Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Who's Who: Douglas Nolan

Douglas Nolan
by Russell & Siskoid

Real Name: Douglas Nolan
Super-Power(s): Turning into iron
Planet of Origin: Earth
Relationship to Legion: Brother of Ferro Lad

Legion Log
Douglas Nolan was the twin brother of Andrew Nolan, more famously known as the Legionnaire Ferro Lad. The boys shared the same mutant ability to transform themselves into organic iron. They also shared the same hideous faces, which they kept hidden behind metal masks.

Eventually it was revealed that besides the transformation ability he shared with Andrew, Douglas had another, unique ability: he could "visit" other realities and timelines while in a trance-like sleep. Although they were inseparable as children, as the brothers reached puberty Douglas began to use his power more and more often, becoming more and more withdrawn. Andrew, on the other hand, began to look outward for the first time. He impetuously showed up at an open applicant call and was admitted into the Legion.

After Andrew sacrificed himself to save the universe, Douglas shut himself off from society completely. Much to his widowed mother's pain Douglas was eventually hospitalized in a semi-permanent catatonic state. Several years later, Douglas came to the attention of Brainiac 5, who working with Rond Vidar and Circadius Senius at the Time Institute, tried to save his friend's brother. The three scientists were able to diagnose Douglas' predicament and then guide him into a very specific reality: one where Douglas took his brother's place in the Legion.

After the Reboot, Douglas and Andrew were born in the 20th Century, the sons of a famous actress, Nancy Nolan, who abandoned them because of their grotesque facial deformities. Left in the care of an unscrupulous scientist called "Doc 30", Douglas remained behind while Andrew escaped to join the time-lost Legion of Super-Heroes. Douglas hoped to join the Knight Shift, the guardians of the prison, as Ingot. However, when his brother returned to rescue him, Douglas was killed after turning on his fellow guards.

Douglas Nolan does not appear in the Threeboot.

After Infinite Crisis, Douglas Nolan's original history has presumably been more or less restored.

Important Douglas Nolan stories:

Adventure Comics #354
 (reprinted in Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 6, 
Showcase Presents The Legion Vol. 3, and The Life and Death of Ferro Lad HC)
We first learn about Ferro Lad's twin brother Douglas

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #300
 (reprinted in LSH: The Great Darkness Saga Deluxe, 
LSH: The Curse, and LSH: 1,050 Years of the Future)
Douglas Nolan "wishes" himself into a new reality 

Secret Origins (v3) #47
We learn more about Douglas and Andrew's childhood and parents 

Legion of Super-Heroes (v4) #93
After the Reboot, Douglas Nolan, as Ingot, is killed during his brother's attempt to
free him from Doc 30's prison


  1. That page showing half of Douglas Nolan is one of the most perfect innovative layouts ever put to paper. The Nolan brothers' true appearance was kept so secret for so long, and then Giffen gives it to us in such an innovative and impressive way.

    Was Ferro Lad the first "mutant" to appear in DC Comics? As I recall, Shooter said he was trying to bring the Marvel style to DC, and that would have been one way of doing it.

    1. I think DC's first mutant was Captain Comet.


  2. I enjoyed the story in LoSH #300, but I always wondered why he couldn't have joined the regular Legion. That little bit always escaped me. Especially since Matter Eater lad's insanity was cured. No similar treatment for Douglas?

    1. Douglas couldn't have replaced Andrew while he was basically in a near-cataleptic state while his mind was probing other worlds. The cure, as Brainiac 5 stated, was finding his ideal world (probably one where that Douglas Nolan didn't suffer the same condition as the "real" one) and merging himself with his doppelganger.

      Yeah, seeing Douglas replace Andrew would make for a charming story and readers would once again have a Ferro Lad. But, this was a far superior and more satisfying tale. Good onya, Paul & Keith.

    2. Don't get me wrong, I liked the story (and loved all of the parallel universes), I just missed the part where this was the only solution to cure Douglas. Thanks.

  3. Thanks for this! As a marginal Legion fan, I never knew about Douglas or the relational complexity with his brother and the outside world. Having an autistic son, I appreciate how accurately they reflected on how such a neuro-atypical person might respond to this bevy of tragedies.

  4. I really love the way Levitz settled the matter of whether or not the "Adult Legion" would come to pass by having Brainy mention in one of his narrated notes that it was actually one of Douglas' dreams. He says at the beginning of #300's Adult Legion chapter, that this dream is similar to one of Douglas' earliest dreams, soon after Andrew died, which Saturn Girl mentally read and reported to Brainiac 5. It's just in one panel (not presented here), with nothing calling attention to it, but it was a nice sly reference to the earlier story and that it was an "alternate" world.

  5. I think I read somewhere that Levitz loved the Adult Legion story as a fan, but hated it as the Legion writer because it so limited what he could do with his stories.

    And that makes perfect sense. In the run-up to 300, he teased the hell out of killing Shadow Lass -- having her call herself Shadow Woman and showing up at the Science Asteroid, then having a single panel that totally looked like she was killed (which was an amazing Giffen/Mahlstedt use of Kirby Krackle) -- and then showing she'd survived.

    Levitz was a master here -- he preserved the beauty of the Adult Legion story while still nullifying its effect on future stories.

  6. I'm assuming Superman and Cosmic Man switched costumes in the Adult Legion tale up top, because no way is DC giving Superman a receding hairline. Plus the guy in Rokk's costume looks just like Swan's Superman!