Here’s 3 of the Best Comics Featuring Ra’s Al Ghul
I believe that Batman is a mentally ill vigilante who creates brainwashed child soldiers in his never-ending battle to avenge his parents’ deaths in Gotham City. Bruce Wayne is a billionaire who dresses as a giant bat and trauma punches street hoods one at a time trying to save his dead parents. Worse, he trains a succession of young children and teens to become vigilantes, to be the kind of tough he wishes he were the night his parents were killed.
Comic book time moves much slower than in the real world, so Batman has had several Robins while he stays middle-aged. His latest Robin is his son, Damian Wayne, the grandson of Ra’s Al Ghul, the vaunted cult leader of the League of Assassins.
I was only basically half-kidding about Batman being a mentally ill vigilante. The character is vastly more popular than Superman, even though Batman doesn’t have any superpowers. Yet, Batman is known for his strained family relations with the Batman family, his cadre of Robins, and his butler Alfred.
Most notably, his most recent Robin, Damian Wayne, was sired with Talia Al Ghul, daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul, one of the most dangerous men in the DC Comics universe. Ra’s Al Ghul is a nearly immortal cult leader, tactician, detective, scientist, martial artist, and crime lord.
You may have seen Liam Neeson and Ken Watanabe portray Ra’s Al Ghul in the 2005’s Batman Begins. Star Trek actor Alexander Siddig portrayed Ra’s Al Ghul in the TV show Gotham. Matthew Nable portrayed the character on the TV show Arrow.
If you’ve only seen Ra’s Al Ghul portrayed in film or TV, then you are truly missing out on his depictions within the comic books. He is one of the most magnetically fascinating comic book characters ever created, and more people should know of his stories, not just Liam Neeson’s portrayal.
Ra’s Al Ghul Basic Bio
Ra’s Al Ghul was created in 1971 and made his first appearance in Batman #232. Ra’s Al Ghul was created by writer Dennis O’Neil and artist Neal Adams. Comic book editor Julius Schwartz originally came up with the name and character concept for Ra’s Al Ghul.
Ra’s Al Ghul’s life goal is to cull the human population significantly to create more environmental and social balance within the world. In the comic books, Thanos wanted to kill half of the universe to simp hard for Lady Death. The comic book version of Ra’s Al Ghul wanted to eliminate human beings for the better good decades before the MCU version of Thanos came along.
The best way to describe Ra’s al Ghul is to say that he is an eco-terrorist cult leader who wants to remake the world via strategic genocidal methods. He is also a cunning tactician who figured out on his own that Bruce Wayne and Batman are the same person.
Ra’ Al Ghul is hundreds of years old and regularly immerses himself in the Lazurus Pits, an ancient chemical pit that can extend the life of anyone who gets in it. The Lazurus Pits can even resurrect the very recently dead. Unfortunately, most people who use the Lazurus Pits go irretrievably insane. Ra’s Al Ghul is able to avoid this fate due to his mental resolve and discipline.
He has Lazarus Pits hidden all over the world in strategic locations. Ra’s might have forgotten his name after centuries of immersion into the Lazarus Pit – he may have also wittingly forgotten his own name since it is an identity that no longer serves him.
Ra’s Al Ghul is the leader of the League of Assassins, a collective of assassins committed to remaking the world in their image. Ra’s Al Ghul regularly immerses himself in the Lazarus Pits to extend his life span to achieve this goal. He even trained Damian Wayne as a deadly assassin so as to potentially possess young Damian’s body, and excise Damian’s spirit, so as to be born anew and spend even hundreds of more years using the Lazarus Pits.
So, you see, I brought the topic back to Batman’s inability to have normal familial relations. His son’s maternal grandfather is one of his deadliest enemies.
To learn more about Ra’s here are three of the best comic book stories featuring the character.
Batman: Birth of the Demon (1992)
Batman attempts to destroy every Lazarus Pit in the world to handicap Ra’s powers and slowly learns the history of the supervillain.
Ra’s Al Ghul was a Chinese Arab nomad born over 600 years ago. As a young man, Ra’s settled in a city in Northern Africa and became embroiled in political intrigue which almost got him killed. He discovered the Lazarus Pits during this time and slowly used them to extend his life span and sharpen his mental skills.
If you want to understand why Ra’s is determined to take over the world, this is the story you should read first to learn more about the character.
Get the paperback for $33.99 at Amazon.
JLA: Tower of Babel (2000)
Remember how I told you that Batman was mentally unstable? He also has severe trust issues and is plagued by paranoia. Batman is a control freak who thinks he can prepare for and take control of any situation with preparation and willpower.
In this legendary storyline, Batman develops secret files that contain contingency plans for killing every member of the Justice League, his own teammates, in the eventuality that any or all of them go rogue or turn evil. For example, Batman developed a technique to give the Flash seizures at the speed of light as he ran.
Batman had no intention of using these execution methods unless it was necessary. Unfortunately, Ra’s Al Ghul hacks Batman’s systems and steals the secrets to killing the Justice League.
Batman’s connection to a criminal mastermind creates the havoc he was looking to prevent by creating the contingency kill list in the first place. (Do you see the weird vigilante logic Batman lives by in this example?)
I’m shocked WBD didn’t adapt this story for a live-action Justice League film, but anything is possible in the future. Ra’s proves himself as someone who can outsmart even Batman in this story.
Get the hardcover graphic novel for $29.21 at Amazon now.
Batman: Death and The Maidens (2004)
Batman has control of the Lazarus Pits. During this time, Ra’s other daughter, Nyssa, begins plotting her revenge on him for abandoning her during World War II. In exchange for access to one of the Lazarus Pits, Ra’s promises Batman an opportunity to use a magic spell to converse with the spirits of his parents.
This story humanized Ra’s and showed what he willingly gave up on in his cause as the leader of the League of Assassins. He is willing to sacrifice his own grandson and abandon a daughter who never forgot about the betrayal.
Get it for $19.24 at Amazon.
Invest in Batman #232 (June 1971)
If you could get a copy of Batman #232, a comic featuring the first appearance of Ra’s Al Ghul, then you should get it.
A copy of this issue with a 9.8 CGC rating is worth almost $18,000. A copy of this issue with a 4.0 CGC rating is worth $385. It is a legendary comic book that could go up in value once WBD creates a more definitive portrayal of Ra’s Al Ghul on the big screen.
Allen Francis is a full-time writer, prolific comic book investor and author of The Casual’s Guide: Why You Should Get Into Comic Book Investing. Allen holds a BA degree from Marymount Manhattan College. Before becoming a writer Allen was an academic advisor, librarian, and college adjunct for many years. Allen is an advocate of best personal financial practices including saving and investing in your own small business.