How I Learned to Stop Hating Element Lad and Start Loving to Hate Element Lad

I've been picking up the 1980s Paul Levitz-written issues of The Legion of Super-Heroes these past few years, and though a lot may change over the course of the chunk of issues I've read, one thing remains pretty constant: Element Lad's kind of a douche.

I'm sure a lot of it stems from his power. I mean, read that description above: "Can alter one element into another." They might as well come out and just say "can pretty much turn anything into anything else," because that's what happens time and again. Various Legionnaires have all kinds of powers that laugh heartily in the face of physics, but changing the physical properties of things on the molecular level, therefore turning them into other things? Yeah, that's pretty huge right there. Godlike, even, which Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning used to good effect in the early aughts, but I'm getting ahead of myself here. Anyway, what I'm trying to say that if you were basically a living, breathing alchemist, with the power to basically make any form of matter your bitch, you'd probably start copping an attitude.

And Element Lad did, especially when he ended up as Legion leader, which in the Levitz years, was fairly often. And on those rare occasions he wasn't Legion leader, he'd complain that he wasn't Legion leader. "That's not what I would have done" was a frequent refrain, and he'd get even more riled up when the current leader was someone he saw as beneath him, like Dream Girl.

So I'd read these, and I'd wince whenever Element Lad came on panel to complain. Eventually, I started rooting for him to get his comeuppance, and I'd cheer when he did. Soon enough, I'd start hoping he'd show up in issues just so he could maybe get a little due payback, and I'd be disappointed when he didn't even appear.

That's when it dawned on me that Element Lad somehow became one of my favorite Legionnaires. The guy has an almost Bobby Heenan or Roddy Piper-like quality in my eyes, the sort of character you want to - have to! - boo and jeer, but at the same time, you want to see him show up because he's just so much fun to boo and jeer. He's the guy you absolutely love to hate.

And considering the Legion of Super-Heroes made its reputation by being almost professionally mean, conniving, and downright bitchy to one another for 50 years, that's really saying something.

3 comments:

Siskoid said...

And the pink costume and Jericho fro...

What did you think of the 2996 Legion's Element Lad, as a cemetary groundskeeper in a transgendered relationship?

Bill D. said...

I know a lot of what happens in the 5 Years Later stories, but I've only read a handful of issues, and most of those coming from the point where the SW6 batch shows up and the Legionnaires book was lauched, so I don't really know what I really think about later Jan and Shvaugn/Sean goings on. It's an interesting enough idea, though and I do plan on getting around to reading the 5YL stories eventually (especially since I just read The Magic Wars) to see how everything pans out, but for now, I dunno.

Anonymous said...

I hadn’t realized EL’s partner was trans. How gutsy is that? Way cool. But GA’s sidekick was a heroin addict back in the 70s. So DC have been willing to stick there necks out from time to time. And there’s “some evidence” that Harley and Ivy are a set…
When you stop and look at it there are lots of characters that have had eschews with long term STR8 relationships, opening the door… of the closet… ? “Hmmmm.” When you THINK about it KalEl and Bruce have been “working” together for decades.

When you think about it… Comic book heroes have always been meant to represent an over the top ideal of us as Americans. The fast that some of those “idealized Americans” have come out, speaks well for us as a society. (Although EL and Shvaughn are supposed to be 1,000 years in the future… Is DC trying to say “we aren’t ready yet?

I just had a fun thought… IF Diana were to “take up” with Thorn… And then Rose comes out as str8… That could be a vary interesting plot twist.