Among the many announcements, teases and other tidbits dropped during DC Comics' Dark Matter panel during Comic-Con International, perhaps the most exciting was the announcement of a new team book written by Jeff Lemire and illustrated Ivan Reis, with character re-designs by Evan 'Doc' Shaner, The Terrifics.
The series, which joins DC's Dark Matter imprint, will star a quartet of fan-favorite DC characters that haven’t been seen in some time, so the roster of the team might be somewhat new to more recent converts to the DC Universe. With that in mind, for all the fresh-faced Rebirth-era fans, and for those who would simply like a refresher course in DCU history, we’ve broken down who each character is, and just why the four of them may have been grouped together to form DC’s newest super group.
Evidently the team’s leader, not just due to his name being in the title but also given his role as the third-smartest man in the DC Universe, Michael Holt was a self-made millionaire with over a dozen PHds and a gold medal winning Olympic decathlete whose life was devastated following the loss of his wife in a car accident. Inspired by the Golden Age hero of the same name, Holt took on the mantle of Mr. Terrific as well as his predecessor’s mantra of “Fair Play”.
Holt quickly joined the reformed Justice Society of America and following a dispute over leadership he was elected their new chairperson, despite not having formally thrown his hat in the ring. He later joined the international espionage agency Checkmate in the role of White Bishop and later as its White King and briefly died at the hands of JSA traitor before being resurrected by Green Lantern.
The New 52 incarnation of Michael Holt was mostly similar, although he lost the legacy aspect of his superhero identity. He spent most of his time in recent years on Earth-2 as a member of the Wonders of the World but recently reappeared on Earth-Prime working with Batman to solve the mystery of Nth Metal and seems to be only other person to know about Plastic Man’s role in Batman’s plans.
Speaking of Plastic Man, Patrick “Eel” O’Brian was a crook who was exposed to a dangerous and experimental chemical compound and gained the powers of elasticity. After recovering in monastery which opened its doors to the injured criminal, O’Brian turned his life around and became a superhero. Unlike other heroes with similar powers such as Mr. Marvel or Elongated Man, Plastic Man uses his abilities more for shapeshifting than growing and stretching, but you can always find him thanks to his distinctive costume pattern which is retained in whatever form he chooses.
While many of his fellow heroes don’t enjoy Plas’ company because of his goofy demeanour and silly antics, he’s actually one of the most powerful beings in the entire DC Universe. He’s virtually indestructible, potentially immortal and one occassion he survived for over three thousand years as crumbs scattered at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean.
Plastic Man hasn’t really been around much since The New 52. He was on a screen of potential candidates for the Justice League International in the earliest days of the reboot and later Geoff Johns set up a new origin for him during the Forever Evil event, but since then there’s been no sign of him. That is until Batman revealed that he has been acting as an incubator for a powerful artifact inside the Batcave and the time has come to wake him up.
Rex Mason was an explorer and soldier for hire who was recruited by industrialist Simon Stagg to recover the Orb of Ra, but upon finding it he was transformed into Metamorpho, The Element Man. As Metamorpho, his appearance has been permanently altered and he can transform his body into any element on the Periodic Table. He was one of the founding members of Batman’s team of Outsiders and a Justice Leaguer on more than one occasion.
When DC relaunched with The New 52, it introduced Flashpoint’s Emily Sung AKA Element Woman as a member of the Justice League with almost no sign of Rex Mason in the new timeline. Similarly to Plastic Man, he was considered for Justice League International membership and he was also part of Batman, Inc as a member of The Outsiders but aspects of that series’ canon remain nebulous. Rex Mason later appeared as one of the stars of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow anthology title but hasn’t been seen outside of that standalone adventure, outside of a recent reference to The Outsiders existing at one point in Batman’s history.
Perhaps the most interesting member of the new team of Terrifics is Phantom Girl AKA Tinya Wazzo, most well known as a member of The Legion of Super-Heroes. DC has been building to a return of the Legion with Saturn Girl locked up in Arkham and The Emerald Empress running around the twenty-first century, but Tinya’s appearance on The Terrifics is the first time a Legionnaire will be in a starring role for quite some time.
As a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Phantom Girl is from the thirty-first century and is a native of the planet Bgztl. As all people on her home planet do, Tinya possesses the power of intangibility, which allows her to phase through solid objects in a manner similar to Shadowcat of the X-Men. What she is doing in the present day remains a mystery, but it likely has something to do with the larger story at play regarding the Legion’s eventual return to prominence.
The Terrific Tetrad
The first thing that everyone thought when DC announced The Terrifics was “Oh, it’s the Fantastic Four!” and that’s likely not an incorrect assumption. The line-up of The Terrifics is most certainly a cheeky nod to Marvel’s first family and their lack of an ongoing series at the moment, with Mr. Terrific standing in for Mr. Fantastic, Phantom Girl acting as the Invisible Woman of the group, Plastic Man with the powers of Reed Richards and the personality of the Human Torch, while Metamorpho struggles with many of the same problems regarding his appearance and powers as The Thing does.
While it is a fun goof and the sort of wink and nudge to a competitor that Marvel and DC don’t often do anymore, there’s also a real potential in The Terrifics to fill a gap in the market that Marvel is neglecting. The reaction to the team shows that there is a desperate want for a team book featuring superhero adventurers with fantastic powers and if Marvel isn’t going to be the ones to do it, then DC should absolutely attempt to win over some new fans with their own spin on it. Who knows, maybe Marvel will revive The Invaders as an attempt to fill the gap left by the original JSA as a response?