Dennis O’Neil: The Talia al Ghul I Know… and The Sister I Don’t
I was surprised to learn that Talia has a sister. Understand, Talia and I go back a long way. I first encountered her in a script I was writing for Detective 411. I really didn’t know much about her, though I was probably aware that she had a father who would grab attention at some point. I didn’t come face-to-face with him until I looked at a copy of Batman 322.
His relationship to his daughter was open information from the beginning and when you think about it, his having progeny is a bit odd; his biggest concern is the destruction of the Earth’s ecosphere and that includes the problem of overpopulation. And although Ra’s al Ghul is something like 400 years old, I’m pretty sure that Talia is still a young woman – young by our standards, not just her father’s. So this man who thinks there are already too many people adds to the number? It doesn’t seem to parse.
But we should remember that Ra’s is a megalomaniacal sociopath. Such a man might feel that anything he does, including adding to a crisis by siring a child, is righteous because he does it. If you do it: bad. If he does it: bravo. Of course, he may have had a practical reason for becoming a parent: maybe he was looking for someone to take over the family business after he retired. (I suppose that when you pass 350 or so, you lose a step or two and begin to consider successors.) Or he might have been having trouble finding good help and decided to grow his own. Or maybe he planned to begin an al Ghul dynasty.
Well. maybe not an al Ghul dynasty. That’s not a name, that al Ghul. More like a title. According to the late Julius Schwartz, who contributed it, Ra’s al Ghul means something like “head of the demon.” Surely at some other time, he was called something else, perhaps with the title “doctor” prefacing it. He was a doctor, you know, and a scientist and perhaps a bit of a humanitarian in a country that has absolutely and vanished from history. Not a trace left. Nada. Zilch. (How, then, do I know about it? That would be telling.)
About that sister: her name is Nyssa al Ghul – she obviously doesn’t know that what she’s calling herself isn’t a name, unless she does know and is being a rebel. She showed up in a recent episode of a television presentation titled Arrow and proceeded to do some major ass-kicking. I don’t think she’s much like her sister. (Do they even have the same mother?) My Talia has pacifistic instincts that are unfortunately often obliterated by a slavish devotion to her father. A really expert therapist might do wonders for her. Nyssa, on the other hand, seemed to enjoy combat and to be very good at it. Though, I admit, we have barely met the woman and can’t really judge her motives.
I guess we should stay tuned.