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Comic Book / Mister Terrific

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Michael Holt and Terry Sloane

Mister Terrific is the name of a pair of DC Comics characters, the first of which made his first appearance in Sensation Comics # 1 in January, 1942. Terry Sloane was a brilliant polymath and Olympic athlete who by the age of twenty, had succeeded in everything he had ever wanted to do, and was left so much at a loss that he was nearly suicidal. Seeing an actual suicide, however, he instinctively saved her and used his abilities to rescue her brother from a life of crime. Realising there was more he could do in the world, he took the identity of Mr Terrific, "The Man of 1000 Talents", wearing a green and red outfit. He was a reserve member of the Justice Society of America, and was eventually killed in one of their team-ups with the Justice League of America (JLA Vol. 1 #171, "The Murder Among Us: Crisis Above Earth-One", October 1979).

His successor was introduced in The Spectre Vol. 3 #54 in June 1997. Like his predecessor, Michael Holt was a polymath genius and Olympic athlete. Also like his predecessor, he is introduced as suicidal, in this case owning to the death of his wife and their unborn child. He is told Terry Sloane's story by the Spectre, and is inspired to instead follow his example as a superhero. He subsequently becomes a core member of the new JSA, eventually being made their chairman.

A version of the Michael Holt version of Mister Terrific appeared in Arrow as Curtis Holt, portrayed by Echo Kellum.

The name was used as the title of a comic-book series published by DC Comics, one of the first of their New 52 initiative. The series follows the adventures of Michael Holt, the third-smartest man in the DC universe, who uses his scientific mind to fight crime and improve the world. After the series' cancellation, Mister Terrific was packed off to Earth 2, but later returned in The Terrifics.

Notable appearances Terry Sloane:

Notable Comic Books

Notable appearances Michael Holt:

Notable Comic Books

Other Media

Mister Terrific I (Terry Sloane) provides examples of:

