During his first few years as Green Arrow, Oliver Queens heroic reputation found itself capturing the attention of another experienced bowman known as Arthur King, who was also taking up the stage name called Merlyn the Magician. Openly challenging Green Arrow to an archery duel, Merlyn found himself shocked when Green Arrow bested Arthur in the match. This was also a loss where Arthur couldn’t accept properly and was never seen again by the public after the match. But Arthur’s experiences with the bow took another turn when using his skills as a hired assassin, also sharpening his skills to be the greatest assassin and if he ever came across the Green Arrow again. By the time his reputation grew, Arthur took on the assassin name of his former alias, Merlyn and later found himself recruited into the League of Assassins. It would also be noted that during his time with the League, Merlyn was one of Cassandra Cain's tutors who taught her the art of of archery under strict conditions.
This version of Merlyn has made minimal appearances in the New 52 showing as a member of the League of Assassins in Batman Inc, and a member of the crowd in Forever Evil. He was replaced by a man with the name of Tommy Merlyn instead of Arthur King, who was a close friend of Oliver Queen who was attending a party on The Apollo, an oil rig operated by Queen Industries when it was attacked and destroyed.
It wouldn’t be long before Merlyn would find himself meeting Green Arrow once again when Sensei assigned Merlyn to kill Batman. Because of how Batman, Green Arrow, and Aquaman were facing a mock trial by the League of Assassins, Merlyn managed to prevent both Superman and Atom from interfering the killing of his assigned target with his arsenal of trick arrows that were nearly similar to Green Arrows. But by the time Merlyn found Batman and nearly managed to kill the hero, he found his kill shot deflected by Green Arrow. With Merlyn unable to settle an old score or fulfilling his assigned kill, he found himself at the brink of facing defeat when finally realizing that Green Arrow was truly a better and much more of a skilled archer before managing to escape. Even though Merlyn escaped capture, Merlyn became a victim of the strict code within the League of Assassins because of how he failed to kill an assigned target, which resulted with Merlyn himself being the target for the League of Assassins.
After managing to escape the League of Assassins long enough before changing their code, Merlyn was next recruited by Queen Bee to participate into her group of villains known as the Ant-Justice league as a response for Queen Bee’s attempt to capture the Justice League. After being easily defeated by the league, Merlyn was next hired by the 100 to kill Black Lightning, which of course ended with the archers defeat. It would be during his short participation where Merlyn met and befriended Syonide where the two eventually developed a partnership and took on the assignment of killing a Russian scientist and Phantom Lady in Casablanca. But even the partnership proved unsuccessful when the Flash (Wally West) easily defeated both assassins.
It would be years before Merlyn would make any appearance, and that opportunity would finally come when Merlyn became one of the many villains who were offered a unique candle. Which was an invitation from Neron who offered something that several villains couldn’t refuse, a single wish for the exchange of their soul. Even though Merlyn offered his own soul, it’s unknown as to what he bargained for or what he gained for the exchange. It would also be during this time where Merlyn met Deadshot and joined his group of assassins who named themselves the Killer Elite. After the Justice League defeated the Elite, Merlyn and two other members of the Killer Elite were hired to kill the Body Doubles, only to find this attempt failing as well.
Possibly during his time with the Elite, Merlyn found contacts and connections with other costumed villains within the criminal underground where he ended up joining the Secret Society of Supervillains after the Killer Elite faded away. Even among the society itself, Merlyn’s career as a costumed villain still proved unsuccessful when having an unlucky encounter with Julius September, being out matched by Young Justice in a competition sport, and being one of the few villains who ere defeated by Manhunter when failing to kill Shadow Thief during his trial.
Merlyn would finally get his chance to get his revenge on Green Arrow when joining Dr Lights attempt to attack Star City. Among other villains, Merlyn would finally get his chance against Green Arrow in a one on one match where this time it was Merlyn who managed to be the victor of the challenge. Gaining success with his reputation, Merlyn found recruitment from the crime lord known as Brick to take part as one of his lieutenants. But Merlyn would find himself crossing paths with Green Arrow once more when the hero attempted to bring down Brick’s criminal empire within Star City, this resulted with both Merlyn and Brick escaping capture from Green Arrow and his allies.
But Merlyn didn't give up his personal vengeance for his primary nemesis when noticing Green Arrow's romantic attraction and feelings for Black Canary. This motivated Merlyn to come up with possibly the most devious plan he ever thought of when attempting to frame Green Arrow by using and manipulating those who were close to Black Canary. After noticing that the League of Assassins were tracking down a little girl known as Sin, who was currently under the care of Black Canary, Merlyn took the opportunity to kidnap the Sin and pin the kidnapping and the death of Sin on Green Arrow. However there was fault with his plan when Sin mysteriously disappeared and Merlyn was forced into a grueling fight with the pursuing Black Canary. Nearly strangling Canary with the cord of his broken bow, Merlyn was defeated by Green Arrow, later realizing that it was Conner Hawke who took Sin from his care and faked her death to throw off the League of Assassins from capturing Sin.
