batman breaks free just as Robin, Talia, Alfred Pennyworth, and Nightwing arrive to save him.
While the battle ensues at Nanda Parbat, the White Ghost takes Ra's to a secluded place, where the terrorist appears to accept the fact that his death is inevitable.
However, the White Ghost, revealed to be Ra's estranged, albino son Dusan, offers up his own body instead.
Ra's performs the transfer of souls, but the White Ghost dies soon afterward.
Ra's resumes the battle and attempts to kill Batman, but the monks at Nanda Parbat stop him and banish him from the temple.

Detective Comics #840 details the aftermath of The Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul storyline. Ra's al Ghul, in his new body, moves his base of operations to Gotham City where it is revealed that a remnant of his son Dusan's consciousness still remains within him. This arrogance attributes to the brazen move to Gotham and a subsequent ninja attack on Batman, which indirectly leads to the discovery of a map of all the known Lazarus Pit locations across the globe. Batman then infiltrates Ra's al Ghul's new Gotham penthouse headquarters and easily defeats his horde of ninjas and Ra's himself. To ensure Ra's is not a constant threat within Gotham City, Batman comes up with the false identity of "Terry Gene Kase," and plants it along with credible photos, medical records, and police records for both Blackgate Penitentiary and Arkham Asylum. Batman takes an unconscious Ra's directly to Arkham where it is believed he really is the prisoner "Terry Gene Kase," a criminal with multiple personality disorder who has just been transferred to Arkham to finish out multiple life sentence. Along with attaching false information and a false identity to Ra's al Ghul's file, Batman attaches a false prescription of potent medication that ensures slurred speech and next to zero mobility.

In Nightwing #145 however, the orderlies miss Ra's dosage once, which allows him to become conscious enough to escape from Arkham.

Ra's is currently involved in Red Robin's (Tim Drake) search for evidence concerning the fate of Bruce Wayne.

Powers, abilities, and weapons

Due to his vastly expanded life span, Ra’s has accumulated a vast knowledge of hand-to-hand combat, chemistry, detective artistry, physics, and martial arts (all of which rival that of Batman). He has also gained many international contacts and a vast fortune, gained over centuries. When in combat, he favors more ancient weaponry (as he has had more time to utilize them than modern weaponry). These weapons include katana swords, bolas, throwing stars, smoke pellets, and miniaturized explosives. Ra's is also assisted by his devoted, musclebound servant Ubu.

Ra’s greatest weapons however are his Lazarus Pits, which will heal him of any injury (even if he is recently dead) while de-aging him back to his prime of life. His constant exposure to the pits has also granted him slightly enhanced endurance and healing.

Other versions

  • In the graphic novel Son of the Demon, Ra's successfully enlists Batman's aid in defeating a rogue assassin and warlord, Qayin (a variation on the spelling of Cain), who has murdered Ra's' then-wife Melisande (Talia's mother). During this storyline, Batman marries Talia and she becomes pregnant. Batman is nearly killed protecting Talia from the assassin's agents. In the end, Talia ends her relationship with Batman, unwilling to put him in danger. She claims to have miscarried and the marriage is dissolved. The child is eventually born and left at an orphanage (eventually taking the name Ibn al Xu'ffasch). The only identification provided is Talia's jewel-encrusted necklace, which once belonged to Talia's mother. Two Elseworlds stories, Kingdom Come and Brotherhood of the Bat, feature two alternate versions of Ibn as an adult, coming to terms with his dual heritage. A recent appearance of the child (under the name Damian) in an issue of Batman implies that this policy may have changed.
  • Ra's (or possibly a clone) has previously been revealed as alive in the 31st century setting of the post-Zero Hour reboot Legion of Super-Heroes, impersonating Leland McCauley.
  • In the first Superman & Batman: Generations series, created by John Byrne, Bruce Wayne tracks Ra's al Ghul after passing the Batman mantle on to his son. Ra's offers Bruce a chance at immortality, having discovered a means of attaining truly eternal life, without the ensuing madness, from one Lazarus Pit: two souls enter and the Pit destroys one while imbuing the other with youth and immortality. Bruce survives and uses Ra's' criminal empire to set up an anti-crime information network. He also becomes a near-immortal, aging one year for every century.
  • In the second Spider-Man/Batman crossover book (considered an Elseworlds story), Ra's begins plans for worldwide devastation. He manipulates the Kingpin to his side by infecting the crime lord's wife Vanessa with cancer and promising him the cure in return for his allegiance. Ra's then orders him to press the button on his machines which would send New York Citymarker under the ocean. Ultimately, Spider-Man and Batman interfere and the Kingpin reveals that he knows Ra's' plans and allows the two heroes to board his plane so they can assist him. Defeated, Ra's bows out of the plan gracefully but claims that there is no cure for the cancer. Vanessa convinces her husband that she wishes no further violence, and they leave. Talia soon gives the cure to Batman, who then gives it to Spider-Man, who passes it on to the Kingpin.
  • In the Amalgam Comics alternate dimension, Ra's is fused with Marvel Comics supervillain Apocalypse to become "Ra's Al-Pocalypse." Ra's daughter Talia is fused with Lady Deathstrike to become "Lady Talia."
  • In Captain Carrot and the Final Ark, Ra's is parodied as Rash Al Paca, an alpaca who plans to save the environment from "animalkind" by increasing global warming and flooding the planet.



