MR. TERRIFIC Goes Solo As the Smartest Man in the DCnU
From Newsarama.com by Vaneta Rogers
The first batch of #1 titles for September that were announced by DC concentrated on the Justice League, and there were a lot of familiar JLA faces. But one hero got his own comic for the first time: Michael Holt, better known as Mr. Terrific.
Originally introduced in 1997, the character was established as an Olympic athlete with superior intellect, and has been recently called the "third smartest man in the world."
That concept of super-intellect is what drives the new series by former Titans scribe Eric Wallace, who's working with artist Roger Robinson to launch the new Mr. Terrific series.
The solo stint is welcome to fans of the character, who previously had to read his stories within the Justice Society of America. While Wallace couldn't comment on whether the JSA is involved in the new solo comic -- or even who is among Michael Holt's supporting cast (signs point to no, as Dan DiDio has said they're "resting" the JSA for the time being) -- he did hint that the title's setting will become "more cosmic" in future issues, which points toward a possible team element, since the character isn't exactly space travel-ready on his own.
The solo title also furthers DC's stated goal to add diversity to the DCU, since the character is an African-American. And according to Wallace, the diversity in the comic's cast doesn't stop with the lead character.
Newsarama talked with Wallace to find out more.
Newsarama: Eric, out of all the characters in the DCU with a solo book as DC launches these new #1s, why Mr. Terrific?
Wallace: There are several reasons to launch Mr. Terrific as a series. First and foremost is the immense untapped potential and fascinating personality of the character himself. Here is a guy who is the third smartest man on the planet. What does that feel like? Whatʼs an ordinary day like for him? What is his vision of the future? Simply put, this guy doesnʼt think like us.
So a big part of this book is about getting a look inside the mind of a genius. And unlike, say, Lex Luthor, Michaelʼs not out to conquer the world. Heʼs out to save us from ourselves.
Another reason to launch this book is that itʼs going to more closely reflect the actual world people live in, as opposed to some idealized, imaginary storyscape. I donʼt know about you, but I live in a diverse world. Therefore, I want to see comic books that reflect that world. Mr. Terrific uses this approach. As readers will see in the first storyline, thereʼs an entire rainbow of ethnicities in Michaelʼs world, something I feel is important for diverse readers looking for characters that they can identify with.
And even though the book gets pretty cosmic very fast, there are elements to the world of Mr. Terrific that are specifically designed to ground the book in an identifiable reality. I canʼt reveal most of them yet. But Iʼll give you one simple example: Michael doesnʼt live in a mythical town. He lives in Los Angeles, Calif., a place that people know and can actually visit. How he interacts with the West Coast, as well as Tinseltown, is a deliberate attempt on the creative teamʼs part to ground Mr. Terrific in a world that feels genuine.
Nrama: What attracted you in particular to the character?
Wallace: Itʼs Michaelʼs intelligence that I find so appealing. Hereʼs an African-American man that is practically the smartest man on the planet. His superpower is his brain. But heʼs still going up against incredibly powerful foes. So how does he defeat them? Well, he canʼt beat them up physically. He has no super-strength (another element of the character that I love, and which I thinks to help humanize him). So heʼs got to out think his opponents.
One of the big challenges of this book, and an angle I pitched to DC from the beginning, was that if this guy really is the third smartest guy in the world, I want him to prove it every month. So right off the bat, readers are going to see Michael Holt in dynamic situations where only a true genius could navigate the waters. Yes, Michael Holtʼs world is a world where geeks rule, brains always triumph over brawn, and where watching shows like “Mythbusters” and reading books by Michio Kaku are the norm.
Nrama: As you've had to tell this story for new readers, how have you defined the basics of who he is as a character?
Wallace: Everything you need to know initially about Mr. Terrific gets laid out in issue #1. This includes his origins, the specifics about his dual identity, and his modus operandi as a crime fighter.
Nrama: What makes him stand out among others in the DCU?
Wallace: The man wears a letter on his face. Thatʼs pretty unique, right?
Seriously, though, the way Michael solves his cases — using his unabashed gusto for all things scientific — is what makes him stand out from most other characters in the DCU. Where other heroes often see science as a tool to solve crimes, Michael sees science as a friend. An ally. Itʼs the most important thing in his life. And yes, thatʼs both a good thing and a bad thing for Michael as readers will see in the first batch of stories.
