Merlyn (DC Comics)
Merlyn in Green Arrow and Black Canary (vol.1) #16 (March 2009). Artwork by Mike Norton.
|First appearance||Justice League of America #94 (November 1971)|
|Full name||Arthur King / Malcolm Merlyn|
League of Assassins|
The Killer Elite
Secret Society of Super Villains
Legion of Doom
The Dark Archer|
Skilled tactician, analyst, manipulator, and deceiver|
Peak physical and mental conditioning
Master archer with acute accuracy
Expert hand-to-hand combatant, martial artist, swordsman, and marksman
Malcolm Merlyn (Arthur King), otherwise known as the Dark Archer, is a fictional supervillain appearing in comic books published by DC Comics. He is a deadly bow-wielding assassin and contract killer who serves as the archenemy of Green Arrow, though writers have developed him over the years as an adversary of other superheroes in the DC Universe as well, such as Batman and Black Canary. In addition, Merlyn is also the father of Tommy Merlyn.
In 2012, The CW's live-action TV show Arrow introduced Malcolm Merlyn as the first season's main antagonist, and his son Tommy Merlyn as Oliver Queen's best friend, a concept that would later be integrated into the comics. John Barrowman, who portrays Malcolm Merlyn in the series, and his sister Carole have written the digital comic Arrow: The Dark Archer, which is centered on the character. The present day narrative takes place between the third and fourth seasons of the show, while flashbacks detail Malcolm's past as Arthur King.
Fictional character biography
Long before Oliver Queen would become the vigilante Green Arrow, he was inspired to take up archery after hearing of the exploits of Arthur King, otherwise known as "Merlyn the Magician", a master archer with acute accuracy. Years later, Merlyn challenged Oliver, now operating as the Green Arrow, to a public archery duel and defeated him. With that victory under his belt, Merlyn vanished for years before resurfacing as a member of the League of Assassins. During his time with the League, Merlyn took part in the highly abusive training of David Cain's daughter, Cassandra, unknowingly giving her the skills to become the future Batgirl. He and Green Arrow faced each other again when Merlyn attempted to assassinate Batman; Green Arrow managed to intercept Merlyn's arrow with one 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.
In Action Comics, Merlyn, now working as a freelance assassin and contract killer who sells his skills to the highest bidder, is hired by Queen Bee (Zazzala) to join her supervillain team and take on the Justice League. He then serves under Tobias Whale as a member of one of Metropolis' crime syndicates, The 100. Merlyn attempts to kill Black Lightning, but is ultimately defeated. A man from Libya later hires Meryln to kill a Russian scientist visiting Casablanca. Although Merlyn is aided by Syonide, his assassination attempt is foiled by the Flash and Phantom Lady.
During the events of Underworld Unleashed, Merlyn is among the villains that sell their souls to the demon Neron in exchange for greater power. He then joins the Killer Elite (along with Deadshot, Monocle, Bolt, Chiller, and Deadline) to perform various assassinations, but the group is eventually stopped by the Justice League. The Killer Elite later encounters the Body Doubles, and Merlyn and his team are defeated.
In Young Justice, Merlyn is hired by the Zandian government to mentor the young archer Turk, a half-wolf metahuman. Merlyn and Turk attempt to sabotage an archery contest in their favor, but they are stopped by the Young Justice team.
Merlyn next appears as one of the primary villains in the Injustice Gang in the miniseries Identity Crisis. He warns and correctly predicts that the death of Sue Dibny would have troublesome and dire consequences in the criminal underworld. Although the Justice League manages to capture Merlyn, Monacle, and Deadshot, the latter is able to use his connections with the Suicide Squad and Amanda Waller to arrange for their release, much to the frustration of the newest Manhunter. Merlyn, Deadshot, Monacle, and Phobia later attempt to kill the Shadow Thief during his trial, but are confronted and stopped by the Manhunter.
During the Infinite Crisis, Merlyn serves as a member of Lex Luthor's Society. Since then, he has resumed his feud with Green Arrow, launching several attacks on the hero and his family. Merlyn then plays a major role in the attack on Green Arrow and Black Canary's wedding as a member of the new Injustice League.
During Countdown, Merlyn appears under the employ of the League of Assassins, coordinating his attacks with Talia al Ghul and serving as a mentor to her son, Damian Wayne. Merlyn 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 al Ghul could revitalize himself. He is defeated during in the final confrontation between Ra's and Batman. Merlyn then joins the League of Assassins' elite team, the Seven Men of Death, and is sent to Gotham City to retrieve the Suit of Sorrows from the Order of Purity. During the attack on the Order, Merlyn kills the Order's leader, Leland McCauley, and injures Felicidad Gomez before being confronted by Azrael. Merlyn and the his team attempt to capture Azrael and move him to their headquarters, but Azrael uses one of Merlyn's own arrows to stab him.
