Lazarus Pits are natural phenomena in the DC Comics universe. They are commonly used by Ra's al Ghul for their restorative powers and used to save the lives of those close to death.
Lazarus Pits were accidentally discovered by Ra's al Ghul in an effort to cure a dying prince of the Sultan he worked for. Ra's al Ghul dug an experimental chemical pit where he discovered the restorative chemical pools that he dubbed a Lazarus Pit for its abilities to heal those at death's door. After using the pit to save the life of the prince, a side effect of the pit's restorative abilities revealed itself as the prince went mad and killed Ra's al Ghul's wife Sora. Blamed for his wife's murder, al Ghul was left to die, buried in the desert, but was soon rescued by his own tribe and a boy named Huwe. Afterward he used the tribe to gain vengeance for what happened to him and proceeded to call himself the "Head of the Demon".
For centuries the pits served the purpose of prolonging his life as well as the lives of his uncle and the boy Huwe. However he eventually killed the boy and his uncle went missing. From that time he alone used the pits until he eventually fathered two daughters, Nyssa and Talia. Both have used the pits from time to time.
It was not until he met Batman that others who weren't close to him learned of the existence of the Lazarus Pits around the world. Others who have either discovered or used the pits include: Jason Todd, The Black Canary II (Dinah Laurel Lance), The Riddler, Cassandra Cain, Lady Shiva, The Joker, Kobra, Nora Fries, King Snake, Duela Dent, The Batman Clone, Bane and Batwoman. Ra's, during a hospitable period, revived Dr. Brian Bryan, a close friend of Azrael.
Kobra analyzed and duplicated the chemical composition of the Pits and used this information to build his own network, something Batman would discover during their very first meeting. The unique chemical composition of Kobra's Lazarus Pits enabled him to control the minds of those he resurrected.
Beyond him, however, Bane and Batman together also served an important role in the history of Lazarus Pits: the destruction of nearly all pits on Earth. Now while supposedly only one pit exists, there are actually four remaining. The first belongs to Ra's al Ghul's daughter Nyssa, who also discovered a way to use the pits indefinitely — whereas before a pit could only be used once. The second is located in the Batcave, created by Batman after he learned that the Pits were necessary to maintain the stability of the world, but wanting to ensure that Ra's could never use the pit to return from the dead again. A third seems to exist high in the Himalaya mountains, used by Black Adam to revive Isis. In Batman Annual #26, published August 2007, a fourth Lazarus Pit was revealed to exist in the Australian outback.
In Batman: The Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul, it is revealed that al Ghul has access to a "Fountain of Essence," which has similar longevity, rejuvenation, and youth restoration abilities, but it does not appear to have the insanity side effect. Having returned to life in a crumbling body, Ra's seeks a permanent young one to take as host, which he decides to be his grandson Damian. After a fight with the Sensei, who declares himself to be Ra's father, Batman is stabbed via a cane in the chest and pulls the Sensei down into the pit with him. Sensei is killed for being an unsick user, but Batman is healed to full health and slightly de-aged.
In the DC limited series 52, week 6, Booster Gold enters Rip Hunter's lab to find a chalkboard filled with cryptic clues on different aspects of the DC Universe. One of them was the clue "The Lazarus Pit RISES".
Powers and composition
Lazarus Pits are composed of a unique unknown chemical blend that bubbles up somewhere within the Earth's crust to the surface at key points on Earth, typically at the junction of ley lines. The substance possesses the ability to rejuvenate the sick, injured and even resurrect the dead. The pits also decrease the age of the user depending on how long they stay submerged in the pit. If a healthy person goes into the pits, they will be killed in most instances.
In addition to the pits' regenerative uses, their power has also been used as a weapon. When Nyssa confronts the Injustice Society, she claims that the staffs wielded by her soldiers "channel the power of the Lazarus Pits" and have the ability to destroy both Solomon Grundy and Gentleman Ghost.
