Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mr. Terrific... Loser? -- Part One of a "Comical Wednesday" Post



Today is Part One of a two-part post featuring one of comic books' "second-stringers."

Most of my regular readers know by now that Captain America is one of my all-time favorite superheroes. (Your eyes aren't playing tricks on you, by the way. That's not Captain America pictured above!) And quite a few of you know when my love for the character began, which was when I first saw him in an issue of Fantastic Four... 


Immediately followed (for me) with the good Captain's appearance in Avengers #5...


...which featured this inspirational scene.


Wow. So, basically, what Cap was saying is that all one had to do to grow up to be Captain America -- or a reasonable facsimile -- was "eat the right foods and get plenty of exercise and eight hours of sleep."

I was, like, eight when I read those words! I could grow up to be just like one of my four-color heroes! As long as I had a good diet, worked out, and got my rest, I too could...

Uh-oh...


So that was how "frail Steve Rogers" became the mighty Captain America? Ohhh, great. Surrrre, I could grow up to be another Captain America... if someone injected me with the right drugs. Terrific.

But hey, did I just say... "terrific?" Yep.

Not long after my brief disillusionment with ol' C.A., I found a new, "purer" hero in the pages of Justice League of America. He was actually a member of Earth-2's Justice Society (JSA), a 1940s hero who'd come out of retirement in the 1960s long enough to participate in a couple of the annual two-part JLA/JSA crossovers.


And his name was Mr. Terrific, "The Man of 1,000 Talents!"



He didn't get much cover space, no, but the following interior sequence floored me!


So, Mr. Terrific was nothing more than a "costumed athlete," right? Well, so was Batman, of course, but... Batman was also... well... Batman, fer cryin' out loud! And in five lousy panels, Mr. Terrific... kicked! Batman's! ass!


Today's Mr. Terrific had absolutely nothing to do with a mid-1960s TV character with the same name. I should add...



Besides, the sad sack pictured above also needed drugs to become a superhero!

Over the years, I did a lot of research on Mr. Terrific, and found that his first appearance was in the following valuable first edition.


Wonder Woman held the cover spot of every issue of Sensation Comics, so Mr. Terrific never appeared on a cover -- that I know of -- until the 1960s.

And now, for reasons that I'd rather not discuss -- heh -- I'm going to save myself a lot of work!

From Wikipedia: Terry Sloane was a rich man whose photographic memory, Olympic-level athletic skills, and mastery of the martial arts made him a virtual Renaissance man. After graduating college at age thirteen, he eventually became a renowned business leader in the community. Having accomplished all of his goals by the time he was in his early 20s, Terry felt there were no challenges left for him to pursue, leading him towards suicidal tendencies. However, upon seeing a young woman jump from a bridge, Sloane reacted quickly and saved her. He learned her name was Wanda Wilson. Sloane assisted her brother, who had been caught up in a gang, by adopting his Mister Terrific persona. He then created the "Fair Play Club" to stymie growing juvenile delinquency.

Mr. Terrific was created by Charles Reizenstein & Hal Sharp. To some degree the idea behind Mr. Terrific was nothing terribly new. The concept of the genius who uses his extraordinary intelligence to fight crime lies behind many heroes of the pulp magazines and the comic books (Doc Savage, Batman, and Sandman are only three of many such characters). In Mr. Terrific, however, the concept was brought to the forefront; in his earliest appearances he is called "the human dynamo who is stumped by nothing." While to some degree Mr. Terrific was simply another spin on the crimefighting genius archetype, however, the character also grew out of the economic realities of the time. In 1941 the United States of America had not fully recovered from the Great Depression; poverty was still rather common. And it is an unfortunate fact of life that extreme poverty can sometimes lead to a life of a crime. Mr. Terrific's desire to teach children about "Fair Play" and his desire to give them a place where they can be safe from the allure of crime (the Fair Play Club) are both reflections of the social realities of the United States in the era directly preceding World War II.


Here's some cool stuff from Mr. Terrific's debut:





The above, refreshingly non-violent resolution to the story proved that criminals are not only "a superstitious, cowardly lot" (as Batman once said in that origin sequence they show every 47 minutes or so), but they're also a bunch of dumb bananas!