The father of Ra's al Ghul, Sensei is considered a highly skilled martial artists having trained a great number of the League of Assassins. After being thought dead following a previous battle with Ra's, Sensei returned and revealed his true connection with Ra's. He views his son as a failure who continues to live like a cockroach.


In Batman: Death and the Maidens (2004) by Greg Rucka, it is revealed that Ra's fathers a child named Nyssa Raatko while traveling in Russiamarker in the 18th century. Enamored of her mother's romantic stories of Ra's, Nyssa sets out to find her father and eventually locates him at his headquarters in North Africa. Impressed by her beauty, her warrior skills, and the fact that "she was able to locate him," he promotes her to a high position within his organization. Ra's is so impressed with her abilities that he even allows Nyssa to use his Lazarus Pits; Nyssa finds a means of making the Lazarus Pits reusable (previously, each could only be used once).

Nyssa eventually becomes disillusioned with Ra's ideals and methods and disassociates herself from her father sometime in the 18th century. Ra's reluctantly approves this with the idea that she would return to him and that she and/or her children would become his future heirs. To his disappointment, Nyssa refuses to give herself or her family to Ra's; he retaliates by disowning her. During World War II, Nyssa and her family are sent to a concentration camp, where she is rendered infertile by gruesome Mengele-esque experiments, as the rest of her family is exterminated. Ra's, who is temporarily allied to the Nazis, abandons her and her family. Nyssa begins plotting her revenge, which comes to fruition years later.

In Robin: One Year Later, it is revealed that Cassandra Cain, the former Batgirl, has assassinated Nyssa and then taken over the League of Assassins.


Talia al Ghul is also Ra's' daughter and accompanies him for many years. With the recent loss of her sister, she has apparently taken control of The Demon.In Batman: Son of the Demon (1987), Talia's mother was said to have been murdered by Qayin, a terrorist, back in the late 1940s. As explained by Talia in Batman: Birth of the Demon (1992), Ra's had met a woman of mixed Chinese and Arab ancestry at Woodstockmarker. Talia is the result of that union.

Talia is also the mother of Damian Wayne, whom she conceived with Bruce Wayne on the Tropic of Cancermarker and thus Ra's grandson. Damian is rebellious toward his grandfather, especially since Ra's previously have tried to takes over his body along as one of his father's enemies; he is currently the fifth Robin.


Ra's' only known son. He is born with the name Dusan al Ghul (Arabic: دوسان الى الجامعة العربية), but because he was an albino, Ra's called him "the failed one" and kept him alive only out of pity. He was also known as البيضاء مهجورة, which translates from Arabic as The White Ghost. Dusan sacrifices his body in order to ensure his father's life. After his son's apparent death, Ra's wishes he had treated Dusan far better, as he was the only child who remained loyal to him. It is later reveals there are some remains of The White Ghost's consciousness still resides within his body with Ra's, still seeking his father's approvals.

Involvement with Batman

After Talia encounters and falls in love with Batman in Detective Comics #411 (May 1971), Ra's begins to consider Batman as a possible heir. Ra's first deduces Batman's secret identity when he realizes that the Dark Knight has to be rich, and learns that only Bruce Wayne has bought the equipment that a crime fighter would have; he is then ready to put Batman to a final test.

Ra's surprises Batman in the Batcave, seemingly to enlist Batman's aid in rescuing both Talia and Dick Grayson, the first Robin, both of whom have apparently been kidnapped. Batman soon discovers that the whole affair is a charade orchestrated by Ra's to test Batman, which he passes. Ra's asks that Batman become his heir, which Batman refuses, appalled by his genocidal plan to "cleanse" the world.

From that point forward, Ra's al Ghul and Batman are mortal enemies, even though they respect each other as adversaries. Ra's is similar to The Riddler in his acknowledgment of Batman's intellectual capabilities first and foremost.

