Merlyn (DC Comics)

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Artwork from Green Arrow/Black Canary #16 (2009).
Art by Mike Norton
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
First appearance Arthur King: Justice League of America #94 (Nov. 1971)
Thomas Merlyn: Green Arrow #0 (Sep. 2012)
Created by Mike Friedrich
Neal Adams
Dick Dillin
In-story information
Full name Arthur King
Thomas Merlyn[1]
Team affiliations Anti-Justice League
Injustice League
The Society
League of Assassins
The 100
Killer Elite
Notable aliases The Dark Archer
Merlyn the Archer
Merlyn the Magician
Merlyn the Magnificent
Abilities Peak of physical and mental conditioning
Skilled tactician
Genius level intellect
Master archer and swordsman
Master hand-to-hand combatant and martial artist
Highly skilled in stealth
High tolerance for pain

Merlyn is a fictional supervillain who appears in comic books of the DC Comics Universe. He is the archenemy of Green Arrow, though over the years he has served as an antagonist for other superheroes, such as Batman. He was created by Mike Friedrich, Neal Adams, and Dick Dillin and first appeared in Justice League of America #94 (1971). Merlyn has since appeared in various forms of DC related media, his most prominent role being in the live action TV show Arrow, where "Malcolm Merlyn" serves as one of the main antagonists, portrayed by John Barrowman as a series regular.

Fictional character biography[edit]

Years before Oliver Queen would become Green Arrow, he was inspired to take up archery by the amazing archer "Merlyn the Magician". Once Green Arrow began to become famous, the two met again, as Merlyn challenged the hero to a public archery contest and defeated him. With that victory under his belt, Merlyn vanished for years, only to resurface as a member of the League of Assassins. Merlyn and Green Arrow faced again as Merlyn tried to fulfill a contract to assassinate Batman. Green Arrow was able to deflect one of Merlyn's arrows with an arrow of his own, saving Batman's life. Merlyn admitted that Green Arrow had improved since their last encounter, but escaped before he could be captured. Unable to return to the League of Assassins, he became a freelance assassin.

Merlyn later appeared in Action Comics as part of the Queen Bee's unofficial "Injustice Gang" opposing the JLA.[2]

Finding work with one of Metropolis' crime syndicates, The 100,[3] Merlyn fought against a weakened Black Lightning, but lost the battle.[4]

Merlyn was apparently a part of the League of Assassins when the assassin David Cain's daughter, Cassandra, was born. Merlyn would seem to have taken part in the child's highly abusive training (along with other members of the League, such as Bronze Tiger), unknowingly giving her the skills to become the future Batgirl. He then served under Tobias Whale as a member of the 100.

He was among those who sold his soul to the demonic Neron during the events of Underworld Unleashed. He then joined the Killer Elite (along with Deadshot, Bolt, Chiller, and Deadline). All tried to perform various assassinations, but were stopped by the Justice League of America. The group later encountered the Body Doubles. Merlyn and the others were soundly defeated, as the Body Doubles used gadgetry and cleavage to their advantage.[5]

The villain next made an appearance in the pages of Young Justice as an archer working for the Zandian national Olympic team. He is the instructor to the young Zandian archer Turk (a half-wolf metahuman). Turk and Merlyn attempt to sabotage the games in their favor,[6] but they are defeated by the Young Justice team.[7][8]

Merlyn would next appear in the pages of Identity Crisis,[9] and was one of the main voices for the villains during that miniseries. He recognizes the Monocle and Deadshot as his closest allies, and correctly predicts that the murder of Sue Dibny would have dire consequences in the villain community.[10] When he is captured by the Justice League along with Deadshot and Monocle, Deadshot was able to use his ties to the Suicide Squad and Amanda Waller to secure their release (much to the frustration of the newest Manhunter).[11]

The villainous archer reappeared with Monocle and Phobia in an attempt to kill the Shadow Thief at his trial, and in the process the villains found themselves battling Manhunter. Merlyn has since resurfaced in the pages of Green Arrow as part of a multipronged attack against Green Arrow and his family.[12]

Afterward, he appears to be under the employ of Talia al Ghul as a tutor to her son Damian Wayne, though he would later confess that he was learning more from Damian.[13]

He has a minor role in The Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul, in which he is hired by the Sensei to take out a spring where Ra's could revitalize himself. He fulfills his tasks well, but is defeated in the final confrontation between Ra's al Ghul and Batman.[14]

He was later seen among the new Injustice League.

