The original Emerald Empress was a woman named Sarya, a 30th-century native of the planet Venegar. Venegar (sometimes spelled 'Vengar') was once the site of the highly advanced but long-dead Ekron civilization, whose great scientific secrets were presumed lost. But Sarya came across an ancient map that led her to the hidden Crypt of the Eye. There she discovered the Emerald Eye of Ekron, resting on a green pedestal. Sarya and the Eye quickly formed a symbiotic relationship, and she realized that she could use its almost limitless power to fulfill her wildest ambitions. Within a matter of hours, she conquered her home world and became known as the Emerald Empress. But she proved to be a despotic ruler and the citizens of Venegar soon rose against her in open rebellion.
The planet's military forces were strong enough that even the Eye was unable to deal with a worldwide revolt, so the Empress took the Eye and fled into space. Using the Eye's power she terrorized the wealthy merchants of the space lanes, looting their riches with the goal of bankrolling an army to invade and re-conquer Venegar. For these reasons the Empress become the most wanted female criminal in the history of the galaxy.
The Emerald Empress created by writer Jim Shooter and artist Curt Swan in 1967, as the only female member of the Fatal Five: A powerful group of supervillains designed to be a formidable enemy of the Legion of Super-Heroes. She has proven to be one of the most enduring members of the Five as well as one of the Legion's most popular villains.
Original Continuity: New Earth
Sarya of Venegar
After Sarya became the Emerald Empress, the Legion of Super-Heroes was forced to confront the even greater menace of the Sun-Eater, which threatened the very existence of the galaxy. The Legion decided they had no choice but to recruit the galaxy's worst super-villains to help them in a common cause. The Emerald Empress was among the villains who briefly joined with the Legion to destroy the Sun-Eater. Afterwards, they decided to form their own team in direct opposition to the Legion, and so the Empress became a founding member of the infamous Fatal Five, along with Tharok, Persuader, Mano, and Validus. The Empress worked with the Five on many occasions, including several epic clashes with the Legion, but also continued her solo career in further attempts to dominate her home planet or any other she took a shine to.
Reboot: Valor Reboot (aka "Five Years Later")
Following Sarya's death, the Emerald Empress reappeared as Cera Kesh, a homely and overweight teen-aged girl who possessed a modest telekinetic ability to levitate objects with her mind. She tried out for the Legion of Super-Heroes but her application was rejected. To add insult to injury, the Legionnaire Inferno (aka Sun Boy), whom she harbored a crush on, poked fun at her weight. Nursing a growing hatred for the Legion as a result, Cera stumbled across the Emerald Eye of Ekron through a twist of fate and bonded with it. Deciding to call herself the Emerald Empress, she turned to a life of crime and joined the Fatal Five of this continuity, leading to clashes with the Legion. She also used the Eye's power to transform herself from a dumpy teenager into a tall, statuesque, green-haired beauty very much like the original incarnation of the Empress.
Meanwhile a longtime Legion foe, Leland McCauley, had discovered a duplicate Emerald Eye of Ekron. He presented it to his girlfriend, a young woman named Ingria Olav, with the idea that she would become the Emerald Empress. Ingria turned out to be a weak and unskilled wielder of her Eye, and when she was confronted by the Cera Kesh Empress, she lost her nerve and was killed by Cera's Eye. The Cera Kesh Empress, now the only Emerald Empress, then took possession of both Eyes. But whatever villainy she would accomplish with the power of two Emerald Eyes of Ekron was never revealed, since Legion continuity was eventually rebooted yet again. The existence of two Emerald Eyes would later be hinted again in the 52 miniseries.
Reboot: Earth 247 (aka "Post-Zero Hour")
On a mission to the Scavenger's depot, the Legionnaire Shrinking Violet (Salu Digby) came upon the Emerald Eye of Ekron. The powerful artifact followed her to Earth and coaxed Violet into using its power, causing her to become more assertive and daring. When Kinetix resurfaced, she was on a hunt for the Emerald Eye, so Violet kept the Eye secret for fear of losing her greatest comfort. She began to use the Eye to give her teammates' their heart's desires as well as boost her own esteem, even getting herself elected Legion leader. Shortly into her term, the Emerald Eye gave Leviathan his heart's desire: to die in battle. Distraught by Gim's death, Violet embraced the Emerald Eye fully and became "Emerald Violet." She took possession of her teammates, but was defeated. She wished for time to be turned back but all this did was strand half the Legion in the 20th century. Vi and the Eye fled to space, where they were found by Mordru. He seduced Emerald Violet into becoming his bride to get control of the Emerald Eye. The Eye spurned the sorcerer, freeing Violet and attacking him alongside the Legionnaires. Violet ordered the Eye to flee and it did, leaving her free at last.
