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The Powers And Abilities Of DC's Mister Terrific Explained

The excitement is growing around James Gunn's assumption of creative control for the next comic book-adapted cinematic universe. The celebrated director of Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy" series has been announced as the co-chairman and CEO of DC Studios, alongside Peter Safran. Essentially, is being presented as a counterpart to Kevin Feige, who has been hugely successful at engineering the Marvel Cinematic Universe since its inception. The difference, of course, is that the filmmaker behind "The Suicide Squad" and "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" has developed a reputation for servicing fans with obscure nods, elevating even the most obscure heroes, and having plenty of fun doing it.

It didn't take long for Gunn to start playing around with his new toys. Already, the new chairman has teased many characters by posting subtle images on social media. Whether Gunn is building a wishlist or illuminating projects otherwise talked about only in hushed tones behind closed doors is undetermined. But that has not kept the media and fans from speculating on what is brewing.

One of the more interesting enigmatic posts from Gunn featured the character of Michael Holt (a.k.a. Mister Terrific) — a deep pull for anyone not well-versed in comic book lore. For those unaware of Terrific's overly impressive superhero resume, continue reading for a crash course on everything Holt is capable of, and why he is so aptly nicknamed.

He's just like a standard human... but better

Batman is often considered the DC equivalent of Marvel's Iron Man. Each of the characters are regular humans (albeit billionaires) who use their money and influence to become powerful heroes capable of standing next to gods. But in all honesty, there is no character quite like Batman, and a much better counterpart comparison to Iron Man would be Mister Terrific. What differentiates the two characters from peers is their superpower can be defined as utilizing a keen intellect and near-limitless resources to make a significant difference for their planet. The Dark Knight is, perhaps, more akin to a mentally unhinged version of the same theme, fueled by some serious parental issues.

Michael Holt, otherwise known as Mister Terrific, is just a man. A man that has built himself a fortune, accomplished some of the greatest feats humanly possible, and just happens to fight crime alongside demigods. Consider him as an alternate version of Elon Musk, one that dedicated himself to the betterment of a planet where he would need to be a superhero to make a difference. Mister Terrific is an example of what any of us could be if we were our best selves in our peak form — although, an eidetic memory helps.

Fair Play

Unsurprisingly, based on the comic book industry's habit of recycling characters, Holt was not the first character to go by the superhero alias Mister Terrific. The original Terrific, Terry Sloane, introduced in 1942's "Sensation Comics" #1, was as much a renaissance man as his predecessor. The vintage hero has a long list of accomplishments, but nothing fulfilled him more than helping people. It was this desire to assist that made Sloane adopt the superhero alias and start the "Fair Play Club," an organization designed to guide troubled youth. Self-identifying as "the defender of fair play," Sloane retired from vigilantism upon the disbanding of the Justice Society of America.

Years later, Holt was facing depression after losing his wife and unborn child in a car crash. Blaming himself for the accident, Holt almost let a mugger shoot him to death before being visited by The Spectre, DC's Spirit of Vengeance, in 1997's "Spectre" vol. 3 #54. The mysterious ghost inspired Holt with the legend of the first Mister Terrific, encouraging him to take on the mantle. Along with the Mister Terrific title, Holt adopts the "Fair Play" theme, wearing the slogan on his outfit and starting his own youth center.

The power of learning

Holt was an above-average human even before the events that had him taking on the Mister Terrific name. Gifted with a photographic memory, Holt was able to retain complex theoretical physics by the age of six. "While other children struggled through 'Sesame Street,"" said the character in "JSA" #13, "I learned that time and space are merely a series of shifting coordinates in a grander continuum."

As a lifelong learner, Mister Terrific is competent at picking up new skills quickly. The best example of his sharp skills took place in "JSA" #17, when Terrific was able to perform a cardiopulmonary bypass on Sentinel (Alan Scott) after reading one textbook. Later on in the same series, in "JSA" #53 while dealing with a broken leg, Terrific states "everyone has a talent... mine is learning." Above all else, Michael Holt's skill is to become an expert in anything necessary. His natural aptitude has also served him in learning to speak multiple languages fluently, as demonstrated by his ability to speak Kahndaqian in "Hawkman" Vol. 4 #24.