He was later captured by the vigilante Cupid, who planned to kill him in front of Green Arrow, whom she was besotted with. To this end, she slashed Merlyn's throat with an arrow. Green Arrow was able to get Merlyn medical attention in time to save his life, but the villain's throat was damaged to the point where he would never be able to speak again.[15]

The New 52[edit]

In Batman Incorporated #4 (2012), Merlyn (Arthur King) appears in the employ of Talia al Ghul, as part of the League of Assassins, and battles the members of Batman, Inc.[16] During the Forever Evil storyline, Arthur King is among the villains recruited by the Crime Syndicate of America to join the Secret Society of Super Villains.[17]

Tommy Merlyn appeared in The New 52 (a reboot of the DC Comics universe) in Green Arrow #0. Five years earlier, Tommy was Oliver Queen's best friend. During a hostage crisis on a Pacific Ocean oil rig with a villain named "Iron Eagle", Merlyn was caught in an explosion. Fast forward to the present day, Tommy, branded as the "Mystery Patient", awoke.[18]

In the second part of the 2014 Green Arrow storyline '"Kingdom", Tommy Merlyn returns as a mercenary after killing some of the men trying to take Mia Dearden into protective custody in relation to a "case" involving her mother and Mr King. Green Arrow, who moved in to rescue Mia following a tip off from hacker-for-hire Felicity Smoak, looked up to see Merlyn, bow drawn and face covered in burns.[19]

Powers and abilities[edit]

While Merlyn possesses no metahuman powers, he is at his prime in terms of human physical conditioning, possessing advanced strength and reflexes as well as having an incredibly high tolerance for pain, which make him an extremely violent and vicious opponent. His League of Assassins armor is made of Kevlar, and provides further protection when he is in the field. Having been trained by the League of Assassins, Merlyn is a master of hand-to-hand combat, martial arts and stealth. He is one of the DC Universe's best archers, whose archery skills are equivalent, if not superior, to Green Arrow, Connor Hawke, Red Arrow and the Celestial Archer. He has been known to use trick arrows to kill his enemies, including explosive arrows that detonate on impact. He has also been shown to possess a jet pack mounted in his quiver. In addition to being an archer, Merlyn is also extremely proficient with swords, throwing knives and other melee weapons.

Merlyn also possesses genius level intellect and is remarkably skilled in devising battle plans and strategies. When not being contracted to assassinate a target, Merlyn has been shown to be a very skilled and cunning tactician when scheming the downfall of his personal enemies, and always remaining calm even when things do not go according to plan or take a turn for the worse. A ruthless master of deception, Merlyn usually deceives and uses his enemies to his own personal advantage, always making sure he is at least one step ahead of his opponents. He first studies his enemies closely to discover their weak points and vulnerabilities, then strikes when they are caught off guard with brutal efficiency.

In other media[edit]


Justice League Unlimited[edit]

  • Merlyn appears in the Justice League Unlimited episode "Dead Reckoning". He is shown as a member of Grodd's Secret Society. In a fight for leadership of the society, Merlyn sides with Grodd in the mutiny against Lex Luthor. Merlyn is seen firing his arrows and dispatching multiple other supervillains during the fight. While other mutineers are captured and defeated, Merlyn manages to escape.


