Element Lad

+ Alchemist + The Progenitor

Created by Edmond Hamilton and John Forte

Jan Arrah of Trom, aka Mystery Lad


Legion of Super-Heroes

Adventure Comics #307 (Apr. 1963)


Jan Arrah of Trom, aka The Progenitor (deceased)

Tarn Arrah (father, deceased), Garra Arrah (mother, deceased)

Legion of Super-Heroes

As Jan: Legion of Super Heroes v.4 #71 (Aug. 1995)
As Element Lad:
Legionnaires #37 (June 1996)
As the Progenitor: Legion: Lost #6 (Oct. 2000)

Legion of Super Heroes
v.4 #72 (Sept. 1995)

Legion: Lost #12 (Apr. 2001)


Jan Arrah of Trom (deceased)


Legion of Super-Heroes

Teen Titans/Legion Special (2004)

Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #4 (June 2009)

Element Lad is admitted as Mystery Lad. From Adventure #307 (1963); art by John Forte.
The never-used costume design by Jim Sherman and Jack Abel, from All New Collectors' Edition C-55 (1978).

Adolescence is never easy. Having the entire population of your planet wiped out doesn't exactly make it easier. Jan Arrah lived on Trom, where high radiation levels limited residence to a small valley, and endowed all Trommites with the power to change one element to another. The ability to create as much wealth as they could possibly want made the Trommites disdain wealth and instead use their powers to create a highly spiritual society. They always refused requests and demands to use their powers for the material benefit of others, and so it was when Roxxas the Butcher made such a demand. Roxxas, not fully understanding the small size of Trom's population, killed them all... except for Jan.

Jan went on the run from Roxxas, finding refuge in the Legion of Super-Heroes. Because his power might tip off Roxxas to where he was, he revealed it only to then-leader Saturn Girl and joined as "Mystery Lad." Only after the Legion captured Roxxas did the shy young boy take the name by which he is better known: "Element Lad." (Adventure #307)

Jan has always been one of the most powerful members of the Legion, yet one of the most withdrawn. His mental discipline, which guarded him from accidentally killing people with a stray thought, allowed few people to get close to him. This changed when he met the Science Police liaison to the Legion, Shvaughn Erin. (Legion v.2 Annual #1) Their relationship grew at a pivotal time in Jan's Legion career. After serving as the team's deputy leader, he was appointed to the post by Lightning Lad, who resigned. (Legion v.2 #287) He was angered to lose the ensuing election to Dream Girl, (#291) but bounced back after that to win two full terms for himself. (#306, Legion v.3 #12)

Jan and Shvaughn made a good team. They worked together to investigate suspicious things surrounding the Legionnaire Shrinking Violet and eventually uncovered the fact that she'd been replace by a Durlan spy. (Legion v.2 #304)

Element Lad joined a new assembly of the Espionage Squad and traveled back to the 21st century in order to shepherd the hero Mon-El on to his destiny. In Smallville, Kansas, Jan disguised himself one of Superboy’s teachers (his science teacher, Mr. Janson). (Adventure v.2 #3)

NOTES: Jim Shooter on Element Lad: Hmm. An introvert who covers with snappy patter! Could be gay, who knows? He is confident, almost arrogant. He has a right to feel very special, and his is an overwhelming power. —Interlac (1976)

Tom & Mary Bierbaum on Element Lad: Came out of a society that had to teach their offspring from infancy not to turn their playmates into molybdenum anytime they get into a fight over the tinker toys. So he's a youth of vast discipline and spirituality. That's meant all these years he's been secretly, methodically dealing with the unspeakable horror of Roxxas' slaughter, coping in his own intensely private way. That's meant there's such disconnect between Jan's physical impulses and what his mind allows him to act upon, that questions of sexuality (yes, he's gay) are almost irrelevant. —Interlac (2000)

Legion 1.5 (v.4)—Element Lad / Alchemist

In the history that unfolded after the first Crisis (no longer valid), Element Lad went on to a … controversial fate…

Jan's relationship with Shvaughn Erin became one of the defining ... elements.. of his life. After his last term as Legion leader, Element Lad's interest in the Legion waned. Having no other family, the Legion was his life, and he was particularly upset when Earthgov began railroading the team towards disbanding. He chose to resign from the Legion and returned to Trom to fulfill his spiritual goals... alone.