Merlyn is later captured by the vigilante Cupid, who plans to kill him in front of Green Arrow, with whom she is besotted. To this end, she slashes Merlyn's throat with an arrow, and although Green Arrow is able to get Merlyn medical attention in time to save his life, the villain's vocal cords are severely damaged.
The New 52
In The New 52 reboot's Batman Incorporated, Merlyn appears under the employ of the League of Assassins and serves as a member of the Seven Men of Death, who are tasked by Talia al Ghul and her Leviathan Organization to destroy Batman Incorporated. Merlyn defeats members of the group with ease until his bow is broken by a surprise shot from Damian Wayne. During the Forever Evil storyline, Merlyn is one of the numerous villains recruited by the Crime Syndicate of America to join the Secret Society of Super Villains.
In the DC Rebirth relaunch, the Green Arrow series reveals that Arthur King changed his name to Malcolm Merlyn, a concept incorporated from the Arrow television series. When he was around 25 years old, Malcolm joined the League of Assassins, an ancient, international order of the world's greatest killers, and was trained by their leader Ra's al Ghul himself. Malcolm's commencement ceremony into the organization involved him digging an eight-foot-long, six-foot-deep, and four-foot-wide grave, which he had to lie in to purge himself of his past life and emerge reborn. Now a deadly assassin known as the Dark Archer, Malcolm is contracted by Cyrus Broderick, a director of the Ninth Circle criminal organization, to frame the Green Arrow (Oliver Queen) for murder after he destroyed the Inferno, their base of operations that hosted their "bank" and resources. Using arrows resembling Green Arrow's for multiple high-profile killings, including the murder of famous soccer player Cy Sampson, the Dark Archer succeeds in tarnishing the hero's image and reputation. Green Arrow and the Dark Archer later engage in a fierce duel, with Oliver believing the hooded villain to be Malcolm's son, Tommy Merlyn. Malcolm then reveals himself to Oliver as "the original Dark Archer", and proceeds to best his foe in combat whilst taunting him. Before Malcolm can kill Oliver, however, the intervention of Black Canary and the police forces the villain to flee. As he escapes, Merlyn fires an arrow at the police chief, whom Green Arrow narrowly manages to save at the cost of his own bow, which is shattered by Merlyn's shot.
Powers and abilities
Merlyn (Arthur King) has been established as one of the greatest and most accurate archers in the DC Universe. His archery and marksmanship skills exceed those of Green Arrow, Emiko Queen, Shado, Roy Harper, Connor Hawke, Celestial Archer, and his own son, Tommy Merlyn. The Dark Archer has been known to use trick arrows to kill his targets, including explosive arrows that detonate upon impact. He is extremely proficient with swords, throwing knives, and various other weapons as well. Having been trained by the League of Assassins, Merlyn is at the prime of human physical and mental conditioning, possessing advanced strength, agility, and reflexes. He is a master in the art of stealth and has an incredibly high tolerance for pain, and his Kevlar body armor further enhances his durability. Merlyn is also a formidable expert in many forms of hand-to-hand combat and martial arts, being able to best the likes of Green Arrow with relative ease.
In other media
- Merlyn appears in the DC animated universe series Justice League Unlimited. In the episode "Dead Reckoning", he is seen as a member of Gorilla Grodd's Secret Society. In "Alive", Merlyn sides with Grodd during a mutiny against Lex Luthor. His final fate is unknown as he is not seen among the mutineers that are defeated and captured.
- An adaptation of the Dark Archer known as Vordigan is featured in the episodes "Disciple" and "Prophecy" of the live-action series Smallville, portrayed by Steve Bacic.
John Barrowman portrays Malcolm Merlyn / Dark Archer in The CW's live-action Arrowverse, where he serves as Oliver Queen's arch-nemesis. The digital comic Arrow: The Dark Archer reveals that his birth name is Arthur King.
