Merlin (DC Comics)
Merlin, from Madame Xanadu vol. 2 #2,
artist Amy Reeder Hadley
|First appearance||New Comics #3
|Created by||Rafael Astarita
(writer & artist)
|Place of origin||Hell|
|Notable aliases||Merlin Ambrosius, Merlinus, Merloch|
|Abilities||Powerful infernal sorcerer
Expert in Maleficium
Merlin, (also Myrddin) is a fictional character, a comic book magician published by DC Comics. Myrddin debuted in New Comics #3, (February 1936), and was created by Rafael Astarita. The character is based on the mythical wizard Merlin made popular by two of Geoffrey of Monmouth's early works, the Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain) and the Vita Merlini (Life of Merlin).
The DC Comics version of Merlin first appeared in New Comics #3 (February 1936), kicking off a six issue adaptation of the The Tale of Sir Gareth of Orkney by Sir Thomas Malory. This was also one of the earliest appearances of a recurring character in a DC Comics title, and predates Superman's debut in 1938. In a Superboy story he appears as a scientist of King Arthur's time who looks like Mr Mxyzptlk, but also has the gift of Second Sight. (Superboy #103)
The first modern version of Merlin is linked to his appearance in The Demon vol. 1 #1 (September 1972). In this series, Merlin summons the demon Etrigan to combat Morgaine le Fey, and appears in several more issues of the series. These events are shown from a different point of view in Madame Xanadu vol. 2 #1 (August 2008), a Vertigo Comics title. In The Demon vol. 2 #1 (April 1987), Merlin is established as Etrigan's half-demon brother and subsequent uses of the character have followed this back story.
Fictional character biography
Merlin is the half-demon son of the demon Belial and an unknown human woman, and half-brother of the Demons Etrigan and Lord Scapegoat. His very first appearance has him serving his traditional tutelary role to King Arthur in Camelot, alongside Lancelot, Guinevere, and Gareth.
Merlin had further adventures in King Arthur's court. He gave a magical suit of armor (which protects its wearer from all forms of harm) and a sword (capable of cutting any substance except the aforementioned suit), as well as a winged horse (pterippus) named Victory to the Shining Knight. He also guided squire Brian Kent, the young man who became the Silent Knight.
Merlin's father Belial had him trained in the arts of sorcery so that he could use his powers to control his older brother Etrigan. As a result, Merlin traveled far and wide on the mortal plane, studying various schools of magic. Eventually he became learned enough to bind his brother, and was responsible for binding Etrigan to the body and soul of the druid Iason, who would later be known as Jason Blood. Merlin employed the now controllable demon in the defense of Camelot, against his nemesis Morgaine le Fey, her army of demons, and her son Mordred. Before Morgaine le Fey's attack, Merlin subdued his other brother Lord Scapegoat and the Thing-that-cannot-die, banishing them to the Region Beyond, and set Sir Percival the Golden Knight to guard the Region's exit which is located in England. The Region Beyond, possibly located in the Infernal Province known as Labyrinth, is where King Arthur had Merlin banish all the dangerous mystical entities native to Great Britain.
Etrigan was able to defeat Morgaine le Fey and her demon army, and Arthur slew Mordred. But the Phantom Stranger made sure that the fall of Camelot could not be prevented, by arranging Merlin's ensorcellment by his student Nimue Inwudu (Madame Xanadu). Merlin eventually escapes this fate and has appeared elsewhere in DC Comics, living an immortal existence throughout the centuries and aiding various heroes.
Justice League of America
In the pre-Crisis DC Comics universe, Merlin possessed a magical crystal ball which he allowed the Justice League of America to keep after they helped him to defeat a trio of evil sorcerers. This Merlin comes from the alternate world Magic-Land, where scientific laws do not apply but magic does. This self same crystal ball was used a short time later to communicate across dimensions with the Justice Society of America of Earth Two. Both teams of heroes coordinated their efforts to defeat a group of villains known as the "Crime Champions". In another story Superboy, when travelling through time to find a red kryptonite meteor, meets Merlin, who looks like Mr Mxyzptlk. Merlin here uses an early form of science, but shows he is able to see into the Future.
Other artifacts once owned by Merlin have shown up all over the DC Comics Universe. A time traveler named Lord Satanis and his wife Syrene both sought the "Runestone of Merlin", and manipulated Superman in pursuit of it. The "Book of Eternity" which was Merlin's book of spells, is currently wielded by Selma Tolon of Turkey, an adventurer who calls herself the "Janissary". And the Philosopher's Stone was the magical focus used by Merlin to bond the druid Iason to the demon Etrigan. It later fell into the hands of Doctor Albert Desmond, the criminal known as Doctor Alchemy. The magical armor he crafted for the Shining Knight's sidekick Percy Sheldrake, the Squire, was passed on to Percival's son Cyril Sheldrake now known as the Knight.
