SPOILER ALERT! Spoilers ahead for multiple DC Comics stories in various media.
Season five of the CW’s “Arrow” has already introduced several new heroes and villains to viewers, including Wild Dog, Ragman, and Prometheus. The parade of new faces continues in episode ten, as the show welcomes Lexa Doig in the role of Talia al Ghul to the Arrowverse.
Although Talia is traditionally one of Batman’s more prominent romantic interests, “Arrow’s” producers have never hesitated to conscript characters from the Caped Crusader’s extensive pantheon. Her link to “Arrow’s” season three big bad, Ra’s al Ghul, makes her a logical addition to the cast, even if her exact role in this season’s unfolding plotline remains a mystery.
So just who is Talia al Ghul? Glad you asked, because we’ve compiled a primer of 15 things you need to know about Talia before her debut on “Arrow.”
15. Daughter of the Demon
Perhaps the first thing you should know about Talia is that she comes from a very fine criminal pedigree. In the comics, she is currently the undisputed Daughter of the Demon and heir to Ra’s al Ghul’s vast criminal empire. Although this is a role currently held by Nyssa on “Arrow,” the position has been known to change hands frequently and suddenly over the history of the League of Assassins. It will be interesting to see how Talia fits into the League’s current power dynamic on the TV show.
In the comics, her devotion to her father has only been equalled by her obsession with Batman. This conflict of interests is one of Talia’s defining traits, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to see her target Ollie as a potential mate, even as she seeks revenge for the death of her father. Either way, this Daughter of the Demon is a master manipulator just like her father, which doesn’t bode particularly well for Team Arrow.
14. Talia al Ghul, Ass-Kicker
Talia most often acts from the shadows, preferring to orchestrate her schemes through numerous henchmen and other proxies. Because of this, it’s easy to forget just how deadly a combatant Talia actually is, even without the League of Assassins to back her up. Trained by her father and an army of the deadliest assassins the world has ever known, Talia’s martial abilities and tactical know-how are some of the most advanced in the DCU.
Talia’s been trained to peak physical condition and is an expert in multiple martial arts disciplines. She’s held her own against some of the most accomplished fighters in the world and trained a couple of others, as we’ll find out later in this list. Her father also provided her with an impeccable education in the arts and sciences, which means she can whup your ass while reading Hamlet and doing long division in her head, and never miss a beat.
13. Talia and Batman Sitting in a Tree…
Batman’s had more than his fair share of romantic dalliances over the years, enjoying flings with some of the most prominent women in the DCU, including Wonder Woman, Zatanna, and of course Catwoman. None of these relationships came fraught with the same level of manipulation and danger as his affair with the Daughter of the Demon, though. Ever since her first appearance, Talia’s driving motivation has been her obsession with Bruce Wayne. Flagged by Ra’s al Ghul as the only man worthy of his daughter’s legacy as future head of the League of Assassins, Batman has often found himself at the center of their insidious plots to bring him into the family business.
Sure, their relationship has had many ups and downs over the years but it should be noted that none of Bruce Wayne’s previous affairs ever produced a son. Damian Wayne’s birth ties Talia to the Batman in ways no other member of his extended family can claim. Although currently brainwashed to hate her former love, Talia’s stature as the mother of his only son infuses their interactions with a unique emotional tension and allows her to exploit one of the Bat’s few weaknesses.
12. She Framed Batman for Her Own Murder
Talia’s obsession with Batman was so all-consuming she once framed him for her own murder. In “Detective Comics” #444, Talia hatches a scheme designed to force Batman to abandon his career as Gotham’s protector and join the League of Assassins. It all starts when Batman busts up a heist and ends up shooting Talia in the back as she fled the scene of the crime. With Batman literally holding the smoking gun, Commissioner Gordon had no choice but to issue an arrest warrant for the Dark Knight, turning him into a fugitive.
Batman breaks into prison to interrogate Talia’s father Ra’s al Ghul but the old man sets him up a second time, producing a hidden pistol and killing himself right before the stunned Caped Crusader’s eyes. Batman eventually uncovers the plot with the help of the Creeper, revealing the al Ghuls used a modified gun that allowed a second user to pull the trigger remotely.
11. Bane was Her Fiancé
Talk about dodging a bullet. Believe it or not, at one time, the killing machine known as Bane was considered by Ra’s al Ghul as the only man worthy of carrying on his legacy and marrying his daughter. After breaking the Bat during the famous “Knightfall” storyline, Bane’s star rose even higher in Ra’s’s esteem. Now, this isn’t as far-fetched as it might sound. You have to remember, Bane was always more than just a drug-fueled rage-monkey. He’s a master tactician and expert martial artist, who developed his own unique fighting style and taught himself various scientific disciplines while in prison.
Although his intelligence has been downplayed in recent years, especially in his numerous appearances in video games and cartoons, both Talia and her father recognized Bane’s raw animal cunning as a formidable counter-measure to Bruce Wayne’s more disciplined intellect. Nevertheless, after suffering his humiliating defeat at the hands of a rejuvenated Batman, Talia expressed considerable relief when her father called off her engagement to Bane. In “The Dark Knight Rises,” Christopher Nolan casts their relationship in a new light, with Bane’s depicted as Talia’s devoted protector rather than obsessed suitor.
