Veteran television writer Eric Wallace didn’t need a eureka moment to realize getting a chance to tell a groundbreaking story with Michael Holt in the pages of “Mister Terrific” as part of DCU’s big relaunch was an awesome opportunity.
An ultra-smart, ultra-cool black man writing about an ultra-smart, ultra-cool black superhero. All for a new generation of readers and would-be fans? What’s not to love?
Beginning September 14, Wallace (“Eureka,” “Titans”) begins telling new adventures with Michael Holt in the character’s first-ever ongoing solo series. The title features art by Roger Robinson (“The Web”) and covers by superstar talent J.G. Jones.
Created by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake, Michael Holt first appeared in “Spectre,” Vol. 3 #54 in 1997. Most famously known as the third-smartest man in the DC Universe, Wallace told CBR News Mister Terrific’s ranking, and conceivably who he’s behind, will be explored early in the new series.
The head of a successful high-tech corporation and an institute that recruits and encourages the finest minds of the next generation to excel, Holt is also one of DCU’s most eligible bachelors and Wallace plans to spend time in both of Holt’s worlds. Wallace also told CBR News he is expanding Holt’s supporting cast and adding some much needed villains to his list of rogues.
CBR News: First and foremost, Mister Terrific is the world’s third-smartest man. To set the record straight once and for all, who is the smartest and second smartest?
Eric Wallace: I’m not telling you, but I know the answers. The real question is… does Michael know who #1 and #2 are? And yes, this is something we actually deal with early on in the series.
That’s awesome. Are you a long time fan of Michael Holt? And if so, what was your introduction to the character and what do you love about him?
Of course I knew who Michael Holt/Mr. Terrific was. I’d seen him in the pages of “Justice Society of America,” but I didn’t know him very well. So just as when I was given the chance to rework the Tattooed Man’s world and origins in “Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink,” I’ve taken the same from scratch approach with Michael. But don’t worry. Some of the things others and myself love so much about the character are still there, especially his intelligence. However, there’s now a sad and sexy side to Michael Holt that is going to give his adventures a unique spin.
As for what I love most about the character, it’s his intelligence. He’s the third smartest man in the world. What’s that like? How does being a genius help him in his daily life? And how is it a curse? For example, Michael’s best friend isn’t a human being. It’s science, which may or may not be a good thing. It’s this conceit, plus the fact that he’s rich, attractive, and single — that give a wild, humorous, and intense spin to the series.
How did this project come about? Was it something you pitched for?
How this all came about is really an example of serendipity working overtime. I actually had approached DC with a pitch about a different character with many of the same elements that ended up in “Mister Terrific.” Well, another writer who had their own awesome spin on things took that character, but DC really loved the world and concept I was pitching — so much that they came up with the idea of putting Michael Holt into the middle of it. When I thought about what they were proposing, I just flipped. The idea had become better and stronger with Mr. Terrific at the center. So again, this whole series is what I’d call a very, very happy accident.
The solicitation tease points out right away that Mister Terrific is one of the most eligible bachelors in all of the DCU. Will you be exploring Michael’s personal life as well as his superhero life in this new series?
Yes, we’ll be exploring Michael’s personal life in a very big way. Who Michael loves is an integral part of the overall story we’ll be telling. Also, exploring Michael’s love life was one of the things I wanted to do most with this book. I mean, come on. Imagine an episode of “The Bachelor” where the star isn’t just rich and attractive, but he’s also a bona fide superhero. It’s irresistible from a storytelling point-of-view. Also, I felt that in the past readers have never really known who the man, Michael Holt, is. This series is all about answering that question.
In the cover image by J.G. Jones, Michael’s look is quite different than in the past. Where’s his super-cool jacket? Is this something that is explained in the new series or is this one of the many changes falling out from “Flashpoint?”
I think it was time to take the jacket off, metaphorically speaking, so we could get to know the real Mr. Terrific. But don’t worry. There are cool elements to the new costume that explain why there’s no jacket.
Michael has long been associated with the Justice Society of America. Will he remain a member of the team in the new book and if so, what role will the JSA play in “Mister Terrific,” especially considering they don’t have their own title right now.”
Heh. I can’t answer that one. Not without giving away a pretty huge spoiler for issue #1.
Along that same line, this series was announced under the banner, The New Justice. Is Michael a new member of the JLA?
No, as of #1, Michael is not a member of the JLA. But things change, don’t they? All I can say for now is, stay tuned.
Who else is featured in the cast, superhero or otherwise? Perhaps using something like the Tardis, does Michael get to team up with Terry Sloane?
Did you get a hold of the issue #1 script? Because there may or may not be a “Doctor Who” reference in it. I’m just saying. Anyway, a whole new cast of great and diverse characters has been created to populate Michael’s world. Some of them are friends. Some of them are lovers. Many of them are enemies. And one of them is a very special guest star whose identity I can’t reveal yet.
OK. I know you can’t give too much away just yet, but what can you tell us about your opening arc either in terms of plot details or more simply, tone?
Wow. This is so hard, because there’s so much exciting stuff in the first four issues alone and I can’t wait to share it with folks. But like you mentioned, I can’t reveal much here. I will say this. The first story arc is called “Who is Michael Holt?” and it introduces a cool new villain who will change Michael’s life forever. As for the tone and style of the book, it’s action-packed, sexy, and very cosmic. Yes, you will eventually see Mr. Terrific in action in more places than just this world.
All of the DCU superheroes are believed to be altered in some way in the new DCU. Again, I know you can’t say too much on that front, but does Michael still believe in “Fair Play?” And if so, does that make him a good role model for young readers?
Yes, Michael does still keep the same motto of “Fair Play,” but now we’ll see what that really means in terms of his relationship to his admirers and fans. Michael is a great role model for young people, because he embodies the best traits of what it means to be human. However, because he is human, he’s prone to mistakes. And because he’s got a big personality, he makes equally big mistakes. One mistake he makes at the end of the first story arc is going to affect Michael — and his status as a role model — for a long time.
Cool. DC Comics has talked openly about the diversification of the new DCU. Is that something that you take great pride in when writing a super-smart, super-talented African American superhero or do you just go about your business of telling great stories?
I can’t tell you how proud I am to be writing “Mister Terrific.” Bringing an intelligent, diverse hero to the reading public is a huge honor and a true delight. It’s also the reason I’m having more fun on this book than anything I’ve ever written.
On the other hand, it’s all about telling great stories at the end of the day. So I feel like with “Mister Terrific,” I’ve got a chance to have the best of both worlds. Again, it’s a great honor and I hope readers end up having as much fun reading this series as I am writing it.