ddclm

Some would write Talia off as merely one of many of Batman’s love interests. An ex. 

Talia is far, far more than that. As I mentioned before, she’s often (an unfortunately) defined by the men in her life - as the daughter of Ra’s al Ghul, lover of Batman, mother of Damian Wayne.

It’s true, she is all of these things. But they hardly sum up her entire character. Talia has had an enormous impact not only in comic canon, but very well shaped the direction of Batman books from her introduction onward.

In-Canon Talia…

  • Saved Batman’s life (God knows how many times) by both her medical prowess, pleading on his behalf, or sabotaging and combating those who would try to kill him.
  • Restored Jason Todd to himself after his reanimated after watching over him for an entire year, then guided him on his path to Red Hood by providing intel, contacts, and resources.
  • Gave us Damian Wayne, Robin V, thanks to her short-lived marriage to Bruce.
  • Single-handedly outsmarted Lex Luthor and left him bankrupt after the Presidency crumbled
  • Killed the Joker by shooting him. Many, many times. (The Demon Laughs)
  • Gave Batman the Suit of Sorrows, during which she also helped to save her son from certain death at the hands of her father.
  • Convinced Bruce to see reason and return to Gotham and his role as Batman after administering tough love to him in the aftermath of the disaster in No Man’s Land
  • Saved Catwoman’s life (Hush)
  • Was ultimately responsible along with her father for the restoration of Dinah Lance’s Canary Cry via Lazarus Pit

While often (and irritatingly) white-washed, it should also be noted that Talia has significance for her status as a WOC - she is both Arabic and Chinese and remains one of the most complicated and fleshed out characters in the DCU, transcending any trope associated with her race and role - not simply an exotic femme fatale, but a woman with real struggles, real strength, and real emotions. 

Talia, when well-written, is conflicted but savvy, passionate, determined, and unwavering in her love. She is a woman both liberated and independent, able to defend herself and make her own decisions and take responsibility and stand on the same level (and often besting) any man - Talia is a feminist icon while also embodying traditional desires of marriage and motherhood. She’s a hopeless romantic as much as a warrior. Intelligent in mind and emotion.

While all of these qualities don’t come across in single issues or even single arcs, the totality of her character adds up to something great - the embodiment of feminist ideals while still able to desire more traditional roles and never be “weak” for those desires. She proves that one doesn’t have to be a she-woman-man-hater to be a liberated, strong woman. They can love, they can want families and husbands. And that’s who Talia is. Feminism in it’s true sense: the choice for a woman to be exactly who she wants to be.

Though written as both antiheroine and villain, there is no denying her significance as a character both on principle and within the pages of comic books.

And Talia’s influence doesn’t stop with in-comics events.

In his essay “Ra’s al Ghul: Father Figure as Terrorist” (found in a collection of essays, Batman Unauthorized) Michael Marano declares..

“❝ In February 1971, she did what was unthinkable for any other Batbabe until Catwoman/Selina Kyle became Batman’s semi-ally (post-Jeoph Loeb's The Long Halloween): Talia crossed the forbidden public/private line and took off the freshly ninja-pounded Batman’s mask, something no Gotham doctor or ER tech had ever dared before, even when Batman had to be hospitalized. Talia, the daughter of Ra’s and the first glimpse of his influence and power, brought Batman into a wider world of turmoil and upheaval while at the same time entering Batman’s private world in a way that even dear old Aunt Harriet couldn’t. ❞

Talia was the first outside of Batfamily to know Bruce’s identity, particularly by removing his cowl. And it’s Talia we see first of the Al Ghuls - Not Ra’s. Some of Marano’s other observations:

❝ Ra’s and Talia not only brought Batman into the wider world, they brought the wider world into the Batman mythology - which, in turn, added a new richness to that mythology. ”

❝ Talia herself was something new, international, and ballsy. She was no Vicki Vale. She was liberated, baby…in a way that put Mary Richards to shame. Talia was a Cosmo girl actualized in a fashion that Lois Lane had yet to be in her fringed-mini-skirt-and-matching-vest, mid ’70s nadir. She wasn’t a heroine living in the shadow of a male hero’s mythology… ❞

Up until Ra’s and Talia, Batman’s adventures were confined mostly to Gotham or mythological venues. The Al Ghuls added something serious to a series that was coming off of campiness from the Adam West Batman show. Being partly inspired by James Bond mythos, Talia and Ra’s pulled Batman into a more real world with real conflicts of the day. They made Batman relevant and concrete in ways he hadn’t been before.

