Eisner Award-winning legend Neal Adams is throwing readers into a Lazarus Pit this week as DC Comics rolls out his latest miniseries featuring one of his most famous characters, Batman's dangerous archvillain Ra's al Ghul.
As part of DC's Year of the Villain promotion, which is running across its flagship titles, Batman vs. Ra's al Ghul #1 infiltrates comics shops today. The comic will fittingly focus on Ra’s al Ghul, leader of the League of Assassins, grandfather to Bruce Wayne’s son Damian, and the only human being on the planet with enough cunning and charisma to go sword-to-sword with the Dark Knight.
Adams has been with Ra's al Ghul since the beginning. Back in 1971, Adams illustrated Batman #232's "Daughter of the Demon," where he unleashed Ra’s al Ghul upon the comics world alongside the villain's co-creators, writer Denny O'Neil and editor Julie Schwartz.
Now, in this new miniseries, Gotham City is under siege by ruthless terrorists, and the Dark Knight is determined to find the insidious source. But when Boston Brand (aka Deadman) attempts to intervene, he discovers an even more unsettling and deadly truth: The insurgents are led by an inhuman monster.
Ra's al Ghul volunteers his own private security force to aid the Gotham City Police Department in taking down the threat, and now they're the only thing standing between atomic terror and the good folks of Gotham. However, al Ghul's true goal is shrouded from everyone's eyes.
SYFY WIRE spoke with Adams from his Continuity Studios in New York City to hear how this reunion project came to fruition, where readers might expect this clash to climax, and what it feels like to resurrect al Ghul for a new generation after nearly 50 years. After the chat, stick around for an exclusive four-page peek inside the premiere issue in the gallery below.
How did this Batman vs. Ra's al Ghul project originate, and how does the plot unfurl?
Well, if you've been paying attention to what I've been doing, you saw that I did a thing called Batman Odyssey, where I took a whole lot of pieces of Batman's life and gathered them together and swept them out of the driveway and put them in a little pile and told a story. It was 13 chapters, and it seemed like I was alluding to stuff. That story continues to my Deadman series that came out fairly recently with six issues where he pretty much yells at everybody. You learn a few new things about Deadman in there, and there's some enmity between Deadman and his parents, and they have something to do with Ra's al Ghul. He doesn't get to track down his brother and sisters, but now he must go to the greatest detective in the world. And I think we know who that is.
So Batman is embroiled in a terrible disaster with Ra's al Ghul, and that's what's happening in this six-issue miniseries. So we're going to see Deadman try to approach Batman, Batman dealing with Ra's al Ghul and not realizing that both of their problems are intertwined. You're going to see the end of an adventure that's taken three graphic novels to resolve. As much as you know Batman thinks far, far ahead, so does Ra's al Ghul. Deadman does not. He's dead! He's in the moment.
What was it like immersing yourself back into Ra's al Ghul's character and what makes him such an iconic villain?
I was allowed to be part of the Batman universe after the TV show, and we had to make Batman more serious. Denny O'Neil was doing weirdly mundane stories ... with no clowns. We had an Orson Welles character, we had a Spanish couple, yet we knew we had to bring back the clown, he had to come back. I went to [editor] Julie Schwartz and told him we have to find Batman a Moriarty. Just like Sherlock Holmes has a Moriarty, without Moriarty there is no Sherlock Holmes. You need somebody equal to Batman to be his mortal enemy, be sophisticated, do things nobody else would do, before you bring back the clowns or else we would lose Batman again.
Julie and Denny agreed, and Julie came in the following Monday and pointed at me and said, "Ra's al Ghul." It's an Arab name that means "The Head of the Demon," and so he said it's up to you what he looks like. So I created Ra's al Ghul and Denny O'Neil wrote it and wrote a deeper type of story. Things are implied but not necessarily there. Why is he such a great villain? You can't really see through that smoke to what he's doing. And maybe what he's doing is good. Except he's hurting people while he does it, which Batman can't take. Ra's al Ghul is like the intellectual bully in the playground that you have to beat.
Why are Batman and Ra's al Ghul such potent forces of personality, and why are their clashes always engaging?
I think because they make us make a judgment. Even though Batman is faced with this relative army of bad guys, you can't just go out and make it your goal to kill them. Ra's al Ghul is saying no, that to help the city you have to kill them. Batman is like you in that he believes in justice without murdering the criminal if you can avoid it. But some of us think it's okay to have a Ra's al Ghul, but the higher form of morality is to say no, Batman is right. You have to find another way to do this that doesn't hurt people. We're looking for a deeper story, something worthy of Batman. And that's the kind of story I like.
DC Comics' Batman vs. Ra's al Ghul #1 arrives in comic shops today.