Nrama: What was it about him with which you could most identify? And what do you think readers will identify with about him?
Wallace: What I identify most with Michael Holt is his faith in the future. Our future. Without giving any spoilers away, thereʼs a scene in issue #1 which lays this out and tells readers exactly what Michaelʼs mission is in life and why heʼs decided to put on a costume and protect the planet.
And because Michaelʼs so concerned with protecting the future, heʼs also a guy with a real sense of hope about things. That positivity, combined with just a touch of arrogance and a bit of humor, makes Michael recognizably human.
Thereʼs also the fact that Michael is far from perfect. He might be smart, but he still makes mistakes. One of these mistakes that weʼll see early on in the series will end up haunting him for years to come. And not in a good way.
Nrama: Since we've seen the costume change for Mr. Terrific, is there anything you can tell us about the character ideas that informed his new costume and look?
Wallace: Most of the new costume design came from DC before I joined the book. However, there is one really cool element involving Michaelʼs mask that I brought to the book. Youʼll get to see that in issue #2.
Most of what Iʼve brought to the character idea-wise concerns two overarching concerns: how do we create a fully-realized world, as well as a cast of believable characters, that will be unique, diverse, and really grab a readerʼs attention? Thatʼs the fun part of writing an issue #1. You get to think about every aspect of a characterʼs world in minute detail and really let your imagination run wild.
Nrama: After writing a big team of characters in Titans, has it been a relief for you as a writer to really get to concentrate on one character? What are the benefits and challenges to writing a solo act instead of a team?
Wallace: Writing a big team book is really fun, but having only one main character in Mr. Terrific does allow me to dig a bit deeper into his character, and do it faster and sooner into the run than with a team book. The first story arc is literally just that: an examination into who Michael was, who he is now, and who he might become in the future. So I wouldnʼt say itʼs been a relief, but it has been a wonderful change of pace.
Nrama: The cover looks very high-tech, but Mr. Terrific is also looking very athletic. What's the overall tone of this comic?
Wallace: This is a smart, sexy, and cosmic series. Itʼs got humor, but itʼs not overtly funny. The humor arises naturally from some pretty far out situations. As for the sexy part, Michael Holt is one of the worldʼs most handsome and attractive bachelors. Therefore, how he handles the successes and failures of his love life will be a key part of the Mr. Terrific series.
Nrama: What can you tell us about the cast and/or the setting of the comic?
Wallace: Again, it takes place primarily in Michaelʼs home base of Los Angeles, California. But the stories arenʼt limited to that setting. As I previously mentioned, thereʼs a cosmic side to Mr. Terrific, so readers shouldnʼt be surprised when a few of the upcoming stories take sci-fi leaps into somevery strange places.
Nrama: In describing their new universe, DC executives has stated that they're encouraging diversity. In the earliest solicitations for DC, we've seen characters like Mr. Terrific and Jason Rusch/Firestorm getting solo titles. The new Static ongoing begins in September, and Cyborg is on the core Justice League team. What do you think of the representation of African-Americans in the new DCU titles?
Wallace: I think itʼs fantastic. DC has made incredible strides in moving diverse characters into the spotlight. Introducing an African-American Aqualad in Brightest Day is an example of that. Now weʼre going to see even more diverse characters getting a chance to shine in the superhero mainstream. For me, this is a big part of what makes this new DC initiative so exciting. Iʼm very proud to be a part of it.
Nrama: Do you think this is an important step in encouraging an ongoing move toward diversity?
Wallace: Yes. But now the ball is in the creatorsʼ courts. We have to come up with great stories that resonate with our audience. Because at the end of the day, itʼs great storytelling thatʼs going to make or break a series, diverse or otherwise.
Nrama: What does Roger Robinson bring to the comic? How does his style inform the tone?
Wallace: Roger is a complete artist. Heʼs bringing more than just stunning artwork and a brilliant eye of detail. Heʼs bringing his own ideas to the table, something Iʼve highly encouraged. And heʼs already come up with some phenomenal stuff.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell readers about Mr. Terrific and his comic?
Wallace: Yes, Iʼm only four issues into writing this series and itʼs already the most fun Iʼve ever had working on a comic book. With a multi-ethnic cast of characters, tons of action, gut-wrenching romance, and a ton of science gone mad, Mr. Terrific has something for everyone. I canʼt wait to share the adventure with everyone.