Minorities in cartoons: Ra’s al Ghul

This week’s minorities in cartoons entry is Ra’s al Ghul, a Batman villain. Ra’s first appeared in “Batman” #232 (June 1971). He was created by Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams.

Background

Ra’s al Ghul is a criminal genius and mastermind who was born in the Arabian peninsula. Thanks to his occasional use of the lifespan-prolonging “Lazarus Pits,” he’s lived for centuries.

As such, Ra’s has accumulated a great amount of tactical and fighting skills, including fencing. Ra’s is also the head of the League of Assassins, another group of Batman foes. His name is Arabic for “ghoul’s head” or “demon’s head.”

Ra’s goal is to wipe out humanity, feeling that industrialization and humans have damaged the planet’s ecology and natural beauty. He usually uses biological warfare tactics.

Unlike most other Batman foes, Ra’s has deduced Batman’s secret identity, but refuses to reveal it to the world, given he respects “The Detective” (as he calls Bruce) too much for that. To that point, Ra’s also has attempted to offer Bruce to become his heir (which, of course, Bruce refuses).

Ra’s first came into contact with Batman via Ra’s daughter, Talia. Talia had previously encountered Bruce in “Detective Comics” #411 (May 1971). Talia is occasionally an heir to Ra’s empire; her loyalty’s split between her father and her love of Bruce. Bruce finds her attractive, but dislikes her criminal behavior.

Other media

Ra’s has gone on to appear in most modern Batman media adaptions, including “Batman: The Animated Series” and the movie “Batman Begins.” Ra’s was voiced by David Warner in the former, and played by Liam Neeson in the latter.

(Updated 11/26/16)

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