Threeboot: Earth Prime
After the next Legion reboot (a reality that was later designated as Earth Prime) another Fatal Five appeared to plague the Legion of Super-Heroes, including a female member simply known as the 'Empress.' This Empress was initially unconnected to the Emerald Eye of Ekron and had no superhuman powers. She was still as dangerous as the other members of the Five, being a sadistic murderess trained with the knowledge and ability to kill any known life form. She eventually encountered the Eye and became its wielder. Unlike in previous continuities, where who-was-controlling-who was open to question, this Empress appeared to break the Eye's will and take undisputed control. This Empress later appeared in The Brave and the Bold, battling Batman and the Jaime Reyes version of the Blue Beetle.
Retroboot: New Earth
Emerald Empress II
In the Legion of Three Worlds story arc, the Emerald Empress and the rest of the Fatal Five joined forces with Superboy-Prime's Legion of Super-Villains in an attempt to destroy all three versions of the Legion. But they were defeated. Afterward, the Legion of Super-Heroes returned to being a close approximation of the original pre-Crisis team, once again set on New Earth. The existing (and still deceased) Emerald Empress was Sarya of Venegar, and the whereabouts of the Emerald Eye of Ekron was unknown.
Falyce of Orando
The Eye eventually resurfaced and chose a new Emerald Empress. On Projectra's homeworld of Orando, a young woman named Falyce was fleeing for her life from a sadistic Duke, who apparently enjoyed torturing and murdering his mistresses. Injured and blinded in one eye, Falyce stumbled into the ruins of a cursed temple and wished that she had the power to stop her tormentor. This awakened the Emerald Eye of Ekron, which had been lying dormant underneath the temple, and Falyce instantly bonded with it. When the Duke arrived to kill Falyce, she blasted him dead with the Eye. Calling herself the Emerald Empress, she took over Orando and rebuilt it in her image. The Eye's power masked this remaking even from Projectra, the absent queen of Orando, who was once again serving with the Legion as Sensor Girl.
Major Story Arcs
Original Continuity: New Earth
Leader of the Fatal Five
The Emerald Empress eventually grew dissatisfied with merely being a member of the Fatal Five. During a period when Tharok (with whom she had previously clashed for leadership) and Validus were unavailable, she decided to remake the team with herself as its leader. Of the remaining founding members, she only retained Persuader. The other original member, Mano, had fallen out of her favor and was informed he must prove himself by killing a Legionnaire in order to be readmitted. Mano attempted to kill Brainiac 5, but was thwarted and captured by Ultra Boy and Timber Wolf. Disgusted with Mano's performance, the Empress decided to take a different route and recruited three female super-villains to round out her Fatal Five: Flare, Caress, and Mentalla. The latter was a telepathic who wanted revenge on the Legion after they rejected her application for membership. The new Fatal Five had another epic confrontation with the Legion and was successful in winning the initial clashes. However, the Empress misjudged the loyalty of Mentalla, who still secretly aspired to prove her worth to the Legion. At a critical point in the conflict, Mentalla turned against the Fatal Five and helped the Legion just when they were facing certain defeat. Enraged at the betrayal, the Empress killed Mentalla with a lethal blast from the Eye. Horrified by Mentalla's murder, the Legion rallied and routed the Five. Mentalla was considered to have died a hero and was posthumously made a Legionnaire.
The Death of Sarya
The Emerald Empress had a final confrontation with the Legion, during which it was revealed that the Eye was the one who controlled the Empress and not the other way around. As the conflict escalated, the Eye made the Empress a host for its energies until she was physically dying from the excessive absorbed power, but the Eye would not allow her to actually die. Craving death, the Empress approached one of her most hated adversaries, Sensor Girl (aka Projectra), and explained her plight to the Legionnaire. Sensor Girl took pity on the Empress and granted her wish, using her illusory powers to completely mask the Empress's presence from the Eye. The Eye, unable to possess what it could not see, shut down. The Empress reverted to the woman once known as Sarya, and quickly withered into an old crone and crumbled into dust. Just before she died, Sarya expressed relief to finally be free of the Eye's influence, suggesting that she had actually been far older than her youthful appearance as the Empress had indicated.