They took him to real places. They brought a new air. 

Ultimately the Al Ghuls transformed the tone and direction of Batman and Detective Comics - they lended themselves to something new and dramatic. O'Neil had already started moving the title in that direction (as in “The Secret of the Waiting Graves” [Detective Comics 395])

“There’s a gravitas to the setting to which Talia leads [Batman] that is new in the Batman mythos…a fever-dream comic book collage, evoking images of Bhutan, Nepal, and what was then, in 1971, the region of East Pakistan, which suffered bloody repression by the Pakistani government..”

(The imagery of Bhutan returned in Nolan’s Batman Begins)

O'Neil, enabled significantly by the creation of Talia and Ra’s, completely changed the tone and face of Batman and his mythos, leading away from camp and silliness for more serious, real plots rooted in geo-political happenings. They themselves opened not only possibilities for a broader world for Batman, but crossed very intimate, very personal lines that no characters before had even attempted. 

Talia al Ghul is far, far more than one of Batman’s exes. At one time his wife and mother to his child, she helped shape the lives and paths of numerous characters - for good or for ill, whilst also playing a major role in the transformation of the Batman mythology and tone.

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5

DAZZLING DC LADIES MONTH: Zinda Blake, aka Lady Blackhawk

First appeared: Blackhawk #133, February 1959

Who is she? Determined to become the first female member of the famed Blackhawk Squadron, Zinda Blake trained as a pilot, mastering a wide range of aircraft and becoming an expert in various forms of hand-to-hand combat and weaponry. From the very beginning, she was met with resistance: the Blackhawks weren’t keen on allowing a woman into their boys’ club, even if on their first meeting that woman had saved one of their teammates from certain death. Undeterred, Zinda continued to join them on their adventures, eventually earning honorary membership after saving the entire team from the Scavenger.

Then there was this thing where Killer Shark kidnapped and brainwashed her into becoming his evil girlfriend, Queen Killer Shark, but we’re going to gloss over that, because it’s gross.

So! Zero Hour happened, and Zinda found herself flung a good half-century or so into the present day, in a future where most of her friends were either dead or in nursing homes, and technology had advanced so far that she presumably needed to learn to fly all over again. She made the best of it, working in Guy Gardner’s bar and frequently aiding him and his team in fighting super villains.

Eventually, she was recruited by Oracle as the Birds of Prey’s new pilot. She quickly bonded with the other women on the team, and her aviation and combat skills proved invaluable.

What can she do? Zinda’s an ace pilot, an expert in aerial combat, and a skilled marksman, with expertise in a range of weaponry and hand-to-hand combat. She can also order beer in thirty languages and drink most people under the table.

Where can I find her?

  • Blackhawk #133, 140, 143, 147, 151, 155, 161, 163, 166, 170, 182, 186, 188, 191, 200, 204, 216, 225, 228, 229, 231-233, 236, 239, 240, 242
  • Guy Gardner: Warrior #24, 29, 36, 38-43
  • Birds of Prey (vol. 1) #75-127
  • Manhunter #33-36
  • Birds of Prey (vol. 2) #1-14

DDCLM, Day 21, Tora Olafsdotter

Personality: Tora is a woman of much compassion. She is kind, loving, and loyal to those close to her. She does her best to see the good in others, but is perfectly willing to draw a hard line when someone pushes her too far. Though many people percieve her as dangerously naïve, Tora’s belief in others and in the world around her is something she actively chooses to cultivate. Her optimism is not born of childishness, but of her will to bring positivity with her through her life.

Origins: Tora was born in a secret Norwegian mountain kingdom. One of two children of the royal couple, she lived a sheltered life for many years, until finally allowed to venture into the outside world as an adult, where she became a member of the Global Guardians. As a member of that team, she met Beatriz DaCosta, who would become her best friend and partner in crime fighting for a long time to come. The team was eventually defunded and disbanded, so the two women, broke and down on their luck, headed out on their own to find new work. That new opportunity came in the form of the Justice League International needing new members. Together, they became the newest additions to the team, where they would find a home and family of choice.

