Talia remains the primary antagonist in Grant Morrison's second volume of Batman, Incorporated as she leads Leviathan in attacks against Batman. She was partially responsible for the death of her own son, Damian Wayne.
Talia is the daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul and the mother of the late Damian Wayne. Much of her background is not clearly explained though her history is relatively well known. Ra’s met her mother (sometimes referred to as Melisande) at the Woodstock Musical Festival. She was a woman of Chinese and Arab descent. Her mother died soon after her birth (in one version she overdosed on drugs, in the more recent version she was murdered by one of Ra’s' former servants). After her death Talia was taken care of by her father, as she traveled the world and learned all the skills she would need to help her father with his criminal empire, including espionage and hand-to-hand combat.
Talia al Ghul was created by Dennis O’Neil, Dick Giordano and Bob Brown. Her first appearance was in Detective Comics #411 in 1971.
Although a member of her father’s criminal empire, and one of his closest advisors, Talia is often shown to be not as convinced of the goals of his enterprise as he is. One of the reasons for her doubt was her father's indication that she should choose Batman as a mate. Batman actually had a calming influence on her, and led to a less radical path than her father. Since then she has done other altruistic actions such as coming to Batman’s aid during Hush, or aiding in the resurrection of Jason Todd. She has also shown a degree of loyalty to her son which is apparently stronger than any other loyalty which she has.
Despite Bruce’s usual refusal of her romantic advances, the two do share an attraction to one another (she often refers to him as "beloved"). The most obvious example of this is the consummation of their love in the form of Damian. However, the two generally recognize that they are opposites to one another but still maintain their love for one another. For instance, during the events of Legacy, when Bane was chosen as Talia’s new mate, she still wanted Batman to beat him in combat.
Major Story Arcs
Talia’s publication history extends back to the Silver Age of comics. During that time she was most often portrayed as little more than a helper to her father. After the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths many of the more popular characters in the DC Universe were redesigned with Batman being one of the most prominent. He was given a grittier appearance and approach, and his stories became more gritty. Although Catwoman was generally portrayed as his main romantic interest it was decided that Talia might also fill this role.
Her first appearance in the Silver Age involved a villain named Doctor Darkk who claimed to be the head of the League of Assassins. He had kidnapped Talia and Batman intervened to save her. It was later revealed that he was not in fact the leader of the League, but rather that he was one of Ra’s' soldiers who had failed on a mission, fled and then tried to take over control of Ra’s' organization, though he was eventually stopped by Batman and Talia working together. Soon after Ra’s appeared in the Batcave and admitted that he needed help as Talia and Robin had been kidnapped (this was during the story “Daughter of the Demon”). This was a staged scenario as Ra’s was curious as to whether Batman was a worthy candidate for his daughter’s love and as the potential father of his grandchildren and heir to his empire. Batman of course was not interested in Ra’s' offer, but did reciprocate Talia’s feelings.
In the reintroduction of the character post-Crisis, Batman joined forces with Ra’s to hunt for Qayin, a terrorist and rogue assassin. During this time Batman marries Talia and she becomes pregnant with their child. In some versions of this story, Batman was drugged the whole time, though this had been changed from the original version. Talia eventually decides that they cannot be together, and fakes a miscarriage. Soon after she in fact gives birth to Damian.
Despite her refusal of his place as her spouse, she nonetheless provided a great deal of support to him over the years, but also while acting as a loyal supporter of her father. During the events of Legacy she was as usual but a pawn in her father’s plan to infect the world with the dreaded contagion virus, but during this time she was forced into a relationship with Bane, who her father thought would be a good replacement for Bruce and an able heir to the criminal empire. However, she was shown to not express any emotion to him, and demonstrated she was still in love with Bruce.
At the end of Legacy she was thought dead after the yacht that she and her father were on was blown up, but she showed up soon after offering council to Bruce. He had thought that Gotham City was beyond repair following the events of the miniseries Cataclysm and the ensuing distinction of Gotham City as a No Man’s Land. She convinces Bruce that he must go back and save his city.