In the story "Resurrection Night" in Batman #400, Ra's helps all of Batman's foes to escape from Arkham Asylum and the Gotham State Penitentiary, setting them on a plan to abduct certain individuals across Gotham City who are linked in one form or another to Batman. However, Ra's' true intent is to show Batman the folly of his efforts to protect a corrupt society that, to his mind, allows criminals to exist and flourish. Ra's eventually uses the Pit while still healthy, both increasing his strength and putting his life at risk, in an attempt to outmatch the Dark Knight. The plan backfires, as Ra's is left writhing in the pit, seemingly destroyed.

Other media


  • In Batman: The Animated Series, Ra's al Ghul (voiced by David Warner) first appears at the very end of "Off Balance." This sets the stage for subsequent appearances — each as the episode's villain — in the two-part episode "The Demon's Quest," adapting his attempts from the comic to make Batman his heir and then to cleanse the world of humanity, "Avatar," where he makes an attempt at true immortality, and "Showdown," where he relates a long-ago battle with Jonah Hex, who also battles Ra's deranged son Arkady Duvall (voiced by Malcolm McDowell).

  • In the Superman: The Animated Series episode "The Demon Reborn", Ra's al Ghul was dying as the Lazarus Pit became ineffective of prolonging his aging body, so he attempts to steal Superman's powers using an ancient Native American artifact to save himself. He almost succeeds, but is thwarted by Batman before the process is complete. However, the process has rejuvenated his body enough for him to resume his usage with the Lazarus Pit once more. He and Talia disappear at the battle's end.

  • Sometime between the events of Justice League Unlimited and Batman Beyond, Ra's al Ghul has one last confrontation with Batman and the rest of the Justice League in the Near-Apocalypse of '09. Talia assists Batman and the League in this battle and Ra's is apparently killed.

  • In the Batman Beyond episode "Out of the Past", an elderly Bruce Wayne believes Ra's to have died after the Near-Apocalypse of '09. However, he survived but was badly injured and the injuries he sustained were far beyond the Lazarus Pit to heal and would have eventually die. He went on to possess his daughter Talia in order to stay alive. He tries to take over Bruce's body, but is thwarted by Wayne's successor as Batman, Terry McGinnis, and presumably killed when his mansion is destroyed. This was Ra's al Ghul's final produced and chronological appearance in the DC Animated Universe.


Liam Neeson as Ra's al Ghul/Henri Ducard in a promotional image.
  • In the film Batman Begins, Ra's al Ghul is played by Liam Neeson, and is the main antagonist of the film. He is the head of the centuries-old League of Shadows, an organization that is dedicated to keeping order and justice in a world which it views as decadent and corrupt. For the first half of the film, he goes by the name Henri Ducard and acts as a mentor to a young Bruce Wayne, teaching him the martial arts trainings and ninjitsu methods that he will one day use as Batman. During this time, Ducard hides behind a decoy Ra's al Ghul. The decoy (played by Ken Watanabe) is killed while battling Bruce in the first half of the movie. In a later confrontation, the real Ra's al Ghul is apparently killed in a train wreck. There is no reference as to whether this version of the character has any means of prolonging his life as in the comic books. However, Ra's does jest that he as an idea is immortal at Bruce Wayne's birthday party.

Video games

  • He is also the final boss and main villain in the 2003 video game Batman: Dark Tomorrow voiced by Don Leslie.

  • He is also an unlockable character in Lego Batman: The Video Game. He is also unlockable through the "Villain Hunt" minigame in the Nintendo DS version and by collecting all 300 minikits (30 per level), saving all hostages and buying Hush in the console versions. He has no special abilities and fights using a pair of nunchuks, similar to Nightwing.

  • There is a riddle in Batman: Arkham Asylum stating "It'll be a cold day in hell when this Ghul rises again." Ra's al Ghul's body can be found zipped up in a body bag in Arkham Mansion's morgue, as the answer to the riddle. If the player returns after completing the game, the body is gone.

Collected editions

His stories have been collected into a number of volumes:

  • Batman: Tales Of The Demon (1991), collecting the original 1970s Ra's al Ghul stories by Dennis O'Neil
  • Batman: Birth Of The Demon (1992) by Dennis O'Neil and Norm Breyfogle, giving the origin of Ra's al Ghul
  • JLA Vol. 7: Tower Of Babel (2001), by Mark Waid, in which Ra's goes up against the Justice League of America (ISBN 1-56389-727-X)
  • Batman: Death And The Maidens (2004) by Greg Rucka and Klaus Janson, giving the ultimate death of Ra's al Ghul (ISBN 1-4012-0234-9)
  • Year One: Batman - Ra's al Ghul (2005) by Devin K. Grayson and Paul Gulacy, which takes place a year after Ra's' death in Death And The Maidens

See also


External links


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