Magic’s Terrence Ross Takes Comic Book Fandom to the Next Level
Stan Lee’s recent passing, at the age of 95, evoked a global outpouring of memories of the legendary writer, editor and publisher of Marvel Comics. For Orlando Magic guard Terrence Ross, Stan will be remembered as much for the timeless characters he created as for his silver-screen cameos in the Marvel movies.
Terrence’s personal favorites include Stan as a strip club emcee in Deadpool and Thor's drinking opponent in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
“I wish I could’ve met him,” Terrence tells CloseUp360 from Orlando.
When it comes to Marvel, Terrence is in a league of his own. On a scale of 1-10, he rates his addiction at a 10.
“It’s bad,” he laughs.
While teammates like Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic tend to geek out on Star Wars, Terrence is all about Marvel. Beyond Orlando, he fancies himself as the biggest comic book fan in the NBA "hands down," though he's not without competition in that regard. The Lopez twins, Brook and Robin, share a similar love for Marvel and have beaten Terrence to the punch by attending the famed Comic-Con International in San Diego.
In years past, the NBA's schedule made it difficult for Terrence to check out the convention. Now that it takes place in July—in the middle of the offseason—the day he shows up dressed like his favorite Marvel character will almost certainly come. After all, his enthusiasm for the franchise knows no bounds.
Step inside Terrence’s home office and you won’t find just a desk and chair. Instead, you will see a sea of comic books, part of an ever-growing Marvel stockpile that reflects his obsession with the fictional world of superheroes and villains.
“My collection is crazy,” he says, “like a bookcase layered with comics of all sorts. It’s getting pretty good. I probably have like 200, 300 comics.”
Terrence was never all that into superheroes as a kid. Nor were comic books a part of his world. Growing up in Portland, Oregon, the University of Washington product recalls a time when he saw the X-Men film franchise make its debut. While he enjoyed it, to him, it was "just another movie.”
In May 2008, Iron Man debuted in theaters as the first installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film piqued a 17-year-old Terrence’s interest.
Little did his teenage self know how one simple experience would spawn a fascination that still captivates him as an adult.
A selection from Terrence Ross' comic-book collection. (Courtesy of Terrence Ross)
“It really wasn’t like anybody was, ‘Yo, you should go see this movie,” he says. “It was kind of, like, ‘Iron Man’? Okay, let me check this out, see what happens.’”
After Iron Man, an intrigued Terrence watched The Incredible Hulk one month later, followed by Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011. Once The Avengers came out in 2012, his fandom expanded.
“I think that’s when I kinda got a little more interested because I didn’t think that all of these characters will be into one movie,” he says. “And then when I realized that, ‘Oh wow, there’s like a team up.’”
Out of curiosity, Terrence logged onto YouTube and studied the individual backstories of these characters with the help of Benny Potter, otherwise known by the username “Comicstorian,” dubbed “the source for all things comic books online.”
Terrence found the information so alluring that he added the Marvel Comics app to his phone, so he could buy any story he wanted on the go. He’s used it almost every day since.
“Once I did that, I literally just started downloading a bunch of comics,” he says. “On all my road trips, I’m just reading a bunch of comics and complete story arcs between flights and hotels and whatever.”
Getting into comics took Terrence’s fixation to the next level. Once he had learned the origins of the characters on the big screen, he became firmly entrenched into the MCU.
Terrence’s favorite Marvel movie to this point is the Avengers: Infinity War, with its incredible ensemble of personas and perpetuation of the silver-screen series.
“You’ve never seen that many characters from different movies all coincide in the same film,” he says. “And then actually the connection between all the post-credit scenes which links all of ‘em together, you’ve never seen anything like that in cinematic history.
“Like, you can make one movie and you can make a sequel [or] prequel to that. But to make 10, 15 different movies and they’re all connected in one way or another, and then you bring all those characters into one movie, it’s just epic and it makes it exciting.”
Terrence's customized arcade machine featuring Marvel characters. (Courtesy of Terrence Ross)
To Terrence, the imagination of producer Kevin Feige and brother directors Anthony and Joseph Russo stands out because those creators leave fans wanting more every time.