  • A character named Vordigan is loosely based on Merlyn and referred to as "The Dark Archer" in advertising,[20] appeared in the Smallville Season Nine episode "Disciple", reappearing later in the tenth season (episode "Prophecy") to kill Green Arrow. He is portrayed in shadow by an unknown actor in "Prophecy" and by Steve Bacic in "Disciple".[citation needed]


John Barrowman portrays Malcolm Merlyn
Colin Donnell portrays Tommy Merlyn.
  • John Barrowman portrays Malcolm Merlyn (born Arthur King), a wealthy businessman, the father of Tommy Merlyn and Thea Queen, and Oliver Queen's arch nemesis. Fueled by the murder of his wife Rebecca during a mugging in the crime-infested area of Starling City called "the Glades", Malcolm left his son Tommy and departed Starling City to "forge his pain and anger into something more". For the two years he was away, he was trained in Nanda Parbat with the League of Assassins by a man named Al-Owal, where he took the name "The Magician" (Arabic: الساحر Al Sa-Her). He was even the first person with permission from Ra's al Ghul himself to leave the organization, on the condition that he obey the League's codes. Upon returning to Starling City, Malcolm forms an organization called the Tempest and plots to completely destroy the Glades. When Robert Queen tries to extricate himself from this plan, Malcolm has the Queen boat sabotaged, killing Robert and shipwrecking his son Oliver, inadvertently causing the events that would shape him into "The Arrow" vigilante. Five years later, Oliver returns to Starling City. While Malcolm continues his plotting to level the Glades, the Arrow begins to interfere with his plans, forcing Malcolm to don his League of Assassins armor and become a copycat archer referred to by the media as the "Dark Archer" to gain the Arrow's attention. Throughout the season, Malcolm beats the Arrow twice, and ultimately reveals his secret identity to Oliver after capturing him. In the season one finale, "Sacrifice", Malcolm confronts Oliver and John Diggle in his office. After injuring Diggle, Malcolm and Oliver face off on Merlyn Global Group's rooftop for a final battle. Merlyn once again has the upper hand until the end of the fight when Oliver manages to grab an arrow and impale him, seemingly killing the villain. Regardless, he activates an earthquake-causing device in an attempt to destroy the Glades, inadvertently killing his son Tommy. In the season 2, Malcolm is revealed to be alive and well aware of his parentage to Thea Queen, Oliver's younger sister. Malcolm returns to Starling after hearing that Moira Queen was killed just in time to save Thea's life and then convinces her to leave with him. As a result of his Undertaking, Malcolm broke the League of Assassins' strict code, and was thus being hunted by them. In season 3, Malcolm plots to rid himself of Ra's al Ghul once and for all and trains Thea in martial arts. He then manipulates her into killing Sara Lance/Canary to bring the wrath of the League to Starling and forces Oliver to eventually kill Ra's for him to rid the blood debt on both their heads. Malcolm later learns of his wife's true killer Danny "Brick" Brickwell and seeks to kill Brick himself but a still-alive Oliver convinces him to spare Brick and to fight Ra's al Ghul. Oliver, despite knowing what Malcolm has done, asks the latter to train him. When Oliver tells Thea that she killed Sara, and that Malcolm is directly responsible because he brainwashed her to do it, she betrays Malcolm to the League. Thus, Malcolm is captured and taken to Nanda Parbat where he is tortured for breaking the League's code. But he is freed when Oliver accepts Ra's offer to take his place as Head of the Demon. After Thea is killed by Ra's, Malcolm accompanies Oliver to Nanda Parbat to revive her. Later Malcolm secretly begins working with Oliver alone, planning to cripple the league from within. Malcolm subsequently helps Team Arrow save the city and stop the League of Assassins from "cleansing it". After Ra's is killed by Oliver in a final swordfight, he hands the leadership of the League to Malcolm, as part of their deal, who subsequently becomes the next Ra's al Ghul, Head of the Demon.
    • Malcolm appears in The Flash episode "Legends of Today".
    • A tie in comic series called Arrow: The Dark Archer reveals that Malcolm's real name is "Arthur King".
  • Colin Donnell portrays Thomas "Tommy" Merlyn, Malcolm's son and the long-time best friend of Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) who dates Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), Oliver's ex-girlfriend. Later it is revealed that Thea, Oliver's sister, is actually Tommy's paternal half-sister. Over the course of the first season Tommy starts off as a laid back and reckless playboy. This recklessness of his continues until his father, Malcolm, cuts off his funds forcing him to shape into a more responsible person. It is later revealed that Tommy is estranged with his father after his mother's death. Oliver's father, Robert, acted as Tommy’s surrogate father until his death. In "Dead to Rights" Tommy discovers that Oliver is The Arrow and begins to distance himself from his friend. Furthermore, out of envy Tommy breaks up with Laurel once he realizes that she still has strong feelings for Oliver. Relations between Tommy and Oliver become even more strained, until he discovers the plot of his father to destroy the Glades and is killed saving Laurel's life from a burning building. Oliver arrives too late, but the two reconcile as Tommy dies in his arms. In season 2, Tommy's death sends Laurel into a deep depression, makes Malcolm desperate to be involved in Thea's life and is the fueling factor for Oliver to stop killing ever again. Tommy appears as one of three hallucinations in Oliver's mind in "Three Ghosts", encouraging Oliver to keep fighting when Oliver was suffering a crisis of confidence. Tommy reappears in two episodes in season 3, "Sara" and "The Return", in flashback scenes, set five years in the past.


