Talia al Ghul

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Talia al Ghul - "Vanguard of the Demon") is a character in the DC Comics universe, the now-estranged daughter of the supervillain Ra's al Ghul, and a romantic interest (theater)|love interest of Batman. She sometimes uses an anglicisation|anglicized form of her name, Talia Head (derived from her father's name, which is Arabic for "Head of the Demon").

She first appeared in Detective Comics #411 (May 1971). Her usual role is as a recurring romantic interest for Batman; her father, the leader of a worldwide criminal empire, considers Batman the man most worthy to marry Talia and to become his heir. It is natural that Batman is uninterested in the criminal empire, but he has shown considerable interest in Talia.

She is a complex character, not quite heroine nor villainess but more of an anti-hero. She has undoubtedly committed criminal acts; however, they were usually committed due to her loyalty to her father rather than for personal gain. She has saved Batman's life or helped him on numerous occasions. Furthermore, she helped to bring about the downfall of Lex Luthor.

Contents

character biography

Early life

The graphic novel Batman: Birth of the Demon (1992) explains how her father met her mother, who was of mixed Han Chinese|Chinese and Arab] descent, at the [Woodstock Festival. Talia's mother later dies of a drug overdose. This is a retroactive continuity|retcon of Batman: Son of the Demon (1987), which states that Talia's mother was named Melisande and was murdered by a former servant of Ra's named Qayin.

In her youth, Talia travels with Ra's around the world. He teaches her hand-to-hand combat as well as the use of most conventional weapons, from swords to guns. She helps him in the management of various organizations that he controls.

Batman

Talia first meets Batman in the story "Into the Den of the Death-Dealers!" in Detective Comics #411 (May 1971) by Dennis O'Neil. In the story, Batman rescues her from Dr. Darkk, apparently the leader of the League of Assassins. It is eventually revealed that the League is just one part of Ra's al Ghul's organization, The Demon, and that Darkk apparently turned against Ra's after failing in a mission (the usual punishment for this being death). At the end of the story, she shoots and kills Darkk to save Batman's life.

Talia next appears in "Daughter of the Demon" in Batman #232 (June 1971). In the story, Dick Grayson (Robin) is kidnapped. Ra's al Ghul enters the Batcave, revealing to Batman that he knows Batman's secret identity and saying that Talia was also kidnapped along with Dick. Batman then goes with Ra's to search for Dick and Talia; in the end, it is revealed that Talia loves Batman and that the entire kidnapping is a setup designed by Ra's as a final test of whether Batman's suitability as an heir. Though Batman rejects Ra's offer, he nevertheless returns Talia's feelings.

Talia is often depicted as being torn between devotion for her father and love for Batman. Art by Graham Nolan from the Batman & Spider-Man: New Age Dawning crossover. Published by DC Comics.
Talia is often depicted as being torn between devotion for her father and love for Batman. Art by Graham Nolan from the Batman & Spider-Man: New Age Dawning crossover. Published by DC Comics.

In the years since Talia meets Batman, she is repeatedly torn between loyalty to her father and her love of Batman. However, she has proven an important 'ally' in her way; most prominently, she encourages Batman to return to Gotham City when it is declared a "No Man's Land" following an earthquake, and he has lost his fighting spirit and didn't believe he could save Gotham.

Son of the Demon

In the graphic novel Son of the Demon, Ra's al Ghul successfully enlists Batman's aid in defeating a rogue assassin who had murdered his wife. During this story line, Batman marries Talia and she becomes pregnant. Batman is nearly killed protecting Talia from an attack by the assassin's agents. In the end, Talia concludes that she can never keep Batman, as he will be continuously forced to defend her. She fakes a miscarriage, and the marriage is dissolved.

In reality, Talia gives birth successfully. The child is left at an orphanage; he is adopted and given the name Ibn al Xu'ffasch. The only clue to the child's heritage is a jewel-encrusted necklace Batman had given to Talia which Talia leaves with the child.

