Ra's al Ghul (pronounced "Raysh"; Arabic for "The Demon's Head") was an eco-terrorist who has lived for over 600 years through the use of Lazarus Pits.
Over his long lifetime, Ra's became a master planner, an expert fighter, independently wealthy and the leader of a powerful criminal organization, making him one of Batman's most dangerous foes.
Now known as "Ra's al Ghul", he founded the Society of Shadows to work towards his goal of reversing all the damage that modern human progress had done to the earth and restoring it to a pure world free of technology. He also fathered at least two children: Arkady Duvall and Talia.
Using an earlier incarnation of the Society of Shadows in 1883, he and Duvall created an airship and attempted to destroy the Transcontinental Railroad, halting the advance of the U.S. and its citizens into the then relatively untouched western frontier. From there Ra's and Duvall planned on using the airship to attack Washington D.C. and take over the United States; however, Ra’s and Duvall found themselves opposed by Jonah Hex who had been tailing Duvall for some time. Hex managed to put a stop to Ra's and Duvall's plans by destroying the airship and apprehending Duvall, forcing Ra’s to flee and abandon his son.
Encounters with Batman
Decades later, Ra's al Ghul's presence was first made known to Batman through a rogue splinter group of the Society of Shadows. He orchestrated a series of events to eliminate Vertigo from the picture and acquire a sonic drill, using his daughter Talia to carry out his will. His plan was almost successful, but Batman managed to sabotage the sonic drill before it reached him. At this, Ra's was forced to admit that Batman — "The Detective", as he called him — had attained some small measure of victory, but quickly declared that this was not over.
Later, Ra's met Batman right in the Batcave, much to the Caped Crusader's surprise. Ra's requested his help in tracking down his daughter and Dick Grayson as they had both been kidnapped on the same night. However, it didn't take Batman long to realize that Ra's himself had done Talia's and Dick's kidnapping, and the whole thing was part of a plan to make Batman his heir, and carry on his legacy. When Batman refused, a disappointed Ra's chose to speed things up and accomplish his goals in his own lifetime by saturating the planet with the contents of the Lazarus Pits, killing a high percentage of the Earth's population. Again, Batman thwarted his plot, preventing the cataclysm from happening and knocking Ra's himself into a Pit.
However, Ra's had survived, and returned some months later when he and his servant Ubu broke into the Gotham Museum and stole the scroll of Osiris. Batman then went to Gibraltar to find Talia where he learned that the scroll was half of a map (of which Ra’s has the other half) leading to the tomb of Thoth Khepera, and that Ra’s is obsessed with finding it. Talia agreed to help Batman apprehend Ra’s, and the two of them confronted Ra's at one of his old sanctuaries in Cairo. Here, he told them that Thoth Khepera was thought to have control over life and death, and that he now wanted that power for himself. Ra’s subsequently denounced Talia as his daughter, and then attempted to kill both Batman and Talia; but Batman and Talia escaped the trap that Ra’s had set for them.
After catching up to Ra’s at the tomb of Thoth Khepera they all discovered that Thoth Khepera was actually some form of demon who steals the life energy of those who find her. Talia and Batman managed to save Ra’s and Ubu's lives, but Ra’s was able to escape as he accepted Talia as his daughter again, which caused Talia to immediately betray Batman. Talia, Ra’s and Ubu also left Batman stranded in the middle of the desert, although Ubu gave him his water canteen as a way of thanking Batman for saving his life.
Ra’s resurfaced some months later when he abducted an unidentified man from a nursing home in Gotham City. Batman and Robin found an audio tape in the man’s room left by Ra's. They subsequently rushed to the nearest airport to intercept Ra’s, and on the way listened to the story that had been recorded on the tape. Recorded on the tape was Ra’s narrating events that happened in 1883 and once this story was finished, Batman and Robin arrived at the airport, where Ra’s revealed that the man he had abducted was none other than Arkady Duvall. Ra’s said that Duvall had been able to live for so long because his access to the Lazarus Pit earlier in his life, and although he was now too old for the Pit to save him, Ra’s wanted to be with his son during the last days of his life. Batman was sympathetic and willingly stepped aside, allowing Ra’s to get away.
Ra's continued to come into conflict with Batman, even attempting to prolong his own life by stealing Superman's powers. At the end of this ordeal, he and Talia were caught in a collapsing cavern. In the aftermath, neither one could be found, dead or alive.
One way or another, Ra's al Ghul escaped death again and set into motion the Near-Apocalypse of '09. But in the end, Ra's was left at the brink of death and the Lazarus Pits unable to repair the damage of his body. He saved himself by transplanting his mind into another body; because at the time it would only work between blood relatives, the only candidate was Talia. He asked her to sacrifice herself and she gave her permission, ceasing to exist. In his new body, Ra's took over Talia's legal identity and was able to keep himself alive through the years with the Lazarus Pits, as well as "improve" his image with charities.
