The New Superman Movie Made a Perfect Choice With Mr. Terrific

As played by Edi Gathegi, Mister Terrific is the perfect character for an optimistic DC Universe in James Gunn's Superman.

Mr. Terrific
Photo: DC Comics

It takes a lot to take attention away from Superman. But that’s exactly what happened when set photos leaked from James Gunn’s upcoming Superman film.

Sure, people were excited to get a much better look at David Corenswet’s costume—all bright colors and trunks on the outside—but even more excitement was directed toward Edi Gathegi, who looked like he walked right off the page of a Justice Society comic book in his Mister Terrific costume. Although the photos are leaks and not official pictures, the shots of Superman and Mister Terrific together feel thematically resonant. It’s almost like Mister Terrific is welcoming Superman into the movie’s troubled world.

Gathegi plays Michael Holt, the second man to take the moniker Mister Terrific. The first was Terry Sloane, a Golden Age superhero in the mold of Doc Savage and Batman. A millionaire and Olympian who had achieved his every goal, Sloane found purpose when helping a woman evade a band of criminals. Sloane became Mister Terrific and started the “Fair Play Club” to keep kids out of juvenile delinquency.

The Holt version first appeared in 1997’s The Spectre #54, written by John Ostrander and penciled by Tom Mandrake. Like Sloane, Holt is a super-genius (the third smartest man in the DC Universe, officially) and a gold medalist. And like Sloane, Holt struggled to find a purpose, in his case after the sudden death of his pregnant wife. The Spectre inspired Holt to take up the Mister Terrific identity to help the kids of his community. Over the years, Mister Terrific became a key member of the Justice Society and one of the most respected superheroes in the world.

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“Look, sudden death might be part of your life,” Holt tells the Spectre during that fateful meeting. “My life isn’t like that.” But the ghostly hero rejects that claim. “Mister Terrific served a purpose and that purpose isn’t filled by Superman or Batman or even the Spectre,” he insists.

The Spectre’s advice explains Mister Terrific’s place in the DC comics and, potentially, his place in the new DC cinematic universe that will launch on the big screen with Superman.

James Gunn’s Superman takes place in a world already filled with superheroes. Hawkgirl (Isabela Merced), Metamorpho (Anthony Carrigan), and the Green Lantern Guy Gardner (Nathan Fillion) predate Superman in this movie, as does one of the film’s (presumably) main antagonists, the Engineer (María Gabriela de Faría).

Many of these characters lean toward anti-hero to some degree, especially the Engineer, a member of a group called the Authority. Initially designed as a cynical riff on the Justice League, the Authority presented superheroes as totalitarians, super beings who did what they deemed necessary for the greater good.

Unlike actual history, in which Superman became the first superhero when he debuted in 1938’s Action Comics #1, Gunn’s Superman seems to position the Man of Steel as a new type of hero, one more optimistic and hopeful than the others already in existence.

If so, then Mister Terrific makes for a perfect guide to help integrate Superman into this world. Even if Gunn doesn’t hold to Terrific’s comic book origin and avoids mentioning Terry Sloane altogether, Mister Terrific stands as a link between the past and the present. His nom de superhero has the corniness of a bygone age, as does his “Fair Play” motto, but his inventions and technology are purely futuristic sci-fi.

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More importantly, Mister Terrific has the on-the-ground perspective that someone like Superman, even at his most empathetic, could never fully understand. Michael Holt understands how random and painful life can be, and he knows how to turn tragedy into hope and inspiration for others.

That perspective sets Mister Terrific apart from the other heroes who exist before Superman arrives in this new cinematic universe. Guy Gardner was passed over for Hal Jordan when chosen to become Green Lantern, and only got his shot when Jordan was out of action. However, an impurity in Guy’s lantern left him brain damaged, turning him into a brash and rude hero with a giant inferiority complex. Before nanites filled her bloodstream to make her into the Engineer, Angie Spica was drawn to the power of superheroes and not necessarily their good acts.

Mister Terrific understands that power cannot prevent tragedy, but he uses that vulnerability as a means for empathy instead of bitterness that excuses violence. Mister Terrific looks for those who also believe in fair play, who want to make the world a better place, not just by exercising tremendous power, but by connecting with others and seeing the best in them.

The bright colors of Corenswet’s suit promise a more optimistic Superman, as do the newspaper images of Superman saving the day. But it’s the guiding hand of Gathegi’s Mister Terrific that best promises a hopeful vision of superheroes in the new cinematic DC Universe.

Superman flies into theaters on July 11, 2025.