In the New 52, the Lazarus Pit's formula is a tainted variation of a chemical called Dionesium which in it's purest state is capable of perfectly healing wounds, resurrecting the dead and even the giving of super-powers. Dionesium was also responsible for the super-villain Vandal Savage, the Talons who work for the Court of Owls, and at one point the Joker.
Though Lazarus Pits are undeniably powerful and useful, they come with side effects, both of which happen immediately after the user emerges. The user both becomes temporarily insane (although when it was used on The Joker, it temporarily rendered him sane) and gains increased strength for a brief period.
Each of the Lazarus Pits can only be used one time by a user, however Ra's al Ghul's daughter Nyssa discovered a way to make the Lazarus Pits last indefinitely, though how she does this is never revealed.
The Lazarus Pits have been used by multiple characters throughout the Batman universe, which include:
- Ra's al Ghul, is the most notable user of the pits who has used them to cheat death and stay in his prime for centuries.
- Ra's al Ghul's daughter, Nyssa was at first allowed to use her father's Lazarus Pits due to his respect for her ability and even after her dissent from him she was allowed to keep one for her use. Later she found a way to reuse the pit indefinitely whereas before a pit could only be used once for each person.
- After being restored to life by Superboy-Prime's disruption of reality, following his murder at the hands of the Joker, Jason Todd becomes an amnesiac vagrant. Later he is recognized by Talia al Ghul, who restores his health and memory by immersing him in a Lazarus Pit in which her father Ra's Al Ghul also bathed. In DC Rebirth, it is retconned that the League had resurrected Jason using the pit itself.
- One was used on the Joker. Instead of driving him insane, which he already was, it temporarily made him sane. However, this sanity did not last long.
- In Birds of Prey #34, the Black Canary (Dinah Laurel Lance) was put in a Lazarus Pit after being seriously wounded. In Birds of Prey #35, the pit was shown to also restore her metahuman ability, the Canary Cry and though not explicitly stated in the issue it was implied that she also gained the ability to have children again. Both abilities were previously hindered before her exposure to the pit.
- The Riddler in the 12 part storyline Hush was revealed to be suffering from cancer in the form of a brain tumor. He used one of Ra's al Ghul's Lazarus Pits to cure himself of the disease, also managing to work out Batman's identity in the process, but Batman promised Riddler that he would alert the League of Assassins to his use of the Pit if Riddler ever revealed his identity.
- Cassandra Cain was killed by her "adoptive brother", Mad Dog while heroically saving one of the students under her leadership. She later was revived by Lady Shiva in the Lazarus Pit who then answered Cassandra's questions of her parentage.
- Lady Shiva, after battling with the newly-resurrected Cassandra Cain, was killed and assumed to have fallen into the Lazarus Pit, as she later was found to be alive.
- Kobra, after learning of the existence of Lazarus Pits learned to build modified Lazarus Pits which allowed him to control the minds of those he killed and resurrected with them. Because of this, like Ra's Al Ghul, he too has a hidden network of Lazarus Pits and is also credited as the only person to ever decipher the formula of the composition that makes up Lazarus Pits.
- In return for creating a machine for Nyssa Raatko and her group, Mr. Freeze was given access to her Lazarus Pit to restore his wife, Nora Fries. However due to her years of being altered she had absorbed the pits alchemic properties, giving her the power to conjure flames and reanimate the dead. Now calling herself Lazara, she claims to hate Mr. Freeze though he still seeks her with the hope of the two being reunited.
- When King Snake rebelled and declared himself the next Naja-Naja he healed his eyes in a Lazarus Pit, restoring his eye sight.
- Duela Dent claims to have been resuscitated by a Lazarus Pit in a short story contained in the Teen Titans/Outsiders Secret Files #2
- Uncharacteristically, Bane saved Batman from being shot by King Snake however he was mortally wounded in the process. To return the favor Batman then saved Bane by bathing him in a Lazarus Pit and left him to his own accord.
- In Black Adam: The Dark Age, Black Adam is seen using a Lazarus Pit located in the Himalayas in order to resurrect his dead wife Isis. This is an atypical use, since Isis was severely decomposed.
