Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Legionnaires: Triplicate Girl

Triplicate Girl, aka Luornu Durgo of Cargg (or Carggg), aka Luornu Durgo Taine, Duo Damsel, Triad, Una, Duplicate Damsel. Created by Jerry Siegel and Jim Mooney.

Luornu was one of the first Legionnaires to join the team in each of its incarnations. She's appeared in every version of the Legion. In original-Legion continuity she had one of her three selves killed by Computo and remained a Legionnaire, as Duo Damsel, for quite a while before retiring to run the Legion Academy.

What sometimes happens with the Legion is that a writer decides that a particular character is silly or underpowered, and kinda shuffles that character offscreen. It doesn't usually last; these kinds of characters tend to work their way back from limbo. Happened with Bouncing Boy, more than once; happened with Matter-Eater Lad, more than once; happened with Tyroc; and it happened with Triplicate Girl. Paul Levitz found a balance for her and Bouncing Boy that he seems to like; he made them instructors at the Legion Academy. This keeps them as part of the Legion's supporting cast but relieves Levitz of the responsibility of finding ways that they can be useful in a fight.

And Triplicate Girl isn't all that powerful, it's true. Her power is, simply, to become three people instead of just one. Useful on a day-to-day level, sure, but does it really help you fight Mordru? Still, Luornu's power sets her apart from almost all the other Legionnaires in this way: she's the most alien character on the team. (This idea isn't original to me, but I can't for the life of me remember where I first read it.) We can, if we stretch our imaginations far enough, fool ourselves into thinking that we know what it's like to be Karate Kid or Lightning Lad or even Dream Girl or even Chameleon Boy or Tellus or Quislet. We might get it wrong, but we can put our minds to work on it.

But we'll never have any idea what it's like to be Triplicate Girl. She's three people and one person, all at the same time. We don't have a mental model for that, and we don't have one that can be customized to fit.

Now, various Legion stories over the years have explored just what Luornu's nature is. In the original Legion, the writers eventually started speculating that her separate bodies had separate personalities. The reboot Legion writers used that and ran with it, giving us an interesting look at Carggite society while they were at it. The threeboot Triplicate Girl was a whole other deal entirely: Cargg was full of Luornus, merging and separating all over the place and sharing information and experiences that way. Triplicate Girl was what the three of them who had left Cargg to join the Legion called themselves. But then it turned out that their horizons had been broadened enough that they were too different to remerge with the other Carggites when they went home for a visit. In the threeboot, there was originally just one Luornu personality, but a second one developed by being separate from the rest of the population for too long. Presumably, Triplicate Girl's three individual selves could also become distinct from each other if they stayed apart too long and had different experiences.

Then in Legion of 3 Worlds, Geoff Johns introduced retroboot Luornu as "Duplicate Damsel", with the power to create as many duplicates of herself as she wanted. It's not my intention to keep whizzing on Johns's shoes, but I wonder if he thought this one out carefully enough. Maybe he did!

On the one hand it's a significant power upgrade for Luornu, one that makes her a lot more useful than just being able to separate into two or three bodies. And it's certainly nice to see a superheroine get powered up for a change.

But it's pretty well established that Luornu has three separate personalities for her three separate bodies. So if she can now separate into an unlimited number of bodies, is that still true?

If it is true, then does each different body have its own personality? Where did these personalities come from? If they just sort of automatically show up, that's fine, I guess, but how does she decide whose turn it is to separate out from the rest? Are there infinite Luornus in there clamoring for freedom that, for some of them, can mathematically never happen, in much the same way that hockey parents compete for ice time?

If it's not true, then does that contradict all the stories that showed her with distinct personalities for her separate selves?

Of course, there's no reason why she couldn't have had separate personalities up until the point that she only had one body left (after Una was killed in Countdown), but now that she's down to one, all the bodies that she can split herself into are carriers for her one remaining personality. That actually does work. But is it what Johns had in mind?