Talia has a small part to play in the Tower of Babel crossover where her father plans to incapacitate the Justice League of America with the failsafes that Batman has in place (though the Flash and Wonder Woman are able to save him). Talia jobs was to infect Martian Manhunter with nanites that would automatically combust in the presence of oxygen. She soon becomes disillusioned with her father’s plan and tries to betray him but she is shot first. She is not allowed much peace though as she heals in seclusion in Switzerland. Whisper A’Daire and Kyle Abbot arrive to retrieve her for her father but the timely intervention of Batman leads him to the new base of operations for the League of Assassins. Batman is himself incapacitated, but Talia convinces Ra’s to let her once attempt to seduce him into joining them. The two eventually escape with Talia realizing that her father will never allow her to live as she wishes to while he is still a part of her life.
When Lex Luthor was appointed President of the United States he needed a set of capable hands to run LexCorp. Talia was chosen as his successor. While she appeared to be doing as Luthor wanted to the public, in secret she was leaking information to Superman which would help lead to his demise, while also selling all of LexCorp’s assets to the Wayne Enterprises.
During this time Talia also plays a small part in the Hush story arc, where she provides important information to Bruce, and does so knowing that he is presently in a relationship with Catwoman. While the events of Hush led Batman to temporarily believe that Jason Todd had returned from the dead (in fact it had been Clayface in disguise) this underlay a deeper truth which was that some time ago that Talia had in fact used a Lazarus Pit to return Jason to life. She subsequently helped him get back to health and provided him financial and materiel support to regain his life. This was revealed to have happened long ago shortly after his death.
It is soon after revealed that Ra’s in fact has another daughter, Nyssa, and that she is herself interests in her father’s criminal empire. She at first befriends Talia, but then kidnaps her and brainwashes her into killing their father. Using a Lazarus Pit she is successfully killed and resurrected in rapid succession which drives Talia to insanity from the shock and torture. Though Nyssa’s plan to kill her father is eventually successful it is subsequently revealed that this was in fact part of his plan, as he had hoped that his death would prompt his daughters to take what he saw as their rightful place as the head of the organization which he had built. They both accept this and Talia disavows her love for Bruce, mostly as a result of the torture at Nyssa’s hands. She thus considers Bruce her enemy. Subsequently Talia joins the Secret Society of Super Villains as one of its core members, which was a plan concocted by Nyssa. However, Nyssa is soon killed by Cassandra Cain, with the control of League of Assassins passing to her.
During the events of One Year Later Talia has absolute control of the criminal empire save for the League of Assassins. She also resurfaces in Bruce’s life and reveals that Damian has been alive the whole time. Although this is true, she did so as a matter of deception, hoping that Batman would be distracted while Talia kidnapped the British Prime Minister. However, Damian makes a lasting impression on Bruce who accepts him as his son.
During the story arc the Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul, Talia plays a major role. The White Ghost, a servant of Ra’s had long been preparing a Lazarus Pit for Damian, though this one was of a different form than usual. Instead of resurrecting Damian, it was meant to transfer the intelligence from Ra’s spirit to Damian’s body. It was revealed that Ra’s had never truly been dead, but that his body was in a weakened state. Once she discovered his plans though she allowed Damian to flee, although she was subsequently imprisoned. Unknown to her, Batman had been tracking the White Ghost and he freed Talia upon discovering her. Damian was left ostensibly in the care of Dick Grayson and Tim Drake in Gotham while Bruce and Talia pursued the White Ghost. Tim and Damian were soon captured. Meanwhile Bruce and Talia were forced to fend off some members from Ra’s organization. They also shared a moment of intimacy reminiscent of their long since past relationship when Bruce was required to provide medical care to her. The two eventually discovered the hiding place of Ra’s but were soon captured. He is then offered a choice between either Tim or Damian to be sacrificed in the Lazarus Pit. Instead Bruce informs him he will take him to the Fountain of Life in Nanda Parbat. They are forced to battle the Sensei, who reveals he is Ra’s father. During the battle between the Sensei and Batman, Talia frees both Tim and Damian. Time contemplates going into a Lazarus Pit anyway as he might be reunited with his parents, but Dick intervenes. Soon though Talia intervenes after personally dealing with numerous trained killers. She then leads them to Nanda Parbat. The entire group of heroes manage to confront Ra’s and stop him from taking Damian’s body. He subsequently takes over the body of the White Ghost who was in actuality his son. With the finally resurrected Ra’s a large melee commences, with Talia choosing to fight on the side of the heroes. She soon thereafter disappears with Damian.
