Matter-Eater Lad was the fifteenth member to join the Legion of Super-Heroes. When his homeworld of planet Bismoll found that microbes had made all their food inedible, the population evolved their ability to eat all matter as a survival mechanism to overcome that problem. Tenzil had such an ability and used it to gain admission to the Legion. Tenzil had a mother named Mitz Kem and brother named Renkil, who tried to take Tenzil's place in the Legion, but was unsuccessful.
Matter-Eater Lad was created by Jerry Siegel and John Forte
Original Continuity: New Earth
A super-ray was once turned on him that left him overweight, but the rays effects were reversed. Tenzil had an unrequited crush on teammate Shrinking Violet, taking her out on a date when Duplicate Boy stood her up. Calorie Queen later attempted to take Tenzil's place in the Legion. Tenzil was then drafted by Bismoll to be in his people's senate and had to leave the Legion after several years of service.
On Earth-247, Tenzil Kem once again hailed from the planet Bismoll, He never became a Legionnaire and instead was an accomplished cook. He had been working as a cook at a space port before the place went under, which left him seeking a job. This job hunt led him to become hired as the in-house chef for the newly formed Legion of Super-Heroes. Tenzil was unveiled alongside the team's headquarters and got along great with the heroes that were his age. He never applied or considered Legion membership, instead serving as support staff alongside Chuck Taine. The two became best friends. When Legion headquarters came under attack though, he would often assist in warding off opponents. When the Legion was disbanded, Tenzil left for parts unknown. He was likely wiped from reality with the destruction of Earth-247 during Infinite Crisis.
Tenzil Kem hailed from Bismoll once again in the Earth-Prime reality. He was now a legal prosecutor that worked for the United Planets. He was in charge of the investigation of Cosmic Boy to determine if he was guilty of war crimes after the Dominator homeworld was lost. He followed the trail to the planet Winath. Tenzil was led astray by citizens of the world, who trapped him in a grain silo and forced him to use his powers to eat his way out. Working with the Legionnaires Star Boy and Sun Boy, Tenzil apprehended Lightning Lord, who was ultimately pinned for Cosmic Boy's war crimes. When Lightning Lord threatened Tenzil, Tenzil bit his finger off. Brainiac 5 later described Tenzil as a prime candidate for Legion membership, though this was never followed up on.
Retroboot: New Earth
Infinite Crisis restored the original Legion to continuity from right after the Magic Wars. Tenzil Kem was once again a former Legionnaire serving as a senator on Bismoll. Following the death of R.J. Brande, he joined several Legionnaires in traveling to the 21st century to fulfill his last will and testament. Tenzil posed as plucky Earthling Mitch, a confidant and friend to Mon-el when he was younger and in the past. Tenzil, alongside other disguised Legionnaires, later revealed themselves and set out to help Mon-el save the bottled cities Brainiac had stolen. Mission complete, they return to the future where Tenzil left the Legion once again to return to his people.
Major Story Arcs
Original Continuity: New Earth
Tenzil was later called to help the Legion deal with the awesome energies of the Miracle Machine by eating the device. Unfortunately, Tenzil was left insane as a side-effect of the machine's energies. He was like this for several months before a cure was found thanks to Brainiac 5. Tenzil returned to the Senate and aided the Legion of Substitute Heroes on one occasion when they visited his home.
Five Years Later
Five years after the Magic Wars, Senator Kem made a mockery of his political career and used it to launch a successive string of reality programming and hosting gigs. Tenzil ultimately arrived on Earth with now-assistant Calorie Queen and used his force of will to free fellow Legion member Polar Boy from prison. The two former Legionnaires venture to Tartaras, where they cross the villain Evillo. Tenzil is banished to limbo where he encounters former villain Sugyn. The two escape and Tenzil ultimately left Polar Boy behind as he journeyed to Winath. Tenzil then rejoined the Legion. His political connections and owed favors became very important to the struggling team. Matter Eater Lad ultimately seduced and married former villain Saturn Queen, leaving the team. He merged with his time displaced counterpart (see, Other Versions) during Zero Hour to cease the collapse of their reality.
Powers and Abilities
Matter-Eater Lad has the ability to bite through and consume all forms of matter; including things that which is supposedly indestructible.
Five Years Later: Batch SW6
A younger version of Matter-Eater Lad was found with several other young Legionnaires, called Batch SW6. Originally believing themselves just to be clones, but they were from a different timeline.
Superman & the Legion of Super-Heroes
Tenzil Kem was a minor character during the two seasons of the Legion's own animated series. He was first named and appeared in the episode "Champions." He later applied for Legion membership and was accepted as Matter-Eater Lad in "The Substitutes." In that episode he spoke his only line in the series, voiced by Alexander Polansky. He aided the Legion in "Sundown" in trying to stop the Sun-Eater. In the second season, Tenzil tried to defeat the Emerald Empress by eating the Emerald Eye in "Man From the Edge of Tomorrow, Part 2." The energies caused Tenzil to go temporarily insane and he was still recovering during "In the Beginning" but back to active duty by the series' finale "Dark Victory."