10. She Took a Dip in the Lazarus Pit
Actually, Talia took several dips in the regenerative waters of the Lazarus Pit and not because she wanted to (although admittedly, that’s usually a moot point, where the Pit is concerned). Upon remerging from the shadows of her self-imposed exile, Talia’s older half-sister Nyssa hatched a Machiavellian scheme to use Talia in a plot to murder their genocidal father once and for all. Nyssa lulled Talia into a false sense of security, gained her trust and then killed her repeatedly in rapid succession. After each death, Nyssa resurrected Talia by immersing her in her own personal Lazarus Pit. The intense physical and emotional stresses of multiple resurrections in such a short period of time broke Talia’s remarkable will, turning her into Nyssa’s willing pawn.
Ever the multitasker, Nyssa also took the opportunity to subvert Talia’s obsession with Batman, reprogramming her with an intense hatred for the Caped Crusader, which has lasted to this day. Together, Talia and Nyssa supplanted their father as head of the League of Assassins, ironically coming to embrace his twisted moral code upon his death.
9. Nyssa’s Half-Sister
Long before Talia was born, her father Ra’s al Ghul fathered another daughter named Nyssa Raatkos. Disgusted by her father’s extreme measures for cleansing the Earth, Nyssa split from the League of Assassins and came into possession of her own Lazarus Pit. Nyssa’s long life led to much tragedy and heartbreak. She lost most of her family to the Holocaust during World War Two. Even still, it wasn’t until the death of her last living descendent that she emerged from the shadows to usurp leadership of the League of Assassins from her father, sharing power with Talia until she was in turn killed by another faction of the League loyal to the second Batgirl, Cassandra Cain.
In the comics, Nyssa’s relationship with Talia has always been somewhat conflicted, to say the least. Talia’s cooperation with her older sister is rooted in coercion and intensive brainwashing. The circumstances surrounding Talia’s introduction into the Arrow-verse are still shrouded in mystery but we can’t wait to see the first meeting between these two Daughters of the Demon.
8. Leader of the League of Assassins
Although she shared leadership of the League of Assassins with Nyssa, Talia took full control of the organization after her half-sister’s death at the hands of a rogue faction of the League loyal to Cassandra Cain. Under her leadership, the League would once again return to its mandate of manipulating world events from behind the scenes through murder-for-hire and genocidal cleansing, although her unhealthy obsession with Batman still seems to influence her behavior to a degree.
As we get set to welcome Talia to the Arrowverse, it will be interesting to see what her status is in relation to the League. With Nyssa alive and well, and in firm control of the League of Assassins on “Arrow,” Talia may end up playing the role of usurper, signalling yet another change in the criminal organization’s leadership. Another possibility is an alliance between the two sisters similar to the arrangement seen in the source material. Whatever the case, this season seems to herald another period of extended upheaval for the League of Assassins.
7. She Trained Jason Todd
When Superboy-Prime punched the crap out of the Multiverse in “Infinite Crisis,” he caused massive change to established DC continuity. One of the many events undone by Superboy’s reality-altering haymaker was the death of Jason Todd, who was killed by fans in an ill-conceived phone-in campaign, during the infamous “Death in the Family” storyline. Todd’s return to the land of the living was almost as controversial as his tragic death but after a few stumbles, he would go on to become a trusted member of the Batman Family as the Red Hood, thanks in large part to Talia.
After an amnesiac Todd found himself inexplicably alive and living on the streets, Talia discovers him and takes him to her father, who is naturally curious about the means of his resurrection. Realizing he’s nothing but a pale shadow of the man he once was, Talia immerses Todd in the healing water of the Lazarus Pit, hoping to heal the former Robin out of her love for his mentor. During the events of DC’s Rebirth, the story behind Todd’s resurrection was streamlined to remove Superboy-Prime’s involvement, tying him ever closer to Talia and the League of Assassins.
6. She Out-Luthored Lex Luthor
Once upon a time, Lex Luthor thought the best way to further his grandiose schemes was to become the most powerful man in the world, so he set out to become President of the United States. After a successful campaign put him in the White House, he needed someone to run Lexcorp, arguably the DC Universe’s largest and most powerful corporation. He turned to Talia to become his vast business empire’s new CEO, catching her during a period of disillusionment when she had distanced herself from the League and become estranged with her father.
Talia accepted the offer and dutifully ran Lexcorp into the ground, using a lifetime of training gained while watching her father at the reins of the world’s largest criminal organization. As always, Talia had her own agenda as CEO of Lexcorp. She worked behind the scenes to provide information about Luthor’s nefarious schemes to Superman. When Luthor returned from the Oval Office to reclaim his business interests, Talia outmaneuvered the cagey corporate raider by selling off all of his assets to the Wayne Foundation and exposing him as the criminal he truly was.
