Dennis O’Neil: Tabula Ra’s al Ghul
Well now, I just don’t know. When I finished last week’s blatherthon I thought we were al done with the al Ghuls. Excuse that and where were we… oh yeah, Talia and her sister Nyssa and their father, Ra’s. Batman’s nemeses. The family might be worth a bit more copy.
As I observed last week, the family name is not “al Ghul” or “Al Ghul” or anything like that. The Al Ghul label is a kind of honorific – ”head of the demon” if you must know – maybe laid on the old man by someone he wronged, kind of like “Vlad the Impaler.” It was provided by the late and great Julius Schwartz and I regret never having asked Julie where he got it.
So what’s the real moniker? I had a chance to concoct one when Norm Breyfogle and I did a graphic novel that was, among other things, a Ra’s Al Ghul origin story. But I didn’t. The idea never occurred to me and I might regret that when I’m done regretting all the other things I regret, so don’t expect this particular regret to happen any time soon.
When it was becoming apparent that Batman movies weren’t going to stop with the one released in 1988, I wondered if they’d get around to putting Ra’s and Talia on the big screen. It made sense to me, who was and is not a film guy and who, though I was asked to read the Batman scripts and comment on them, has no illusions regarding possible influence on choices made in movieland. Still, I wondered: do Ra’s and Talia and you had the required beautiful woman character already in place— Talia, natch— and the special effects wizards could make his Lazurus Pit awesome.
Of course, when Ra’s and Talia finally got screen time, Batman was provided with other sweethearts and Ra’s’s nifty little immortality bath was cut from the storyline.
No complaints. Not a one. What the movie guys did was reinvent our comic book material for another medium and that was exactly their job. Some things got changed, some things got lost and this is all to the good because they were making a film, not a comic book, and different media have different strengths.
So I’m not complaining when I say that the casting took me a bit by surprise. If I’d have had my druthers, Talia would be embodied by…maybe Angie Harmon? Tall, stately, beautiful, tough. Note, here, that I’m going through the formality of a spoiler warning and remarking that, instead of Harmon type, we got Marion Cotillard and with her a plot twist I did not see coming and I left the theater talking about what i had just seen, and pleased to have seen it.
A final question: I do know that R’as and Talia don’t exist, don’t I?