The story used to be considered to be outside of the DC universe's standard continuity. The story has apparently been modified and is once more canon, however. It is referenced in three Elseworlds storylines: Kingdom Come, its sequel The Kingdom, and Brotherhood of the Bat feature two alternate versions of the child as an adult, coming to terms with his dual heritage.

The Red Hood

During the "Death in the Family" storyline, Jason Todd, the second Robin, is murdered by the Joker in Africa. Batman and Alfred Pennyworth bring Jason's body back to Gotham and bury him with the rest of the Wayne Family. However, several weeks later, Superboy Prime resurrects Jason with a reality-altering punch. Although Jason is returned to life, his body and mind are still broken from the Joker's attack. Some time later, he is discovered by the League of Assassins and is taken in by Talia and Ra's Al Ghul. Jason spends months in their care, and although his body recuperates, his mind is shattered.

Seeing no other way to help him, Talia takes Jason down to the Lazarus Pit and throws his body in while her father regenerates himself. Jason is fully revived in body and mind. Immediately afterward, in order to spare Jason her father's wrath, she aids the boy's escape. Before giving him a passionate kiss, she informs him that Batman had let his killer live.

Livid at the fact that the Joker was still alive and that Batman had done nothing more than imprison him again, Jason pursues his own brand of justice. Talia agrees to finance Jason and aid him in his training, so that he can become the second Red Hood.

Bane

In the miniseries Batman: Bane of the Demon (March-June 1998), Talia enters a brief alliance with Bane, the man who "broke the Bat" in the "Knightfall" story arc, and whom Ra's has determined might be suitable as an heir. However, after a short time, she rejects Bane, though her father still wants her to marry the musclebound assassin. However, when Bane is defeated by Batman soon after, Ra's gives up trying to match him with Talia.

LexCorp

Talia, disillusioned with her father and his plans, leaves him to run LexCorp for Lex Luthor when Luthor becomes President of the United States. Although she seemingly supports Luthor, she secretly works to undermine him, anonymously leaking news of his underhanded dealings to Superman. In Superman/Batman #6 (March 2004), when the time comes for Luthor's downfall, she sells all of LexCorp's assets to the Wayne Foundation, leaving Luthor penniless and his crimes exposed to all.

Death and the Maidens

In Batman: Death and the Maidens, it is revealed that, during his travels in Russia in the 18th century, Ra's al Ghul met a woman by whom he had a daughter named Nyssa. Ra's abandons Nyssa at a crucial time: she is tortured, and her entire family is killed in a Nazi concentration camps|concentration camp during the Holocaust. Seeking vengeance, Nyssa plans to use her considerable wealth and resources to kill Ra's by befriending, kidnapping, and brainwashing Talia, turning her into a weapon to kill their father. To this end, she captured Talia and, using a Lazarus Pit, killed and resurrected her in rapid succession, leaving Talia virtually broken from the trauma of dying again and again in so short a time. Rendered apathetic by her time in the camp, unable to feel anything, Nyssa also plans to assassinate Superman with kryptonite bullets she stole from the Batcave, hoping that, by uniting the world in one moment of tragedy, she would manage to rouse herself once more.

While Batman is successful in preventing the assassination of Superman, he is unable to stop Nyssa from killing Ra's. This, in turn, is actually part of a greater plan concocted by Ra's, who wanted to ensure that his daughters would accept their destiny|destinies as his heirs, and take up his genocide|genocidal campaign. Realizing and accepting this, Nyssa and Talia become the heads of The Demon, with Talia disavowing her love for Bruce Wayne as another result of her torture at Nyssa's hands. (Both sisters consider Batman to be their enemy.)