During Final Crisis she is once again seen as a member of the Secret Society of Super Villains, this time under the leadership of Libra. She also appears briefly with Damian during the Battle for the Cowl following the apparent death of Bruce. She also soon creates Leviathan, a criminal organization which uses a mind control substance to create absolute loyalty among her followers.
Talia's reign of terror is brought to an end when Kathy Webb-Kane puts a bullet right through Talia's head. Talia may one day be resurrected like her son if Ra's is successful in restoring the Lazarus Pits.
Powers & Abilities
Talia is a regular human with no superpowers. Repeated exposure to Lazarus Pits has left her in peak physical form, perhaps as advanced as Bruce or the other elite heroes from Gotham. The pits have also increased her life span. Due to her training, Talia is a master of both armed and unarmed combat. Her weapons knowledge extends from simple weapons to advanced modern weapons. She is also a master tactician, which has been necessary in her dealings in crime and espionage. These skills also transfer well to her being adept at seduction. She has also shown exceptional strategic ability, proven by her ability to fool the Sirens and command the recently established Leviathan crime organization.
Grant Morrison's Retcon
After the end of Son of the Demon, the fate of Talia and Bruce’s child was moved to the hands of Grant Morrison, who then wrote Batman & Son. However, Morrison retconned the romance and marriage of Talia and Bruce and instead attributed their ‘romance’ to a ploy ultimately masterminded by Ra’s al Ghul to create a genetically perfect heir and grandson. However, Morrison realized his mistake and addressed its continuity when the Pre-Flashpoint Superboy Prime universe-shaking punch broke the universe’s time.
This is what Morrison had to say:
"For a long time, [DC] said [Son of the Demon] was out of continuity. Now it's just kind of out of continuity. I didn't actually read it before I started writing this. I messed up a lot of details, like Batman wasn't drugged when he was having sex with Talia and it didn't take place in the desert. I was relying on shaky memories. But now we have this new "Superboy punch" continuity [after Superboy Prime attacked the fabric of the universe during Infinite Crisis]. People still don't realize how important that single punch was to cover everyone's ass." - Wizard #182 (p. 38)
Since the ‘punch’ DC has restored the continuity of Son of the Demon and of Talia and Bruce’s romance (as seen inBatman R.I.P and Gotham City Sirens).
It's a year 1275, Talia the daughter of Rä's al Ghül of House of Selene receives her father's powers after he is slain by Timon Vicar. She uses her powers to kill highway robbers, who had killed Selenites. One time she saved an enemy of her's Timon Vicar of Augustine himself, although she didn't show that she knew who he was. She planned on educating the man that Selenites are not evil, like the soldiers are told, that they only wish to live in harmony. They stopped at a house that crossed their path, and opted to take some horses. They were both attacked by Augustine legionnaires as Timon was mistaken for Selenite in his rags. After the soldiers decided to have some "fun" with Talia before they kill her, Timon killed the soldiers and saved Talia. Talia then sets her sights to a tavern, where highwaymen stop and barter stolen goods. Those highway robbers also pretend to be Selenites when they rob on Augustine lands. Talia plans to kill them, so it would be easier to talk of peace between Selenites and Augustine. But luck is not on her side, the highway robbers have left the inn hours ago, and she can't pick up their scent. Having no more leads, she reveals that she knew who Timon was. Timon then says that he believes that Selenites are not evil as they are told by the emperor, Timon's father. Talia and Timon then share a bed. In the morning Talia left before Timon awoke; the man then rode back to his home. But Talia secretly followed him. Timon tried to tell his father what he has learned, but the emperor doesn't want to hear it. Talia hears all that and kills the emperor moments later. Timon is raged from that and attacks Talia, but Talia ends up saving his life, when they suddenly are attacked by a crocodile. But they don't get the happy ending, the soldiers shot Talia and with her dying word she tells Timon, the new emperor to make peace with the Selenites. But Timon suspects she might also have nine lives, and hopes to meet her again.
