February 27, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Characters Case File #356: Mr. Terrific

The man who inherited the mantle of "fair play" had a lot going for him.

I mentioned last week that the supervillain Roulette felt that the man who took the name of her (incorrectly believed) superhero grandfather was not worthy of the name “Mr. Terrific”.

So, who was that guy?  Well, his name was Michael Holt, and while it may be a stretch to call him “misplaced” because he tends to pop up in a lot of places, well…this is my column, and I will write about whoever I want to.

Michael Holt took on the name of Mr. Terrific after a chance encounter with one of original Mr. Terrific’s old JSA teammate the Spectre.  That was in the pages of Spectre #54 in June of 1997.  As both an Olympic level athlete and a genius with multiple Ph.Ds, Holt certainly held the right qualifications to succeed the man who was good at everything, but then tragedy struck when his wife and unborn child died in a car accident.  Holt blamed himself as he was in the middle of a fight with his wife over the value of religion.  Holt was an atheist, and his wife wasn’t.

Then again, that part would be retconned a bit.  Some stories show Holt tried to embrace religion but couldn’t understand why a good God would allow bad things to happen to good people.  That’s some kind of TV or movie version of atheism, where people stop believing because some tragedy happened, as opposed to how it is for many real world atheists who basically don’t believe in God and that’s that.  Nothing personal about it or anything.

Regardless, Holt was considering suicide, and he had a chance encounter with the Spectre.  Yes, I said all that.  However, the Spectre saw value in Holt and told him the story of how Terry Sloane died, thinking he was useless, and learned otherwise when his spirit hung around enough to stop his own murderer, the supernatural Spirit King.  Mr. Terrific wasn’t disrespected by his JSA teammates for not having any powers.  Knowing that, he helped save the day and then moved on to his eternal reward.  Holt, hearing this and how Sloane started as something of a street-level activist who helped keep kids out of trouble, decided to do the same with a very basic costume and the only weapon he carried was, no joke, a basketball.

Yeah, this look is about as generic as you can get for the late 90s.

However, Holt didn’t stay with that look very long, reappearing once more in the final issue of that Spectre series before returning in the pages of a new JSA book with his more familiar look, particularly the somewhat silly-looking T-shaped mask he wore.  Here, he was more of the team’s resident genius and leader, now with a superpower of his own where he was invisible to electronic surveillance.  Whether that power was innate or part of some technology he developed is hard to say, but he acted as JSA chairman and even did a stint as one of the leaders of Checkmate.  His most frequently-seen tech in those days were his T-Sphere, floating metal balls with a wide range of uses, including offensive and defensive weapons to protect himself with.  Basically, if he needed some tech to do something during a mission, he probably had it in one of his T-Spheres.

It is probably worth noting this Mr. Terrific is probably a lot more popular than the original one ever was, and it is likewise worth noting he does get around, appearing frequently in the background for Justice League Unlimited many times over, and sometimes even getting some lines.  Likewise, actor Echo Kellum played a version of the character, renamed Curtis Holt, for the live action TV series Arrow, a series that made him initially a genius but not much of an athlete, as well as making him the first prominent gay character in the Arrowverse.

Plus, I think the mask was painted on, at least in places.

Holt would graduate to his own solo title when the New 52 rolled around, but it ran for 8 issues before being among the first batch to be canceled due to low sales.  That series routinely promoted him as the third smartest man on Earth, but they never quite got around to saying who the top two were that I can recall.  I’m sure Lex Luthor is probably one of them, but the other is someone I am curious about.  After that, he was shunted off to Earth-2 for a period where he matched wits with an evil version of Terry Sloane.  More recently in the Rebirth era, Michael formed a superhero team called the Terrifics that was basically a DC version of the Fantastic Four with Metamorpho, Plastic Man, and Phantom Girl.

But with all this in mind, was Roulette right about what her supposed grandfather would think?  Well, no.  Due to some time travel shenanigans, Michael Holt did meet Terry Sloane, and Sloane actually gave Holt his seal of approval.  Considering the two men had never met before, that seems like a good way of telling Roulette how wrong she was on so many levels.