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Mister Terrific Facts That Totally Live Up To The DC Superhero's Name

Significant changes are occurring at DC, where the company has struggled to compete against Marvel's insanely successful cinematic universe. The two publishing companies have a lengthy, deep-seated rivalry comparable to that of Coca-Cola versus Pepsi. But in the first two decades of the 21st century, Marvel has sprinted away from the pack, assuming box office supremacy and positioned to continue its reign. In response, DC has signed filmmaker James Gunn to head their comic-adaptation stable for the foreseeable future. Alongside his co-lead Peter Safran, Gunn will attempt to mastermind a whole new, post-Snyderverse cinematic DC Universe — and the two are composing a DC "bible" with the intention of mapping it all out, akin to how Kevin Feige designed the MCU as we know it.

While Superman or Batman would seem to be easy choices to anchor DC films going forward, Gunn may have a unique DC alternative to Marvel's Iron Man in mind as well. Mister Terrific checks many of the same boxes as Tony Stark; both are wealthy inventors, self-made superheroes and, similar to the way Iron Man began his film career as something of a B-level superhero (or worse), not much is known about Mister Terrific outside of the comic book fandom. Here's a briefing on Mister Terrific, possibly the next great cinematic superhero you've never heard of.

The original Mister Terrific

To avoid confusion, it should be clarified which Mister Terrific it is that James Gunn seemingly wants to adapt for his new DCU; two different characters carry the same title. 

Speculation began when Gunn posted an image of the superhero on his social media in November of 2022. The pic was an original Alex Ross painting, featured on the cover of "JSA" #76 from 2005. This version of Mister Terrific is Michael Holt, the second character in DC Comics to go by the boastful secret identity.

The first Mister Terrific, also known as Terry Sloane, was a hero from the Golden Age of Comics. First appearing in "Sensation Comics" #1 from 1942, Sloane was an accomplished Renaissance man who had achieved so much in his life that fighting crime and helping underprivileged children became the only thing to give him purpose. Dubbed "The Man of 1000 Talents," many of his adventures focused on helping juvenile delinquents find a better path in his "Fair Play Club." Sloane was temporarily a member of the Justice Society of America and the All-Star Squadron before dying at the hands of his arch-nemesis Spirit King in 1979's "Justice League of America" #171. However, Terry Sloane's impressive tale was enough to inspire Michael Holt to take up the Terrific mantle in 1997's "Spectre" vol. 3 #54. The two characters have since met on various time travel adventures, with the original Terrific showing pride in his successor.

Heart-breaking origins

Before Spectre shared the story of Terry Sloane with Michael Holt in "Spectre" Vol. 3 #54, the soon-to-be new Mister Terrific was contemplating suicide. Although Holt had a successful life, it was not without tribulations. In DC's "52" title in issue #39, his childhood is revealed in the back-end story "The Origin of Mister Terrific." While Michael was considered a "child prodigy," his older brother Jeffery was born with undisclosed mental challenges. The brothers were extremely close and unfortunately, Jeffery died at the age of 15, much to Michael's devastation. Thankfully, he used the emotional setback, and his family's poverty, as inspirations to achieve his goals.

Able to succeed at anything he set his mind to, Holt struggled to find purpose until he found the love of his life, Paula. Unfortunately, after an argument with her, she was involved in a terrible car crash, resulting in the death of her and their unborn child. It was soon after this loss that an emotionally-destroyed Holt was approached by local gang members and saved by Spectre. Semi-thankful, Holt admitted he had hoped the would-be mugging would have been his end. "It was not luck," said Spectre in their first meeting, "I was drawn by your thoughts. Self-murder is still murder." With the story of Terry Sloane, Holt found a new purpose in helping others.

His impressive accolades

Even before becoming a superhero, Michael Holt was an above-average human. Solidified as the "third smartest man alive" in the DC Universe, behind only Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne, Holt maintains an extensive education. In "JSA" #13, the character recalls understanding theoretical physics at the age of 6, "while other children struggled through 'Sesame Street'." Additionally, Holt has earned a total of 14 PhDs in different medical and scientific fields. It was Holt's transcendent intelligence that served him in starting his own high-tech corporation, resulting in him becoming a multi-millionaire.

Equal to Holt's intellectual gifts, he also brings his physical talents to the crime fighting gig. As recounted in "JSA" #28 by the supervillain Roulette, Terrific won the Olympic gold medal in the decathlon — arguably one of the toughest competitions to achieve top level. Further, in "JSA" #12, Mister Terrific reveals that he has black belts in "six major martial arts disciplines." It is determination and a love for knowledge that seem to make Mister Terrific such a high achiever; the character has stated (in "JSA" #53) that "everyone has a talent. Mine is learning."

