One of the shows I’ve enjoyed watching with my Batman-obsessed son is Justice League Unlimited, the DC animated series in which the league opens its ranks to seemingly every hero in the universe. The show introduced me to a number of characters I’d never heard of, being a fairly staunch Marvel reader. Chief among those new characters was Mr. Terrific, who stood out to me both because of his sweet black, white and red leather jacket and the fact that he was doing Martian Manhunter’s job. This being Black History Month, Matt and I wanted to make an effort to spotlight African-American characters and creators, so I thought I’d focus on someone I wanted to know more about personally.
Michael Holt, the second Mr. Terrific, was created by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake and first appeared in 1997’s Spectre Vol. 3, #54.
1. He’s the perfect man, literally: Michael Holt describes himself as the third smartest person in the world (after Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor) and says he has a “natural aptitude for having natural aptitudes.” He is a hero in the Batman mold, in that he has no powers and has to rely on his mental prowess – he was a child genius and has 14 Ph.D.’s – and natural athleticism – he’s an Olympic decathlete – to foil fiendish fools. Terrific uses tech called T-spheres that can help him fly, operate as cameras, shoot lasers and do a bunch of other cool stuff. His T-shaped mask makes him invisible to technology, except – for some reason – Red Tornado. Holt once owned a tech company but sold it to Wayne.
2. He’s one of the DCU’s premier atheists: Holt’s wife and unborn child were killed in a car accident that occurred after he and his wife had gotten into an argument about the value of religion – she believed in God, he didn’t. Their deaths drove him to thoughts of suicide. Ironically, it was the spirit of God’s vengeance – the Spectre – that convinced him to become a superhero. In the "Thy Kingdom Come" story in JSA, it is revealed that the Michael Holt of pre-Crisis Earth-2 is a priest.
3. He’s the second Mr. Terrific: The Spectre inspired Holt to take up the Terrific mantle from the Golden Age Mr. Terrific, Terry Sloane, who first appeared in 1942’s Sensation Comics #1 and was created by Charles Reizenstein and Everett E. Hibbard. Like Holt, Sloane was an Olympic-level athlete and black belt, a business leader, and a genius from a young age with a photographic memory. The “Fair Play” on Holt’s jacket is inspired by Sloane’s costume, though that’s about the only similarity between the two men’s wardrobes. In fact, Sloane’s duds more closely resemble that of Thor villain the Wrecker. Holt has twice traveled back in time to fight alongside Sloane.
4. He chaired the JSA: Like his predecessor, Holt came up through the Justice Society of America. He ends up becoming its chairman after a power struggle between Hawkman and Sand. He remained chairman until the team broke up after Infinite Crisis. He also served as the White King of the Hellfire Club, er, the U.N. intelligence agency Checkmate.
5. He can fill in for Martian Manhunter in a pinch: In the final season of Justice League Unlimited, Mr. Terrific replaced J’onn J’onzz as the team’s coordinator, the one responsible for choosing which heroes face which crisis. And he did it without getting cookie crumbs all over the Watchtower’s computer consoles.
Read this: Mr. Terrific #1-8, one of the first New 52 series to be canceled, by Eric Wallace and Roger Robinson.
Watch that: Justice League Unlimited, particularly the last season.
Dan Grote’s new novel, Magic Pier, is available however you get your books online. He has been writing for The Matt Signal since 2014. He and Matt have been friends since the days when making it to issue 25 guaranteed you a foil cover.