Appearances: Green Lantern, volume 4, #43, Green Lantern, volume 3, #1, 4, 9, 13, 16, 25, 33, Superman, volume 2, #66, 74, 75, Blackest Night, volume 1, #1, 5, 6, 8, JLA Secret Files and Origins, volume 1, #1, 3, Justice League Europe, volume 1, #5, 7, 8, 11, 14, 28, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, Annual #3, Justice League Internationl/Justice League America, volume 1, #12, 14, 20, 22, 23, 25, 27, 28, 29, 31, 32, 35, 40, 42, 44, 45, 47, 49, 50, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 61, 62, 63, 67, 74, 65, 66, 68, 69, 70, 78, 80, 81, 82, 84, 85, 86, 87, 89, 90, Quarterly #2, Quarterly #3, Quarterly #4, Quarterly #5, Quarterly #7, Quarterly #8, Quarterly #9, Quarterly #10, Quarterly #11, Quarterly #13, Annual #3, Annual #5, Green Lantern Corps, volume 2, #19, 20, 28, 29, 30, 46, Justice League: Generation Lost, #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, 23, 24(*WARNING: Tora’s origins receives a terrible retcon within. I would highly recommend against reading it), Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Superman Prime, Adventures of Superman, volume 1, #488, 489, 497, Avengers/JLA, volume 1, #3, 4, Final Crisis: Requiem, volume 1, #1, Final Crisis, volume 1, #2, Action Comics, volume 1, #650, 675, 687, Booster Gold, volume 2, #1, 8, 9, 10, Martian Manhunter, volume 2, #12, 24, Guy Gardner: Warrior, volume 1, #1, 4, 17, 18, 19, 20, Guy Gardner, volume 1, #1, 12, 14, JLA Classified, volume 1, #6, 7, Wonder Woman, volume 2, #25, 49, 61, Invasion, volume 1, #2

5

DAZZLING DC LADIES MONTH: Beryl Hutchinson, aka Squire

First appeared: JLA #26, February 1999

Who is she? The original Squire was Percy Sheldrake, a young British man who fought alongside Shining Knight during the Second World War. After the war ended, Percy took on a new identity as Knight, eventually passing on the mantle of Squire to his son, Cyril. But when Percy was killed and Cyril found himself suddenly thrust into the role of the Knight– Cyril floundered. Grief and self-doubt led to depression and self-sabotage, and he wound up squandering most of his family’s fortune on booze, drugs and gambling.

Enter Beryl.

She was just a teenage kid, out shopping with her mum. They saw Cyril, practically passed out drunk in full Knight costume, and Beryl’s mum sent her over to ask if he needed help. Beryl gave him an earful instead – and it turned out to be exactly the kick up the arse he needed. She took him home, helped him get cleaned up, and pushed him to continue on as the Knight. And Cyril, recognising the potential in her, let Beryl become his new Squire.

In the New 52, Beryl has recently become the new Knight.

What can she do? Beryl has what she describes as “communication powers”, although it’s never been made definitively clear whether these are actual superpowers or simply a natural perceptiveness and aptitude for language. Whatever the case, she’s skilled in various forms of communication, including foreign languages, body language and computer systems. She’s the kind of person who always knows the right thing to say, which is good, because Cyril tends to get tongue-tied in front of the media. Beryl’s also a skilled martial artist – and not too bad with a slingshot, either.

Where can I find her? Beryl appears in the following stories, among others:

  • JLA Classified #1-3 (2005) [In Beryl’s first actual speaking role, she helps to save all of her teammates’ lives. No biggie.]
  • Batman #667-669 (2007) [The former Club of Heroes, Beryl and Cyril included, come together for a reunion.]
  • Batman and Robin vol. 1 #7-9 (2010) [Dick travels to the UK in an attempt to resurrect Bruce. Beryl and Cyril end up getting involved.]
  • Knight & Squire #1-6 (2010) [Beryl is one of the stars of in this fun and terribly British miniseries.]
  • Batgirl #22 (2011) [Beryl teams up with Stephanie Brown.]
  • Batman Incorporated vol. 2 (various issues) [Beryl and Cyril join the fight against Leviathan.]

