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So You Want to Use a Lazarus Pit...

So You Want to Use a Lazarus Pit...

By Alex Jaffe Monday, November 7th, 2022

Have you been run through with a scimitar in a shirtless duel with an assassin warlord? Tied up in a warehouse with a ticking bomb by a psychotic UN ambassador? Or maybe you’re just not feeling as young as you were in your spry 200s? If you live in the DC Universe, then you might be considering a proprietary bubble bath to melt your troubles away—that al Ghul family healthcare plan, the Lazarus Pit. It’s an option the vain and the desperate have turned to for centuries, after all. But before you consider your quest for a second chance at life, it would be wise to read through the brochure. What’s in store for you when you take the plunge into that Lazarus Life?

Origins

The Lazarus Pits were first discovered by Ra’s al Ghul in…well, the year is unclear. It’s anywhere from 300 or 400 years ago to over 1,000. The man likes to keep his secrets. The leader of the League of Assassins was once a physician who sought only to defeat the greatest enemy to mankind—death itself. On commission for a powerful sultan, the physician found areas on the planet where global ley lines that direct the flow of magic intersect with one another and where a carefully tested chemical mixture could form a Lazarus Pit. The pit, of course, is named after the biblical figure who rose from the dead, for that is what the pit could do.

What Ra’s al Ghul didn’t know is that the bedrock of these pits, these global junctions between Earth’s intersecting ley lines, contain the heavy metal element of Dionesium, sent to Earth millennia ago by the multiversal bat demon Barbatos. In its original meteoric form, it’s what gave Vandal Savage his own immortality.

In the animated film Justice League vs. Teen Titans, Ra’s tells us that the pits have some connection to the demon Trigon, but this is likely apocryphal. What we do know now, thanks to 2019’s Robin series, is that the Pits are connected to some kind of demon. Its connections, if any, to the Devil Nezha, antagonist of the current ongoing Batman vs. Robin event, are heavily implied but are yet to be explored in full.

Whatever the case, it was Ra’s who first discovered how to reliably use the element for restorative purposes. Everything after that went extremely great, and that’s why today, practically nobody ever dies.

Obviously, that part’s not true. Which should tell you that there are some important rules and caveats about how this all works.

The Rules

There are a few important things to know about the maintenance, usage and aftereffects of Lazarus Pits. One of the most important is that if you’re not dead, or at least nearly-dead, it’s probably not going to work on you. In fact, it will almost certainly kill you. If you’ve been dead for too long, or there aren’t enough of your remains to be submerged in the pit, then results are usually ineffective unless someone’s punched a hole through time or something.

When it does work, it comes with two temporary side effects: superhuman strength and bloodthirsty madness. Both of these subside with time…usually. It’s theorized that the madness grows worse and lingers longer the more you come to rely on the pits, or the farther from life you are when you use them, such as in the cases of Nora Fries, Jason Todd and Ra’s al Ghul himself. Sometimes, you also get a pretty cool shock of white hair. Sometimes, like with Azrael’s friend Bryan, your physical dependency on alcohol gets cured as a bonus.

Somewhat distressingly, there is now the possibility that you’ll come back possessed by a devil who seeks to slaughter the world. Just ask Deathstroke, whose body is currently being piloted by something particularly nasty after taking a dive after his death at the hands of Talia al Ghul.

According to Batman: The Animated Series, the more one relies on Lazarus Pits to circumvent the effects of aging, the less effective they become. In TV’s Arrow, getting resurrected by a Lazarus Pit results in a perpetual bloodthirst which can only be quenched by either murdering the person who originally killed you, or by calling John Constantine to perform an exorcism. That’s not something which happens in the comics, but we just thought we’d mention it here because it’s badass.

The most important rule, though, and the reason Ra’s has been constantly on the move all these centuries without sharing his secret, is this: once a pit is created and used at one of these ley line intersections a single time, it’s spent. It can never be used again. Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter Nyssa eventually found a way around this, but guys like Bane are out there destroying Lazarus Pits all the time anyway, so it’s a pretty limited resource. And one thing that’s true in the DC Universe and our own is that the most powerful people on Earth don’t get there by sharing.

Known Locations

You did hear what we just said about the pits typically being usable just once, right? Well, if you’re still determined, here are some tips. Because the paths of the world’s ley lines can only be traced by talented mystics, the locations where one can be made are unpredictable. The first one Batman encountered was in the Swiss Alps, where he confronted Ra’s on a Bondlike global steeplechase. Another lies on Infinity Island, shaped like an infinity symbol by twin volcanoes in the Indian Ocean. All manner of fictional locations, like Nanda Parbat, 'Eth Alth'eban and Bosqueverde hide Lazarus Pits as well. A safe bet is that if you find yourself somewhere on DC’s Earth that doesn’t exist on a real-world map, that’s a good place to start digging for Dionesium.

There are some theories that Slaughter Swamp, which brought the ever-unliving Solomon Grundy back to life again and again, is a long-corrupted Lazarus Pit. There’s even evidence that one lies beneath the Batcave itself, should Gotham’s protector ever choose to take the plunge. He likely never will, but you know what they say about desperate times.

Conclusion

Considering the potential side effects of madness, their difficulty to locate, and the fact that the al Ghul’s family’s mighty army of assassins will personally ensure you will find the death you seek to avoid before you ever dip your toe into that great green jacuzzi, our advice for you Lazarus seekers is this: if you’re looking to be brought back from the brink of death, and you’re heading to an impossible-to-reach mystic location in order to do it anyway, you’re probably better off with the Amazonian Purple Ray on Paradise Island. To learn more, consult your local evil pharmacy…or just keep reading Batman vs. Robin to learn about your exciting potential future in demonic possession.


Batman vs. Robin #3 by Mark Waid, Mahmud Asrar, Scott Godlewski and Jordie Bellaire is available in print and as a digital comic book this week.

Alex Jaffe is the author of our monthly "Ask the Question" column and writes about TV, movies, comics and superhero history for DCComics.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexJaffe and find him in the DC Community as HubCityQuestion.