Element Lad is presently starring in the ongoing Legion of Superheroes series since the rebooted DC universe in the new 52. The Legion is presently fighting a Daxamite and a group of Controllers on the planet of Panoptes.
He was briefly known as Mystery Lad as the Legionnaires tried to guess his superpower. Jan was the last survivor of Trom, as the other Trommites had been massacred by the space pirate Roxxas in revenge for their refusal to transmute valuable elements for him. How a band of pirates was able to systematically massacre an entire planet of people with element-transmutation powers remains still unclear, but could be due to the Trommites spiritual and pacifist ways. Jan survived this genocide because he had been in space at the time.
Element Lad created by Edmond Hamilton and John Forte
Original Continuity: New Earth
With the aid of the Legion, Roxxas was brought to justice and Jan joined the Legion, using the code-name Element Lad. Jan has always been one of the most powerful members of the Legion, yet one of the most withdrawn.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. 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. He was angered to lose the ensuing election to Dream Girl, (coming in second for the fourth time) but bounced back after that to win two full terms for himself. 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.
Young Jan’s eagerness to help actually saves his life. Once again, Roxxas the butcher leads a band of his merry men to wipe out Trom, but this time there are a few differences. This version of Roxxas is a rabid xenophobe, who believes that his people are superior to all other races, and are perfectly justified in destroying their lives and cultures to protect their uniqueness. Another important catch: Roxxas comes from Daxam, and he and his posse have the full powers of Mon-El. Using their combined heat vision, the Daxamites burn the whole planet, killing every last Trommite … except for the one who happened to travel with R.J. Brande to help with his Stargate project.
Young Jan is instrumental in the defeat of the Daxamites, empowering the Stargate that teleports them to a red sun system, where they wait powerless to be picked up by the authorities. Joining the team, Jan at first doesn’t choose a code-name: Element Lad, but he still has the same sense of honor and the spiritual bent that we have come to know. When the entire team is lost in the timestream, Jan stands up for himself and his teammates against the rude nature of Brainiac 5.
In Mark Waid and Barry Kitson's reboot of the 31st century, Element Lad was once again a core member of the Legion of Super-Heroes. His power included transmutation of elements through touch, although the transmuted objects would revert back to their original chemical compositions after a minute. Jan's reasons for joining the Legion were that he saw them as a nexus of great change, something all Trommites would have appreciated. Chameleon mentioned that Element Lad was the sole survivor of his planet, Trom, although that was never elaborated on.
Some of the Legionnaires, Element Lad included, aided Brainiac 5 in his resurrection attempt on Dream Girl, although Jan was personally against the idea. The attempt seemed to have failed when Dream Girl's body disappeared, and Element Lad unsuccessfully tried to convince Brainiac to let her go. This version of Jan Arrah has been shown to be greatly fascinated of change, and also displayed a strong dislike for physical violence.
Retroboot: New Earth
The events of Infinite Crisis brought together the Legions of all three continuities. Afterward, the current Legion of Super-Heroes returned to being a close approximation of the original Pre-Crisis team, once again set on New Earth. Element Lad's history was now unaltered from before the Five Years Later. It's revealed that New Earth's Element Lad is undercover as Smallville high's science teacher. The purpose of this is unknown but he teaches Simon Valentine and Connor Kent. He is joined in the 21st century by Tellus.
Major Story Arcs
Original Continuity: New Earth
Five Years Later
Five years after the Magic Wars, Earth had fallen under the covert control of the Dominators, and had withdrawn from the United Planets. It is revealed that Shvaughn had been born as a male named Sean, and had taken a futuristic sex-change drug called ProFem in order to secure Element Lad's love. With ProFem no longer available in the tough economical times, Shvaughn reverts back to Sean; Jan is unfazed, saying "Look, it doesn't matter. Don't you understand ... ? Anything we ever shared physically ... it was in spite of the ProFem, not because of it ... !" Whether Jan is gay or bisexual in the New 52 reality is yet to be revealed.
Jan Transmuted Himself
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. 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." 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.
The Death of Progenitor
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.
Live Wire is Element Lad
Back home, Element Lad was memorialized on Trom with the memory crystals that remained from the Second Galaxy. In time, something miraculous happened—Live Wire emerged from the crystals, his mind imprinted on the former crystalline body of Element Lad! With the help of the Brainiac 5 of Earth-0, Live Wire eventually recovered enough to change his own form back to normal.
The Death of Element Lad
Like every active Legionnaire of his world and Earth-247, Element Lad was transported to the 31st century New Earth, to help the present Legion combat Superboy-Prime, and the Legion of Super-Villains. When Sun Boy was murdered by Superboy-Prime on New Earth, Element Lad decided to put his qualms about violence aside to avenge his friend. He managed, notably enough, to create Kryptonite that Superboy-Prime showed to be vulnerable against (he had earlier been immune to the radioactive substance, due to Kryptonians only being affected by Kryptonite from their respective universes). In his rampage, Prime responded by launching one of the Kryptonite rocks through Element Lad's torso, killing him. A while after Prime was defeated, Brainiac 5 of New Earth explained that the reason Prime was vulnerable to Jan's Kryptonite, was that Element Lad and his Legion were from the reality of Earth-Prime themselves.
During the events of Legion of Three Worlds, the Element Lad native to the New Earth universe (supposedly the same as the original, pre-Crisis version of him) had been reported as missing. The Legion had not heard from him since the start of Earth-Man's xenophobic campaign.
Black Lantern Element Lad
Element Lad was one of many people who Superboy-Prime had killed, he travel from the future to Earth-Prime to kill Prime.
Powers & Abilities
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-Prime's transformations only lasted 60 seconds, and he had to be in contact with the material.
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.
As a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Element Lad possesses a Legion Flight Ring. The ring gives its wearer the ability to fly, the speed and range of which is determined by the wearer's willpower. It also acts as a long-range communicator (enabling constant vocal contact with other Legionnaires, even across vast distances of space), a signal device, and a navigational compass, all powered by a micro-computer built inside the ring.The utility belt houses rations and a transuit that allows Element Lad to travel in space.
Five Years Later: Batch SW6
At the same time, the Dominators' highly classified "Batch SW6" escapes captivity. Originally, Batch SW6 appears to be a group of teenage Legionnaire clones, created from samples apparently taken just prior to Ferro Lad's death at the hands of the Sun-Eater. Later, they are revealed to be time-paradox duplicates. After Earth is destroyed in a disaster reminiscent of the destruction of Krypton over a millennium earlier, a few dozen surviving cities and their inhabitants reconstitute their world as New Earth. The SW6 Legionnaires remain, and their version of Element Lad assumes the code-name Alchemist.
Elseworlds: Superboy's Legion
Element Lad appeared as a member of the Legion in Superboy's Legion, an Elseworlds story.
Superman & The Legion of Super-Heroes Animated Series
Element Lad made cameo appearances in the Legion of Super Heroes animated series.