Ra’s al Ghul

Ra's al GhulIn last week’s episode of Arrow there’s only one new character from the comics, but a pretty significant one. In The Magician, in fact, we finally meet the leader of the League of Assassins, father to Nyssa and master to both Sarah Lance and Malcolm Merlyn (the latter of which he is now hunting down to punish him for his betrayal of the rules of the league): Ra’s al Ghul, portrayed by Matthew Nable. This is not the first live action appearance of one of the most notorious and popular villains in DC comics: Liam Neeson played the part in Batman Begins, acting as a mentor to a young and confused Bruce Wayne on the Himalaya, training him to become the true warrior he saw in him. Unfortunately, Bruce refused to join the League of Shadows, and ultimately burnt down their house: Ra’s follows him back to Gotham City, a corrupted place he seeks to “purify” by utterly destroying it. He’s stopped and killed, but comes back as both a vision and in a flashback (a younger version portrayed by Josh Pence) in The Dark Knight Rises, both mocking a captive Wayne and spurring him to react and to surpass the muscular Bane. Waiting to see what Arrow will make of him, let’s see who this imposing villain is in the comics.

Ra’s al Ghul’s real name is lost in the mists of time. He was born more than six hundred years ago, somewhere in Arabia, from a nomadic tribe who travelled the desert. Growing up, he developed a brilliant intellect and a sharp curiosity that led him to study alchemy, following a rasalghulcomics1method that in modern times would have been called “scientific”. The young man abandoned the nomads wanting to dedicate himself to his studies, and settled down in a city near to the Chines border. In there, he met Sora, a woman he deeply fell in love with, who became his wife. In his research, the man discovered the secret of the Lazarus Pits, special ponds whose properties could heal any wound, regenerating and rejuvenating tissues, granting a sort of immortality: he started to use them to heal people, becoming some sort of physician in the area. Knowing this, the king of the land asked him to heal his dying son, the prince, a request that the man gladly accomplished…unfortunately, the prince was a cruel and sadistic man, and the Lazarus Pit’s experience drove him completely insane: once healed, he attacked Sora, killing her with his bare hands. The king, not wanting to admit his son’s guilt, had the healer arrested, and sentenced him to a slow and painful death, tying him to his wife’s corpse in a cage. The physician was saved by a young boy, son of a blind woman he had been trying to heal: grateful, the young man, brought the healer back to his tribe, when he asked his uncle, now the nomads’ leader, to aid him in his revenge. Having understood the nature of germs and bacteria (centuries before anyone else), the healer sent the evil prince contaminated fabric, having him fall sick once again: when the king came back to him asking for help yet again, he slew them both. Then, leading his uncle’s men, he attacked the city, destroying it and killing every single inhabitant, believing it to be beyond salvation. From that moment, he named himself Ra’s al Ghul, the Head of the Demon, the only name he would have been known with in the following centuries.

After the city’s destruction, Ra’s started traveling the world with both his uncle and the boy that saved him; the three of them used the Lazarus Pit from time to time to be healed and rejuvenated, becoming immortals. Ra’s used his travels to study and to learn other cultures and uses, he amplified his knowledge with the science of other countries, and also became a master in many fighting styles, becoming an expert in fencing especially. One day, in London, he found out that the boy who was with him was secretly writing a diary in their original language, something Ra’s had forbidden many years before: the two had a fight over it, and eventually Ra’s killed his only friend. When he came back from the healing session in the Pits, also his uncle was gone, disappeared with all the boy’s memoirs. Now alone, Ra’s started building an underground empire, rasalghulcomics2which he called The Demon (of course, he was “the head” of “The Demon” even in this case), an international organization spreading through all the world, aimed to what Ra’s al Ghul believed was a purification of the world from its greatest plague: mankind. Ra’s used the remarkable resources he could accumulate over the centuries to finance both legal and illegal activities, on a side helping the ones he deemed worthy, on the other killing off the ones he deemed not. He also founded the Demon’s Fang, better known as the League of Assassins, a sect of killers who believed that the world could have been healed only “cutting off” evil people and corrupted cities like they were tumors in a living organism. Continuing his many travels, Ra’s ended up in Woodstock, where he met a woman with mixed Chines and Arab features: she reminded him of Sora, and the two spent some time together. From that relation, Talia was born, a daughter Ra’s loved above anything else. Almost. His “purifying” mission led him and the League to Gotham City, the world’s most corrupted city, which he tried to destroy with an artificial virus called Ebola Gulf A (or simply The Clench): his plans were thwarted by a single man, Batman, who he started regarding with respect, considering him one of his few worthy rivals. When Talia fell in love with Batman, Ra’s started to look at the Dark Knight as a possible successor, trying to convince him in a way or the other to take his place as the leader of the League…and as the heir of his global project for healing the world.