  • The Ace: He's a master of the arts and sciences. He's also athletic, a great fighter (capable of throwing Jay Garrick when moving at superspeed), a talented piano player, an expert on nutrition, and can find a flaw in a giant clockwork machine by studying it.
  • Arch-Enemy: Spirit King, who eventually killed him.
  • Broken Ace: Until he was inspired to become a hero.
  • Badass Normal: The absolute peak of human potential, a Renaissance Man without equal (save for his successor) without having to lift a proverbial finger to get there. The lack of meaning in his life as a result of having everything come effortlessly to him very nearly drove him to suicide.
  • Black-and-White Morality: It's noted (in modern comics) that his raw intellect lets him instantly work through philosophical and moral issues with perfect black and white clarity, and that he tends to be heartbroken when the rest of the world doesn't live up to the moral standards he holds himself to, which seem so clear to him.
  • Blessed with Suck: Has lamented on at least one occasion that his perfect expertise at, well, literally everything he tries tends to make his life feel empty and trivial—In fact, he was about to kill himself over it.
  • Break Them by Talking: One time he beat Black Barax, the conqueror from the future by claiming that he (as Terry Sloane) was Barax's ancestor. Since the year 7352 didn't have any ancestry records that far back, Barax had no way to be sure and went back home. Terry later admitted that he had no way of knowing, himself, actually. Six thousand and something years from now, literally anybody could be Barax's ancestor.
  • The Cape: As noted in Starman, the words "Fair Play" might seem corny and naive, but if someone truly believes in the ideals of fairness and equality enough to wear them proudly, they may be the greatest hero of all. And Mr. Terrific does.
  • Challenge Seeker: Part of why he became a hero—in fact, in one story he's excited after being temporarily blinded, seeing it as an interesting handicap to overcome.
  • Chest Insignia: It's more on his gut, but "Fair Play" is probably the best-remembered thing about him.
  • Child Prodigy: An accomplished architect at eight, graduated from high school at eleven, and from college at twelve—that is, after a year the college awarded him an honorary degree after acknowledging that there was nothing they could actually teach him. So he decided to focus on physical pursuits instead, and beat every full-grown man he competed with, ending up with a room full of trophies. All achievements which he couldn't be proud of, because he didn't have to strive to achieve them and so they meant nothing.
  • Comes Great Responsibility: One story suggests that guilt over being born with an inherently unfair advantage over everyone else is what drives him to share his gifts in order to close the gap between the haves and the have-nots.
  • Commonality Connection: On the occasions where Time Travel allows him to meet his successor, they get along fantastically. Who could possibly grok him as well as another version of him, but black? Time besties!
  • Driven to Suicide: Two suicide attempts actually started his career! See, never having to actually try in order to superlatively succeed at anything he put his hand to set him apart from the rest of humanity and left him feeling that his life had no meaning, so around age twenty (feeling he had already tried everything), he decided to run his car off a bridge—only to see a young woman about to throw herself off of it! Stopping his car, he leapt in after Wanda Wilson, saved her and learned that after the younger brother who she'd raised after their parents died had joined a gang of youths who's started doing jobs for mobsters, she felt she had nothing worth living for. After telling the lady to let him take care of it, he went home. Deciding he might as well have a little fun before offing himself, he made a superhero costume, showed up at the youth gang's hideout as Mr. Terrific and told them to come along with him to the mobsters' hideout, where he grand old time physically thrashing every gangster present and even humiliating their leader in a contest of intellect. The impressed kids, realizing the mobsters they looked up to were just cowards and fools, turned away from their potential lives of crime. A few days later, Wanda Wilson showed up at Terry's office thanking him for stopping her suicide attempt—all of a sudden, her brother seems to have changed his ways. Terry agrees with her that (paraphrasing) life can get interesting fast, and a superhero is born.
  • Grandfather Paradox: He mentions having read "By His Bootstraps" and really liking it when he first meets the time-traveling Hawkgirl and Mr. Terrific II, and later in the story sends the 74th Century conqueror Black Barax packing when he claims that he used the JSA's Time Spectacles to look into the future and see that he was Barax's ancestor, threatening to shoot himself if Barax doesn't cease his attack and go home. After some heroics by his future counterpart briefly delay him, he gets the gun again and starts pulling the trigger—Barax goes home. By the way, the JSA doesn't have Time Spectacles.
  • Heroic BSoD: Has a brief one upon learning that the Allies were bombing Dresden in order to keep Nazis from recruiting there, and not to destroy munitions factories as he'd been told. He very nearly gives up being a hero in disgust, until The Flash explains that he could be an example for an unfair and morally gray world to live up to, which inspires him to continue.
  • Humble Hero: Although he could easily brag or get a swelled head due his vast talents, Terry's actually a humble and approachable person who felt that his life was empty until he turned said talents toward helping people.
  • Hyper-Awareness: As a result of his intellect.
  • Instant Expert: As a result of his natural intellect and physical ability, Terry instantly masters anything, anything, he tries—even better than the experts. It's not nearly as fun as it sounds.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: Struggled with this for most of his life. Initially he felt isolated enough due to his genius to attempt suicide at one point (only to turn into heroism instead).
