Hey, ‘Arrow’! Don’t screw up Mr. Terrific!

 

Alex Ross' intense interpretation of Michael Holt/Mr. Terrific.
Alex Ross’ intense interpretation of Michael Holt/Mr. Terrific.

One of the most tantalizing tidbits dropping from the San Diego Comic-Con: Mr. Terrific will be joining “Arrow.”

Whoa. That’s huge.

And suddenly I was ready to forgive the show for the godawful slog of season three. That League of Assassins story ran so long and so aground, I was ready to shoot an arrow into my own beloved TV.

OK, but for comic readers – and fans of the Justice Society – there is one question: Which Mr. Terrific will be joining the CW hit? There are two.

The first, Terry Sloane, was a Golden Age mystery man, gifted with a photographic memory and known as the “Man of 1,000 Talents.” Terry was murdered by the Spirit King in a particularly bad Justice League/Justice Society team-up in the 1980s.

It seems much more likely that his successor, Michael Holt, will be appearing, especially given “Arrow” executive producer Greg Berlanti’s working partnership with DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns.

While Johns didn’t create Michael Holt, he, more than any other writer, developed and scripted the character in the monthly “JSA” and “Justice Society” titles.

Mr. Terrifics brawl!
When Terrifics clash!: They actually did get along much better than this cover to ‘JSA’ No. 42 suggests.

Michael Holt has been the face of Mr. Terrific for almost the last 20 years, an Olympic Gold-medal winning decathlete, technological genius, millionaire and martial arts expert turned crime-fighter in the wake of personal tragedy. He became the chairman of the Justice Society, and for a brief time, headlined his own book as part of DC’s “New 52” (before it was unceremoniously canceled).

He also just happens to be my favorite superhero, end of, full stop.

Thanks for coming by, Supes. Get lost, Spidey.

What’s not to love? He’s smart, principled, fearless, athletic and can out-think just about any threat. He’s Batman without the psychosis. I was stoked when I heard he’d be joining “Arrow.”

But there was more. Berlanti announced the character will be gay.

Huhn.

OK. I needed a second to wrap my head around that.

Neither Terry Sloane nor Michael Holt is gay in the comics. Michael turned to crime-fighting as a way of coping with a capricious universe that robbed him of his precious wife Paula and their unborn child in a horrible car accident.

Now Terry, well, you could actually make an argument that he was closeted, that his drive to be the best at everything was a way of compensating for being forced to hide his authentic self. Stories in the last couple of decades have hinted at some emotional or mental instability driving Terry on. There might be something in that.

And it’s not like Mr. Terrific is the first character to have his sexuality flipped like a light switch. Ultimate Colossus, Batwoman and Iceman (one of them, anyway) are all characters who have come out. Writer James Robinson made original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, gay to compensate for the loss of his gay son in the “Earth 2” reboot.

DC didn't give Mr. Terrific's comic much of a chance.
DC didn’t give Mr. Terrific’s comic much of a chance.

I’m the last one to have a problem with gay heroes. I’ve been out for as almost as long as I’ve been able to read, more or less. No, what I object to are retcons – rewritings of character history – to suit a particular story, and nothing is more fundamental than a person’s sexuality.

Because if they can swing one way, they sure as hell swing another when a new writer takes over.

Better to have new characters whose origin stories bring them out. Archie Comics’ Kevin Keller or DC’s Midnighter are good examples – they started as gay characters, and it would be all-but-impossible for anything but a clod of a writer to try to shove them back in the closet. (Please don’t let Dan Jurgens be reading this, please don’t let Dan Jurgens be reading this.)

But Greg Berlanti is an out and proud TV executive – I interviewed him years ago while he was promoting his film “The Broken Hearts Club,” and he was great and he has always been committed to diversity in all his works. CW finally might be getting the message. Berlanti’s “The Flash” features Capt. Singh. “Arrow” has done a decent job showcasing Nyssa (the wonderful Katrina Law), Ra’s al Ghul’s lesbian daughter and a formidable assassin. Mr. Terrific as a gay hero? It could work.

But then the other shoe dropped: “Arrow” is aiming for a lighter tone next year, similar to the better-rated “Flash,” and Mr. Terrific will be Felicity Smoak’s new BFF.

It’s one of the oldest cliches in TV: Gay Man as Straight Woman’s Fashion Accessory. See every season of “Will & Grace” and “Sex and the City” for examples. Mr. Terrific does not need to be Felicity’s sidekick. We don’t need Sean Hayes in a mask.

It doesn’t have to play that way. It may not play that way.

Henry Simmons would be perfect as Michael Holt/Mr. Terrific.
Henry Simmons would be perfect as Michael Holt/Mr. Terrific.

A lot will depend on the casting. From the moment I saw Michael Holt/Mr. Terrific in the comics, I pictured actor Henry Simmons in the role. When I interviewed Simmons at the close of “N.Y.P.D. Blue,” we talked about new projects. Comic properties were staring to heat up. He read some JSA trades, and he was intrigued in taking on the role of the JSA chairman. Unfortunately, no one was hiring then, and now, Simmons has a job – on ABC’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

But that is the kind of actor the show needs to cast: Big. Strong. Charismatic. That’ll suit Mr. Terrific to a Tee.

The key to Mr. Terrific’s popularity is understanding that he’s so damned good and impressive that he makes his name cool. He’s that good.

Mr. Terrific.
I swear, if Mr. Terrific says ‘Fabulous’ just once….

If Mr. Terrific turns to Felicity and says, “Gurl, you in danger,” or, “You look fierce,” I am deleting “Arrow” from my DVR and tossing my DVDs.

Terry Sloane or Michael Holt, straight or gay, Mr. Terrific is a bad-ass. Keep it that way, and “Arrow” will hit its target.

 

7 thoughts on “Hey, ‘Arrow’! Don’t screw up Mr. Terrific!

  1. A good read, Mark! I think it’s probably a good idea for all comic fans in general to chant, “Please don’t let Dan Jurgens be reading this” over and over as many times as is necessary. I’ve always liked the new Terrific and his often central, or even de facto leader, role in the JSA. It will be disappointing indeed if “Arrow” reduces him to a talking handbag. (With balls.) In a somewhat related note though, I enjoyed the “Ant-Man” film, and realized how joyous it can be to witness a well-constructed origin story no matter what the character. Hopefully Mr. Terrific is given the same chance to shine.

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    1. Thank you for reading, Matt, and for the kind words. Given the recent casting news, I fear we are headed for more Miss Sassy than Mr. Terrific. Time will tell.

      Thank you for the “Ant-Man” recommendation. I will have to check that out!

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  2. Pingback: Introducing – again – Mr. Terrific! | Far from Rome

  3. I don’t think anything can save the Arrow series after what they did last season. Arsenal/Roy was the only character holding my attention, and he’s gone.

    I’m afraid the writers of the Flash series are pretty much going the same way. I like Grant Guston, but he doesn’t have much to work with, what with the plots just getting ridiculous.

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