Mr. Terrific: The Making of a Villain

The recent Earth-2 reboot has turned Terry Sloane, the original Mr. Terrific, into Terry Sloan, villainous mastermind. Some, like my blogger pal Snell, have written about how the loss of each hero is a loss deeply felt, and it's inspired me to go back and look at Mr. Terrific's original appearances in Sensation Comics...
Mr. Terrific was featured in Wonder Woman's Golden Age book consistently through issue #63, missing only #38. That's not a bad run (from 1942 to 1947), though several of his Sensation co-stars did better, including Wildcat, Black Pirate and of course, Princess Diana herself. He wasn't a member of the Justice Society of America then, but was included during the Bronze Age's JLA/JSA crossovers, where he was eventually killed. But going back to his very first appearance in Sensation Comics #1, it may be true to say he has a villain's origin story...

Even at the age of 10, Terry Sloane was a genius, the world's smartest and most capable man-in-the-making. He became a star when his design for a better, faster seaplane was selected from hundreds of entries. But it's no fun being at the top.
Terry can't play with the other kids, and he can't even play with the adults.
We must be so simple to him. Simple and SMALL. After pulling a Doogie Howser, college doesn't know what to do with him either and just give him an honorary degree. Out on the athletics field - Terry's other hobby - he wins every trophy. Everything he tries is TOO EASY.
"The fools!" Uh-oh... he's starting to sound like someone who's going over to the dark side.
So off goes Terry to commit suicide. He's gone all nihilist on us, and isn't that usually a gateway to super-villainy? Well as it turns out, he's about to do himself in when he comes across a girl jumping off a bridge. He saves her (only HE can truly say he has nothing to live for), and for a lark, decides to help her out of her troubles. See, she raised her kid brother alone, but now he's running with the wrong gang - the Purpl3 Dagg3r Gang! Hell of a reason to off yourself, but the comic set the bar pretty low.
With suicide still on his mind, Terry decides to dress up as a mystery man and visit the kids, making them an offer to join HIS gang (that's right, he wants to run a street gang). They need to be convinced, so it's off to the offending mob boss to beat him at fists, knives and... math?
The kids don't respect a dunce and that's the truth! Terry becomes their new boss (does the Fair Play Club ever appear again?) and they give him the nickname "Mr. Terrific", cuz gosh, he so is. Lesson please!
And that's how a bored genius who considers the people around him pretty insignificant narrowly avoided becoming either a villain or a corpse. But for how long can he keep himself amused playing hero? FOR. HOW. LONG?

11 comments:

snell said...

"FOR. HOW. LONG? "

70 years, apparently.

mkhall said...

So the Earth-2 Ozymandias is Mr Terrific?

Siskoid said...

And that's exactly how Robinson is playing him in Earth2.

Martin Gray said...

Oh, brilliant - I'd not read the origin. Yeah, it's no stretch to see him going over to the naughty step.

@Snell - in terms of published adventures, it's probably about a seventh of that, surely?

snell said...

Mart--I'm not sure how to count that. He appeared in several JLA/JSA crossovers, and was a member of Roy Thomas' All-Star Squadron.

And beyond that, Terry Sloane was the specific inspiration for Michael Holt to adopt the Mr. Terrific identity. His legacy continued for 70 years, regardless of the number of appearances.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Also, there is an archive of JSA ALL-STARS which has reprints of Hourman, Mr. Terrific, Johnny Thunder, and, um, Ma Hunkel, The Red Tornado.

It really isn't a stretch to see E2 Terry Sloan as, at the very least, a man without morals. Look at how men talked down to him as an adult. I'm just waiting for the explanation of Michael Holt with a red T on his face and FAIR PLAY (I believe) tattooed on his arms.

The original Mr. T. also appeared in an issue of STARMAN, along with Black Canary, Hourman, Zatara, and, um, The Red Bee.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't there a throwaway line in the first issue of "The Golden Age", about how Terry Sloane made his fortune through less-than-scrupulous means ("so much for fair play")? Apparently Robinson had this on the back burner for decades.

I'm not sure I get the appeal.

Siskoid said...

I'll have to look that up tonight. I'd completely forgotten that Robinson wrote Golden Age.

Boosterrific said...

GOLDEN AGE is the only thing Robinson has written that I liked. No matter how often people recommend it, I just can't care for his overly-sentimental STARMAN or JSA.

rgawakendream said...

Wow, great essay on Mr. Terrific! He was one of my favorite obscure characters back when I collected comics in the 90s. I never realized how self-centered the character actually was. Even when he saves Wanda his reason for being a hero is that it's "interesting". So in that sense, he never changed at all. It stayed all about him, the perfect recipe for a super villain.

Siskoid said...

To be fair, I'm sure a lot of Golden Age characters would accidentally come off this way.

 

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