This week’s Arrow saw Sara Lance come back to life as a savage, impulsive killer. It’s a nasty side effect of her dip into the Lazarus Pit, an enchanted well of chemically-altered water that restores health, age, and even life at a severe cost.
That cost tends to be total ruthlessness. But to some heroes who live in the DC Universe, it’s worth it just to see the people they love alive once more.
The first appearance of the pit came in June 1971 in Batman #232, which was also the first appearance of the evil mage Ra’s Al Ghul.
While in Arrow we have only seen Thea and Sara Lance take a swim, in comic book history a few other notable figures have taken a dive.
The most infamous case is probably Jason Todd, the second Robin. In 1988’s celebrated Death in the Family story arc, the Joker beats Robin unconscious, leaving him as a time bomb ticks away. His body is taken back to Gotham City for burial, and Batman is haunted by his death. He keeps Jason’s Robin costume in the Batcave as a reminder of his failure. A lot of fans speculate that the Robin costume hanging in the Batcave in Batman v. Superman is Jason’s.
But as it turns out, some cosmic mishap with Superboy-Prime punching against a universal barrier causes ripple effects that resurrects Jason Todd. He breaks out of his coffin and gets hospitalized far away from Gotham City. After two years spent in a coma and suffering amnesia, he’s identified by Talia Al Ghul, Ra’s daughter, and heals him with the Lazarus Pit.
His memory is restored, but his reckless nature has been worsened. He later takes up the identity of Red Hood and becomes a gun-toting vigilante, using methods Batman never let him use when he was Robin.
Another swimmer that would seem unlikely is Wonder Woman. In 2003’s Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman: Trinity, the Amazonian warrior princess is weakened by the Pit’s fumes while she and Batman fight Ra’s Al Ghul. Stabbed by one of Ra’s soldiers, Sybil, Wonder Woman enters the Pit just as Superman arrives to the scene.
Other people the Lazarus Pit have revived or healed have been:
- The Riddler, who dived in to cure his cancer in the 12-issue Hush storyline.
- Cassandra Cain, one of the few to have taken up the mantle Batgirl and was killed by her “brother” Mad Dog.
- Bane, who was revived as a favor from Batman who had saved his life.
- Nora Fries, the frozen wife of Mr. Freeze. Freeze was granted use of the Pit to revive his wife after doing a favor for Nyssa Al Ghul. However, due to years spent in cryosleep, the Pit’s chemical properties gave Nora the ability to conjure fire and reanimate the dead. Adopting the name Lazara, she resented Freeze, who still holds out hope that they will be together someday.
- And, in an alternate timeline, the Pit was used by Superman and Batman to revive their fallen comrades, revived Green Lantern, The Flash, Martian Manhunter, and Aquaman. It was only a short reunion, but it was enough for Batman and Superman to do what they do best and restore the timeline back to normal.
In comic book lore, the Pit merely alters the behavior of the people it revives into something ruthless, like an animal. Arrow has added a bigger element of mysticism, reasoning that the increased aggression stems from the malevolent spirits of the Pit’s previous users — countless warriors and killers — which have poisoned the enchanted waters.
It’s in the best interest of everybody that no one in the Arrowverse should find themselves needing the Pit again. So somebody, please: Give Diggle a bullet proof vest.