5. Founding Member of the Society
During the lead-up to “Infinite Crisis”, Talia was revealed as a founding member Lex Luthor’s new incarnation of the Secret Society of Super Villains. Dubbed “the Society,” Talia worked alongside Deathstroke, the Calculator, Doctor Psycho, Black Adam, and Dr. Light, to build a united front in their ongoing criminal enterprises. The ultimate goal was supposed to be the creation of a massive memory-purging engine that would erase the memories of all of the DCU’s superheroes.
In reality, Alexander Luthor Jr, the son of an alternate reality’s version of Luthor, was attempting to recreate the Multiverse, a fact he kept hidden from the rest of the Society. Alexander Luthor Jr. invited over 500 villains to his join his cause and using the League of Assassins’ vast army of operatives, Talia facilitated the escapes of several costumed criminals. However, it was later revealed that her involvement was in fact a part of Nyssa’s own plans to use the Society as a means to take over the planet and institute a new era of peace and equality under her rule.
4. Damian Wayne’s Mom
During his critically-acclaimed stint as the primary writer of Batman’s adventures, Grant Morrison forever altered the dynamic between the Caped Crusader and his sidekick, Robin. Morrison looked to Barr and Bingham’s out-of-continuity “Son of the Demon” for inspiration, finally bringing Bruce Wayne’s lovechild into the mainstream DC Universe. No stranger to controversy, Morrison dramatically altered the circumstances of his birth and conception.
Unlike the original non-canonical story, Batman and Talia’s roll in the hay was anything but consensual. In Morrison’s version, Talia drugs Batman, making him susceptible to her sexual advances. She would use their combined genetic material to grow Damien in an artificial womb and upon his birth train him as her son and successor. Ultimately, Damien proved to be just another pawn caught up in her undying obsession with the Bat and her son would break away from her influence to embrace his destiny as both his father’s son and crime-fighting partner.
3. Mother of Ibn al Xu’ffasch
Before Damian Wayne was hatched from his artificial womb by Grant Morrison, there was Ibn al Xu’ffasch – literally “the Son of the Bat.” First appearing in the classic non-canonical work “Batman: Son of the Demon,” by Mike W. Barr and Jerry Bingham, this Elseworlds son of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul never made it into the DC Universe proper. Although some view Morrison’s recycling of the idea during his innovative tenure on “Batman” as a way to bring Ibn into mainstream continuity, the two characters are vastly different.
Mark Waid and Alex Ross included Ibn in their huge cast of legacy characters in “Kingdom Come,” where he sided with Lex Luthor as the heir of Ra’s al Ghul’s criminal empire. A relatively minor player in the main limited series, Ibn’s character was explored more fully in his own one-shot, “Son of the Bat,” during DC’s “The Kingdom” event. Of particular note was his relationship with Nightstar, Dick Grayson’s daughter by Starfire, a situation that led the former Boy Wonder to exclaim in one of the event’s more ironic moments, “You’re still my daughter M’ari – which means you cannot date Bruce Wayne’s son!”
2. She Masterminded Leviathan
The far-reaching, insidious criminal organization known as Leviathan was born as a response to Bruce Wayne’s Batman Incorporated project, which took his war on crime to a global level. It was eventually revealed that the mastermind behind Leviathan was none other than Talia, who had placed her father under arrest and effectively usurped his vast resources in her new enterprise. Under her leadership, Leviathan launched a campaign of terror against Gotham, promising to drive the city towards suicide by arming the poor and providing them with the right motivation to rampage. It was also during this time that a mysterious new operative named the Heretic emerged at Talia’s side, dressed in his own bat-themed costume.
It was eventually revealed that the Heretic was Damien’s clone, artificially aged to adulthood. The Heretic proved more than a match for his genetic forebear and he impaled Damien through the heart, in the lobby of Wayne Tower, killing him instantly. Damien would ultimately be granted a resurrection thanks to something called a Chaos Shard but not before Talia avenges her son’s unintended death, decapitating the Heretic and dropping the massive Wayne Tower on his dismembered body.
1. Marion Cotillard Played Her in “The Dark Knight Rises”
Lexa Doig’s live action portrayal of Talia won’t be the first time the character has appeared on-camera. In the third and final instalment of his popular Bat-film franchise, “The Dark Knight Rises,” Christopher Nolan introduced the character of Miranda Tate. A wealthy philanthropist who shares Bruce Wayne’s bed and his vision of a better Gotham, Tate is later revealed to be Talia al Ghul, the true mastermind behind Bane’s invasion of the city. Talia reveals that she was born in the same prison that held a crippled Bruce Wayne, protected by the devoted Bane until she could escape.
Talia’s ultimate plan is to destroy Gotham City with an atomic bomb, thereby gaining vengeance on Batman for the death of her father in the first movie of the trilogy, “Batman Begins.” Obviously, her scheme doesn’t come to fruition, although Talia does perish believing she’s doomed Batman’s home to a catastrophic end. Despite some major departures from the source material, particularly evident in the nature of her relationship with Bane, Marion Cotillard’s portrayal of Talia brought to life both her propensity for cold-blooded calculation and passion for vengeance, qualities we’re also likely to see on the small screen, in “Arrow.”
What do you know about Talia that we don’t? Let us know in the Comments!
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