Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Who's Who: Element Lad

Element Lad
by Russell & Siskoid

Real Name: Jan Arrah
Super-Power(s): Element Lad can alter all of the known elements, moving them up or down the periodic table to create whichever element he needs. 
Planet of Origin: Trom
Legion Seniority: Element Lad joined before the return of Lightning Lad, making him Legionnaire #19. He was twice elected Deputy Leader before finally being elected and re-elected Leader in Years 13 and 14. 

Legion Log 
Element Lad has one of the saddest origin stories of any comic book character. Roxxas and his raiders were murdering and terrorizing all the planets in their path as they searched for something or someone. The Legion, wanting additional manpower, held an open call for new members. Element Lad applied as Mystery Lad, keeping his super-power secret. He told Saturn Girl his abilities, and when she vouched for him, was admitted. Roxxas was actually looking for Element Lad because he was the last survivor of Trom. Trommites were natural alchemists, who all had the power to change one element into another. Roxxas and his gang invaded Trom, demanding that they change things to precious elements such as gold and silver for them. When they refused, he and his gang murdered them. Element Lad escaped and headed to Earth to ask the Legion for help. He joined when given the chance, fully intending to find Roxxas or die trying, then quit. However, the Legion was impressed by his courage, so after Roxxas was captured, they asked him to stay.

Element Lad had a long, distinguished Legion career. As an orphan, he literally had nowhere else to go, so he dedicated his life to the Legion. He had strongly held morals throughout his career; he fought against the creation of another Sun Eater, for example. However, when he later faced Roxxas again, his first impulse was to kill him. With the help of his friends, Chemical King and Sun Boy, he realized that justice is always more important than vengeance.

Element Lad appeared in Superboy/Legion #254, then did not appear again for another year, in LSH (v2) #266This year-long leave of absence has never been explained.

Element Lad was elected Deputy Leader under Mon-El and then again under Lightning Lad. When Lightning Lad stepped down near the end of his term, Element Lad became interim Leader. However, Dream Girl was then elected over him. He had to wait for her term to be over to finally get voted in on his own, serving two terms. He resigned as Leader after the Legion freed Earth from Universo's hypnotic control, feeling partially responsible for not being able to stand up to the attack.

Element Lad was friendly with everyone, but his shyness and geekiness initially kept him from making close friends. For his first few years he was good friends with other, similarly nerdy Legionnaires such as Chemical King, Invisible Kid (I), Brainiac 5, and Matter-Eater Lad. Eventually he became more confident and started hanging out with more outgoing members like Sun Boy, Colossal Boy and Chameleon Boy. He was always very shy around girls, which made some readers think he might be gay. He nevertheless had a few girlfriends, none serious until he met Science Police officer Erin Shvaughn. Their friendship gradually blossomed into love, and he committed to her in a Trommite prayer ceremony. Theirs was the longest Legionnnaire-non-Legionnaire romance in Legion history.

During and after the five-year gap following the Magic Wars, Jan Arrah returned to Trom alone to fulfill a spiritual quest, until recalled into action by Roxxas' return. After the butcher's capture, Jan joined the re-formed Legion, and helped resistance forces on Earth oust the Dominators. Shvaughn Erin was very active in this movement, but more had changed in her life than her work: Shvaughn, born Sean, cut off from her sex-changing drugs, was now once more a man! Jan accepted her no matter what, but they did not resume their relationship. When Mordru resurrected Trom's dead, Jan overextended his powers to stop them and ended up at death's door, waking from his coma only in time for Zero Hour and the time line's collapse.

Element Lad was also one of the members of the SW6 Legionnaires, and appeared in Legionnaires when it was spun-off into its own series, taking the name Alchemist.

After the Reboot, Element Lad is again the last survivor of Trom, but this time, the genocide was carried out by White Triangle-affiliated Daxamites. The last Trommite able to create a rare element for R.J. Brande's stargates, he helps exile these terrorists, but declines an invitation to join the Legion, returning to Trom to create a memorial to his people. He joins after the LSH frees him from United Planets president Chu who brainwashed him and turned him into an assassin named Starfinger. After an encounter with the sorcerer Mordru, Element Lad's powers change so that he can transmute himself into elements as well; he is subsequently often seen in metal or crystal forms, exploring the nature of his new physical self.

Following the Blight's attack on Earth, Element Lad was one of ten Legionnaires who disappeared into a rift in space, and was instrumental in their early survival. After moving this "Legion Lost" from the void to distant galaxy, Jan himself entered the same galaxy, but billions of years in its past, while the universe was in its infancy. In immortal Tromium form, he drifted for billions of years, completely alone, watching stars and planets come into being. When planets began to bear life, he used his powers to accelerate their evolution, and eventually became known as the Progenitor and created for himself a home world called the Rosette. He acted like a god, ordering the Progeny, one of the races he created, to "delete" any life forms which he considered "variants." When he caught up with the Legionnaires, they opposed his plans to follow them to the Milky Way and remake that galaxy as well. They defeated him, but not before he killed Monstress. When they returned home, they built a memorial to the Element Lad they knew, on Trom, from the memory crystals he'd made in the Second Galaxy. Miraculously, these crystals grew into a new body for the dead Live Wire.

After the Threeboot, Element Lad's remote Trom is a lost planet that, centuries ago, had accidentally(?) wiped out the people of Daxam. His transmutation powers require touch. He sees the Legion's mission as consistent with Trommite spirituality, as a nexus for change. He prefers pacifism and diplomacy to combat, and thinks most alien cultures are conservative relative to his. He dated Triplicate Girl several times and a girl named Honey. Element Lad was killed by Superboy-Prime during the event known as the Legion of Three Worlds.