Extensive education

In the DC Universe, Michael Holt has been recognized multiple times as the third smartest man on Earth — behind only Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne. Although The Riddler likes to throw his hat into the ring sometimes, the ranking of this trio has been confirmed across multiple titles and is widely recognized across the fictional planet. Holt did not earn his distinguished placement amongst Earth's intellectual elite through being a superhero, however. Truthfully, Mister Terrific had the qualifications to be a certified genius long before putting on the T-shaped mask.

In the MCU feature "Thor: Ragnorak," Mark Ruffalo's character Bruce Banner mentions that he has an impressive seven PhDs, making him one of the most educated heroes amongst the universe. Still, he has nothing on Holt, who possesses double the educational credentials with 14 PhDs — as confirmed in "JSA" #28. Revisiting "JSA" #53, Doctor Mid-Nite states that a few areas of his educational background include law, psychology, chemistry, political science, physics, and mathematics. 

For comparison, in real life Michael Nicholson is considered one of the most educated men in the world; it took him 55 years to collect 23 master's degrees, three specialist degrees, and just one doctorate (per Vice).

Olympic level athleticism

Mister Terrific is far more than an academic nerd, he is also one of the greatest athletes on the planet. It is pointed out many times in Holt's comic mythology that he is an Olympic gold medal champion but not just in any sport. 

Holt won the medal for the USA in the decathlon. Considered a peak event for any athlete, the winner of the Olympic decathlon is traditionally dubbed the "World's Greatest Athlete," dating back to its first champion in 1912. The sport consists of ten track and field events, including running, long jump, shot put, high jump, discus, pole vault, javelin, and hurdles, meaning Mister Terrific is a skilled athlete across multiple disciplines.

Like Holt's educational background, he accomplished the prestigious athletic title before taking on the Mister Terrific badge. So, returning to Michael Holt's first appearance in "The Spectre" Vol. 3 #54, when a local kid asks Mister Terrific if he has any superpowers, "Don't need 'em," is his reply. "I'm just cool."

Skilled hand-to-hand combatant

Pushing the boundaries of what one human can accomplish, Holt has additional athletic accomplishments. Of course, every great superhero needs to have the skills to fight, especially if they do not have any metahuman abilities. Yet, unlike many of Mister Terrific's peers, Holt began his superhero career with extensive training in hand-to-hand combat. As the character mentions in "JSA" #12 while fighting Kobra, he is trained to the level of black belt in six various disciplines of martial arts.

During Mister Terrific's first appearance, in "Spectre," Holt handily defeats a gang of thugs harassing children at a basketball court. Although he will traditionally use his intelligence and high-tech weaponry to do much of the heavy lifting, Holt's natural talents and extensive martial arts training are more than a last line of defense; they give him an unexpected upper hand against his enemies.

Founder and CEO of Holt Industries

Somewhat akin to other non-powered superheroes like Green Arrow and Batman, Mister Terrific is loaded with cash flow, making it easy to fund his exploits. Arguably one of the wealthiest men in the DC Universe, Michael Holt was the founder and CEO of Cyberwear, a leading high-tech corporation that eventually conglomerated under Batman's Waynetech — which does not get lost when these two heroes interact in friendly competition.

Unlike other well-off superheroes like Tony Stark and Oliver Queen, Holt did not inherit his fortune from his parents. He grew up in a poor household, instilling in him an ambition for achievement. Holt follows a similar path as the original Mister Terrific, using his wealth to help underprivileged children. In "JSA" #5, Mister Terrific is first introduced to the team as a spokesperson and consultant at TylerCo; Holt takes no money, and instead, the company funds Terrific's youth center.

Another detective for Detective Comics

It's easy to forget that DC originally stood for Detective Comics — probably because people generally refer to them as DC Comics, which would translate to Detective Comics Comics. Still, the entire company is badged after one comic series from 1937, "Detective Comics," which mostly featured the World's Greatest Detective, Batman, after his arrival in issue #27. Essentially serving as the mascot of the company, the Caped Crusader has become as famous a criminal investigator as Sherlock Holmes, and is renowned as the greatest detective in the DC Universe. But who could one call if Batman was too busy to take the case?

