Ra's Al Ghul
1430 - Ra's Al Ghul is born to nomadic tribesman in the Arabi Desert.
1445 - 15-year-old Ra's abandons his tribe to become a scholar & researcher in a great city.
1448 - 18-year-old Ra's marries Sora.
1453 - 23-year-old Ra's discovers the Lazarus Pits. He is heralded as the greatest mind of his age.
1455 - 25-year-old Ra's attempts to use the Lazarus Pit to bring back the Sultan's already-sadistic son form the dead, but he returns insane. The Sultan murders Ra's wife Sora, and condems him to a slow, torturous death. He is saved by a humbe slave whose mother he treated, and retreats into the desert, taking control of his tribe from his uncle.
1457 - 27-year-old Ra's weakens his former city with plague & attacks. He raizes the city, stealing all it's riches and libraries. He becomes the Demon's Head, beginning centuries of growing wealth and spreading influence across the globe.
1460 - 30-year-old Ra's removes all references to the Lazarus Pits from history, keeping the knowledge of them entirely for himself.
1787 - Ra's fights in the French Revolution.
1803 - Ra's fights in the Napoleanic War.
1853 - Ra's discovers the bizarrely different Lazarus Pit on american soil. He begins his experiments, building the town that would someday become Gotham City.
1867 - Ra's gains an influx of subjects for his Lazarus experiments as his small town expands into Gotham City as Civil War veterans settle there to work.
1905 - Ra's experiments in Gotham have left it's population prone to insanity, necessitating the construction of Arkham Asylum. He ends his work, the city slowly growing over his 'City of Tomorrow'.
1918 - Ra's daughter Nyssa is born.
1935 - Ra's daughter Nyssa chooses to leave her father in order to be with her Roma lover.
1942 - Ra's daughter Nyssa and her family are captured during the holocaust. She is the only survivor, and must spend decades recovering from what was done to her.
35 years ago - Ra's daughter Talia is born.
20 years ago - Ra's takes in Sandra Wu-San as he latest and most gifted protege. She takes the name Shiva.
11 years ago - Ra's confronts Bruce Wayne, challenging him to test if he is a worth heir. Bruce rejects the proposal. Talia gives birth to Damien Wayne who soon immediately begins his training within the League.
7 years ago - Ra's stops and defeats Nyssa when she attemts to kill Damien Wayne in an act of revenge against her father. He wins her back over to his side. Damien is moved from the League of Assassins Citadel to one of it's castles, where his training continues in earnest.
3 years ago - Ra's takes on Bane as a new heir, but ultimately has to reject him because of Talia's refusal to accept him as a mate, and his refusal to accept his place in the League. In retaliation, Bane unleashes the Leagues bio-plague Contagion on Gotham, and destroys dozens of Lazarus Pits worldwide. Talia contacts Bruce Wayne, and he must defeat Ra's in single combat fore the right to confront Bane, who he ultimately defeats. Cassandra Cain escapes from her father David Cain, and becomes the new Batgirl.
now - Ra's daughter Nyssa captures and imprisons both Bruce Wayne and Kate Kane. Tim Drake, on a mission to find Bruce, discovers Damien Wayne, who escapes and returns to Gotham with him.
Batman has perhaps one of the best rogue's galleries in comics, but even among that group, Ra's Al Ghul stands out as completely unique. He was built in an era when Batman was being stylistically redesigned, and it shows. He's such a far cry from the colorful cast of criminals and psychopaths, as though he was a character from a completely different comic, but Batman is such a dynamic character he adapted in an totally different direction. This side of Batman's story is mythical, almost magical, and he's better for having it. only the best villains can do that for their character.
Ra's Al Ghul's Comic History
Ra's Al Ghul is actually a newer creation, by Batman villain standards. He was created in 1971 in the seminal classic 'Daughter of the Demon' by Neal Adams, Dennis O'Neil, and Julius Schwartz, the men largely responsible for the seventies re-imagining of the Batman Mythology that removed a lot of the goofiness of the story and replaced it with a very real-world horror aesthetic. Ra's arrived fully-formed, an ancient and terrifying presence that posed a threat to the entire world, cutting right through the pretense of Batman's secret identity.
What I loved the most about this story is that Ra's wasn't just dismissive of Batman's civilian identity, he also didn't care at all for his mask-and-cape superheroics. He spoke to the man hidden within Bruce's web of self-delusion. Whenever Ra's appeared, the story was about a part of Bruce that we rarely see, the person he actually is.
Ra's was a challenging character to use thanks to the scope of his story , and for a very long time most writers avoided him. He didn't appear in outside media at all until the Animated Series. Eventually he became a fairly commonly recurring character, but he was always something bigger and more dangerous than the common super villain.
Our Ra's Al Ghul Story
Obviously, Ra's casts a huge shadow over the DC universe, since his backstory is so extensive. What's interesting, however, is that generally speaking what you see interact with the world isn't Ra's himself, but his League of Assassins. This means that much of the time his influence can be felt, but he doesn't actually appear. This is very helpful, because Ra's is very close to being the perfect comic villain, and you really want to avoid overusing him and piercing that veil of mystery. He's enigmatic, his motivations are always just outside our ability to comprehend, and his reach is global. It's very hard for a character that is both mortal and eternal, but he achieves it.
We've kept his origins very tightly matching the ones established in the comics. The following years are all derived from stories in the comics, like his participation in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. It's pretty interesting that both of those wars were in France. Why France? perhaps it was a core part of his operations?
In any case, we've taken a lot of the modern stories that have started to use Ra's Al Ghul more often and actually distributed them between his daughters Talia and Nyssa, allowing him to remain more distant and mysterious. Many of the modern stories featuring the League of Assassins reference his death and resurection, but that doesn't actually seem all that necessary. What we did instead was simply have him operating more out of the background, alowing all the intrigue of Nyssa's plots and the birth of Damian to happen on the surface while he works toward his own nefarious goals.
Ra's Al Ghul's Future
As we leave the timeline, Bruce is currently a prisoner of the League of Assassins, but this has more to do with Nyssa than it does with Ra's. There is a slowly brewing plot in which fellow imortal Vandal Savage is creating a organization called the Light composed of some of the most lethal geniuses in the world. This story will play out on a very wide scale, but moving forward from there Ra's will likely return to his enigmatic background role.
If you look on Batman's page, we've outlined our idea for a future story of Batman's ultimate destiny, and Ra's plays a part in that. We're not suggesting this is definitely going to happen, but it's worth at least checking out.
Related Characters & Teams
Yep, that'd be Batman Annual #26 by Peter Milligan... Here's one of the relevant images. If you really want to go back and read about Ra's origin, though, the Holy Grail is the 1992 graphic novel Batman: Birth of the Demon by Dennis O'Neil & Andy Kubert. Dennis is one of the creators of Ra's obviously, and the way he tells this story is just amazing, to say nothing of the absolutely gorgeous art.