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 become the better archer, but escaped before he could be captured. Unable to return to the League of Assassins, he became a freelance assassin.
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 encounters the Body Doubles. Merlyn and the others are soundly defeated, as the Body Doubles use gadgetry and cleavage to their advantage.
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, but they are defeated by the Young Justice team.
Merlyn would next appear in the pages of Identity Crisis, 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. 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).
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.
Afterwards, 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.
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.
The New 52
Tommy Merlyn appeared in The New 52 (a reboot of the DC Comics universe) in Green Arrow #0. Five years ago, Tommy was Ollie 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.
In the second part of the 2014 Green Arrow storyline '"Kingdom," Merlyn appears 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.
Merlyn appears in the Justice League Unlimited episode "Dead Reckoning". He is shown as a member of Grodd's Secret Society. He sides with Grodd in the mutiny against Lex Luthor. Merlyn is seen firing his arrows during the fight. While other mutineers are captured, Merlyn manages to escape.
A character named Vordigan, loosely based on Merlyn and referred to as "The Dark Archer" in advertising, appeared in the Smallville Season Nine episode "Disciple", reappearing later in the tenth season (episode "Prophecy") to kill Green Arrow. He is portrayed by Steve Bacic ("Disciple") and by an unknown actor in "Prophecy".
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In The CW's Arrow (2012–present), Merlyn is reimagined as Malcolm Merlyn (portrayed by John Barrowman) who is a wealthy businessman associated with the Queen family, but is also a vigilante archer and a member of the League of Assassins. Malcolm's role is often changing as is Barrowman's casting status, season 1 he was the main antagonist and a recurring character, season 2 he was a guest character, season 3 is a main character. Overall Malcolm is arguably the main antagonist of the series. He also has a son named Tommy who shares the Merlyn name who was a main character in season 1, and a guest in seasons 2 and 3.
Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) is the father of Tommy Merlyn and Thea Queen and close friend of Robert and Moira Queen and the first season's main antagonist and is revealed to have trained in Nanda Parbat, with the League of Assassins, by a man named Al-Owal, where he took the name "Magician" (Arabic: الساحر Al Sa-Her) and was even the first person to leave the organization. Fueled by the murder of his wife Rebecca, who was a humanitarian, during a mugging in the crime-infested area of Starling City called "the Glades", Malcolm plots with others to completely destroy the Glades. When Oliver Queen's father Robert tries to extricate himself from this plan, Malcolm has the Queen boat sabotaged, killing Robert and shipwrecking Oliver and his girlfriend Sara Lance, inadvertently causing the events that would shape them into The Arrow and The Canary vigilantes. Malcolm continues his plotting but when The Arrow begins to interfere with his plans, he takes measures by donning his League of Assassins uniform and attempts to frame The Arrow for any targets Malcolm may kill. In the season one finale, "Sacrifice", Malcolm loses his fight with Oliver, but still activates an earthquake-causing device in an attempt to destroy the Glades, inadvertently killing his son Tommy, and appears to die. In the season 2 episode, "State Vs. Queen", Malcolm returns alive and is revealed that Thea Queen, Oliver's younger sister, was the product of an affair between himself and Moira after Malcolm's wife's death. It is later revealed that though Robert Queen was secretly aware of Malcolm's affair with his wife, he made no attempt to expose them out of his love for Moira and accepted their daughter as his own. Moira's second husband, Walter Steele, is also learned that Thea is not Robert Queen's daughter when he asked Felicity Smoak to look into Moira's financial activities from her offshore account Tempest, and realizes Thea's true paternity after Moira admitted her affair with Merlyn in court. Malcolm tries to get Moira to tell the truth to Thea, but instead she contacts Ra's al Ghul himself and informs him of Malcolm's survival, which puts him on the run. Malcolm returns to Starling in "Streets of Fire" after hearing that Moira was killed by Slade Wilson and arrives in time to save Thea from one of Slade's minions. Malcolm desperately tries to convince Thea to go with him but, in a moment of distraction with another one of Slade's minions, Thea grabs a gun and shoots him. In the season finale episode "Unthinkable", he is shown to have survived by having Kevlar in his uniform. Thea left the city with Malcolm in the final scene. Barrowman has been promoted to series regular in Season 3. In season 3's episode "Corto Maltese," the two head to Malcolm's mansion on Corto Maltese where he began to train Thea. After 6 months, Malcolm saw his daughter able to take down multiple trainers and congratulated her. Thea later requested to head home and proved her training's worth by fighting Malcolm with swords and disarmed him, but Thea implied that he let her win.
Thomas "Tommy" Merlyn (Colin Donnell) is introduced as the long-time best friend of Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) who dates Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), Oliver's ex-girlfriend and son of Malcolm Merlyn. Later it is revealed that Thea, Oliver's sister, is actually Tommy's half-sister. Over the course of the first season Tommy starts off as a laid back and reckless playboy who with Oliver in their youth were involved in many social scandals. This recklessness of his continues until his father cuts off his funds forcing him to shape into a more responsible person, but this causes relations between him and his father to be further strained. It is later revealed that Tommy is estranged with his father after his mother's death, as Malcolm is fixated on his vendetta after he returned from Nanda Parbat; Oliver's father, Robert, acted as Tommy’s surrogate father until his death. For the majority of season 1 Tommy maintains a relationship with Laurel and he and Oliver continue to remain friends. However in "Dead to Rights" his father is shot by Deadshot and through this 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 was the fueling factor for Oliver to change his ways and not kill anyone ever again. Tommy's death however sends Laurel into depression for most of the season until Oliver snaps her out of it. His death also makes Malcolm desperate to be involved in Thea's life. 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 season 3's episode "Sara", in a flashback five years in the past, where he traveled to Hong Kong in search for Oliver, after Oliver made an attempt to send out an email, which set off an account alert. Oliver would be surprised when he learns Amanda Waller ordered Tommy to be executed but Oliver would devise a plan in order to keep Tommy alive. Oliver would kidnap Tommy and claim he hacked Oliver's account in hope of a family member to search for him. Oliver's accomplice, Maseo, would then "rescue" Tommy posing as Hong Kong police and Tommy would leave after having the belief that his best friend is dead.