Mister Terrific has been at the table for many of DC's biggest investigations. One of the most significant mysteries to plague Earth's heroes was the death of Elongated Man's wife Sue Dibny, which launched the "Identity Crisis" miniseries. As one of the brightest minds available, Holt assisted Batman and Doctor Mid-Nite in Dibny's autopsy. Additionally, Terrific's gumshoe skills have seen him serve on the United Nations Security Council's special intelligence operative team, Checkmate — where he was briefly promoted to the prestigious title of White King.

His robotic T-Spheres

No matter how good somebody might be at martial arts, it's hard to be an effective hero in a world of superpowered beings unless you have a few tricks up your sleeve. In Mister Terrific's case, these tricks float around him in the form of hovering, "Phantasm"-looking balls. 

Using his extreme intellect and resources, Holt designed his own tools to fight the war against crime. Calling them T-Spheres, these self-propelled hand-sized balls are supercomputers capable of an assortment of functions. The spheres can be used as weapons, either as high-speed projectiles, explosive bombs, or projecting lasers. Additionally, each T-Sphere is fitted with recording devices and sensors, as well as the ability to project holograms. Meanwhile, they are high-powered computers, able to store and send data or hack nearby devices.

Mister Terrific uses his T-Spheres for new purposes all the time, and they generally follow him around like loyal pets. They are strong enough to lift Terrific, granting him flying transportation, and can also defend him from attacks by creating a laser grid. The most impressive feature of the T-Spheres is their artificial intelligence, able to understand Terrific's vocal and mental instructions while making appropriate decisions on their own.

The one-of-a-kind T-Mask

Sometimes the only thing that makes a superhero is a powerful costume. Iron Man, for instance, is a prime example of a suit giving someone everything they need to fight the most powerful of villains. But Holt maintains a costume that doesn't do anything past looking good. A leather jacket is essentially the only thing he needs to transform into Mister Terrific. Although he is hiding a secret in his T-shaped mask.

During the events of "Infinite Crisis," Terrific states that he has one superpower, "I'm invisible to technology." Holt's personally designed "T-Mask" is made from nanotechnology that grants him the ability to disguise himself to any camera or scanner. Additionally, the mask can disappear at will, project holograms, and protect its wearer from physical and chemical attacks.

The mask works in collaboration with an earpiece and the T-Spheres, all connected to his thought waves, allowing Terrific to control these tools with his mind.

The Terrifics

Although Mister Terrific is a powerless human who relies heavily on his intelligence and technology, he did, at one point, undergo a metahuman transformation — but not alone. 

In "The Terrifics," by Jeff Lemire and Ivan Reis, Holt uncovers a portal to the Dark Multiverse. Upon his investigation, Mister Terrific is pulled into the portal along with Plastic Man and Metamorpho. Chancing upon Phantom Girl inside the multiverse, the four heroes manage to get their way out. But once back on Earth, they discover they have been "cosmically bound," with the four characters unable to be separated by long distances.

Which leads to another talent wielded by Mister Terrific: A talent for leadership. He has served as the chairman of the Justice Society of America and was once the White King for Checkmate. When it came to the ragtag group of Terrifics, Holt was not so quick to lead, however; in fact, Mister Terrific was the first who attempted to leave. Hesitantly agreeing to remain with the team until a cure can be found, Holt only takes his place as their leader begrudgingly, as the most experienced of the bunch.


If it were not for Michael Holt living in a world filled with Kryptonians, Luthors, and a Batman, he would be the most accomplished person on his planet. And while he might be outshone by his more powerful peers, Mister Terrific is an aptly named character, one capable of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the best of them. However, all his amazing talents pale in comparison to the definitive thing that makes him a great superhero: Determination.

Rising up from a humble upbringing, Holt overcame the odds to become a decorated academic, an Olympic gold medalist, and a self-made millionaire. Even after his wife passed, leaving him destroyed emotionally, Holt found passion in becoming a superhero. Anything that Mister Terrific puts his mind to, he accomplishes. It is this fortitude that separates Terrific from other superheroes granted their abilities by happenstance. Mister Terrific is a reminder that when it comes to achieving something great, all you truly need is an undying determination.