He was called back to service five years later, by an investigator hired by Sun Boy. Roxxas, the butcher who'd murdered Jan's race, had returned and claimed the life of the Legionnaire, Blok. (Legion v.4 #3, 6) With his help, the Legion recaptured Roxxas, who also led them to evil-doings by the the Dominators. (#7-12) Afterwards, Jan joining the re-formed Legion, and helped the resistance forces on Earth. Shvaughn Erin was very active in this movement, but more had changed in her life than her work—Shvaughn was now a man! Jan learned that Shvaughn had been born as Sean, and had changed his sex using a drug for one reason: Element Lad. The revelation didn't shake Jan as much as Sean had expected. Jan was capable of seeing the strength and beauty inside. Under Dominion rule, the drug (Profem) was outlawed. But even after the Dominators were defeated, Sean chose to remain a man. They did not resume a relationship; Jan hoped that Sean would find inner strength as well, alone as Jan had. (#31)

Jan was close to deaths door after a battle with Mordru. When the evil mage resurrected Trom's dead, Jan overextended his powers in stopping them. Comatose, Jan received a vision from the souls of Trom. They told him that his mission was not yet complete. (#45-48)

Jan's duplicate in the so-called SW6 Legion took the name Alchemist. Ironically, Alchemist was the first person to meet Sean after he went off Profem. After the Dominators, Sean Erin became Chief of the Science Police for New Earth. (#41)

Legion 2: Earth-247

The Daxamites exterminate the population of Trom (including Jan's parents). From Legion v.4 #71 (1995); art by Lee Moder.
Jan Arrah's perspective. From Legion v.4 #72 (1995); art by Lee Moder.
The Progenitor reveals all. From Legion Lost #11 (2001); art by Olivier Coipel.

The Element Lad of Universe-247, died. Since that universe was destroyed in the Infinite Crisis, no trace of him exists in the current multiverse.

Jan Arrah was the son of Tarn Arrah and Garra Arrah, spiritual leaders of the planet Trom and good friends of R. J. Brande, inventor of the stargate. Tarn was the only Trommite who could create Tarnium, the element needed for the activation of the gates, a skill he eventually taught Jan.

When White Triangle-affiliated Daxamites began destroying stargates all over the United Planets, R. J. came to Tarn to make more Tarnium for new stargates. Tarn was unable to oblige, but allowed Jan to leave Trom with Brande and complete the order. While he was off-planet, the Daxamites completely destroyed the entire population of Trom. (Legion v.4 #71) On Earth, Jan became a key player in stopping the rampaging White Triangle Daxamites, by creating the Tarnium for a stargate to send them to another planet.

Jan turned down an invitation to join the Legion in order to properly deal with the death of his race. Instead of remorse, the boy's spiritual upbringing taught him to see it as the change to a "higher state. He returned to Trom to create monuments for the deceased. (#72) There he was soon abducted by United Planets President Chu, who under mind-control turned Jan into an assassin called Starfinger. Jan defeated all of the Legionnaires except for Shrinking Violet, who managed to stop him. (#76, Legionnaires #34) After the Legion exposed Chu, Jan accepted full membership in the Legion and took the code-name Element Lad. (#37)

Element Lad continued to explore the limits of his abilities, even successfully transmuting himself. He discovered this somewhat by accident with the sorcerer Mordru turned him to crystal. (#??) Though his awareness was expanded, he found it more difficult to change other objects unless he first changed himself to a similar substance. The transformation made Jan's mind somewhat unstable for a while.