- The character is introduced on Arrow as the wealthy CEO of Merlyn Global Group. Fueled by his wife's murder in the Glades (a crime-infested area of Starling City), Malcolm left his son, Tommy, and trained with the League of Assassins in Nanda Parbat, where he took the name The Magician (Arabic: الساحر Al Sa-Her). After two years, Malcolm returned to Starling City to plot an "undertaking" that would destroy the Glades with an earthquake-generating device. When Robert Queen tried to extradite himself from the plan, Malcolm arranged for the bombing of his yacht, marooning Robert's son, Oliver, on the island of Lian Yu. In season one, Oliver returns to Starling City five years later as a hooded vigilante and begins interfering with Malcolm's plans. Although Malcolm is seemingly killed by Oliver in the finale, his machine still levels the Glades and kills hundreds, including Tommy. In season two, Malcolm is revealed to have faked his death and returns aware of his parentage to Thea (Oliver's sister), whom he convinces to leave with him after her mother's death. In season three, the League of Assassins hunts Malcolm for breaking their code with his undertaking, so he brainwashes Thea into murdering Sara Lance to force Oliver to kill the League's leader, Ra's al Ghul. With Malcolm's training, Oliver manages to kill Ra's and, per their deal, hands leadership of the League to Malcolm as the next Ra's al Ghul. In season four, Malcolm resurrects Sara to appease Thea and Sara’s sister Laurel Lance. Later, Nyssa al Ghul leads a rebel faction of the League against Malcolm. After choosing to maintain power in the league over handing it over to Nyssa in exchange for a cure to save Thea’s life from her deteriorating Lazarus Pit exposure and blood lust, Oliver ends the civil war by severing Malcolm's left hand (with the demon’s head ring) in a duel and Nyssa subsequently disbands the League. Adopting a cybernetic prosthetic hand, Malcolm temporarily joins Damien Darhk's H.I.V.E. organization. In season five's finale, Malcolm sacrifices himself, taking Thea's place on a land mine and detonates it off-screen to kill Digger Harkness on Lian Yu. Season six reveals that even after the League of Assassins' disbandment, several loyalists continued to serve Malcolm as part of his Thanatos Guild, and aided him in his search for three hidden Lazarus Pits.
- Malcolm Merlyn also appears on The Flash. In the "Heroes Join Forces" crossover event, he offers Barry Allen and Oliver information on the immortal Vandal Savage and secretly steals the latter's ashes. In the Supergirl crossover "Duet", the Music Meister traps Kara Danvers and Barry in a musical dream world where Malcolm is a gangster named "Cutter Moran".
- Malcolm Merlyn is featured in season two of Legends of Tomorrow. Eobard Thawne recruits him into the Legion of Doom alongside past versions of Damien Darhk and Leonard Snart. The group searches for the Spear of Destiny to rewrite reality and change their respective fates, only to be defeated by the Legends after the Spear is destroyed.
- Merlyn appears in DC Showcase: Green Arrow, voiced by Malcolm McDowell. He is hired by Count Vertigo to assassinate Princess Perdita at an airport, only to be defeated by Green Arrow.
- Merlyn is included in the script of Green Arrow: Escape from Super Max as one of the convicts imprisoned with Green Arrow.
- The Arrow TV show's Malcolm Merlyn appears in Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham as part of the "Arrow" DLC.
- The Arrow TV show's Malcolm Merlyn is alluded in Lego Dimensions when Green Arrow mentions that Doctor Who's Captain Jack Harkness looks familiar (a nod to the fact that both Merlyn and Harkness are portrayed by John Barrowman).
- Merlyn will appear in Lego DC Super-Villains, with John Barrowman returning the role.
- DC Collectibles has released two 6.75-inch action figures of Merlyn in their Arrow TV show line. In March 2015, a Dark Archer figure was released. A slightly remolded and repainted version of this figure with a new unmasked head sculpt, based on season three of the series, was later released in June 2016, this time labeled as "Malcolm Merlyn".
- Funko has released a 2016 SDCC exclusive POP! vinyl figure of Malcolm Merlyn in their Arrow television series line.
- A GameStop exclusive vinyl collectible of Malcolm Merlyn has been released in Dorbz's Arrow television series wave.
- Green Arrow (Volume 6) #14 (March 2017)
- Green Arrow (Volume 6) #13 (February 2017)
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- Renaud, Jeffrey (January 14, 2016). "John & Carole Barrowman Target Merlyn's Past in "Arrow: Dark Archer" Comic". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on April 5, 2016. Retrieved April 5, 2016.
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- Action Comics (Volume 1) #443 (January 1975)
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- The Flash (Volume 2) #29 (August 1989)
- New Years Evil Body Doubles one-shot (February 1998)
- Young Justice (Volume 1) #23 (September 2000)
- Young Justice (Volume 1) #24 (October 2000)
- Young Justice (Volume 1) #25 (November 2000)
- Identity Crisis (Volume 1) #4 (November 2004)
- Identity Crisis (Volume 1) #6 (January 2005)
- Manhunter (Volume 3) #8 (May 2005)
- Green Arrow (Volume 3) #57 (February 2006)
- Green Arrow (Volume 3) #58 (March 2006)
- Green Arrow (Volume 3) #59 (April 2006)
- Green Arrow and Black Canary Wedding Special (Volume 1) #1 (November 2007)
- Batman (Volume 1) #671 (January 2008)
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- Azrael: Death's Dark Knight (Volume 1) #1 (May 2009)
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- Batman Incorporated (Volume 2) #4 (December 2012)
- Forever Evil (Volume 1) #1 (November 2013)
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- "DC Collectibles Arrow TV: Malcolm Merlyn Action Figure". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2018-03-23.
- "Funko Pop TV: Arrow - Malcolm Merlyn 2016 SDCC Exclusive Vinyl Figure". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2018-03-04.
- "Dorbz Arrow Malcolm Merlyn GameStop Exclusive #199". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2018-03-04.