The story of Ra’s al Ghul is well known now, but not everyone knows where it came from. day.
Ra’s al Ghul is a well-known character in Batman myths. Ask any Batman fan to tell you about Ra’s al Ghul and they will tell you about the League of Assassins, Lazarus Pits, and the relationship between Batman and Ra’s daughter Talia. One thing most people don’t know is where exactly the origins of these now iconic details came from. The answer is in the Birth of the demon trilogy.
Ra’s al Ghul first appeared in June 1971 in bat Man # 232 by writer Dennis O’Neal and Neal Adams. He enlisted Batman’s help in locating his kidnapped daughter Talia, as well as Robin. At the end of the issue, it is revealed that Ra’s arranged everything to see if Batman was a worthy successor and son-in-law to his daughter Talia, who had a crush on him. There is no mention of the immortality of Ra or Batman corresponding to Talia’s feelings – that came much later in the “Birth of the Demon” trilogy.
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The “Birth of the Demon” trilogy is a collection of three unique graphic novels connected by the theme of Ra’s al Ghul. These graphic novels are Son of the devil by writer Mike W. Barr Jerry Bingham; Demon bride by Mike W. Barr, Tom Grindberg and Eva Grindberg, and Birth of the demon by Ra’s al Ghul co-creator Dennis O’Neil and Norm Breyfogle. Although they were published years apart (1987, 1990, and 1992 respectively), they form a loosely connected story that reveals what we now know as the ultimate origins and motivations of Ra’s al Ghul.
In Son the devil, Talia helps Batman in a hostage situation in Gotham that leads to Ra’s. Batman decides to join forces with Ra’s to stop a terrorist named Qayin, but Ra’s has one condition: Batman must accept the wedding vows he previously made to Talia. Batman surprisingly accepts and officially becomes part of Ra’s family. This causes Talia to get pregnant, but then she tells Bruce that she had a miscarriage. At the end of the story, nine months have passed and we learn that there was no miscarriage and that the girl stayed in an orphanage. This would later inspire Grant Morrison in “Son of Batman” and lead to the creation of the future Robin Damien Wayne.
In Demon bride, we are presented with Ra’s desire to have an heir. This is often shown as one of Ra’s main motivations, not only in comics but in other media as well. Usually this comes in the form of trying to convince the Dark Knight to join his crusade, often through marriage to his daughter, but Son the devil saw Batman marry Talia and their son was gifted. Ra’s restores an actress named Evelyn Grace so that she can conceive a male heir. This story more openly showed Ra’s desperation to continue his legacy and his awareness that continued use of the Lazarus Wells was not the answer, an important point in many modern stories.
Birth of the demon provided us with the origin of Ra’s al Ghul. Dennis O’Neil and Norm Breyfogle give us the first indication of how long Ra’s has lived: more than 600 years. O’Neil and Breyfogle later reveal that Ra’s began life as an optimistic doctor in a big city who set out to save them from death. After discovering the Lazarus Pit, Ra’s saves a dying prince, but upon leaving the Lazarus Pit, the prince kills Ra’s wife. If that wasn’t bad enough, the king blames Ra’s for protecting his own son and sentences Ra’s to a slow and painful death locked in a cage with his wife’s corpse. Freed by the son of one of his patients, Ra’s sets out to recruit his birth tribe and forms a plan to infect the prince with a deadly virus. Ra’s then leads the tribe to raze the city to the ground. When all of this is done, Ra’s declares himself the “Head of the Demon” and becomes the man we are all familiar with.
The “Birth of the Demon” trilogy has been said to take place on Earth-85, making it an Elseworlds story. However, with the influence he has had on the Batman mythos as a whole, and his role in the creation of Damien Wayne, it has gradually been considered an Elseworlds story that is half canon. After the devastating events of the multiverse of Dark Knights: Death Metal, the “Birth of the Demon” trilogy and aspects that have become essential to the characters of Ra’s and Talia al Ghul can now be considered canon.
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