Ra’s al Ghul is quite a Reinassance man, a genius in many fields, both scientific and humanistic, who trains his body just as much as he trains his mind, resulting in one of the world’s most accomplished martial artists, an extremely skilled military tactician, and a superb chemist, physician, physicist and biologist. Ra’s is, in modern terms, an eco-terrorist who wants to purge the world from the plague known as human beings, both financing environmentally-friendly project through his legal companies, and utterly destroying the cities (and even countries) that has advanced too far in moral and legal corruption to be saved. Centuries of exposure to the Lazarus Pits made Ra’s al Ghul stronger, faster and more durable than normal human beings, and also extended his lifespan; whenever he’s wounded, or old, or even dead, he bathes in the Pits, regaining the healthy, young and strong body he needs for his mission. Ra’s replaced the pain for the loss of his wife with the cold and firm ambition of erasing evil from the world: driven by a noble yet ruthless goal, Ra’s al Ghul is one of the most dangerous men alive, a force of nature who will stop in front of nothing to accomplish his dream of a world inhabited by a renewed, wiser humanity, born from the ashes of the old one.

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19 Comments

  1. […] Damien Darhk, who’ll be portrayed by Neal McDonough. As far as we know for now, he was Ra’s al Ghul‘s friend until the latter was chosen to lead the League of Assassins, something Darhk wanted […]

  2. […] the more the reptilian part of his brain took control. Croc escaped from the prison thanks to Ra’s al Ghul‘s intervention, and he worked for him for a little while kidnapping Alfred […]

  3. […] programmed to monitor all metahuman activity on Earth. The satellite was hacked first by Ra’s al Ghul, who used it to gain precious information on the members of the JLA and of their weaknesses, and […]

  4. […] working for Carmine Falcone, later arrested and sent to Arkham Asylum. He’s freed when Ra’s al Ghul attacks the city, and from the viral campaign for the following movie we learn that he’s […]

  5. […] by Tom Wilkinson. The true and unquestioned boss of the city, Falcone was “fired” by Ra’s al Ghul‘s forces, driven mad by the Scarecrow, and locked in Arkham Asylum for good. Waiting to see […]

  6. […] antagonist, Nyssa Raatko, portrayed by Katrina Law. In the show, she’s the daughter of Ra’s al Ghul, and an important member of the League of Assassins. She arrives to Starling City to retrieve […]

  7. […] His skills, however, didn’t go unnoticed, and the League of Assassins, the sect led by Ra’s al Ghul, decided they could have make good use of Turner. When the counter-espionage agent King […]

  8. […] the Scarecrow, portrayed in each one of the three films by Cillian Murphy, appears as an ally to Ra’s al Ghul, working for him to destroy Gotham City; when his master is killed, he becomes an independent […]

  9. […] clients, there was the League of Assassins, the terrorist organization led by immortal Ra’s al Ghul, clearly up to nothing good. Well, Dodger didn’t have problems with them, so he lent them the […]

  10. […] mind, and is one of the greatest martial artists on planet, having been trained by masters such as Ra’s Al Ghul, under which he served as a bodyguard for some time. His strength, agility and speed are on peak […]

  11. […] and chemical substances that interacted with Gold’s body making him come back to life; Ra’s al Ghul believed that Gold had fallen into a Lazarus Pit, a source of immortality that he himself used […]

  12. […] to protect the world by purifying it from its worst inhabitants. The leader of the League, Ra’s al Ghul, was quite impressed with Merlyn’s skills, and offered him a place in his big family. Merlyn […]

  13. […] Bonaparte, Otto von Bismarck, Adolf Hitler, and even the “artificial” immortal Ra’s al Ghul. In every era, acting directly or indirectly, the man now known as Vandal Savage created wars, […]

  14. […] The possibility to restore her back to life arrived when Nyssa Raatko, the eldest daughter of Ra’s al Ghul, formed an alliance with Mister Freeze: he would have built a machine for her incarnation of […]

  15. […] knows, Sara comes back to the League of Assassins (an ancient cult always comes in handy), and at Ra’s al Ghul‘s side this time we find an intriguing little child: Talia, portrayed by Milli Wilkinson. […]

  16. […] the opportunity to live: she would have had to bear Cain’s son, who would have become Ra’s al Ghul‘s most perfect bodyguard. She agreed, and in the time of her pregnancy she furtherly explored […]

  17. […] In the comics, he’s indeed a member of the League of Assassins, but his relation to Ra’s al Ghul is much closer. Let’s see […]

  18. […] world, until she stumbled upon the League of Assassins; she proved her worth to their leader, Ra’s al Ghul, who was impressed by the skills she demonstrated in besting many of his ninjas. Artemis offered to […]

  19. […] not exactly in the guise we expected: the name, in fact, was but an alias for Liam Neeson‘s Ra’s al Ghul, and he used it to hide his true identity from Bruce Wayne…and from the public, actually. […]


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