Talia al Ghul is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics, commonly in association with Batman. The character was created by writer Dennis O’Neil and artist Bob Brown, and first appeared in Detective Comics #411 (May 1971). Talia is the daughter of the supervillain Ra’s al Ghul, the half-sister of Nyssa Raatko, on-and-off romantic interest of the superhero Batman, and the mother of Damian Wayne (the fifth Robin). She has alternately been depicted as an anti-hero and supervillain.
Talia has appeared in over 200 individual comics issues, and has been featured in various media adaptions. The character was voiced by Helen Slater in Batman: The Animated Series, which became her first appearance in media other than the comic books. Talia was subsequently portrayed by Stana Katic in the 2011 video game Batman: Arkham City, and Marion Cotillard in the 2012 film The Dark Knight Rises.
Talia al Ghul was created by writer Dennis O’Neil and artist Bob Brown. The character’s creation and depiction was inspired by other works of fiction, such as the 1969 James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and the Fu Manchu fiction. The character first appeared in Detective Comics #411 (May 1971). She is most commonly depicted as a romantic interest for Batman, a villain, or a combination of the two. Her father, the leader of a worldwide criminal empire, considered Batman the man most worthy to marry Talia and become his successor. Absent a spouse, Talia was considered as an heir to her father and his organization. While Batman is uninterested in the criminal empire, he has often demonstrated romantic feelings for Talia.
Talia has saved the life of Batman or helped him on numerous occasions. The majority of her criminal acts have been committed at the behest of her father and motivated by loyalty to her father rather than personal gain. She had been depicted as morally ambiguous or an antiheroic figure. Recent depictions have shown her to be more often an enemy of Batman and a supervillain in her own right, such as leading the League of Assassins, as part of the Secret Society of Super Villains, and as the mastermind behind Leviathan.
IGN’s list of the Top 100 Comic Book Villains of All Time List ranked Talia as #42. She was ranked 25th in Comics Buyer’s Guide’s „100 Sexiest Women in Comics“ list.
The first Talia comic story appears in „Into the Den of the Death-Dealers!“ in Detective Comics #411 (May 1971), written by Dennis O’Neil. In the story, Batman rescues her from Dr. Darrk, 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 Darrk 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 Darrk 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 Batman’s suitability to be Talia’s husband and his successor. Though Batman rejects Ra’s offer, he nevertheless returns Talia’s feelings. Ra’s and Talia consider Batman to be married to Talia with only their consent necessary in DC Special Series #15 (1978) in the story „I Now Pronounce You Batman and Wife!“.
In the years since the character met Batman, Talia is repeatedly depicted as 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“ (1999) following an earthquake, and Batman had lost his fighting spirit and did not believe he could save Gotham.
In the graphic novel Son of the Demon (1987) by Mike W. Barr, Ra’s al Ghul successfully enlists Batman’s aid in defeating a rogue assassin who had murdered his wife and Talia’s mother, Melisande. Talia witnessed the murder as a young child. During this story line, Batman marries Talia and the prior marriage from DC Special Series #15 (1978) is referenced. They have conjugal relations which results in her becoming 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.
Talia later gives birth to the child. The child is left at an orphanage; he is adopted and given the name Ibn al Xu’ffasch which is Arabic for ’son of the bat‘. The only other clue to the child’s heritage is a jewel-encrusted necklace Batman had given to Talia which Talia leaves with the child.
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 graphic novel Batman: Birth of the Demon (1992) by Dennis O’Neil explains how her father met her mother at Woodstock and that she was of mixed Chinese and Arab descent. Talia’s mother later dies of a drug overdose in this story.
Talia encounters Bane while she was on a mission in the Batman: Bane of the Demon prequel comic series (1998), written by Chuck Dixon. She brings him to meet her father, Ra’s al Ghul. After Bane enters the League of Assassins, Ra’s considers Bane a potential heir to his empire instead of Batman and wants his daughter to marry him. Initially amused by Bane, Talia later rejects the brute, regarding him as merely a cunning animal compared to the more cultured intelligence of his predecessor. After Batman defeats Bane in the Legacy comic series (1996), Ra’s agrees that Bane was unworthy of his daughter (Detective Comics #701 and Robin #33), and calls off their engagement. Following Legacy, Bane has a nightmare in Batman: Bane (1997) of Talia (presumed to be deceased) betraying him and stabbing him and then embracing Batman. In Birds of Prey #26 (2001), written by Dixon, Bane continues to express his obsession with Talia. At the end of the story, Talia is pleased at the supposed death of Bane in one of her father’s underground sanctums.
The Talia character was written to begin a new phase of her fictional life near the turn of the century. Talia, disillusioned with her father and his plans and using the name Talia Head for herself, leaves him to run LexCorp as its new CEO when Lex 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.
