Matter-Eater Lad is the fifteenth member inducted into the Legion of Super-Heroes, joining soon after Bouncing Boy. He is a native of the planet Bismoll, where they found that microbes had made all their food inedible, and that the populace evolved their ability to eat all matter as a survival mechanism.
He was constantly being drafted into his planet's political system due to his fame as a Legion member. He did have one major moment of heroism as a Legionnaire, when he saved the universe by eating the "indestructible" Miracle Machine, though the energies of the device left him insane for several years.
Later, his insanity would be cured, and he would become a free spirit who reveled against his planet's virtual enslavement of him as a senator by becoming a multi-media celebrity. He used his planet's tax money to finance multiple television shows that allowed him to leave his planet for multiple trips to Earth and other planets for adventure and fun. Ironically, while his exploits made him persona non-grata with his world's rulers, they also made him even more popular with the masses of his homeworld, allowing him to be kept on as senator. He eventually came into conflict with former Legion villain Prince Evillo, founder of The Devil's Dozen, and was sent to a Hades-like dimension. Having been technically "dead," Kem was voted out of office by the opposition party.
He would ultimately arrive back on Earth and use his force of will and his absurd sense of humor to free Polar Boy from a Dominator-controlled prison. He then rejoined the Legion, and since the team is now operating without the assistance of the United Planets, his political connections and owed favors have become very important to the now-adult Legion. Matter-Eater Lad ultimately seduced and married former Legion villain Saturn Queen.
- Bismollian Physiology: Matter-Eater Lad can eat any substance in any amount at super-speed. He can consume an unlimited amount of matter in any form - solid, liquid or gas. He once hollowed out a large meteor in a matter of minutes.
- Content Analysis: Bismollian super-taste buds can instantly analyze the compositions of various foodstuffs and even detect substances which are poisonous to non-Bismollians. As well he can determine the nature of various chemicals in substances.
- Digestive Enzymes: Their power to eat hard objects, like steel, without having super-strength or invulnerability, stems from the Bismollian ability to produce a variety of digestive enzyme that act on specific substances, making them easier to chew and digest. Once, when Computo had robbed him of his matter-eating ability, he could still produce enzymes, but biting into a piece of steel hurt his teeth.
- Metabolism Induced Super-Speed: Bismollians can metabolize food almost instantaneously, and if needed, they can consume tons of food in minutes. Bismollians don't normally possess super-speed but as soon as the digestion process begins, the matter consumed is immediately transformed into food energy by the Bismollian "stomach". That energy fuels the person to move at a faster and faster rate of speed, as long as the energy supply keeps coming. When the person stops eating, the excess energy is collected and stored, in concentrated form, in cells very similar to human fat cells. Over the course of a couple of days, this stored energy is micro-diffused out of the body through pores in the skin. 
- Legion Flight Ring: All Legionnaires were presented with a flight ring that enabled them to defy gravity and sustain movement through the air by aerodynamically generating force.
- In "The Fairly Oddparents", Chester's superhero alter ego is "Matter Muncher Lad."
- Indie rock band "Guided by Voices" wrote a song called "Matter Eater Lad."
- In an unauthorized comic written and drawn by fan artist Fred Hembeck, Matter-Eater Lad is awarded a trophy for the all-time most ludicrous super-power. He responds by eating the trophy.
- In an episode of the Legion of Super Heroes animated series, Matter-Eater Lad appears (in his civilian identity as Tenzil Kem) as a participant in the Intergalactic Games, an Olympics-like event in which Lightning Lad also competes. When the Fatal Five attack the Games, Kem, along with Jo Nah of Rimbor, helps the Legion defeat them, at one point eating through the handle of the Persuader's Atomic Axe. He does not have a speaking part in the episode.
- He reappears in the episode The Substitutes, where he tries out for the Legion as Matter-Eater Lad and gains membership. He distinguishes himself by calmly eating an ionosphere-eating monster without a worry - and notes it tasted like chicken.
- To his Bismollian appetite ray-guns taste "good", iron chains are "like chocolate cake", prison-robot fingers are "just as tasty" as ladyfingers and polymeric fibers "taste like taffy". Certain space-jewels, however, while edible are not as favorable to the Bismollian palate and are an "acquired" delicacy.
- 122 Appearances of Tenzil Kem (Pre-Zero Hour)
- 9 Images featuring Tenzil Kem (Pre-Zero Hour)
- 5 Quotations by or about Tenzil Kem (Pre-Zero Hour)
- Character Gallery: Tenzil Kem (Pre-Zero Hour)
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Legion of Super-Heroes member