Terrific tech

Like other such superheroes as Green Arrow, Batman or Iron Man, Mister Terrific has no supernatural abilities. Instead, the character relies upon his keen intellect and resources to help him in his crimefighting exploits. 

Terrific utilizes his self-designed "nano-robots" to assist him in multiple different ways. The most famous of his inventions are the T-Spheres, self-propelled ball-shaped computers that follow Mister Terrific like loyal pets. With nanotechnology, these spheres can hack computer systems, project holograms, and serve as communication devices. Moreover, the flying objects can carry their master, gifting him flight, and offer protection by being used as projectiles, explosives, and even an energetic shielding.

While the T-Spheres are Terrific's weapon of choice, he considers his specialized T-Mask as his one superpower. Fitted with the same nano-scaled robots, Terrific's T-shaped mask allows him to communicate his commands to the T-spheres at long distances. The mask also serves as the ultimate disguise, rendering him untraceable by technology. Being invisible to computers has served him well, as he was the only hero to go unnoticed by the OMACs, super-powered hive-mind automatons that hunted metahumans during "Infinite Crisis."

Rivalry with Batman

Although they may be peers in both the crimefighting and business realms, Mister Terrific and Bruce Wayne have a long-held rivalry. The two characters share near-equal level intellect, making them ideal brain-powered sparring partners. Typically, things remain civil, but there is more to their discord than mere theoretical debates. Terrific and Batman are two superheroes in the DC Universe that do not have metahuman abilities; as such, when they almost came to blows during the "JLA/JSA: Virtue and Vice" team-up, it was a thrilling moment.

Holt and Wayne's competitiveness ultimately boils down to their alliances; Terrific is typically portrayed as a leading figure of the Justice Society of America, while Batman belongs to the creme-de-la-creme Justice League. By the nature of their ranks on these teams, the two can contradict one another when everyone is assembled. Then there's the matter of who owns what — when Holt decided to retire from the corporate world, he sold his company Cyberwear to Wayne Enterprises, owned of course by Bruce Wayne.

His Religious beliefs

Surprisingly, a significant part of Terrific's identity is shaped by his beliefs regarding religion. During "JSA" #25, Terrific revealed that he does not believe in souls. This lack of faith helps the superhero maintain a present mind in the face of supernatural adversity. Although, it does present a contradiction at times, since Holt is friends with heroes like Hawkman — who has been reincarnated several times. 

Nevertheless, Holt remains an atheist, a path chosen after the passing of his wife. Paula was a practicing Protestant, and on the day of her death, she was late to church because of a theological argument with Terrific. The superhero blames himself, believing that had he not delayed her, their lives would have played out differently.

Several of Mister Terrific's peers have attempted to steer him towards faith. Jay Garrick, the original Flash, tried telling Holt that his wife will meet him in the afterlife. Jewish hero Ragman, meanwhile, attempted to make Holt believe in souls during "Infinite Crisis." And most notably, in "JSA" #62, good friend Doctor Mid-Nite took the atheist to church after Holt nearly suffered the exact same fate as the previous Mister Terrific and had visions on his wife during a near-death experience. 

But Holt has steadfastly maintained his atheism, even as — during the Justice Society "Thy Kingdom Come" event — Power Girl met an alternate version of Mister Terrific on Earth-2 that was a priest in the Catholic church.

A natural leader

Compared to most of his superheroic teammates, Holt's Mister Terrific is something of a newcomer; nevertheless, his natural talents have made him a natural leader. 

When the JSA was left without a chairman after Sand retired from the role, Mister Terrific was voted as leader by his peers in "JSA" #27 — even though he had only joined the team sixteen issues earlier. Terrific upheld his position as chairman of the JSA until 2007, when he relinquished the leadership to Power Girl in "Justice Society of America" Vol. 3 #4. However, Holt conceded the responsibilities because he was taking on an even more influential position with Checkmate.

A metahuman spy group, Checkmate began as an American-backed government agency developed by Amanda Waller. Taking after its namesake, the group's hierarchy positions are assigned by titles representing pieces of a chessboard. Michael Holt joined the exclusive group after it was re-established as an agency of the United Nations and a metahuman monitoring task force. Holt worked his way up the ranks from an advisory position as a White Bishop to become the White King, where he upheld his UN duties until the aftermath of DC's "Blackest Night" in 2009.

Charitable efforts

Mister Terrific has done more for the planet than most superheroes, or indeed, most people. Whereas characters like Superman and Green Lantern do their part by punching out every bad guy who comes to Earth, Holt puts in some extra effort behind the scenes. 