Following the Blight's attack on Earth, Element Lad was one of ten Legionnaires who disappeared into a rift in space. (Legion v.4 #125) The rift transported them into a void. He was the first to awake and transformed himself into Tromium crystal in order to survive. He gathered up the Legionnaires and sheathed them in Tromium as well, which had the effect of time-stasis.

Recording his thoughts in memory crystals, he calculated a way to move the Outpost back to ordinary space. He was successful, but the Legion re-entered space in another galaxy, far from home. Jan himself entered the same galaxy, but billions of years in its past, while the universe was in its infancy. The Tromium made him immortal, and 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. His tinkering gave rise to many races, including the Progeny and the Kwai. He eventually became known as the Progenitor and created for himself a home world called the Rosette. By this point, there was very little of the boy who was Jan Arrah. The Progenitor acted like a god, ordering the Progeny to "delete" any life forms which he considered "variants." (Legion: Lost #11)

Eventually his timeline caught up to that of his fellow Legionnaires. They had been fighting the Progeny and finally met the aliens' master. Jan barely remembered them. (#10-11)

When he learned that they intended to return to their home galaxy, the Progenitor hatched a plan to follow them. He intended to remake that galaxy, too. He told the Legionnaires that he also intended to destroy all life in this Second Galaxy before he left. Of course, his former teammates could not allow either of these things. When they opposed the Progenitor, he killed Monstress. To defeat him, the Legion managed to release the Omniphagos, a being that the Progenitor intended to use to erase all life. It took all the Progenitor's powers to subdue the creature. Meantime, the Legionnaires made it through a space warp home. They lost another one of their number, Live Wire, who sacrificed himself to overload the Omniphagos with electricity.

Back home, Element Lad was memorialized on Trom with the memory crystals that remained from the Second Galaxy. (The Legion #15) In time, something miraculous happened—Live Wire emerged from the crystals, his mind imprinted on the former crystalline body of Element Lad! (#25) With the help of the Brainiac 5 of Earth-0, Live Wire eventually recovered enough to change his own form back to normal. (Legion of Three Worlds #3)

Legion 3: Earth-Prime

Killed by Superboy Prime. From Legion of Three Worlds #4 (2009); art by George Pérez.

Not much is known about the personal history of Jan Arrah or his people, of Trom. Several hundreds of years ago, the Tromians are said to have "wiped out" the population of Daxam. It is unclear whether this was accidental or intentional. Trom is remote and receives few visitors.

Jan considered most aliens to be conservative; he, for example, felt no need to wear clothes. He believed that his service in the Legion was consistent with Trommite spirituality: to be at the nexus of great change. (#3) During his time with the Legion, he served faithfully without rocking the boat. He also preferred pacifism and diplomacy to physical combat.

He dated fellow Legionnaire, Triplicate Girl, several times; she was intrigued by his philosophies. (#3, 30) He later also dated a girl named Honey. (#49)

His powers of transmutation were called upon several times by Brainiac 5, most significantly in the semi-successful attempt to restore Dream Girl to life. (#20)

Element Lad met his end during a mission involving all three Legions, on Earth-0. There he exposed one of Superboy-Prime's few weaknesses: the kryptonite of his home universe. For causing him this harm, Superboy-Prime retaliated by killing Jan without a second thought. (Legion of Three Worlds #4) Jan was memorialized along with his teammate Sun Boy after Prime was defeated. (#5)

Other Versions

Element Lad was also a member on TV's Legion of Super-Heroes cartoon.


All versions of Element Lad have the ability to transmute substances on the atomic level. This a native ability to their home world, Trom.

The Element Lad of Earth-247 he had also learned how to change his own chemical make-up. As the Progenitor, he lived over billions of years, in the Second Galaxy. In this time, he learned to use his abilities to actually create (or destroy) life, making him near-omnipotent.

The Element Lad of Earth-Prime's transformations only lasted 60 seconds, and he had to be in contact with the material.

Appearances + References


  • ...