Ra's al Ghul is back on the small screen, coming to Gotham later this season with actor Alexander Siddig playing the role. He's sure to make a splash on the series, dealing with a much younger Bruce Wayne (16) than he usually does in various comic book, animation, and live-action incarnations. Of course we've recently seen Ra's (pronounced either raysh or rahz - both are fine) on TV, but even that was far from his first appearance.
In DC Comcis, Ra's al Ghul was created by Julius Schwartz, Dennis O'Neil, and Neal Adams in June 1971's Batman #232, "Daughter of the Demon." His name is said to translate to "Demon's Head," and he frequently is depicted as a twisted mentor of Batman, who sees Batman as his heir apparent and wants to marry him off to his daughter. He's lived more than 600 years in most incarnations, from wandering the Arabian deserts as a nomad to becoming the head of the League of Assassins, or in some incarnations League of Shadows (as it will be called on Gotham) and manipulating the world in a misguided attempt to save it.
A fascinating character for his ability to deduce who is under the cowl, being an intellectual equal (or the closest darn thing to it) to Batman in every way, his long life thanks to use of the Lazarus Pits, and of course his daughter Talia and her role in Bruce's life (she eventually becomes the mother of his child, Damian, who in turn eventually becomes the most recent Robin), Ra's has come into Batman's animated and live action life time and again. Here's where you've seen and heard him before:
Batman: The Animated Series
Voiced by David Warner
The first appearance of Ra's al Ghul outside of comics is still a major fan-favorite. Here the character was adapted very directly from the pages of DC Comics, addressing Batman/Bruce as "Detective," and desiring to marry him to his daughter Talia. The two-part "The Demon's Quest" is almost universally considered a top five arc from the already acclaimed series.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Voiced by Peter Woodward
On the more comedic Brave and the Bold animated series, Ra's skips over Batman entirely and sets his sites on Dick Grayson as his heir. Robin's not having it, and teams-up with Aqualad and Speedy for a sidekick special, a fun and action-packed (and one of the best) episode of the light-hearted series.
Played by Liam Neeson
This version of Ra's obscures his identity, opting to train Bruce Wayne under the alias Henri Ducard, all while working against Gotham. He has the League of Shadows instead of assassins here, and is carried on by his daughter Talia in the third movie of the trilogy.
Voiced by Oded Fehr
On the animated series Young Justice, which recently got a season three order after years off the air thanks to a successful fan campaign (yes, those can actually work), Ra's and the League of Shadows are associated with The Light, the secret society of supervillains in the show. While Ra's is mostly a background player on the show, Cheshire is one of his own assassins, and she plays a pivotal role more than once in the series.
Batman: Under the Red Hood
Voiced by Jason Isaacs
Ra's plays a pivotal role in this movie about the second Robin, Jason Todd, returning from the dead - he does that thanks to a Lazarus Pit (in the comics, it was his daughter Talia who saved/revived Todd). Ra's was also the reason Todd was taken and killed by the Joker in the first place. Oops.
Beware the Batman
Voiced by Lance Reddick
His most recent animated series appearance, Ra's is much more closely integrated into the history of Bruce Wayne and beyond. He's linked (along with the League of Assassins - see how it keeps changing names?) to Lady Shiva, Alfred Pennyworth, Katana's father, and all before he ever meets Batman. He's a recurring villain and deeply engrained in the mythology of the show. It has one of the coolest deaths in history, too, as Batman unleashes the souls from Katana's Soultaker sword to attack and drag Ra's to his death. Seriously, this show was so underrated.
Played by Matthew Nable
On Arrow, Ra's is obviously not interested in Bruce Wayne, with Oliver Queen taking his place in basically every way. The Arrow version of Ra's is kind of a greatest hits edition, with Nyssa being the daughter he seeks to marry off instead of Talia (it turns out Talia is around too - she showed up recently on the show in the flashbacks), Oliver his heir apparent insted of Bruce, and links to things like League of Assassins, Nanda Parbat, and of course, a Lazarus Pit that played a pivotal role in the revival of more than one character on the show.
Son of Batman
Voiced by Giancarlo Esposito
In the newer DC Animated film universe, Ra's helps to raise his grandson Damian Wayne, presumably as an heir to his empire (um, if you haven't gotten it, that's kind of his jam). He dies pretty early in the film, which is just as well because it's "Son of Batman" not "Grandson of Demon."
Justice League vs. Teen Titans
Voiced by Terrence C. Carson
And the most recent appearance of Ra's only half-counts. After dying in Son of Batman, Ra's returns as a literal demon (ah, poetic justice) controlled by Trigon, Raven's father. Robin faces his familial demons in a simultaneous metaphorical and literal sense.
Ra's al Ghul will next appear on Gotham, which returns to FOX Monday April 24 at 8 p.m. ET/PT!