Mr. Terrific takes to the sea. Artist: Ted Udall.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1942
Creators: Chuck Reizenstein (writer) and Hal Sharp (artist)
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Mr. Terrific, one of DC Comics' less stellar 1940s superheroes, didn't really have a proper origin story. He just …

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… happened to be that way. From a very early age, Terry Sloane was a golden boy like Captain Comet or Ozymandias (of Watchmen), showing astonishing talent in studies, sports and every other type of human endeavor.

In fact, everything came so easy to him, he eventually reached a point where nothing interested him, and he fell into deep depression. He was ready to kill himself out of sheer ennui, when he became involved in the life of a young woman whose brother had joined a criminal gang. Following the practice of his time, the early 1940s, he made himself a colorful costume, gave himself a catchy name, and put the gang out of business. Saving the boy from a life of crime gave him such satisfaction, he found a new reason to live.

To emphasize the principles that had given him a purpose in life, he made a plaque reading "Fair Play" (no relation) a major element of his costume.

Mr. Terrific first appeared in Sensation Comics #1 (January, 1942), the comic that also launched Wonder Woman's first series. The story was written by Chuck Reizenstein, who also wrote the first Dr. Mid-Nite story, and drawn by Hal Sharp, who also collaborated with writer/editor Mort Weisinger to create an even more minor DC character, Tarantula.

He stayed in Sensation's back pages for the next few years, never appearing on a cover or making any kind of apparent impression on readers, while writers and artists came and went. His finest moment was in All Star Comics #24 (Spring, 1946), when he and Wildcat (another denizen of the Sensation Comics back pages) replaced Starman and The Spectre in The Justice Society of America. But in #25, both were ousted in favor of bringing The Flash and Green Lantern, who had been demoted to honorary members in the JSA's early days, back.

That one All Star adventure was the closest the character ever came to breaking out of his original venue — no movies, radio shows, etc., just the obscure series in Sensation Comics. And even that ended in Sensation #63 (March, 1947). In #64, he was replaced by a couple of shorter humor features, "Foney Fairy Tales" and "Willy Nilly". Which isn't all that bad a run, actually — a lot of '40s superheroes had shorter ones; and many had more going for them in the way of powers than just being good at everything, and more in the way of motivation than to escape crushing boredom.

Mr. Terrific was next seen in the 1960s, when the JSA started having annual crossovers with The Justice League of America, and anyone who had ever made even a walk-on with them was eligible for inclusion. He turned up in the third crossover, which started in Justice League of America #37 (August, 1965), and appeared sporadically thereafter.

Again, he wasn't one of the major figures — in fact, he was so minor that when, years later, a story point required that a JSA member be murdered, he's the one they chose. The axe fell in Justice League of America #171 (October, 1979).

Some superheroes return from death, but this one didn't. This may be because the story of his demise had such tremendous emotional content that it would be a disservice to its impact to negate any part of it. But more likely, it's because nobody particularly cared about bringing him back. (They did, however, introduce a new Mr. Terrific, also connected to the JSA, in 1997.)

By the way, Mr. Terrific, the one-season wonder that aired on CBS TV during the 1960s Batman craze — no relation.


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Text ©2002-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.