Hunter: The Age of Magic
In the Vertigo Comics miniseries, The Names of Magic, Timothy Hunter encounters a version of Merlin still trapped under an enchanted sleep in a cave in Cornwall. Merlin explains that Tim is his creation, a spiritual successor to the title of "the Merlin" (a living conduit of magic). He created Tim with multiple contradictory origins to enhance his legend. This Merlin's connection to the mainstream DC Comics version is unclear, though it would seem that like Tim, Merlin is also a living legend of contradictory histories. In addition to sleeping in the cave, the series claims that aspects of Merlin are trapped in a forest in France, under a hill in Wales, and on an island in an invisible house of glass. In the subsequent ongoing series, Hunter: The Age of Magic, Merlin's spirit manifests through Tim's owl, Yoyo, and becomes the boy's teacher, until his body is slain by the Brotherhood of the Cold Flame and his spirit passes on.
Trials of Shazam
As of the Trials of Shazam maxi-series, the aspect of Merlin still free in the world now exhibits a visible demonic aspect and goes by his Welsh name "Myrddin." He has also revealed the existence of several half-demon children sired and tutored by him. These descendants refer to themselves collectively as the "Council of Merlin." His favored daughter Sabina, a Creole witch, recently failed in her bid for the power of Shazam, which would have made her his anchor to Earth, and was instead killed when drawn into a portal in a battle with Freddy Freeman by Zeus.
The New 52
In The New 52 Merlin makes his debut in Demon Knights #1, again as the magician of King Arthur's court and the responsible for Etrigan The Demon and Jason Blood merging. Years later he was killed by a daemonite-controlled disciple in the city of Alba Sarum. However the Demon Knights, although betrayed by Etrigan, are able to bring his body to Avalon resurrecting the magician, who then uses his mystical powers to help defeat the invading forces of Lucifer and Queen Questing. In the present Merlin is called Adam One and is the leader of Stormwatch. But he is eventually replaced and, by the words of the Shadow Cabinet's emissary, clinically killed since is the only way to enter the Cabinet's dimension. He later appears to Jenny Quantum in a dream and explains to her the team origins. Later, in Stormwatch #19, extra-dimensional aliens kill Adam One at the moment of creation, averting the Demon Knights backstory for Stormwatch and effectively rebooting that comic book.
- An alternate version of Merlin appears in the maxi-series Camelot 3000. This Merlin is an immortal who calls King Arthur from Glastonbury Tor in the year 3000 to stave off an alien invasion spearheaded by Morgaine le Fey.
- In the Elseworlds story Batman: Dark Knight of the Round Table, Merlin counsels a Round Table made up of setting appropriate analogs of the Justice League of America.
In other media
- Merlin appears in the 1960s episode of The Adventures of Superboy called The Black Knight, and he is jealous of Superboy's powers.
- Merlin is in a superhero team known as the Freedom Force, alongside heroes such as Isis and Hercules. This segment was part of Tarzan and the Super 7, which was a continuation of The Batman/Tarzan Adventure Hour.
- Merlin appeared in the Justice League episode "A Knight of Shadows" Pt. 1 voiced by W. Morgan Sheppard. After Morgaine le Fey persuades a knight named Jason Blood to betray King Arthur by letting her armies into Camelot (which followed up with Morgaine poisoning him), Merlin appeared during the conflict and punished Jason Blood by bonding the demon Etrigan to him.
- Merlin appeared in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Day of the Dark Knight" voiced by David McCallum. He is a wizard who is a companion of King Arthur, the boss of Etrigan, and the teacher of Morgaine le Fey. When Morgaine was taking over Camelot and took control over Etrigan, he traveled to the present and brought Batman and Green Arrow to medieval times after they thwarted a break-out attempt at Iron Heights while dressed as an inmate. He hopes to use them to retrieve Excalibur to help defeat Morgaine. When they reached the location, he engaged Morgaine le Fay in a magic battle. When Batman broke free from Morgaine's spell, she turned into a dragon and turned Merlin and Etrigan to stone. Following Morgaine le Fey's defeat, Camelot was freed and Batman and Green Arrow were returned to the present by Merlin. In "Trials of the Demon," it was mentioned that he and Etrigan imprisoned Astaroth in the Underworld.
- http://www.camelot4colors.com/retell.htm#"King Arthur,"New Comics #3-8
- New Comics #3 (February 1936)
- Adventure Comics #66 (September 1941)
- Brave and the Bold #1 (August 1955)
- Madame Xanadu (vol. 2) #1 (August 2008)
- Justice League of America (vol. 1) #2 (January 1961)
- Action Comics (vol. 1) #527 (January 1982)
- The book first appeared in The Demon (vol. 1) #1 (August 1972)
- JLA Annual #4 (Summer 2000)
- Showcase #14 (May 1958)
- Percival Sheldrake first appeared as the Squire in Young All-Stars #22 (January 1989), and as the Knight in Batman (vol. 1) #62 (December 1950)
- Cyril Sheldrake first appeared as the Squire II in Batman (vol. 1) #62 (December 1950), and as the Knight II in JLA #26 (February 1989)
- The Trials of Shazam! #12 (May 2008)
- Demon Knights #1
- Demon Knights #8
- Demon Knights #15
- Stormwatch #1
- Stormwatch #5
- Stormwatch #0
- DCU Guide: Merlin
- DCU Guide: Silent Knight
- Cosmic Teams: The Demon
- Toonopedia: The Demon
- Torregrossa, Michael A. "Camelot 3000 and Beyond: An Annotated Listing of Arthurian Comic Books Published in the United States c. 1980-1998 (Revised Edition, May 2000)." The Arthuriana / Camelot Project Bibliographies. U of Rochester, n.d.