In Other Media
DC Animated Universe
Talia makes several appearances in the DC Animated Universe:
Talia in Batman: The Animated Series
Batman: The Animated Series
She first appears in Batman: The Animated Series in the episodes "Off Balance" and "The Demon's Quest" parts 1 and 2, the episodes are based off of two classic Talia stories "Into the Den of the Death-Dealers!" and "Daughter of the Demon." She is voiced by Helen Slater who portrayed another DC Comics character, Supergirl, in the movie of the same name.
Talia in The New Batman/Superman Adventures
Superman: The Animated Series
Talia is next seen in The Batman/Superman episode "The Demon Reborn." Olivia Hussey is the voice actor who portrays Talia. In this episode Talia and several cohorts from The League of Assassins are attempting to steal a Native American staff on it's way to an art gallery. The staff is said to have mystical abilities and is said to have healing properties. Of course, Superman attempts to stop them and fails miserably. Talia uses the magical staff to drain Superman's powers because he is vulnerable to magic, and proceeds to capture him. The intent behind this is for Talia and Ra's to use the staff to transfer Superman's strength to Ra's because the Lazarus Pits had become ineffective at prolonging his longevity. Batman arrives in the nick of time and manages to save Superman, but Ra's had already absorbed enough of Superman's life force to be able to once again use the Lazarus Pits.
Talia appears in one episode of Batman Beyond, entitled "Out of the Past" again voiced by Olivia Hussey. In this episode Talia visits Bruce Wayne on his birthday and makes him an offer that he simply can't refuse. She offers him the use of a Lazarus Pit to restore his youth. He justifies answering yes by saying that he will once again be able to actively fight crime. While at Talia's mansion Bruce and his protege Terry McGinnis discover that there is a truly sinister motive behind Talia's offer. They discover that it is not actually Talia at all, but that it is in fact Ra's inhabiting Talia after transferring his mind into her body. At first he could only do this with close genetic relatives, but he was able to improve the process and therein lies the motive for giving Bruce access to the Lazarus Pit. Ra's plan would hit two birds with one stone: he would've transferred his consciousness into Bruce's revitalized body and then planned on claiming to be Bruce and Talia's long-lost son and claim control of Wayne-Powers Industries. Thanks to Terry, Bruce is able to escape before Ra's can implement his plan and the last that we see of Ra's and Talia is a stray cable striking the Pits after a huge knock-down drag-out fight with Bruce and Terry, and the whole mansion going up in flames.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold
The next time that we see Talia is in Batman the Brave and the Bold in an episode titled "Sidekicks Assemble" and she is voiced by Andrea Bowen. In this episode Ra's plans to infect Coast City with super-powered plants and Talia and Ubu act as his accomplices or sidekicks. Talia later helps Robin, Aqualad and Speedy escape from Ra's' trap and screw up his plan after Ra's makes clear to her that he would rather Robin be his heir. Ra's is once again defeated by Batman and Talia again turns sides and helps her father escape. This show differs from the comics version in a couple of ways, one of which is the fact that Talia is not shown having any romantic feelings for Batman, the second being that Talia is closer in age to Robin and his friends than to Batman.
Talia appears in Arkham City where she saved Batman from being killed by her Elite Guard and trying to urge him to kill Ra's and take his place as the leader of the League of Assasians, although he refuses. She later returns saving Batman from being killed by the Joker, by offering him immortality in exchange. During which Clayface disguised as the Joker kidnaps her, and ultimately leads to her being killed by the true Joker.