  • Internal Reveal: One of the times his brother wandered off, he hooked up with Debra Sinclair aka Roulette I, an old adversary of Terry's, revealing Terry's identity to her. Terry finds out about this when Debra sends him a letter demanding a "ransom" for his brother. When he arrives to deliver it (sneaking past all her guards and picking the locks on her office door), he learns all this oh, and that his brother and Debra had given him a niece before Ned went off to parts unknown. Debra wants the money to raise her daughter, Terry doesn't want his baby niece being raised in an underground casino by a career criminal. Things happen.
  • Irony: For all his talents and efforts, he just plain never hit it big as a hero, in-universe or out, something he himself reflects upon in a posthumous appearance.
  • Killed Off for Real: In The Bronze Age of Comic Books, Sloane was murdered by his old enemy, the Spirit King.
  • The Kindnapper: He swiped his baby niece from her mother Debra Sinclair/Roulette I, feeling that a career criminal may not be the best role model. Unfortunately, although raised by Terry, nature won out over nurture and little Veronica grew up to be Roulette II.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Michael Holt encounters Roulette II, aka Veronica Sinclair, aka Terry's blood niece/adoptive daughter well before he meets Terry via Time Travel. He never sees fit to notify Terry that baby Veronica will grow up a sociopath-cum-Loony Fan who sees Terry as a god-like figure worthy of literal worship (with some incestuous overtones) and has dedicated her career of engineering death fights between heroes for profit to him because she thinks he'd be proud of her. Nor does he bring up the fact she despises Michael for the vile crime of continuing Terry's legacy while not being Terry, and has tried to kill him and his friends numerous times. It's a little hard to tell someone that kind of thing. You need a card. Maybe with a teddy bear.
  • My Greatest Failure: JSA gives him a brother by the name of Ned, who in spite of all the help Terry tried to give him, grew up resenting him and ended up an itinerant ne'er do well, often vanishing and forcing Terry to look for him and bail him out.
  • Nephewism: As mentioned Terry's brother Ned ended up hooking up with the first Roulette then leaving for parts unknown. After getting baby Veronica out of Roulette's pad, with the aid of his time-traveling successor Michael Holt, and back in the states, he proceeded to raise her like a daughter. Alas, she ended up following in her mother's footsteps in spite of everything, becoming the next Roulette and hating Michael Holt for taking up Terry's mantle (And also thinking Terry was actually her grandfather, which is odd).
  • Nice Guy: Unfailingly kind, selfless, and all about fairness, if his costume didn't make that clear enough.
  • No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction: Although almost killing himself over it might have been going a bit far...
  • Nothing Left to Do but Die: Having accomplished just about everything, he felt this way until was inspired to become a superhero.
  • Photographic Memory: He's got one.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Inverted. Terry says that the JSA having a black chairman (Michael) in 2003 is very interesting. When Michael asks if he has a problem with it, Terry assures him it's very much the opposite case. This is also almost certainly also a case of One Dialogue, Two Conversations about Michael being an Affirmative-Action Legacy.
  • Primary-Color Champion: His primary color is red, plus yellow (sometimes brown) boots (sometimes also yellow gloves).
  • Recurring Element: Whether it's exposing bribery and corruption, helping people who've been cheated by bad luck, or ruining rip-off artists, fairness and setting things right play an important part in most of his stories.
  • Renaissance Man: From science to business to athletics, there was nothing he couldn't do. He is an expert in numerous fields of science and academics, including music, art history, ballistics, seamanship, navigation and geography. He is also a well read polymath.
  • Rescue Romance: Saves Wanda Wilson from killing herself, and sways her younger brother from a life of crime. She figures out his identity right away, and he takes her on as an assistant.
  • Rogues Gallery: In the original 1940's comics, before all that supervillain business, Terry mostly dealt with people like gangsters, confidence men, corrupt officials and so forth who screwed over honest citizens. When he joined the JSA, he shared their rogues. In the modern day, it's revealed that he tangled with Roulette a few times. Given that she's basically a gangstress who ruins a crooked casino (but I repeat myself) that's quite appropriate.
  • Sherlock Scan: Immediately figures out that Michael Holt is his successor and that he and Hawkgirl came in a time machine, although he's surprised they came from 2003 since he didn't think technology would advance that far in 60 years. (It's actually from way further in the future.)
  • Super-Intelligence: You got this far and you didn't figure that out? Terry would be ashamed.
  • Superior Successor: He believes that Michael Holt is smarter than him, and is proud that he carries the name.
  • Super-Reflexes: Thanks to his Hyper-Awareness and natural prowess he can do things like snatch a gun out of a guy's hand and crack him over the head with it before he can fire and easily dodges thrown weapons.
  • Thrill Seeker: One of the reasons he planned to kill himself was because life held no novelty for him. One thing you can definitely say about being a superhero is that something interesting is always coming up.
  • Time Travel: One story has him being brought forward in time to the year 7352 to fight would-be world conqueror Black Barax.
  • The Unmasking: His rotten brother Ned found his costume while hunting for blank checks note , but didn't tell Terry he knew. He did tell Debra Sinclair when they hooked up, which unfortunate since Debra Sinclair was secretly the villainess known as Roulette who was part of Terry/the JSA's Rogues Gallery.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: It's hard to say how his niece might have turned out being raised by Roulette. She became Roulette II in spite of being raised by him, though.
  • Victory Is Boring: To quote the narrator: "Suppose everything in life came too easily for you—success, wealth and the admiration of others. Do you think YOU'D be happy? No! We enjoy only the things we strive for and achieve after great struggle!"