“That’s probably one of the most anticipated things with the entire movie besides the movie itself—is waiting to see what they put in to connect it to another movie,” Terrence says. “That’s my favorite part of the whole group. You never know what they’re going to do.”
Luckily for Terrence, he has unique access to this world. He is represented by Creative Artists Agency, which has clients in both sports and entertainment. After they introduced him to the people at Marvel at a meet-and-greet, Terrence has had a great relationship with the company.
Over the summer, Terrence stopped off at the Marvel Entertainment offices in New York City. He appeared on a couple of different segments on their YouTube channel. On Earth’s Mightiest Show, he answered some hard-hitting questions about his favorites and participated in a Spider-Man game. And on the This Week in Marvel podcast, he linked his two passions by picking a starting five for a hypothetical superhero basketball team.
Off camera, Terrence toured the facility and observed how the comics come together.
“It was just dope to see how they take piece for piece to get this line of production, and how much it takes to finish a comic and how many people are actually working on just one comic alone,” he recalls. “It’s a lot of work, but it was fun seeing the process.”
That connection has followed Terrence back home, where he’s frequently found comics in his mailbox from his friends at Marvel.
“I already had a little mini collection before I ended up meeting people at Marvel,” he says. “Once I started meeting them, they started just sending me a bunch of comics. And every time I go to the studios, I’m leaving with like two bags full of comics.”
That’s not all, though. Spread throughout Terrence’s house is “a bunch” of other collectibles—Thanos pop toys, smaller Spider-Man action figures and even different versions of The Joker.
Batman’s adversary is not a part of the MCU, but Terrence loves him. In fact, he calls The Joker his favorite comic book character—ahead of even Thanos—because of the villain's original story arc.
Terrence's superhero toys, including Spider-Man and Marvel Pop Vinyl figures. (Courtesy of Terrence Ross)
Overall, Terrence isn't as big a fan of the DC Universe, where Superman, The Flash, Aquaman and Wonder Woman reside. Yet he remains keen on Batman and The Joker—so much so that he sent one of his buddies in Los Angeles to stand in line at a GameStop store to get him a stand-up action figure of the latter.
“He’s, like, ‘Yeah, bro, I saw it. Should I stand back in line?’” Terrance recounts. “And I was, like, ‘Bro, just go back and just wait and get it for me and bring it to me.’ He was, like, ‘Alright, I got you.'"
But Terrence’s loyalty lies with Marvel. In addition to the comics and movies, he’s into the brand’s video games. He recently finished the newest Spider-Man, which is chock full of different suits, references to other characters and, of course, lots of “Easter eggs.”
“Everything from the Avengers Tower to Dr. Strange’s sanctum to Murdock’s law office to Hell’s Kitchen,” he says. “It’s just a whole bunch of stuff scattered throughout the entire game that makes you kind of hope that they’re going to expand the game the same way they expanded the MCU.”
While his favorite characters in the fictional world are Thanos and Wolverine, Terrence relates most closely to Deadpool, the lighthearted anti-hero. He’s one of 8,000 characters in the world of Marvel, the brainchild of the late, great Stan Lee, who helped expand the comic book company into the multimedia empire it is today.
“Like unbelievably talented, but unbelievably goofy at the same time,” Terrence says of Deadpool. “It’s almost that we don’t take things serious, but we do at the same time. But it’s just like you have your morals, but it’s kind of gray areas… I feel like I have a lot in common with Deadpool.”
And, yes, that includes vulgarity.
“I try to hide it, but it’s tough,” Terrence admits, laughing.
The kid who once brushed off the X-Men as nothing special has grown into a man, whose childlike fascination with a fictional universe has given him more joy than he could've ever imagined.
“I never thought, as a 27-year-old, I would be this obsessed with comics,” he says. “Even though the characters might seem super old, it’s just always new stories, and that’s the one thing I can appreciate about it.”
Spencer Davies is a veteran NBA writer based in Cleveland. Follow him on Twitter.