The Dark Knight Rises
Talia appears in The Dark Knight Rises where she has come to Gotham City as the leader of the League of Shadows to finish her deceased father Ra's al Ghul's work of destroying the city. She is honoring her father as his heir to ensure the League fulfilled its duty and for the patient reward of vengeance against Batman for his death.
Born in an underground prison in Asia, her mother is later is killed there. Talia is protected by Bane, an inmate that became her friend and protector and assisted her later escape from the prison.
In Gotham City, Talia poses as wealthy philanthropist 'Miranda Tate' who invested in Wayne Enterprises to create a clean energy fusion reactor. Bruce Wayne entrusts his company and the reactor to her after he was ousted from the company due to an attack on his finances by the League. She gets intimately close to him and offers to leave Gotham with him, but he had made prior arrangements and declined. After Batman was defeated by Bane and imprisoned in her birthplace, Talia turns on the reactor so that it can be made into a nuclear bomb to hold the city under siege, she uses her false persona to obtain knowledge of government agents in the city and have them killed, and she misleads the police into tracking a decoy nuclear bomb. After Bane's defeat by Batman, she desists pretending to be Miranda and stabs Batman and attempts to detonate the bomb, but discovers signal interference and gives new orders. She meets defeat in her truck transporting the nuclear bomb, having crashed after Batman's and Selina Kyle's vehicles dismantled her vehicle convoy.
Talia’s personality is incredibly three-dimensional. At first glance, she comes off as cold, calculating and discerning; much like her father. She makes no effort to show trivial warming to newcomers and she often despises most people she meets from the very first meeting. Her hard exterior is no doubt attributed to the strict and disciplined nature of her upbringing through Ra’s’ League and the various hardships she has endured throughout her life. She trusts very few people, and much of her actions are strengthened by the ideal that the only person she can rely on is herself.
She is fiercely independent and protective of her feelings, but at the same time, has shown immense levels of heart. Her relationship with Bruce is incredibly unpredictable, but the bottom line has been shown on very many occasions that she still deeply cares for him. Despite attempts at ‘retcon rape’ (where writers have denounced Bruce and Talia’s marriage and instead attributed their love to drugs), in multiple story arcs, Talia has taken Bruce’s side before anything else; including her father and the League. Such story arcs include The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul, Hush and Gotham City Sirens.
For example, in Hush, when held captive by Bruce and Selina Kyle, she made no effort to intervene when Lady Shiva arrived to rescue her. Yet, she reversed her cold dislike for Selina by knocking out Shiva when her back was turned and then providing medical assistance to Selina, which actually saved her life. Bruce questioned Talia, asking why she didn’t just leave, but Talia said she did it for him. She expressed concern for Bruce’s safety in regards to his blooming relationship with Selina, stating that ‘his mystery enemy knows this and will use it against him’. Alongside this, she masterminded an elaborate plan to have Selina’s memory wiped by Zatanna in order to protect Bruce’s true identity in Gotham City Sirens, should Selina ever be actually captured. Zatanna accused Talia of being jealous of Selina, but Talia dismissed the accusation, stating that she cared for the father of her child. Another notable instance was during The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul, where Talia forcefully incapacitated Damian and attempted to escape with him, which Bruce questioned. Talia replied – ‘Because you will die here. Allow me to save the final legacy of the man I once loved’.
Talia is even more fiercely loyal to Damian, going to great lengths to ensure his protection; especially from Ra’s. In The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul, the White Ghost, a servant of Ra’s (who is revealed to be his son), noted that it was her biggest weakness. Talia has turned on many of her allies in order to ensure Damian is safe and grows with a safe lifestyle. Despite early disagreement, she seems satisfied with leaving him in Bruce’s care.
Despite all her motherly loyalty, Talia is still an incredibly deadly woman with years of hardened experience and no qualms about killing. Bruce does not fully trust her, nor do any of the Bat Family (aside from Damian), as she has shown time and time again that trust is a silent killer.
- IGN's Top 100 Comic Book Villains of All Time list: Talia al Ghul ranked #42
- Comics Buyer's Guide's 100 Sexiest Women in Comics list: Talia al Ghul ranked #25