Since after Bruce Wayne retired by the 2040s, Ra's al Ghul correctly guessed that the new Batman was the assistant Terry McGinnis. Ra's, still posing as Talia, met the elderly Bruce on his birthday. Baiting Bruce with a supposed second chance with Talia and after staging an incident to show how infirm he had become, Bruce was convinced to use the Lazarus Pit. Bruce allowed himself to be immersed once. However, when he realized how unnatural the process was, he tried to get out of the deal — only to discover that Ra's was not only inhabiting the body of Talia, but he now wanted to take on the body of his rejuvenated nemesis, having perfected the mind transfer process.
Ra's planned to return to Gotham with genetic and written proof that he was the "long lost son" of Bruce and Talia and use this to gain control of Bruce's company and holdings to fund his underground organization. At the last moment, Terry intervened, interrupting the process and causing Ra's' lair to go up in flames. As his enemies fled, Ra's refused to leave, desperately trying to save his equipment and successfully extinguished the flames. However, moments later, an exposed electrical cable struck the surface of the Lazarus Pit, setting off an explosion. It's presumed that Ra's perished in the blast with the last Lazarus Pit destroyed.
Powers, Abilities and Weapons
Through years of studying and practice, Ra's al Ghul had become one of the world's greatest swordsmen, capable of matching Batman in battle. He was also a gifted weapons expert. Aside from this, Ra's also possessed a world-class intellect, equaling if not surpassing that of the Dark Knight himself. Ra's al Ghul was the leader of a large and extremely powerful organization of ninja called the Society of Shadows, was in possession of vast resources and finances, and due to this had immense political influence. By regular dips in Lazarus Pits he had been able to live for over six centuries in his prime age.
The man who would become Ra's al Ghul was once a nomad living in Arabia several centuries ago. Fascinated in science, he became a physician at a city and married a woman named Sora. Ra's discovered the Lazarus Pit and used it to cure the son of the City's ruler, but the Pit drove the already sadistic man to insanity, and he killed Sora. Ra's was charged with the crime and sentenced to death in a cage with his wife's corpse and left in the desert. Helped by some nomads, Ra's called upon his tribe to massacre the city, and used the Lazarus pit to achieve immortality. Over the years, he formed an organization known as "the Demon", with himself as its "head", to punish the sins of humanity against the world. He also formed the League of Assassins, which he describes as the "Demon's fang", eliminating those who would seek to oppose him.
Although he genuinely loves his Talia, and views her as the most loyal and formidable of his progeny, Ra's al Ghul is an avowed sexist who believes women to be inferior to men, which has fueled his search to find a husband for Talia that could one day succeed him. After discovering that Talia and Bruce Wayne have had a child together (Damian Wayne), Ra's has since then completely broken ties with his daughter, when he attempted to use Damian's body as a new vessel for his soul. Damian has since then taken over the role of Robin, following Batman's death, and Dick Grayson assuming the Batman identity.
Batman: The Animated Series was Ra's first appearance in media other than the comic books. In the DCAU, his first name is mispronounced as "Raysh", unlike the 2005 movie Batman Begins that correctly pronounces his name "Raz", while the TV Series Arrow used both pronunciations. Notably, in Batman Beyond, Terry McGinnis was corrected by Ra's in Talia's body when Terry seemingly intentionally called Ra's "Raz".
- While posing as Talia in Batman Beyond "Out of the Past".
- O'Neil, Dennis (writer) & Altieri, Kevin (director) (May 3, 1993). "The Demon's Quest, Part I". Batman: The Animated Series. Season 1. Episode 57 (airdate). Episode 60 (production). FOX Kids.
- Dini, Paul (writer) & Tucker, James (director) (October 21, 2000). "Out of the Past". Batman Beyond. Season 3. Episode 5 (airdate). Episode 44 (production). Kids WB!.
- Altieri, Kevin, Dini, Paul, Timm, Bruce W. (story) & Lansdale, Joe R. (teleplay) & Altieri, Kevin (director) & September 12, 1995). "Showdown". Batman: The Animated Series. Season 4. Episode 2 (airdate). Episode 78 (production). FOX Kids.
- Wein, Len (writer) & Altieri, Kevin (director) (November 23, 1992). "Off Balance". Batman: The Animated Series. Season 1. Episode 44 (airdate). Episode 50 (production). FOX Kids.
- O'Neil, Dennis, Wein, Len (story) & Wein, Len (teleplay) & Altieri, Kevin (director) (May 4, 1993). "The Demon's Quest, Part II". Batman: The Animated Series. Season 1. Episode 58 (airdate). Episode 61 (production). FOX Kids.
- Reaves, Michael (writer) & Altieri, Kevin (director) (May 9, 1994). "Avatar". Batman: The Animated Series. Season 2. Episode 8 (airdate). Episode 69 (production). FOX Kids.
- Fogel, Rich (writer) & Riba, Dan (director) (September 18, 1999). "The Demon Reborn". Superman: The Animated Series. Season 4. Episode 1 (airdate). Episode 51 (production). Kids WB!.