(Luornu will be a test case for how Paul Levitz wants to handle the difference between retroboot and post-Crisis continuity. Johns has implied that retroboot continuity tracks original-Legion continuity closely until Crisis on Infinite Earths, and then diverges. Levitz has suggested that retroboot continuity tracks original-Legion continuity right up until the end of the Baxter series. There are several problems with Levitz's approach, though, and one of them is that Luornu lost a second body in LSHv3 #50. If that was still true, then there should have been nothing left of her when Una was killed in Countdown. (Of course, I also had the idea that Una was temporally recruited from moments before her death at the hands of Computo, way back in Adventure #340, in much the same way that Karate Kid was rescued from death above Orando by Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, and Cosmic Boy in preparation for his appearances in "The Lightning Saga" and Countdown. This isn't supported in any way; it's just an idea.))

One thing I'd like to point out is that Triplicate Girl was one of the best things about the animated series. It turns out that her superpower lends itself particularly well to animation, which I did not see coming at all. I knew Bouncing Boy would animate well; that's obvious. But the animators figured out a lot of really nifty and fluid combat moves, based on flashing back and forth between one Luornu and three of them, all at high speed, that looked spectacular. Go watch the first episode again; it's really quite impressive.

There have been a surprising number of good Triplicate Girl moments over the years: LSHv5 #3 and Legionnaires #24, to name two. But this is one that a lot of fans remember, from Adventure #369, in which Luornu grows up.



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29 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This moment is one of the great Legion moments,period.It was pleasing to have Luornu-in-the-tunnel among the iconic scenes shown at the End of an Era finale right before the big whiteout.
The Threeboot Trip's power of infinite triplicating bothered me. I can't imagine the metaphysics of splitting one soul into three bodies,but doing so in a limitless horde is really pushing it.You would think the physical and mental strain would take its toll-the newer bodies would be much more frail,even braindead:Like making copies of copies.
It would be smart to give Luornu her other 2 bodies back and leave it at that. Otherwise,some reason would need to be contrived to explain why she isn't a one-woman Legion already,the same way that xenophobia is used to explain why the Legion isn't staffed entirely by Daxamites.

2:05 AM  
Anonymous Darrell Lawrence said...

I have been tempted to say Luornu got the Duplicate Damsel power by having merged with the Threeboot version of her momentarily (Threeboot version the one having the unlimited number of duplicated), but then I keep recalling she showed up in Lo3W having already mysteriously gotten that power.

It'd be interesting to see what'd happen if one body from Earth-0, Earth-247 and Earth-Prime merged with each other.

3:22 AM  
Blogger snell said...

Having her able to split into unlimited duplicates removes some of her uniqueness, as we already had characters who could do that (Multiplex, Jamie Madrox, etc).

Furthermore, with the unlimited duplicates, where's the tragedy if one dies? You care when a character you know dies...but now a Luornu body is just one of an army, a drone to be sacrificed as opposed to a friend who can be lost...

7:23 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Now that you all mention it, there are a couple of things about Luornu that have never been explained at all, aren't there?

But I guess I'm okay with that.

8:41 AM  
Blogger Ken said...

I'm curious, which issue are those panels from? I never read the story, and it was cool to see Luornu explain Tasmia's affection-shift from Braniac 5 to Mon-El. Great character insights.

8:54 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Adventure Comics #369, as noted.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Keith said...

I also liked the animated Triplicate Girl a lot. She (they?) had a lot of fun moments but also a lot of emotional range in the second season. It helped greatly that she was voiced by Kari Wahlgren, young female voice extraordinaire.

@snell: ...and Dupli-Kate from Invincible. Also, Kirkman already did the obvious twist with a character with unlimited duplication powers in that comic so it'll be an extra stretch to make Duplicate Damsel unique.

2:29 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

...it'll be an extra stretch to make Duplicate Damsel unique.

Two things about that, though. First, she's a Legion character, which means that the writer doesn't necessarily have to dig that deeply, as there are so many other characters clamoring for panel time. Second, she's going to be just a supporting character for the foreseeable future, as an Academy instructor.

2:33 PM  
Anonymous Dmwc said...

I've been a huge fan of Luornu since I first started reading the Legion during the reboot era. When I started collecting back issues from the earlier series, I got every issue I could find that featured Luornu before I bought any of the others, and I was slightly disappointed to find that there weren't that many that gave her much panel time. The Adventure and early reboot eras were really the only times she got much exposure. Heck, even when her 2nd body died, it was practically forgotten about two issues later, and wasn't dealt with again until years down the road. She's a really fascinating and mysterious character to me, and there are lots of things I wished they would do with her that they never did.