Mister Terrific II (Michael Holt) provides examples of:

  • Affirmative-Action Legacy: Prior to the advent of the New 52, Michael Holt was the second person to call himself Mister Terrific, with the original being a white man, Terry Sloane.
  • Arch-Enemy:
    • Kobra. The reboot had Brainwave.
    • Roulette II, aka Veronica Sinclair, a Loony Fan and niece/adoptive daughter of Terry Sloane has declared that she'll kill him for taking the mantle of the man she loved so much. Possibly too much.
  • Badass Normal: No powers, just an incredibly smart, well-educated, tech genius martial artist.
  • Civvie Spandex: In his initial appearances, his "costume" consisted of a leather jacket with Sloane's "Fair Play" insignia on the back.
  • Commonality Connection:
    • On the occasions where Time Travel allows him to meet his predecessor, they get along fantastically. Who could possibly grok him as well as another version of him, but white? Time besties!
    • Well, Pieter Cross (Doctor Mid-Nite) comes pretty darn close in brains and the two are close friends.
  • Drone Deployer: He developed little all-purpose satellites called T-Spheres that he can command to do whatever he wants.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Ragman once questioned how he could be an atheist when he'd met angels (Zauriel and the Spectre), demons, and was talking to a guy whose suit was powered by corrupt souls.
  • Genius Bruiser: He is a super genius and has also a black belt in 6 different martial arts disciplines.
  • Geniuses Have Multiple PhDs: Michael Holt is a polymath with 14 Ph.Ds as well as master's degrees in law, psychology, chemistry, political science, computer science, rocket science, and mathematics. Described as a man who has "a natural aptitude for having natural aptitudes", Holt possesses a Photographic Memory and is a Gadgeteer Genius recognized as the third smartest man on the planet.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Avoided. He's an atheist, but respects the Christian Dr. Mid-Nite, despite debating him on the subject.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: Averted. Terry gets the chance to meet him and thinks he's awesome. Unfortunately, Terry's nice/adoptive daughter disagrees, and ends up fighting the JSA as the modern day Roulette.
  • Legacy Character: To the original, as an inspiration.
  • Loony Fan:
    • The first Mr. Terrific had a fan obsessive enough (with hints of racist undertones) to hate Michael Holt for taking on his name. He schemed to remove Holt's intelligence and then destroy all evidence, up to including the information in his head by suicide, so it couldn't be reversed.
    • Get in line, buster! Roulette II aka Veronica Sinclair is likewise obsessed with her adoptive father/blood uncle and likewise wants Michael Holt to suffer and die for daring to use the name. Though she's not apparently racist and has stated she wouldn't mind banging him before she murders him. So at least he might have that to look forward to someday.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Holt is a polymath who has specialized in multiple fields of medicine, engineering and science. He possesses 14 Ph.D's (two of which are in engineering and physics-including assorted doctorates and masters in degrees in Law, Psychology, Chemistry, Political Science and Mathematics).
  • Photographic Memory: As mentioned.
  • The Smart Guy: Naturally has this role in the JSA.
  • Super-Intelligence: He is also known as the third smartest man on Earth. Michael Holt is described as having "a natural aptitude for having natural aptitudes;" picking up complicated skills quickly and retaining them, such as performing emergency surgery on teammate Alan Scott after reading about the procedure in a medical text book. As Holt himself put it, "everyone has a talent...Mine is learning".

This series contains examples of:

  • Black and Nerdy: Mister Terrific is the third-smartest person in the entire DC universe.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Mister Terrific is frequently depicted as an atheist and skeptic of all things supernatural. This despite him having met gods, demons, spirits as well as the Spectre, the personification of God's wrath.
    • During the Infinite Crisis, a rather bemused Ragman questioned him on how he remained atheist despite having worked with an angel (Zauriel) and didn't believe in souls despite Ragman's powers being based on capturing corrupted souls. The response was a scientific handwave of what they could be.
  • Insufferable Genius: The first arc of the Mister Terrific series involves the supervillain Brainstorm randomly boosting people's intellects at the cost of turning them homicidal.