After being hired to assassinate a few more targets in Star City, Merlyn crossed paths with both Green Arrow and Black Canary, which resulted with both Merlyns defeat and Canary being injured during the battle. But after mysteriously being bailed out of jail, Merlyn was kidnapped by Cupid who drugged him and used the villainous archer in a trap that would result with Green Arrow killing Merlyn. Even though Green Arrow got the better of Merlyn, he refused to take the life of his greatest enemy. Later in the fight Cupid ended up slitting Merlyns throat and relied on Black Canary and Green Arrow to be distracted by saving him so that she could escape. Green Arrow and Black Canary got Merlyn to a hospital in time to save his life, but the doctors do not know how much brain damage was caused by the attack. The doctors do expect that Merlyn will never be able to talk again.
Powers and Abilities
Merlyn has been recognized to be one of the greatest archers in the world, however his skills vary when being compared to Green Arrows display of marksmanship and archery. Originally Merlyn developed his skills through showmanship and sport, later using them for the purposes of killing and combat. Because of this, Merlyn wasn't the greater archer when being compared with Green Arrow because of how Green Arrow developed his skills through survival and combat. But it would be after the events with Neron where Merlyn's skills developed itself being comparable to Green Arrows own. It's also fully unclear if Merlyn did offer his soul for greater archery skills or not.
Much like Green Arrow, Merlyn has the discipline, coordination, and the skill to be the deadliest archer in the world. He has been known to shoot a target dead center at a distance greater than 500 or more feet with the naked eye. Merlyn could even deflect or strike moving targets comparable to arrows or any thrown objects that doesn't have the the same speed compared to a fired bullet. Even though Merlyn has used other forms of weaponry, It would seem that Merlyn's skills are only limited to a bow and arrow. Even his hand to hand is limited to basic street fighting.
By the time he joined the League of Assassins, Merlyn became an experienced assassin where he was honored the title of being one of Ra's Al Ghul's personal hit squad known as the Seven Men of Death. His experience has once proven him to be challenge against the Justice League after studying and analyzing his designated target, but occasionally Merlyn finds his experiences failing when encountering Green Arrow and other known heroes.
Weapons and Equipment
So far it would seem that Merlyn has only been seen with a normal bow, a regular bow, and a compound bow. Much like Green Arrow, Merlyn also has his own collection of trick arrows, but recently he's been seen using normal arrows. Both bows and arrows are of Merlyn's own design and customized by him to give a stealth appearance. The armor he wears is light armored, black or dark blue, and fitted with several compartments where his arrows could be stored. Even though Merlyn has mostly been seen using a Bow and Arrow as his primary weapon, occasionally he's also armed with a small pistol.
Justice League Unlimited
In the Justice League Unlimited cartoon, Merlyn appears as background member of the 3rd secret society.
In Smallville, Vordigan was a member of a secret Celtic society of archers. It was he who taught Oliver Queen the skills necessary to become the Green Arrow. After he was injured badly for the first time, he tracked Oliver down, telling him that he has to be killed while he was still strong. In order to convince Oliver to kill him, he attempted to enforce the society's oath, "no lovers, no allies, and no apprentices," by shooting Lois, Oliver's former lover, Chloe, Oliver's closest ally, and by kidnapping Oliver's apprentice. With some help from Clark, Oliver was able to save his apprentice and take down Vordigan without killing him. A Dark Archer is sitting around a circular table with established Smallville villains Roulette and Metallo, with Solomon Grundy, Black Manta and Captain Cold.
Merlyn (played by John Barrowman) is the main antagonist of Season 1 of Arrow. He was born Arthur King but later changed his name to Malcolm Merlyn. He is the biological father of Tommy Merlyn and Thea Queen. After his wife, Rebecca, was murdered, he went into training with Al Ow-al and the League of Assassins. He was given the name "Al Sa-Her" which is Arabic for "The Magician." He later becomes the vigilante known as the Dark Archer in Starling City. He uses an earthquake machined called the Markov Device to destroy the Glades. This caused the death of his son, Tommy. In the finale of Season 1, Oliver Queen kills Merlyn but he survives. He later returns during Season 2 and reveals he is Thea's father. During Season 3, he is responsible for the death of Sara Lance, who was known as The Canary and later, White Canary. He had drugged his daughter, Thea, with a drug called "Vitura" and forced her to kill Sara. Later that season, Ra's al Ghul attempts to kill Thea but they are able to revive her in the Lazarus Pit. At the end of the season, Oliver defeats Ra's al Ghul and gives the leadership of the League of Assassins to Merlyn. During Season 4, Thea's time in the Lazarus Pit has caused her to have a blood lust that can only be quenched by killing Ra's al Ghul, but he is dead. Merlyn tries to keep her blood lust at bay by letting her kill members of the League but she does not want to be a killer. Her unwillingness to kill causes her to slowly die from within. Nyssa al Ghul holds the cure to her ailment but will only give it up if Merlyn gives her the leadership of the League. Halfway through the season, Oliver betrays Merlyn by chopping off his left hand and giving the leadership of the League to Nyssa. Nyssa then decides to disband the League and destroy the mantle of Ra's al Ghul. Merlyn then decides to tell Damien Darhk, the main antagonist of Season 4, that the one person that Oliver cares about the most is not Felicity Smoak, but his son, William. He reappears again at the end of Season 5 to help Oliver after the rest of Team Arrow had been taken hostage by Adrian Chase/Prometheus. In an attempt to save Thea after she activates a landmine, Malcolm pushes her off the landmine and take her place. After telling her and the rest of the hostages to run, Merlyn steps off the landmine, killing himself, along with Digger Harkness and some of Talia al Ghul's men.