- In Batman Annual: Head of the Demon a servant of Ra's al Ghul named White Ghost attempts to trick Talia al Ghul into allowing her son Damian Wayne to sacrifice his body in the Australian Lazarus Pit, in order to provide Ra's with a new body for his displaced soul to inhabit.
Superman & Batman: Generations
In Superman & Batman: Generations, Ra's al Ghul offers Batman a chance at immortality as he discovered a means of gaining true immortality (without the madness) from one Lazarus Pit. In the process two souls enter and the Pit destroys one while imbuing the other with youth and immortality. Batman survives this process, subsequently becoming immortal (Although he is not a true immortal, as he ages one year for every century). With Ra's al Ghul gone he uses his criminal empire to set up an anti-crime information network.
Batman Begins Novelization
In the Batman Begins novelization (which has more backstory added by Dennis O'Neill), a reference to "The Pit" appeared in Ra's al Ghul's journals. The Pit's history (chronicled in a manuscript Bruce photographs at an Olympus Gallery in New York City after returning home) matches its history in the comics. However, there appears to be only one. The side effects of the dunking in the Pit (madness and violence) are still present.
The Dark Knight Rises
While not an actual Lazarus Pit, another pit that shares the same design. There is a prison called the Pit that houses dangerous inmates and shares the same side effects as a Lazarus, madness and violence.
Years ago a young girl managed to get out of the Pit by herself. Since then inmates watch as many have tried and failed over the years in escaping their fate. After being sent to the Pit by Bane and healing from his back injury caused by him, Bruce Wayne was the only one to successful climb out of the Pit after several months of rehabilitating.
Notably, climbing out the Pit would symbolize one's rebirth, much like how a Lazarus Pit would re-invigorate one's health into being the prime of their life thus making them younger again.
Appearances in Other Media
- In Batman: The Animated Series, two Lazarus Pits appeared in the two part episode, "The Demon's Quest": one in Ra's al Ghul's mountain lair and another in his desert lair. The first was used to rejuvenate Ra's after he fell ill, and the second was shown as the stage in an apparent battle to the death between him and Batman where Ra's appeared to die after he plunged into the pit afterwards.
- In Superman: The Animated Series, a Lazarus Pit appeared briefly in a flash back in the episode. "The Demon Reborn".
- In Batman Beyond, a Lazarus Pit appeared in "Out of the Past". It was used to rejuvenate an elderly Bruce Wayne back to his prime. However, that all turned out to be a ruse by Ra's to transfer his mind (which was currently in Talia's body, where he transferred himself after his last battle with Batman left him too badly injured for even the Pit to heal) into the youthful Bruce's body. In Batman Beyond's future, the process of using the Lazarus Pits became much safer and, although the pit's restorative powers made Bruce's body more youthful, because of his age in the series, he would have required multiple doses for the effects to be long-lasting. It was stated that it would take Bruce roughly a week to revert to his elderly state within a week.
In Batman: Arkham City, Ra's al Ghul used a Lazarus Pit underneath Arkham City to rejuvenate himself to battle Batman as he was in a near-death state after he was revived from a corpse. Later on in the game, Talia offered The Joker use of that same Pit as a cure for the Titan Disease if he spared Batman's life, though multiple double-crosses prevented that. It was discovered that the Pit in Arkham City was part of Wonder City and it eventually exploded when Clayface and Batman fought inside the Monarch Theatre.
It should also be noted that the Pit was underneath the Monarch Theatre in the game. It was unknown if there were any other Pits in the world during the "Arkhamverse", although Batman mentioned that the particular pit featured within the game had been the one that Ra's had used for centuries, which indicated that this might have been the one and only pit within the Arkhamverse and, as a result of its destruction, cemented the deaths of Ra's, Talia, and the Joker once and for all.
The formula called the "Lazarus Chemical" which was part of the Lazarus Pits, was the source of the swamps' strange properties that was responsible for the origins of the seemingly immortal zombie, Solomon Grundy.
- JSA Classified #7