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)|
|Created by||Mike Friedrich|
|Full name||Arthur King / Malcolm Merlyn|
|Team affiliations||Injustice League|
Legion of Doom
League of Assassins
The Killer Elite
Secret Society of Super Villains
|Notable aliases||The Dark Archer|
|Abilities||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
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 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 becoming the vigilante Green Arrow, Oliver Queen 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 the Green Arrow to a public archery duel and defeated Oliver. 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 of Assassins, Merlyn took part in the highly abusive training of David Cain's daughter Cassandra Cain, unknowingly being behind the girl's skills as 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 a supervillain team and take on the Justice League. He then serves under Tobias Whale as a member of Metropolis' crime syndicate the 100. Merlyn attempts to kill Black Lightning when he accompanies Joey Toledo. Though the League of Assassins crash the battle when they were displeased that Merlyn left them. He is ultimately defeated by Black Lightning while Toledo was killed during the three-way battle. 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 with Merlyn wanting to do his dream assassination on Batman, 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 "Identity Crisis" miniseries. 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 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" storyline, Merlyn serves as a member of Alexander Luthor Jr.'s Society. Since then, he has resumed his feud with Green Arrow, launching several attacks on the hero's 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 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 the final confrontation between Ra's and Batman. Merlyn then joins the League of Assassins' elite team known as 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 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 Cupid 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 League of Assassins' employ and serves as a member of the Seven Men of Death who are tasked by Talia al Ghul's 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. 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.
Malcolm Merlyn appears as a main protagonist of Arrow tie-in comic, The Dark Archer. He appears in flashback storyline in 1985 and in a present-day storyline between third and fourth seasons.
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 the episode "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 live-action series Smallville, portrayed by Steve Bacic. After Oliver Queen left the Brotherhood of Sion, Vordigan left to find his protege in order to fulfill his role as a "master archer". In the episode "Disciple", he shot Lois Lane with his arrow through the shoulder and later attacked Chloe Sullivan at Watchtower. The Dark Archer then sought out Mia Dearden and kidnapped as he placed the girl in a Brotherhood of Sion Maze. He told Oliver that he had to fulfill his role by succeeding his master. Vordigan went after Mia after Oliver refused to kill him. After he found Mia, he shot three arrows at the girl. Oliver saw them and jumped in front of Mia. Just as the arrows got close Clark ran in front of Oliver and saved him. While Clark was in front of him, Oliver shot an arrow at Vordigan, hitting him in the same place he hit Lois. However, Oliver did not kill Vordigan, only stopped him and saved Mia. Later, talking with Mia, Oliver says that Vordigan is in prison, and he's worried about the day he'll be released, old and still eager to be killed by Oliver. In the episode "Prophecy", Vordigan (either somehow released or having escaped from his incarceration) is now a member of the Toyman's sinister league of villains known as the Marionette Ventures. At their meeting, each member was assigned a target from the Justice League. Vordigan's target was none other than the Green Arrow.
John Barrowman portrays Malcolm Merlyn / Dark Archer in The CW's live-action Arrowverse, where he serves as Oliver Queen's 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 Merlyn, and trained with the League of Assassins in Nanda Parbat, where he took the name The Magician (Arabic: الساحر Al Sa-Her). After several 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 Robert's yacht, marooning 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 that he is father to Thea Queen (Oliver's sister). He convinces Thea to leave with him after Moira Queen's death at Deathstroke's hands, and offers her his martial arts training. In season three, the League of Assassins hunt Malcolm for breaking their code with his undertaking. He turns Thea into a target by brainwashing her into murdering Sara Lance, forcing Oliver to kill Ra's al Ghul to save his sister. With Malcolm's training, Oliver manages to kill Ra's and (per their deal) hands the League of Assassins' leadership to Malcolm as the next Ra's al Ghul. In season four, Merlyn resurrects Sara with the Lazarus Pit to appease Thea and Laurel Lance. Later, Nyssa al Ghul leads a rebel faction of the League of Assassins against Malcolm. Malcolm chooses to maintain power rather than hand leadership to Nyssa in exchange for a cure to save Thea's life (from 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 organization. Adopting a cybernetic prosthetic hand, Malcolm joins Damien Darhk's H.I.V.E. organization. When Lonnie Machin infiltrates H.I.V.E.'s underground facility and causes chaos, Merlyn evacuates many people, reluctantly assisting Team Arrow. When Darhk plans to destroy the world and Star City with nuclear missiles, Merlyn changes sides and assists Team Arrow. At the end of season five, Merlyn again allies with Team Arrow when Simon Morrison kidnaps Thea to force Oliver into facing him on Lian Yu. In season five's finale, Merlyn sacrifices himself, taking Thea's place on a land mine. The mine detonates (off-screen) to kill Digger Harkness and some assassins on Lian Yu. Season six reveals that after the League of Assassins' disbandment several loyalists continue to serve Merlyn as part of his Thanatos Guild; they search for three hidden Lazarus Pits.
- Malcolm Merlyn also appears on The Flash and Supergirl. In the two-part crossover "Heroes Join Forces", he offers Barry Allen and Oliver information on the immortal Vandal Savage. After Savage is killed, he secretly steals the immortal's ashes. In the "Duet" crossover, the Music Meister traps Kara Danvers and Barry in a musical dream world where Merlyn is the gangster Cutter Moran who has a feud with Joe West's counterpart Digsy Foss.
- Malcolm Merlyn is featured in season two of Legends of Tomorrow. Eobard Thawne recruits him into a group of supervillains 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 holy object is destroyed.
- Malcolm Merlyn appears in the 2018 "Elseworlds" crossover. He appears as a hallucination when Oliver and Barry are exposed to a container of Scarecrow's fear gas during a struggle with Nora Fries. When John Deegan writes in the Book of Destiny again, Merlyn appears as a police officer for the Central City Police Department alongside Ricardo Diaz and Kane Wolfman, attempting to apprehend Oliver and Barry only for Oliver to fight the three "police officers" off.
- In season eight, the Earth-2 Malcolm Merlyn is revealed to be married to Moira Queen.
- 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 the Green Arrow.
- Merlyn is included in the script of Green Arrow: Escape from Super Max as one of the convicts imprisoned with the 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. Green Arrow mentions that Captain Jack Harkness of Doctor Who looks familiar (a nod to the fact that both characters are portrayed by John Barrowman).
- Malcolm Merlyn appears as a main character in Lego DC Super-Villains, with John Barrowman returning to 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" and "The Magician" Comic". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on April 5, 2016. Retrieved April 5, 2016.
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