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Element Lad & Shvaughn Erin

Contributed by Chris Companik

Jan Arrah, the last surviving person of the planet Trom, first appeared as Element Lad in Adventure Comics #307. One of the first clues (and the one that longtime Legion readers were ready to pounce on) was ADVENTURE COMICS #326 (November, 1964). Light Lass (under a hypnotic command from Queen Azura from the planet Femnaz  seduces Element Lad, and his thoughts were “I’m… er… out of my element when it comes to romancing girls.” The next time Jan was seen “with a woman” was ADVENTURE COMICS #373 when he was seen at an airborne drive-in movie with a girl (Marya), but once his Legion signal comes in, he doesn’t seem to mind leaving her stranded at the drive-in.

In all the adult Legion stories, Jan was established not to have married. The question if Element Lad was gay was posed at a DC panel at the DC Con in February, 1976. DC staffers never said no, rather pushed onto the next question. In September of that year, in the second mailing of LEAPA (which changed its name to INTERLAC with its fourth mailing), Paul Decker wrote a fan fiction story “No Time” with a sex scene with Element Lad and Matter-Eater Lad. In the following mailing, longtime Legion writer Jim Shooter outlined his characterizations of each Legionnaire and gave the assumption Jan was indeed gay, for the earlier “clues” from Adventure Comics, the fact that he seemed unwilling to repopulate his race (Trom’s inhabitants were killed by the space pirate Roxxas), the very phallic costume Dave Cockrum designed for him (with the huge arrow sticking right out of his crotch), and well, just because he was always so darn cute. Legion fandom came to accept this as fact, as uncountable fan fiction has been written about Element Lad in hot-and-heavy scenes.

From that point on, no DC writer seemed willing to rock the boat one way or the other till Paul Levitz. Paul was well aware of fandom’s firm belief in Jan’s sexuality but angered many by including Science Police Officer Shvaughn Erin as a potential love interest. Nonetheless, the relationship seemed to be more spiritual than sexual, with Erin definitely the pursuer. It took Tom and Mary Bierbaum in LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #34 (fourth series) to rectify the question. In the dark future the story was set in, it was revealed that Shvaughn Erin had been born male (Sean) and took a futuristic sex-change drug called Pro-Fem in the belief that was the way to win Element Lad’s heart. In the economically crippled era, Pro-Fem was no longer available and Shvaughn soon reverted back to Sean. As the panels here show, it didn’t faze Jan, it was the person he loved in any case. When last shown, the couple went off to explore space together. (Someone looking suspiciously like Jan turned up in BOUND AND GAGGED #59 but only as a spectator.) In the post-Zero Hour continuity, Element Lad has yet to be linked with anyone, male, female (or reptilian) and Shvaughn is now established to be considerably older. What gender Erin was born with has never been stated.

It remains to be seen what will become of Jan and Shvaughn as individuals or a couple after Legion of Three Worlds ends and Geoff Johns begins telling new stories of whichever Legion follows.

Element Lad has the power to change one element or compound into any other element or compound. He is able to change the elements of his own body as was shown in Adventure #331.

Element Lad first appeared in Adventure Comics #307 and is created by Edmond Hamilton and John Forte. Shvaughn Erin first appeared in Superboy & The Legion of Super-Heroes #241 and is created by Paul Levitz and Jim Sherman.

Art by Steve Lightle and Larry Mahlstedt and Colleen Doran & Curt Swan with inks by Al Gordon & Karl Kesel and colors by Tom McCraw.

All rights reserved DC Comics.

July 11, 2021
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