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 (November 1971)
Thomas Merlyn: Green Arrow #0 (September 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
The Magician
Abilities Genius-level tactician
Peak physical and mental conditioning
Master archer with acute accuracy
Skilled hand-to-hand combatant, martial artist, bowman, swordsman and marksman
Highly skilled in stealth
High tolerance for pain

Merlyn is a fictional supervillain appearing in comic books published by DC Comics. He is the archenemy of Green Arrow, though over the years he has served as an adversary for other superheroes in the DC Universe as well, such as Batman. He was created by Mike Friedrich, Neal Adams, and Dick Dillin and first appeared in Justice League of America #94 (1971).

Since 2012, the character has appeared on The CW's live-action TV series Arrow, where he is portrayed by actor John Barrowman.

Publication history[edit]

Merlyn first appeared in Justice League of America #94 (1971) and was created by writer Mike Friedrich and artists Neal Adams and Dick Dillin.

John Barrowman and his sister Carole have written a digital comic called Arrow: The Dark Archer, now released as a physical paperback, which focuses on the character that John plays on The CW's live-action television series Arrow.[2] It is illustrated by Daniel Sampere.

Fictional character biography[edit]

Years before Oliver Queen would become Green Arrow, he was inspired to take up archery by the 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.[3]

Finding work with one of Metropolis' crime syndicates, The 100,[4] Merlyn fought against a weakened Black Lightning, but lost the battle.[5]

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.[6]

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,[7] but they are defeated by the Young Justice team.[8][9]

Merlyn would next appear in the pages of Identity Crisis,[10] 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.[11] 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).[12]

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.[13]

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.[14]

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.[15]

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.[16]

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.[17] 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.[18]

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.[19]

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.[20]

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 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, and is highly skilled in devising battle plans and strategies.

In other media[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. His final fate is unknown, as when the mutineers are defeated and captured, Merlyn is not seen among them.

Merlyn is adapted into the character Vordigan, referred to as The Dark Archer in advertising, in "Disciple," a season nine episode of Smallville, where he is portrayed by Steve Bacic. He later reappears in the season ten episode "Prophecy" in a cameo role as the Injustice League member assigned to kill Green Arrow.[21]

John Barrowman as Malcolm Merlyn on the cover of Arrow: The Dark Archer.

Merlyn appears in The CW's Arrow, portrayed by John Barrowman.[22] Introduced in the first season as a mysterious unnamed archer, the character is later revealed to be Malcolm Merlyn, the father of Oliver Queen's best friend Tommy who, fuelled by the murder of his wife Rebecca, seeks revenge on Starling City's crime-infested "Glades" borough by destroying it with an earthquake machine. He was also responsible for the murder of Oliver Queen's father and the shipwreck which began Oliver's journey to become the Green Arrow. His backstory is further explored in season two, where it is learned he trained in Nanda Parbat under Ra's al Ghul to become a member of the League of Assassins, taking the Arabic name Al Sa-Her (الساحر, "The Magician"). In season three, he attempts to form a relationship with Oliver's younger sister Thea after revealing to her that he is her biological father, and trains her to be a fighter. He manipulates her into killing a fellow League member, Sara Lance, as part of a drawn-out scheme which results in his taking control of the League as the new Ra's al Ghul. In season four, he has his control of the League seized from him by the former Ra's's daughter Nyssa, who disbands it, and he allies himself with the megalomaniacal Damien Darhk. Outside the show, the character is frequently merchandised or referred to under the codename "Dark Archer", and in the tie-in novel Arrow: The Dark Archer, his birth name is revealed to be Arthur King as in the comics.

The character also makes a fleeting appearance in Arrow spin-off The Flash, and will feature in season two of DC's Legends of Tomorrow as a member of the Legion of Doom.[23]


  • 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.
  • Merlyn is included in the script Green Arrow: Escape from Supermax. He is one of the convicts imprisoned with Green Arrow and is the primary antagonist.

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 costume. Green Arrow must defeat him in an archery duel.
  • Malcolm Merlyn appears in Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham. He is part of the "Arrow" DLC.


  • Several figures of Malcolm Merlyn have been released based on his appearance in the Arrow TV show.
    • In late March 2015, DC Collectibles released a Dark Archer action figure. An unmasked and slightly repainted version of this figure was later released in 2016, this time labelled "Malcolm Merlyn".
    • A Retro Re-Action figure of the Dark Archer has been released.
    • A Funko POP! vinyl figure of Malcolm Merlyn was released as a SDCC 2016 Exclusive.


  1. ^ Green Arrow (volume 5) #0, 26, 36-37
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ Action Comics (vol. 1) #443 (January 1975)
  4. ^ Black Lightning (vol. 1) #2 (May 1977)
  5. ^ Black Lightning (vol. 1) #5 (November 1977)
  6. ^ New Years Evil Body Doubles one-shot (February 1998)
  7. ^ Young Justice (vol. 1) #23 (September 2000)
  8. ^ Young Justice (vol. 1) #24 (October 2000)
  9. ^ Young Justice (vol. 1) #25 (November 2000)
  10. ^ Identity Crisis #4 (November 2004)
  11. ^ Identity Crisis #6 (January 2005)
  12. ^ Manhunter (vol. 3) #8 (May 2005)
  13. ^ Green Arrow (vol. 3) #57–59 (February–April 2006)
  14. ^ Batman (vol. 1) #671 (January 2008)
  15. ^ Detective Comics (vol. 1) #839 (February 2008)
  16. ^ Green Arrow and Black Canary #19 (June 2009)
  17. ^ Batman Incorporated (vol. 2) #4 (December 2012)
  18. ^ Forever Evil #1 (November 2013)
  19. ^ Green Arrow (vol. 5) #0 (November 2012)
  20. ^ Green Arrow (vol. 5) #36 (January 2015)
  21. ^ "Smallville: "Disciple" Review - IGN". 2010-02-01. Retrieved 2016-04-14. 
  22. ^ Phegley, Kiel (December 12, 2012). "Barrowman Brings Malcolm Merlyn To "Arrow"". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on April 5, 2016. Retrieved April 5, 2016. 
  23. ^ Bucksbaum, Sydney (July 23, 2016). "Comic-Con: 'Legends of Tomorrow' to Tackle Legion of Doom Villain Team In Season 2". The Hollywood Reporter. 

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