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.

Labels: ,