It is a universally accepted fact that the Batman franchise is perhaps one of the biggest comic book franchises to have ever existed, and over the years, it has produced some seriously impressive villains to boost its storyline, be it the Joker, the Riddler, or the formidable leader of the ‘League of Assassins,’ Ra’s al Ghul. What is important to note is the sheer depth of character instilled into each of these personalities, beginning from the origin stories of their development to the motivations behind their actions. When it comes to their antagonism, they cannot be judged as mere villainous characters in the narrowest sense of the term; rather, what must be taken into consideration is the fact that they each have their own reasons for their aversions and an extensive origin story to justify them. One such character is Ra’s al Ghul, who is considered one of Batman’s greatest adversaries. A man of great intellect matched with his formidable martial arts skills and a superior strategist, he is known for his vast knowledge of the occult and his desire to rid the world of all forms of corruption through any means necessary. He is portrayed in the DC Universe as a man driven by his vision to establish absolute balance in the world. Although he is considered a terrorist owing to his ruthless methods, his world is very intricately woven into the life of Bruce Wayne, the Batman, having attempted on multiple occasions to convince the Dark Knight to be the successor to his throne.
In “Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham,” Ra’s al Ghul is depicted as the chief adversary of Batman and a worshiper of the inter-dimensional cosmic deity Iog-Sotha. He is resurrected by Talia al Ghul to fulfill his desire to bring Iog-Sotha to Earth. A master of the dark arts, he has lived for over two thousand years and has since hatched his sinister plan to offer the Earth as a sacrifice to his master, claiming that it was Iog-Sotha who had created life itself millions of years ago. Ra’s is the leader of the ominous ‘Cult of Ghul,’ which has partaken in several malevolent acts of vice against humanity over the ages. Even in his absence, his sinister desires are very prominently felt in the actions of his daughter, Talia al Ghul, whose only mission was to resurrect her father with the help of the dark arts and to aid him in his malevolent quest. His animus towards humanity is aptly felt when he orchestrates the creation of Poison Ivy from the essence of Iog-Sotha resting inside Grendon, only to poison Harvey Dent to create an interdimensional gateway to his master out of his disfigured physique.
There is a significant change in the character’s backstory as depicted in the movie compared to his actual origin story in the main comic continuity, according to which he was once a healer who had been wrongfully sentenced to death for the murder of his wife, a crime he did not commit. Ra’s resorts to biological warfare in order to exact revenge on the king that had wrongfully convicted him so as to protect the prince, who was actually responsible for the crime.
Also, according to the main continuity, Talia al Ghul is romantically involved with Bruce and is even married to him for a short period of time, during which they have a son, Damien, who later becomes Robin. It is during this time that Ra first came to know of Bruce and, recognizing his exceptional intellectual abilities and battle instincts, offered him the position of his successor to the throne of the ‘League of Assassins,’ but Bruce refused, having been well aware of his genocidal tendencies. Albeit adversaries, both Bruce and Ra are known to share a mutual respect for each other, with Ra having admiringly referred to the Dark Knight as a ‘detective’ on multiple occasions. Ra seemingly shares Bruce’s vision to become a symbol that transcends time, and this proves him to be one of the greatest threats that Bruce would ever have to face.
In this movie, the ‘League of Assassins’ seems to have been replaced by the ‘Cult of Ghul,’ owing to the elements of horror and mystery that are the very motif that drives the narrative. Ra’s is portrayed as having a complex and surreptitious persona in the film, with several layers to his character. One of which he reveals during his final battle with the Bat-Spirit. It is his true form, hidden from the perception of mortals, one he calls Cthulhu. This variation of the character can be considered a direct homage to the cosmic entity imagined by H. P. Lovecraft in “The Call of Cthulhu.” Cthulhu battles the Bat-Spirit (which is actually a mystical form taken by the Batman) until Iog-Sotha reaches the threshold of the Earth. However, he is ultimately overpowered by the Bat, their battle, and the final act of Etrigan to stop Iog-Sotha from extending his tentacles into Earth, causing a massive eruption of hellfire that ultimately destroys Gotham. Hence fulfilling all the prophecies given by Etrigan towards the beginning of the film.