DAZZLING DC LADIES MONTH
ANITA FITE → EMPRESS

Anita Fite is the daughter of Donald Fite (government agent) and Oshi Fite (the daughter of a powerful vodoun priestess). Oshi’s mother had reservations about her marriage to Donald, but gave her blessing upon Anita’s conception. She convinced Oshi to allow her to perform a ritual that would allow the goddess, Oya (representive of female power and guardian of the gates of death) to ‘sponser’ Anita and serve her as a guardian angel. Anita grew up in New Orleans and it quickly became clear she possessed considerable acrobatic talent – something her grandmother told was the influence of Oya. She was given the nickname 'Empress’, by her mother due to her bossy nature. A few years later, when Don was working for the Justice Department, he almost single-handedly dissolved the underworld organization of a local crime baron. Unbeknownst to law-enforcement, though whispered amongst his subordinates, the baron, Sin Gaaz, was a “bokor,” an evil practitioner of the vodoun arts. Enraged at Fite’s actions, he used his magicks to set their apartment ablaze, and Anita’s mother died in the aftermath while trying to save Anita. Furious at her father for not being there to save her mother, Anita made it all but impossible for Don to take car of her, so he allowed Oshi’s mother to take her in. It was under her care that she was taught the ways of the vodoun. By the time Anita was 13-years-old, her grandmother fell ill and perished, though not before bequeathing to her an “Emperor’s Staff,” a weapon that resembled an escrima stave, but could be split into a set of knives. She told Anita that, since Oya had taken her spirit into her keeping, that she would be able to use it as none before had.

A few years later, Anita and her father had moved to Happy Harbor, Rhode Island. Unbeknownst to him, Anita became a costumed vigilante after watching Cisse King-Jones dispatch a thief at the local mall. Inspired by the young woman she resolved to use her skills to help others, taking her mother’s nickname for her as her costumed alias. She first intervened on Young Justice’ behalf when they were framed for defacing Mount Rushmore (the cover for APES’ headquarters), after the organization had kidnapped Secret as a favor to the DEO (Department of Extranormal Operations), and later became a full-fledged member of the team after her father and the group made amends. During her career with Young Justice, Anita finally got her chance to avenge her mother’s death at the hands of Agua Sin Gaaz. Organizing an army of young heroes, Young Justice staged an attack on the island-nation of Zandia, home to numerous supervillains from the world over. Battling Sin Gaaz in his own mansion laboratory, Anita triumphed over her mother’s murderer.

However, Sin Gaaz left Anita with a final parting gift. Though a bizarre fusion of vodoun mysticism and modern science, a booby-trap in the lab forced two spirits out of ghostly “warder” Secret (Greta Hayes), Anita’s teammate, and into a pair of incubation chambers nearby. Upon opening the capsules, the team found that Sin Gaaz had been able to successfully clone Anita’s mother and father. However, they were now in the bodies of infants. Secret’s involvement had ensured that the babies had the genuine souls of Anita’s parents. Their task complete, Young Justice left Zandia, and Anita left her old life to raise her infant parents on her own.

Though she has left her costumed life behind for the most part, Anita has become “Empress” again in recent times, though mostly this has been to aid her friends in times of crisis.

ESSENTIAL READING

Young Justice #1-50 (And Specials)
Supergirl #33

Caroline Keene “Carrie” Kelley was the first full-time female Robin in the history of the Batman franchise after making her appearance in 1989 (Stephanie Brown appearing as Robin in 2004). She made her first appearance in Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again in an alternate universe where after Jason Todd’s death Bruce retired the cowl and then returns at 55 years old to fight crime and faces opposition from the Gotham City police force and the United States government.

Thirteen year old Carrie is not an orphan like the previous Robins, but seemed to have neglectful parents that are never seen but one those mutter at a point “Didn’t we have a kid”. They are hinted through their dialogue to have once been activists and possible hippies during the 60s and have since become stoners.

Carrie spent her lunch money on a Robin costume after Batman saved her from a group of sadistic Mutant gang members on the night of his return as Batman. She set out to attack petty con-men and find the Batman in hope of becoming his new partner. Carrie uses a slingshot and firecrackers as weapons while wearing green-tinted sunglasses instead of a harlequin mask.

Appearances

  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller

  • Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again by Frank Miller

  • The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 and Part 2 (animated films)

  • The New Batman Adventures Episode 19: Legends of the Dark Knight (TV series)