I really would have liked to see the Luornus of the three earths interact with each other more in Legion of 3 Worlds. I would expect the reboot and threeboot Luornus to be shocked and horrified to learn that their Earth-0 counterpart lost two of her selves and survived. And yes, it would have been interesting to see them try to merge with each other. Could they do it, and if so what would be the result? It made me slightly mad to read Legion of 3 Worlds and see that Luornu barely appeared at all. I mean, I like the other Legionnaires, but it irks me that Brainiac 5, Dawnstar, Wildfire, Mon-El, and others are used so much while some potentially great characters are pushed aside to appear in two panels, if that.

I hope Levitz uses Luornu a little but more in this current series. I don't mind her being an Academy instructor, but I hope she's able to get in on the action every once in a while.

4:57 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

This is the Legion for you; someone's always going to get short shrift.

8:54 PM  
Blogger Prof. Lemaris Lang said...

There were always two points about Triplicate Girl that I found fascinating.

Point 1 - When she was introduced, she had to ability to split into three persons -- not two! Bilocation is the norm. The phrase is "Being in two places at once". There was always that idea of playing baseball outside while completing your homework inside.

But three selves seemed very strange. It was one more than having a decoy and a operative. But, except for the time when she dated three boys to doom each one, the ability was vnever raally used to that extent. At most, whe was used as a small mob.

Point 2 - When romance was inroduced in the Legion tales, the girls paired up with boys, except for Luornu, who suffered from an unrequited crush on Superboy. This is probably why she was written to be so upset about Shady switching from Brainy to Mon. Even after marrying Chuck, she still held such strong feelings that whe become one of the conspirators against the Time Trapper.

My problem with her was all of the costumes that took away her identicleness. It takes away your ability to spy if you can be identified by your costume color.

8:32 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

My problem with her was all of the costumes that took away her identicleness. It takes away your ability to spy if you can be identified by your costume color.

I totally agree. That was one thing Waid got right in the threeboot.

11:34 AM  
Blogger Jim Drew said...

The multiple personality thing was really played up only in the reboot continuity to any significant degree. It showed a little at times in the preboot, but only barely. So I wouldn't worry about a myriad of personalities in the current Luornu. (And if Peter David can handle them brilliantly in Madrox, Paul can surely do something clever there if he wants to.)

11:07 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Well, there was something about it in 5YL. Maybe it was mostly in the Sourcebook...

11:28 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

I am a big DD fan and I was thrilled to see her appear at the end of Lo3W. She epitomizes the Legion because while her superpower is not obviously showy, she has grit, character and something extra that allowed her to be chosen as a member. I would love to see her in action along side the other members and not only as a teacher at the Academy or attached to her husband.

6:14 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Well, she did get a lot of play in the reboot, threeboot, and animated continuities, so it's not like nobody's done anything with the character since Levitz first made her an instructor.

(You did read all that stuff, right?)

6:20 PM  
Blogger Murray said...

Well, there was something about it in 5YL. Maybe it was mostly in the Sourcebook...
It was definitely in the Sourcebook, but I think it was just as much in evidence in the stories. There was a scene in one of the Annuals where Gim and Lu were implied to be goofing around. I think there were comments about Lu's behaviour being out of character. Then, eventually when McCraw began writing the book, he had an issue devoted to explaining how Lu's second body hadn't really been killed and I think the multiple personalities was explored in there as well. Granted, it's not a huge number of stories, but given the number of characters being juggled, it's certainly enough there to hang a story on.

6:37 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

There you go; thanks. But in my mind that was Yera, not Luornu, with Gim. I grant you that this is something that reasonable people may disagree about.

7:37 PM  
Anonymous Ken Arromdeejovel said...

The idea that Luornu had a multiple personality is just fanwank. It didn't become official (or indeed, appear at all) until V4, which isn't in continuity.

Luornu lost her second body as a result of Conspiracy, which doesn't count either. It's well known that everything up to the end of V3 counts *except* for the death of Superboy and anything that followed up such as the Conspiracy. That's why Shadow Lass still has all her fingers.