In Batman: Death and the Maidens (2003) written by Greg Rucka, it is revealed that Ra’s al Ghul met a woman by whom he had a daughter named Nyssa during his travels in Russia in the 18th century. Ra’s abandons Nyssa at a crucial time: she is tortured, her entire family is killed in a concentration camp during the Holocaust, and she is rendered sterile when Nazi doctors pour acid into her uterus. 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 captures Talia and kills and resurrects her in rapid succession in a Lazarus Pit, leaving Talia virtually broken from the trauma of dying again and again in so short a time as Nyssa asks Talia why her father is ‚letting‘ this happen to her. 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 wants to ensure that his daughters would accept their destinies as his heirs and take up his 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 then consider Batman to be their enemy). Talia from then on became more often Batman’s enemy than an ally.
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 half-sister Nyssa’s plans to take over the planet and bring about world peace and equality. After Nyssa is killed by Batgirl Cassandra Cain, Talia assumes head leadership of the League.
During the „Death in the Family“ (1988) storyline, Jason Todd, the second Robin, is murdered by the Joker in Ethiopia. He was later revived as a character, and in Under the Hood (2005), he is discovered by the League of Assassins. In „Lost Days“, out of her love for Batman, Talia takes Jason to her father and Jason spends months in the care of the League of Assassins. Although his body recuperates, Jason’s 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.
Livid at the fact that Batman failed to avenge his (Jason’s) death by killing the Joker and that Batman had done nothing more than imprison him again, Jason pursues his own brand of justice. In order to stall him from killing Batman, Talia agrees to finance Jason and aid him in his training, so that he can then become the second Red Hood.
The concept of Talia and Batman having a child from Son of the Demon is reinterpreted into continuity in the story Batman and Son (2006), written by Grant Morrison. Their son is grown in an artificial womb and named Damian. He is raised and trained in the League of Assassins. Talia introduces him to Batman as part of a grand scheme involving ninja man-bats and the kidnapping of the British Prime Minister’s wife. Morrison said he relied on his shaky memories of Son of the Demon before writing so he „messed up a lot of the details“ such as Talia drugging Batman before sex. Due to the retcon, Talia is now a rapist in current continuity.
During the Batman R.I.P. storyline, Talia and Damian become aware of the Black Glove’s plot against Batman and begin devising a plan to help save him. They arrive at Wayne Manor just in time to save Commissioner James Gordon from being killed by assorted booby traps created by the Black Glove. This is referenced in issue 39 of the old 52. She offers to join forces with Gordon to save Batman. She and Gordon arrive too late, however, and are informed by Robin that Batman went missing and may be dead following a battle with Doctor Hurt.
Furious that her love may be dead, she sends out her ninja bats to murder Jezebel Jet, who plays a major role in trying to kill Batman. Soon after it is revealed Batman did not die, but survives only to be captured by Darkseid during the Final Crisis and then apparently murdered by the New God.
Following Batman’s apparent death, Talia apparently decides to leave Damian in the hands of his adopted brother Dick Grayson, who later takes on the role of Batman, and selects Damian to succeed Tim Drake as Robin.
In Final Crisis, she is placed on the new Society’s inner circle by Libra. Despite Talia’s interaction with the new Society she still behaves lovingly and almost devoted to Batman.
It is revealed in Gotham City Sirens #2 that Talia has trained Catwoman to resist even the most intense psychological coercion to reveal Bruce Wayne’s secret identity.
Following an operation in which Damian’s spine is replaced, it is revealed that Talia inserts an implant into his spine that allows her or anyone she chooses, including Deathstroke, to control Damian’s body remotely. She intends to use this device to force Damian to kill Dick Grayson, whom she perceives as holding her son back from his potential. After Grayson frees Damian, Talia reveals to her son that she has begun cloning him after realizing that the Boy Wonder has completely sided with his father’s circle during their confrontation. She is too much of a perfectionist to love her son after he has defied her in such a manner, and is no longer welcome in the House of al Ghul.