Retroboot: New Earth
The Empress of Orando
A year later, the vacationing Legionnaires Lightning Lass and Shrinking Violet passed near Orando in a private starship. Sensing their presence and realizing that they were old enemies, the new Emerald Empress (Falyce) blasted down their ship with the Eye and took the two women captive. Lightning Lass and Violet were able to escape and call for backup, prompting several more Legionnaires, including Sensor Girl, to arrive and battle the Empress. The Eye's power seemed too great and the Legion was on the verge of defeat, when Shrinking Violet shrank down to sub-atomic size and was able to enter the Eye unnoticed. By suddenly growing back to full size from inside the Eye, she was able to shatter it, breaking its hold over Falyce, who returned to normal. The Eye quickly reformed and fled into space, and Sensor Girl set about the task of rebuilding Orando.
Powers and Abilities
The Emerald Empress has no innate super-powers of her own. But as the wielder of the Emerald Eye of Ekron, she has direct access to its immense power, which she employs in a variety of ways. With it, she can fly and survive unharmed in the cold vacuum of space. At her command, it can attack her enemies with energy blasts powerful enough to take down even the likes of Superboy. It also protects her from attack by generating a nearly impenetrable force field around her. The Empress can also wield the Eye's power to suit more specific needs depending on her situation: it has given her superhuman strength on more than one occasion, and in another instance she was able to use its power to grow to gigantic size. In a recent appearance, the Eye gave the Empress the power to cast illusions and alter reality, rebuilding the planet of Orando into a medieval-like society as she envisioned it.
The Eye itself has few weaknesses and is virtually indestructible. It can be temporarily stunned or disoriented if struck by a powerful enough attack, but the effect is momentary. A truly devastating blow can possibly shatter the Eye, but it will quickly re-form itself with no hint of any damage. It can sometimes be tricked into shutting down if its ability to 'see' is blocked (such as when Sensor Girl masked the presence of the Empress from the Eye), though this is difficult to accomplish since the Eye can see through nearly every spectrum and wavelength. For some reason it has an adverse reaction to green Kryptonite ; when exposed to the material it can become dazed or immobilized. If the Eye is successfully attacked, the Empress will often 'feel' the effects of the attack as well, due to their symbiotic relationship.
A version of Sarya appeared in 20th century with the Fatal Five fighting against Superman on WarWorld; she was working for Brainiac 13.
The Emerald Empress appeared as a member of the Fatal Five in the Superboy's Legion, an Elseworlds story. She closely resembled the original Sarya version of the character.
Legion/Teen Titans Special
In the 2004 Legion/Teen Titans Special, Tharok discovered that the Persuader's atomic axe could be used to carve into other realities and timelines. They recruited over a hundred other Fatal Fives from alternate realities, each with a different Emerald Empress, to go after the Legion (Earth-247) and Teen Titans (New Earth).
Justice League Unlimited
The Emerald Empress appeared as the leader of the Fatal Five in the episode Far From Home, once again battling the Legion of Super-Heroes. In this episode, the Eye was shown to be more powerful than a Green Lantern Power Ring. Though her costume and appearance most closely resembled the original Sarya version of the Empress, her name was Cera Kesh from reboot continuity. She was voiced by actress Joanne Whalley, who also played Princess Sorsha in the 1988 fantasy film Willow.
Justice League: The New Frontier
The Emerald Empress and the rest of the Fatal Five made a cameo appearance in this direct-to-video animated feature film.
Superboy & the Legion of Super-Heroes
The Emerald Empress returned as the leader of the Fatal Five in the Legion of Super-Heroes animated series. Her look and costume was redesigned to match the show's angular style, giving her a thinner and more alien appearance. In this series the Empress was shown to have an almost affectionate relationship with the Eye. After a period when she was separated from the Eye due to imprisonment, she hugged it when it was returned to her. Unlike in other continuities, she was not shown to suffer any negative physical effects whenever the Eye was disabled or damaged. In Season 1 the Emerald Empress was voiced by Jennifer Hale, but Tara Strong took over in Season 2.
The Emerald Empress was ranked #38 in Comic Buyer's Guide's 100 Sexiest Women in Comics list. In addition to being the only Legion villain on the list, she was ranked higher than all but two Legion heroines (Shadow Lass and Duplicate Girl).