Aside from his position as a leader in Checkmate, Terrific has used his superior intellect to try and solve many of the world's problems. After exploring the alternate planet Earth-2, Holt helped form Totality, a group of elite geniuses determined to protect reality from the ever-intruding multiverse. He also developed the Terrific-Council, a group of intelligent minds to help solve more localized problems.

Although Mister Terrific's gifts are best used to combat global threats, the character has not forgotten his humble origins or the efforts of the superhero from whom he borrowed his namesake. Michael Holt has maintained the same charitable efforts of the original Mister Terrific — even if the "Fair Play Club" no longer seems to be in operation. In an effort to do his predecessor justice, Holt loaned his incredible smarts to companies like Tylerco in exchange for them funding his youth center, as explained in "JSA" #5.

Mister Terrible

Every great superhero needs an oppositional bad guy standing in the way. The dark and grim Batman has the bright and silly Joker; alien boy scout Superman has nefarious yet very human Lex Luthor. For the high-achieving Mister Terrific, there is the forever-failing Mister Terrible

The opposite of Terrific in every way, Mister Terrible is as awful at being a supervillain as Holt is at being a hero. It is not even confirmed if Holt is aware that he has a villainous counterpart, as they have not interacted directly. Terrible's limited appearances have always put him in larger villain collectives like the Injustice League or the Secret Society, so he tends to just play second fiddle to more competent characters like Joker and Death Stroke.

Despite Mister Terrible's origins being vague, his appearance is unmistakable. The character shares the same T-shaped mask as his inspiration and wears a similar leather jacket (albeit, with the inscription of "Foul Play" written on the sleeves). Terrible carries a variation on the T-Spheres, calling his T-Squares, and he isn't even the only Mister Terrible; there's another one from the Bizarro dimension, home to Superman's most offbeat nemesis.

The Terrifics

In one of DC's more obvious rip-offs from their publishing rivals, Michael Holt temporarily became involved in a variation of Marvel's Fantastic Four. Perfectly positioned as the parallel to the FF's leader Mister Fantastic, Terrific led his own quad-squad known as The Terrifics

The crew had its own stretchy guy in Plastic Man (although his behavior was perhaps more analogous to the irresponsible Human Torch), an Invisible Woman rip-off in DC's Phantom Girl, and Metamorpho as a monstrous equivalent to the ever-lovin' Thing. Many of their adventures through the multiverse could be classified as what readers would expect from Marvel's family of explorers.

Regardless of the similarities, "The Terrifics," written by Jeff Lemire, boasted some worthwhile elements. For one, the group was anything but a family, instead bonded in proximity through dark energies from the multiverse. It was also interesting that Mister Terrific was more resentful than eager to hang with these teammates, as he seemed to spend most of his energy trying to take the team apart. In the end, the biggest differentiator might be that "The Terrifics" was cancelled after 30 issues, a far cry from the more than 1400 credits of the Fantastic Four.

Reunion with his wife... kind of

Although Michael Holt was never ecstatic about his time with the Terrifics, it did pay off. Terrific's biggest demon was the loss of his wife Paula, and after years of suffering, he was finally reunited with the woman that he loves. The only problem? The Paula he encountered was from a parallel reality. 

Paula Holt of Earth-23 lost her husband in a similar fashion to the Mister Terrific of Earth-Prime; in her world, it caused her to take up the superhero badge of Miss Terrific. When the Terrifics encountered Paula in her home dimension, she decided to join the group, even going so far as to attempt a relationship with Michael.

Miss Terrific shares many of the same features as her alternate-world husband: The genius intellect, athleticism and self-invented T-Cubes. But after Paula visited the beginning of time in "The Terrifics" #24, she became more powerful than any variation of Mister Terrific. Meeting every version of herself, she was granted wings, a Valkyrie-style outfit, a sword that could cut through time, and an awareness that allowed her to break the fourth wall. But now too powerful to settle for small-minded missions, Miss Terrific left Earth-0, as well as Michael Holt.

Television appearances

Fans of CW's "Arrow" will recall a version of Mister Terrific that went by the name Curtis Holt. This younger version was a disciple of Green Arrow, but this wasn't the first time Mister Terrific appeared on television. Michael Holt made his screen debut in "Justice League Unlimited," initially popping up as a fan-service cameo and subsequently becoming a more significant figure later in the series, after Martian Manhunter resigned from the titular team.

Most notable, perhaps, was Mister Terrific's appearance in the 2016 "Justice League Action" series. Voiced by Hannibal Buress, the character made several appearances in the anthology series. The episode "Brain Buster" perhaps featured him most prominently, revealing key details about the character's keen intellect. Put through a contest of Earth's greatest geniuses, Holt was cited as the "third-smartest person in the world," but even Mister Terrific admits the list may not be entirely accurate — after all, he says, he wrote it himself.