Characters I Love # 12: Mr. Terrific

mr. terrificEvery Wednesday, I focus on a character from adventure fiction (film, comics & prose) that I simply adore. This week we’re talking about: Mr. Terrific. Michael Holt made his debut in Spectre # 54, published in 1997. The second hero to use the name Mr. Terrific, I think it’s safe to say that Michael has far surpassed the original in terms of popularity. This is how Wikipedia sums up his background:

At a young age, Michael Holt showed remarkable intelligence, reading and assimilating the works of Bohr, Einstein, Planck and Feynman, the pantheon of theoretical physics, at the age of six. He studied advanced science, space, and time “while other children struggled through Sesame Street” Michael grew up with his mentally challenged older brother, Jeffrey, whom Michael loved dearly. When Jeffrey died at the age of 15, Michael was devastated.Holt displayed “a natural aptitude for having natural aptitudes”, as he called it, easily picking up and retaining complex skills and abilities that other men spent their entire lives perfecting. Before he began his career as a superhero, he already possessed 14 Ph.D’s (two in engineering and physics—including doctorates and masters degrees in law, psychology, chemistry, political science, and mathematics), was a self-made multi-millionaire[1] with a high tech firm called Cyberwear (subsequently sold to Waynetech) and was a gold medal winning Olympic decathlete. The accidental deaths of his wife and unborn child were a devastating blow to Holt and while contemplating suicide, he was met by the Spectre, who told him about Terry Sloane, the Golden Age superhero known as Mister Terrific. Inspired by Sloane’s life story, he took the name Mister Terrificand later joined the current Justice Society of America, eventually serving as its chairman. He initially wore ordinary clothes and a leather jacket with Sloane’s “Fair Play” emblem on the back. He then wears a T-shaped mask composed of electronic nanites, a black and white costume with red trim, and a collarless jacket in the same colors (the black sections of tunic and jacket forming a “T”) with “Fair Play” written on the sleeves and “Terrific” across the back. For a time he acted as spokesperson for Tylerco and consulted that company on industrial espionage and security matters in exchange for that company helping fund a youth center Terrific had started. Holt has a friendly rivalry with Batman, his opposite number in the Justice League of America (in his identity as Bruce Wayne, Batman owns Holt’s business). Michael Holt has encountered Terry Sloane twice through time travel, with Sloane expressing pride in having so worthy a successor. Holt has been noted as the most intelligent member of the JSA in its history, surpassing his predecessor. He is also known as the third smartest person in the world, and this notion now appears to be widespread within the DC Universe.

Now if that history doesn’t scream “pulp hero” to you, then I think we have very different idea about what that term means. This guy is basically a modern day Doc Savage, in terms of his brilliance and wide range of interests. From the moment he joined the Justice Society, it just felt so right that he’d take on the leadership role. He was their Batman, only with a hell of a lot more emotion. Speaking of which, the scenes between Terrific and Batman in JLA/JSA: Virtue and Vice are worth the price of admission alone.

In the New 52, Mr. Terrific received an ongoing solo series that tweaked his background (not really for the better). In the new universe, he’s lost his JSA connection, been paired up with Power Girl and then got shunted over to Earth-2, where he’ll presumably join the still unnamed JSA that they’re building over there. I still love the character but think he’s lost a lot in the new version.

Mr. Terrific is a wonderful character with tons of potential — and I really hope DC finds a way to exploit that in the future.


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