After Infinite Crisis, Element Lad's original history has more or less been reestablished. He was a member of the team that went back to the 21st century to help Mon-El fulfill his destiny, during which time he posed as one of Superboy (Kon-El)'s teachers in Smallville.

Element Lad has appeared regularly in the background of The Legion of Super-Heroes animated series, but has never gotten a line of dialog.

Important Element Lad Stories: 

Adventure Comics #307
 (reprinted in Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 2)
Element Lad joins the Legion as "Mystery Lad"

Adventure Comics #323
 (reprinted in Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 3)
Element Lad participates in 8 impossible missions

Adventure Comics #326
 (reprinted in Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 3)
Evil-possessed Light Lass targets Element Lad 

Adventure Comics #356
 (reprinted in Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 6)
Element Lad is one of the Legion's orphans 
(Mon, he's *right* there!)

Adventure Comics  #374
(reprinted in Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 8)
Element Lad helps track down the Taurus Gang

Adventure Comics #375
 (reprinted in Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 8)
Element Lad believes he can win a challenge against other Legionnaires

Action Comics #390-391
 (reprinted in Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 9)
Element Lad stops a war all by himself

Action Comics #392
 (reprinted in Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 9)
Element Lad is elected Deputy Leader for the first time

Superboy/Legion of Super-Heroes #198
 (reprinted in Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 10) 
Element Lad wears his Dave Cockrum designed uniform for the first time

Superboy/Legion of Super-Heroes #211
(reprinted in Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 11)
Element Lad faces Roxxas, the murderer of his people

Superboy/Legion of Super-Heroes #215
 (reprinted in Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 12)
Element Lad takes down Sun Boy

Limited Collectors' Edition C-55
Superboy/Legion of Super-Heroes
James Sherman's new Element Lad uniform design
that only appeared once

Superboy/Legion of Super-Heroes #245
Element Lad is instrumental in taking down Mordru 

Superboy/Legion of Super-Heroes #254
Element Lad makes a cameo appearance here...

Superboy/Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #266
....then does not appear again for more than a year!

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #287
 (reprinted in The Great Darkness Saga Deluxe HC)
Element Lad becomes leader when Lightning Lad steps down

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #305
 (reprinted in The Curse TPB)
Element Lad discovers an impostor in the Legion

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #306
 (reprinted in The Curse TPB)
Element Lad is voted in as leader...

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #310
 (reprinted in The Curse TPB)
...but doesn't believe it!

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #310
 (reprinted in The Curse TPB)
Element Lad and Erin decide to be a couple

Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #7-8
 (reprinted in The More Things Change TPB)
Element Lad is part of the "missing" team

Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #19-20
Element Lad helps stop Tyr's mobile planet of destruction

Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #27
Element Lad commits to Shvaughn Erin

Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #36
Element Lad resigns as leader after being controlled by Universo

Legion of Super-Heroes (v4) #6
Jan Arrah is back after the Five Year Gap

Legion of Super-Heroes (v4) #12
After Roxxas has been defeated, Jan returns to the Legion as the team's conscience

Legion of Super-Heroes (v4) #31
Jan Arrah and the SW6 Element Lad deal with Shvaughn/Sean Erin

Legion of Super-Heroes (v4) #41
SW6 Element Lad becomes Alchemist

Legion of Super-Heroes (v4) #45-46
Roxxas "redeems" himself by resurrecting Trom thanks to Mordru;
Jan will end up in a coma as a result of stopping them

Legion of Super-Heroes (v4) #61
Temporal clones Elemant Lad and Alchemist merge as the time line resets

Legion of Super-Heroes (v4) #71
Reboot Element Lad's Trom is destroyed by Daxamite terrorists

Legionnaires #34
Element Lad, as "Starfinger", is freed from his brainwashing

Legionnaires #48
Element Lad accidentally discovers new powers thanks to Mordru

Legion of Super-Heroes (v4) #125
Element Lad is among the Legionnaires lost in another galaxy

Legion Lost #11-12
Element Lad as the mad Progenitor

The Legion #15
The Legion leave a memorial to Element Lad on Trom

Legion of Super-Heroes (v5) #3
Threeboot Element Lad intrigued Triplicate Girl

Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #4
Element Lad is killed by Superboy-Prime

Adventure Comics (v2) #8
After Infinite Crisis, Element Lad is part of the team insuring Mon-El's
destiny in the 21st century

Legion of Super-Heroes (v7) #14
Element Lad mentors the new Chemical King on a mission

Legion of Super-Heroes animated series
Element Lad has had a number of cameos on the series


  1. Jan is, by far , my favourite legionnaire. I don't know why or when, but Action 390-391 surely cemented that idea forever, one of the greatest displays of his powers ever.
    I guess that the Cockrum redesign has a lot to do with it as well, I was obsessed with that costumer, and nobody rendered it better than Grell.
    I didn't really catch the gay vibe as a kid (although my fascination shows I was not immune to it), but I remember celebrating his commitment to Sean.
    And no, I haven't got over the whole Progenitor mess.

  2. I'm pretty sure that the readership voted Jan, first to second place and then to the win, specifically in order to force the writers to stop ignoring the character rather than any of the more traditional reasons...

  3. Element Lad was always one of my favorite characters as well. Loved him design-wise during Cockrum and Grell. Loved him character-wise during Levitz. His whole "pacifism" thru strength thing was awesome