The first precedent for Luornu splitting into multiple bodies is Adventure 368 where her power was temporarily enhanced to do that.

8:03 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

The idea that Luornu had a multiple personality is just fanwank.

Not now it's not. Now, it's well-established.

It didn't become official (or indeed, appear at all) until V4, which isn't in continuity.

It is and it isn't. But, you know, I have the comic books in question right upstairs; that's as in-continuity as I really need something to be.

Luornu lost her second body as a result of Conspiracy, which doesn't count either. It's well known that everything up to the end of V3 counts *except* for the death of Superboy and anything that followed up such as the Conspiracy. That's why Shadow Lass still has all her fingers.

I don't think it's that simple. Levitz has said that everything from his earlier run happened... but there are some discrepancies in the historical record that are unavoidable when you're dealing with events from a thousand years away. That was in LSHv6 #1, right? So I'm not going to say that such-and-such did or didn't happen until Levitz does.

8:24 PM  
Blogger Murray said...

There you go; thanks. But in my mind that was Yera, not Luornu, with Gim. I grant you that this is something that reasonable people may disagree about.

It's been a long time since I've read the issue. Are you remembering the situation as Yera impersonating Lu while goofing around with Gim, or as Yera instead of Lu goofing around with Gim (which isn't nearly as salacious)? Or that everyone believes it to be Lu but there's a possibility that maybe it's really only Yera?

5:38 PM  
Anonymous Darrell Lawrence said...

"Luornu lost her second body as a result of Conspiracy, which doesn't count either. It's well known that everything up to the end of V3 counts *except* for the death of Superboy and anything that followed up such as the Conspiracy. That's why Shadow Lass still has all her fingers."

...ummm Paul has said everything through #63 is a part of their history.

Plus, in the Action Comics "Superman and the Legion" epilogue issue, with Lightning Lad and Batman, the Trapper mentions having created the Pocket Universe to confuse the Legion, AND he alluded to it in Lo3W.

As for Shady getting her finger back, well... she's Talokian. it may have grown back on its own.

6:10 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Murray: Yera taking Luornu's appearance. I think other Legionnaires were split on the question.

Darrell: Although, let's face it, Levitz is going to do whatever he's going to do and we'll just have to chew it up and swallow it.

9:16 PM  
OpenID postlo3w said...

I liked the different personality for her three bodies which has been used on occasion. I am not a huge fan of this sudden inexplicable Madrox power unless it's explained, but now that we know the Academy is getting its own series, I suspect that's exactly what is gonna happen..

I think her current multiplication ability is a completely different kettle of fish from her original triplication ability though. While the first is a racial norm, the second is a power which only resembles it IMO.

To me it's the equivalent of Dawnstar losing her wings and gaining anti-gravity powers. Both would give her flight, but the mechanic would be completely different.

So I don't think we will necessarily see Lu developing a different personality for every body anymore, because I don't think it's the same power that she had...

5:10 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

You're probably right. There's no other way to do it, really; a writer can juggle three distinct personalities in one character, but can't possibly handle an infinite number of personalities in the same character.

8:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, one thing I don't quite get.

"Johns has implied that retroboot continuity tracks original-Legion continuity closely until Crisis on Infinite Earths, and diverges."

Where in the Crisis does it diverge? Pre, post, or sometime during? If during, where? I'm trying to figure out which events are in the current Legion's continuity and which aren't.

10:18 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Well, there's really no way of knowing, because one of the things that CoIE erased was itself. We've only had vague descriptions of the post-Crisis version of what happened in CoIE. Neither Johns nor Levitz has come forward with concrete details of just how their stuff fits into continuity, and what they're including and what they're leaving out, nor should they, so we're going to have to go with our best guesses and wait and see.

10:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember her getting quite a bit of panel time in the reboot (Post-ZH) series. Also her selves being quite unique.

~DaVeO

12:52 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I remember her getting quite a bit of panel time in the reboot (Post-ZH) series.

Which, when I started reading those comics, surprised me a bit, because my only experience of Luornu had been as a supporting character and not a full Legionnaire. I kept wondering why they were using her so much.

She got a lot of screen time in the threeboot and animated Legions too, and is probably going to be prominent in the upcoming Legion Academy stories in Adventure.

1:02 PM  

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