  • Merlyn appears in DC Showcase: Green Arrow voiced by Malcolm McDowell. He is hired by Count Vertigo to assassinate Princess Perdita at the airport so that the count can take her place as the ruler of his country. After a long battle, Merlyn's henchman are defeated and he ends up in a duel with Green Arrow which ends with Merlyn unconscious, courtesy of the hero's knock-out gas. During the film, Merlyn stated that he had bested Green Arrow on eight occasions, a fact which the hero was not able to deny.

Video games[edit]

  • Merlyn appears in Injustice: Gods Among Us. In Green Arrow's S.T.A.R. Labs Missions, Merlyn is posing as the hero, wearing his same costume. Green Arrow must defeat him in an archery duel.

Toys and collectibles[edit]

  • In late March 2015, DC Collectibles released an action figure of Merlyn based on his appearance in the Arrow TV series. This figure was labelled "Dark Archer", Malcolm Merlyn's villain alter-ego in the TV show.


  1. ^ Green Arrow (vol. 5) #0, 26, 36-37
  2. ^ Action Comics (vol. 1) #443 (January 1975)
  3. ^ Black Lightning (vol. 1) #2 (May 1977)
  4. ^ Black Lightning (vol. 1) #5 (November 1977)
  5. ^ New Years Evil Body Doubles one-shot (February 1998)
  6. ^ Young Justice (vol. 1) #23 (September 2000)
  7. ^ Young Justice (vol. 1) #24 (October 2000)
  8. ^ Young Justice (vol. 1) #25 (November 2000)
  9. ^ Identity Crisis #4 (November 2004)
  10. ^ Identity Crisis #6 (January 2005)
  11. ^ Manhunter (vol. 3) #8 (May 2005)
  12. ^ Green Arrow (vol. 3) #57–59 (February–April 2006)
  13. ^ Batman (vol. 1) #671 (January 2008)
  14. ^ Detective Comics (vol. 1) #839 (February 2008)
  15. ^ Green Arrow and Black Canary #19 (June 2009)
  16. ^ Batman Incorporated (vol. 2) #4 (December 2012)
  17. ^ Forever Evil #1 (November 2013)
  18. ^ Green Arrow (vol. 5) #0 (November 2012)
  19. ^ Green Arrow (vol. 5) #36 (January 2015)
  20. ^