The Society

In Countdown to Infinite Crisis, it is revealed that Talia is one of the core members of the Secret Society of Super Villains (the others were Lex Luthor (secretly Alexander Luthor, Jr. in disguise), Black Adam, Doctor Psycho, Deathstroke, and Calculator). This is revealed to be part of one of Nyssa's plans to take over the planet and bring about world peace and equality. Nyssa explains why she and Talia are working with the villains of the Society to Batgirl (Cassandra Cain).

"Vast stockpiles of food rot, while people starve. Millions die from curable diseases, while drug companies rake in the billions. Our environment chokes on our waste, becoming so toxic that life fails. It's genocide by greed, apathy, and neglect. These are the real crimes. Something must change."

"But... they're evil."

"The Society's plans are vast... they will succeed. I can't stop them. When the world gets a true taste of violent oppression, and their heroes lie dead and broken -- apathy will die. That's when you'll lead my league to sanction key society members. Leaving Talia and I to lead the revolution. A new world will be born, one of peace and equality. Millions of lives will be saved." From Batgirl #67, by Andersen Gabrych

Nyssa fails to recruit Batgirl to her new League of Assassins, and the Society fails to achieve its goals.

One Year Later

After Nyssa's apparent death at the hands of Cassandra Cain (who usurps control of The League of Assassins), Talia becomes the new Demon's Head. However, the League of Assassins has apparently splintered and Cassandra Cain has gained partial control.

The child of Talia and Batman from Son of the Demon is reintroduced to continuity in the story "Batman & Son", written by Grant Morrison. However, in this version, Talia either did not abandon the child (called Damian) or retrieved him from his adoptive parents and let him be partially raised by The League of Assassins. Talia gives him back to Batman, as part of a grand scheme involving ninja man-bats and the kidnapping of the British Prime Minister's wife. Batman is unsure whether this is his son, but he attempts to deal with the spoiled, hot-tempered child anyway. Damian, effectively raised to be an assassin, kills a criminal and nearly kills Tim Drake, the newest Robin. Shortly afterwards, father, mother, and son confront each other on a ship which is destroyed by a torpedo.

Talia and Damian survived the explosion, however, Talia continues to keep a close eye on Bruce. Meanwhile, Damian was recently injured severely and has undergone a transplant of all his major organs.

In Batman Annual #26, Talia is prompted to read the history of Ra's al Ghul to her son Damian by a mysterious figure from Ra's past: the White Ghost. Unbeknownst to her, the White Ghost plans to use Damian as a vessel for Ra's return. However, mother and son manage to escape before the plan is completed. After the escape, Batman confronts the White Ghost; he fights Batman, but accidentally ends up falling into a Lazarus pit.

The return of Ra's al Ghul will be addressed in an upcoming story arc in the Batman comic books, beginning with Batman #670.

In other media

In Batman: The Animated Series, Talia is voiced by Helen Slater, who is known for her portrayal of Supergirl, another DC Comics character, in the film of the same name. The episodes "Off Balance" and "The Demon's Quest" parts 1 and 2 are based on the two classic Talia stories "Into the Den of the Death-Dealers!" and "Daughter of the Demon". Talia reappears in the Lovecraftian episode "Avatar" to help Batman stop her father.

In the Batman Beyond episode "Out of the Past", it is revealed that, before his death, Ra's al Ghul transfers his mind into Talia's body, "killing" her in the process; the transfer process could only work between two close genetic relatives. Years later, having modified the machine to get around the necessity for a genetic link, Ra's contacted the now-elderly Bruce Wayne, posing as Talia and offering him access to a Lazarus Pit to restore him to full strength. Although briefly tempted, Bruce rejected the Pits, and he and Terry McGinnis subsequently escaped Ra's's fortress, leaving Ra's to burn in the resulting fire. Actress Olivia Hussey voiced this incarnation of the character. Hussey also previously voiced Talia in The New Batman/Superman Adventures.

She does not appear in Batman Begins, where Ra's al Ghul is the main villain, but is mentioned in the novelization and Al Ghul's character biography in the DVD special features.

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