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You Oughta Know: Mr. Terrific

You Oughta Know: Mr. Terrific

With comic book adaptations on almost every channel and streaming service, fans will meet many new characters with extensive backstories. We’re here to introduce these characters to help lessen the learning curve. 

Mr. Terrific by Alex Ross

Star City has to be the luckiest place on the planet, aside from the rampant crime and terrorism. After all, the city is home to a boyish genius whose technical brilliance can only be matched by his physical prowess and drive to help humanity.

And no, it’s not Ray Palmer or Oliver Queen. Instead, it’s someone who’s so terrific that it’s in his code name. Mr. Terrific is on Arrow, and he’s going to save everyone by being the smartest person in the room (unless Felicity’s there, in which case it’s pretty even).

As played by Echo Kellum, Arrow’s Mr. Terrific differs slightly from the comics character (created by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake). First, the TV version is named Curtis Holt whose husband is alive, instead of Michael whose wife is dead. This immediately changes the hero’s origins (hopefully for Curtis’ husband’s sake) as Michael was inspired to become a hero by the Spectre while contemplating suicide after his wife, unborn child, and brother died.

Beyond that, the two are reasonably similar, and it’s very clear that Arrow wants Curtis to become Mr. Terrific. The most obvious visual clue is in his workout clothes: While revealing to Felicity that he’s an Olympic decathlete (another comics trait), Curtis wears a jacket with “fair play” written on the sleeve. This phrase was inspired by Terry Sloane (the original Mr. Terrific), who used his gifts to ensure that everyone had a fair shot at achieving their goals.

Michael took this phrase to heart, in part because of his brother. While Michael was the third smartest man in the world and a world-class athlete, his older brother had a developmental disorder. The Spectre used Terry’s example to show Michael that he could use his intelligence and physical prowess to honor his brother and help others, instead of ending it all.

Although Michael could fight crime with just his fists and likely best most DC characters except for some of the heavyEcho Kellum as Mr. Terrific hitters, he also uses technology. Specifically, he leans on his T-Spheres. At first glance, they look like paperweights with a T emblazoned on the front, but in practice they do everything a hero could want. From working as a communications system to providing flight to turning into projectiles, Mr. Terrific’s spheres are all the hardware he could ever need; no utility belt required. On Arrow, Curtis could be seen worked on a spherical object in his lab, further foreshadowing his heroic destiny.

Mr. Terrific is considered Batman’s peer, thanks to his technology, natural aptitude for gaining new skills, physical gifts, and keen intellect. What’s most notable is how similar their missions are: Both heroes want to ensure that the world is a fair and just place. Granted they both came to that objective in different ways, but it’s still shared between them. Where Batman focuses on eliminating crime and holding people accountable for their actions, Mr. Terrific strives to help those in need. He realizes that almost everyone has less than him, and that’s not fair. But someday, he’ll find a way to give everyone a fair shake.