Yep, Terry Sloane could indeed do just about anything!


I sure as hell can't train my cat!

Mr. Terrific was never officially a member of the 1940s JSA, but he did assist on one of their cases...


Apparently, there wasn't enough about Terry Sloane for anyone in comics -- readers as well as DC's own writers and artists -- to find particularly dramatic. So, during a period in the late 1970s when my youthful comic-reading habits were at a relative low, the following issue of Justice League of America appeared:


Where's Terry Sloane on that cover? Think about it.

And we'll see you next time, in Part Two.

Thanks for your time!

21 comments:

  1. I take it he's the one under the sheet? Never even heard of Mr. Terrific before. I guess Batman got the last laugh after all. Or does that make Batman worse for getting his butt kicked by a dead guy?..haha

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  2. Okay...I'm really thinking here...and for someone who never made it beyond the horror comics, I am suddenly spitting facts about super hero's and random appearances, almost like I know what I'm talking about...Holy Jughead...help me now! ;) Patiently (and we've already been through this) awaiting part two.

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  3. @Pat: Yep, you figured it out. Tune in next week when I conclude the story of comics' own "Rodney Dangerfield," the hero who "got no respect!"

    @Natasha: Hm. Part Two's in a week, next Monday (or Sunday) sees Part Two of "Two Ship[s," and in a couple of days, I'll tell you how to get over The One you can never get over (as a public service, natch)!

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  4. Mr. Terrific? But I thought that was your name, Silver. Didn't you tell me that? (ducks) :)

    So Batman says you can train cats? Maybe he'll come help me with my four. ha.

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  5. @Betsy: Funny, doll, I thought the last time I used the word "terrific" around you, I was referring to one of your CT posts!

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  6. Silver I never heard before about This Mr. Terrific, but I like him:)
    oop´s other part I and wait for part II:)

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  7. @Gloria: Yeah, I liked him, too.

    Part Two is gonna suck.

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  8. ha, i dunno he was a little too clean cut for me...did run with CA for a bit...dont go off on bat man, cat man...he is my fav...

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  9. yeah, don't ever go off on Wonder Woman, either. I think she's an ancestor of mine. ;)

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  10. @Brian: Gotta agree with you on Cap and ol' Bats. Batman was a childhood role model when I was about 5 or 6; Cap mighta been if I'd encountered him earlier.

    @Betsy: Wonder Woman? Isn't Supergirl mentioned in your profile, too? Mighty impressive pedigree, girl!

    @Lola: To coin a phrase, eh?

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  11. Why, yes it is! Thanks for noticing!

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  12. @Betsy: I notice lotsa things. Or hadn't you noticed?

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  13. The above, refreshingly non-violent resolution to the story proved that criminals are not only "a superstitious, cowardly lot" (as Batman once said in that origin sequence they show every 47 minutes or so), but they're also a bunch of dumb bananas!

    So true! So true!
    And you did turn out to be a super hero, Fox. You must have eaten all those vegetables and gotten plenty of sleep!

    "proplenl"? Verification word. Sounds like some kind of drug. Sheesh.

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  14. @AngelMay: So, you like the WV game too, huh?

    Hm. I wonder if my tendency to play that game is why my comments on other blogs keep getting flagged as spam.

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  15. Part two is going to suck...geez you just ruined the whole suspense aspect of it..haha Or is it some guy who has a sucking power? Sure there is one out there somewhere.

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  16. Plenty of vampires in comics, true...

    Hey, Pat, is it just me, or do we seem to have the blogs almost completely to ourselves???

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  17. I have never heard of Mr. Terrific so thanks for sharing. I did just see the new Captain America movie and I have to say I liked it but I never read the comic books so I'm coming at it as a virgin so to speak.

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  18. Yeah we did seem to have them to ourselves. I guess everyone was off being thankful or something..haha

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  19. Ive never heard of Mr Terrific too. He sounds like a great character although his name may not (at least for me).
    :)

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  20. @Pat: Or sleeping...

    @Kate and Jaya J: Even people who don't read comics have heard of Superman, Spider-Man, Batman... But I'm a fan and -- dare I say it -- a scholar in the field, and know some obscure ones!

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