How John Barrowman Plans To Tell Malcolm Merlyn's Backstory

Oliver Queen has battled a lot of bad guys on Arrow, but his greatest recurring nemesis is Malcolm Merlyn, a.k.a. The Dark Archer. Although Merlyn has been more of an ally during Seasons 3 and 4, the man still has sinister plans afoot, especially now that he’s the new Ra’s al Ghul. Aside from the occasional bit of dialogue and the flashbacks in Season 3’s “Uprising,” there isn’t much we know about Merlyn’s life when he’s not around Team Arrow, but that’s going to change next week, as Merlyn’s actor John Barrowman is now working on a new digital comic book, titled Arrow: The Dark Archer.

Co-written with his sister Carole and illustrated by Daniel Sampere, Barrowman’s series will not only follow Malcolm’s exploits between Seasons 3 and 4, but will also include flashbacks to his younger years, before he was shooting arrows. Starting on January 13, 12 chapters will be released biweekly online, and the entire story will eventually be collected in print form. Here’s what Barrowman had to say about the book’s plot to TV Insider:

Since the show started, I’ve always been curious how Malcolm made his fortune. Where did his wealth come from? How did he finance his Merlyn Global Group? The answer to those questions shapes the main narrative in the story.

The book will also visit familiar locales like Corto Maltese and Nanda Parbat, though Carole said that readers will see these places in “quite different perspectives.” Barrowman later added that he’s always had a backstory in mind for Merlyn since taking the part, and since the actor has played a key role in fleshing out the character on screen, writing the comic is the next step forward to get the audience to relate to him. This is the third Arrow digital comic book tie-in to be released, following the side stories published during Season 1 and Arrow: Season 2.5.

Merlyn served as Arrow Season 1’s prime antagonist, and he was partially successful in his plot to destroy The Glades. Although he was shown to still be alive in Season 2, he wasn’t seen much that season, though it was revealed that he was Thea’s biological father. In Season 3, while training Thea, he brainwashed her into killing Sara Lance to get Ra’s al Ghul off his tail. Eventually his plot was uncovered, but after his life was saved, he assisted Team Arrow in taking down the immortal baddie, though this was only so he could become the new Ra’s al Ghul. Season 4 has seen Merlyn settling into his new role as the League of Assassins’ leader, and while he is still helping the protagonists deal with Damien Darhk, we’ve also seen him up to his own schemes. Remember how he gathered Vandal Savage’s ashes at the end of the Arrow/The Flash crossover? That can’t be good, especially since we know Vandal will be Legends of Tomorrow’s main villain.

If you’re eager to learn more about Merlyn’s backstory,  you can find Arrow: The Dark Archer on platforms like the DC Comics app or Comixology, or just wait for the print version to hit your local comic book store next year. Meanwhile, Arrow will return with new episodes on Wednesday, January 20 at 8 p.m. EST on The CW. To see when everything else will be premiering in the next few months, check out our midseason TV schedule.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.