Arrow Season 4: Who is Damien Darhk?
The mysterious villain of Arrow season 4 has an even more mysterious comic book history. We look into the secrets of Damien Darhk.
We’ve dusted off this article from October for those looking for answers during the Arrow midseason return, “Blood Bonds.”
If you’re hoping to find some kind of in-depth comic book history of Damien Darhk here, well, I’ve got some bad news. The Arrow season 4 villain is as close to a blank slate as you can get without him simply being a completely original creation for the show (and there are already some notable deviations from the comic book version apparent), having appeared in a mere five comic books in his entire career.
That doesn’t mean I won’t try, though.
Despite the TV version’s connection to Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins, it’s difficult to imagine a more severe swing in name recognition and importance to DC Comics history than what you see with these two characters. Ra’s al Ghul has given Batman agita dozens, if not hundreds, of times in comics for well over forty years, made several memorable animated appearances, and was the starring villain of one of the finest superhero movies of all time in Batman Begins. Making Ra’s the villain of Arrow season 3 was quite a coup for the showrunners, and since Green Arrow doesn’t have the best rogues gallery around, he helped give the series an even bigger sense of scope.
But Damien Darhk? Even the most hardened DC fan had to go scurrying for their longboxes to try and dig up anything about him. Damien has made only a handful of appearances in comics, all of them in the pages of Titans, a 1999 revival of the beloved Teen Titans concept by writer Devin Grayson and artist Mark Buckingham. Damien showed up in the first issue as a kind of executive assistant/second in command of hi-tech mercenary organization HIVE (the Hierarchy of International Vengeance and Extermination, so, you know, the good guys) working for a mysterious figure who wants to (wait for it) destroy all superheroes.
Of course, the newly reformed HIVE had the poor sense and poor timing to do this at the exact moment that the Titans decided to reform. The HIVE conflict wasn’t really all that central to the book beyond a few issues, and while it appeared that there were potentially bigger plans for Damien (who appears to wield influence among the wealthy and powerful of the DCU…at least we’re meant to infer that from the conversations he has on his cell phone), none of it ever came to pass.
Titans was more concerned with trying to replicate the dramatic interplay that made the iconic Marv Wolfman/George Perez era work so well. While Devin Grayson is a quite capable writer, and Mark Buckingham’s art was lively, these Titans stories were strangely paced with little payoff. I don’t know that you need to go hustling to your local comic shop’s back issue bins for these.
On the other hand, there are some neat (albeit coincidental) connections to the CW superhero universe. Two of them can be found in the Titans roster itself, which has Roy “Arsenal” Harper (gone but not forgotten from Arrow) and Wally “Flash” West (Keiynan Lonsdale made his debut The Flash season 2 midseason finale, “Running to Stand Still”). Slade “Deathstroke” Wilson and the super serum in his blood (no, it’s not mirakuru) becomes a major plot point, and Legends of Tomorrow villain Vandal Savage comes in to tie things all together.
At the conclusion of the Titans vs. HIVE storyline (which lasted roughly a year, but only really took center stage in the first two and last three issues of that year’s worth of Titans comics), Damien was mortally wounded in an altercation with Vandal Savage, but contact with blood that contained Slade Wilson’s super serum helped keep him alive, so he was taken into custody instead of put in the ground. This left the door open for Damian to return, but he never did.
So, in a roundabout way, that kind of connects the youthful looking Damien of the comics to the slow aging Damien of the show who once had a connection to the League of Assassins and their Lazarus Pit. It’s pretty tenuous, though. What’s more, there’s nothing to indicate that the comic book Damien Darhk ever displayed any kind of mystical powers the way the TV version does. It will be interesting to see what Arrow has in store for this otherwise forgotten DC Comics villain, and hopefully we’ll get to see the HIVE drones (sorry, couldn’t resist) in some cool yellow and black armor as the season progresses.
I may update this article if any other connections to that handful of Damien Darhk comic book appearances presents itself during the season.