Foreign Femme Fatal: The Character Assassination of Talia Al Ghul

Talia Al Ghul has existed in the DC universe for 51 years since her first appearance in 1971. As the daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul, she is an expert and trained assassin who, despite being loyal to her father and his position as head of the League of Assassins, is often characterized as an antihero given how often she came to Batman’s aid. 

Grant Morrison is the initial and biggest example of destruction to Talia’s character. Originally, Talia had been used as a romantic interest for Bruce Wayne, as well as an occasional adversary due to her relation to Ra’s Al Ghul and her connection to the League of Assassins, but despite this she would always side herself with Bruce due to her affections for him. Their relationship even went so far into marriage and even the conception of a child. 

However, Grant Morrison’s depiction of Talia was not nearly as kind. 

In 2006, Morrison’s comic “Batman and Son” debuted, featuring his own twist on Talia’s character and her relationship with Bruce Wayne. The comic focuses on their child, named Damian, who Talia had trained by the League of Assassins with intentions of turning him into a ruthless killer before sending him to live with his father, in hopes Damian would disrupt Bruce’s life of crime fighting. While Damian’s introduction was welcoming in a new character (one who would go on to be featured in countless shows, comics, movies, and even get his own solo comics years on), the biggest change was to the conception of Damian. In this comic, it’s revealed that unlike the previous arc featuring a child of Batman, this one was not through consensual means. Talia admits to drugging Bruce so that he would have sex with her in hopes of making a child, turning the character that was once a morally gray heroine turned into a flat villain who was willing to drug and rape a man so she could create the “perfect child”. This narrative was continued in several comics after, as well as the animated film “Son of Batman” where Bruce comes face to face with the the child made from his assault, Damian Wayne. 

Though this characterization of Talia has since been retconned and wiped from the DC canon  her character still suffers from the same writing style, depicting her as the cruel Arab mother of Damian Wayne, a stark contrast to his caring white family within Gotham City. Instead of being her own character, she is used only in relation to others. Luckily, a shift in the narrative is beginning to be seen as more writers approach Talia’s character with an understanding of her nuance and own identity, rather than a racial stereotype and connection to others. One can only hope the same will be done for the many other female characters that have suffered the same narrative fate as her. 

Sources used:

O’Neil, Dennis. Detective Comic #411. DC Comics, 1971.

Morrison, Grant. Batman and Son. DC Comics, 2006


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