In Batman Incorporated, written by Grant Morrison, Talia is revealed to be the mastermind behind the Leviathan, a shadowy organization formed to oppose Bruce’s „Batman Incorporated“ project. She places a bounty of US$500,000,000 dollars on Damian’s head, and declares war on Batman. In Batman Incorporated Vol. 2, #2 (2012), a Talia origin issue, she puts her father, Ra’s al Ghul, under house arrest for opposing her plan and takes his men away with her. She claims to Batman that her agents have infiltrated all of Gotham’s infrastructure and that she is providing the poor with purpose by arming them and giving them slogans to chant, as well as an enemy to fight. Talia says Batman must choose between saving Gotham from suicide or saving their son Damian from a death sentence. Her clone of Damian, known as the Heretic, stabs Damian through the chest and delivers the killing stroke to her son, a move that leaves Batman devastated. After the Heretic’s final loss against Batman, Talia kills him, destroys Wayne Tower, and challenges Batman to a duel to the death in the Batcave. There, Talia poisons Batman and he apologizes for not being able to love her the way she wants and admits defeat. Talia asks Batman to beg for the antidote but he does not respond. Jason Todd arrives at the Batcave and offers Talia the Oroboro trigger, a device that would trigger the destruction of seven cities and that she claims would provide a new source of energy for the world. When she attempts to activate the device, Jason reveals that he has double crossed her and that the weapons the device would trigger had already been disarmed. Talia is then shot and killed by Spyral agent Kathy Kane, buried, and her body later disappears from the grave site along with that of Damian. Morrison’s writing of the Batman, Talia, and Damian saga drew from his own personal experience as a child of divorce. The end of Batman Incorporated marked the end of his seven-year run on the characters.
After Batman was preoccupied with a series of cases that would not end, Talia’s body is taken from the grave by her father, Ra’s, so that he wishes to resurrect his daughter and his grandson, Damian, whose body was taken also. Batman continues his pursuit for Ra’s and reclaiming his son’s body. Ra’s attempted to resurrect Talia alongside Damian in what he thought was a Lazarus Pit in the island of Themyscira, but instead Ra’s discovered that it was a portal to a Netherworld in the Pit’s former location, of which both Wonder Woman and Batman were already aware. Ra’s flees with the bodies afterwards. Batman arrives too late, when Ra’s has successfully had the bodies placed in a Lazarus Pit, leaving Batman in dread. The resurrections fail, leaving Ra’s to realize his arrogance for allowing the Heretic to kill his grandson, and regret of allowing his daughter, Talia to clone Damian. After defeating Ra’s in combat as Batman intends to reclaim his son’s body, their battle is intervened by Darkseid’s elite member Glorious Godfrey and Parademons. Batman is forced to team-up with Ra’s to battle Godfrey (who was here to retrieve the Chaos Shard, a powerful crystal once belonged to Darkseid which Ra’s has hidden inside Damian’s body) and Parademons had taken the bodies of Talia and Damian. Ra’s manages to get his daughter’s body from the Parademons in the sky, but falls into the gorge of Nanda Parbat along with Talia’s body, while Batman tries to retrieve his son’s body from Godfrey. Following Damian’s resurrection, Talia had emerged on Nanda Parbat with no memory of who she was. She kills a nearby Tibetan to eat their food.
Later, Talia was approached by a shadowy figure; she is able to recognize the robed figure and feared that faction known as the Lu’un Darga is upon release, she is knocked unconscious. The robed figure restores Talia’s memory and attempts to influence her as a servant, but Talia resists his control and knocks the robed figure with stalagmites. She tries to escape in the Lu’un Darga’s unknown lair of inner core with the heart of the Lazarus Pit. When Talia was reunited with her son in the Lu’un Darga’s lair on al Ghul island, Damian is aware of his quest about the Lu’un Darga and not desired to see her and attacks. In their battle, Talia unsuccessfully convince Damian. She explains that Ra’s and his al Ghul family wage war against the ancient immortals of the Lu’un Darga claiming to be guardians of the Lazarus pit. While Ra’s sought to bring power and balance of life to Earth, the Lu’un Darga then tried to take back all life and cleanse Earth entirely because they would bring their own destruction to see Earth and the heart of the Lazarus Pit. Talia also tells him he is being a pawn of Ra’s to steal the Lu’un Darga’s power. The mysterious robed figure was revealed to be Den Darga, who thanked Damian’s inadvertently to bring the relic and attempts the end of life on Earth. While Den Darga destroyed the al Ghul island to sink, he attempts to cleanse Talia and Damian’s soul, but the clones of Damian insulates him and sacrifices their lives. Den Darga flee leaving Talia and Damian to the abyss; they were rescued by Damian’s friends. Afterwards, Talia is hopeful to move somewhere to a safe place and tells her conscious son to rest. When Damian is awake, Talia convinced her son to calm down and explains that she had been finding redemption for herself for her retribution against him and inaction after Den Darga’s attack. She informs him that if he chooses vigilantism, it will corrupt him of misdeed. Talia then tells her son, Damian that he too can either choose between stay or leave, after approving of who he is being except that his mother has been correcting herself and regretful of her choices. As he chooses to leave and says goodbye to his mother, Talia regroups with the League of Assassins to prepare for war against Den Darga and the Lu’un Darga.
Talia has been written to be an athlete at the peak of physical conditioning and has been trained in many forms of martial arts. She was educated in the arts and sciences, and she holds advanced degrees in biology, engineering, and business as an MBA. She is also quite proficient with most hand weapons. Often underestimated, Talia is also an excellent hand-to-hand fighter.