Colonists on the world of Bismoll discovered that deadly microbes had evolved, which rendered all organic matter on the planet poisonous. In order to survive, the Bismollians used bio-genetic engineering to give themselves the ability to consume all forms of matter. Into this world was born Tenzil Kem.
Hearing of the Legion, Tenzil pushed himself to win a scholarship, which included a stay on Earth, and used that trip to apply for membership. Accepted for active duty as the last member admitted during Cosmic Boy's term as leader, he was immediately a suspect in a case that indicated a traitor within the Legion. Although proved innocent, the comparatively minor nature of his powers and this early taint helped make him one of the most withdrawn Legionnaires. His father last a lifelong factory job on Bismoll and relocated to Earth, complete with family and deep psychological problems. Not long after, Matter-Eater Lad's younger brother , Renkil, jealous of the fame and attention that Tenzil received as a member of the Legion, framed Matter-Eater Lad for treason, so that he could take his place in the group. Nonetheless, Matter-Eater Lad kept his private problems hidden, serving a long and fairly uneventful career.
Tenzil resigned from the Legion when he was drafted into politics on Bismoll. This is the typical method of getting new people involved in the chaotic politcs of the planet.
When Earth was in dire peril from Brainiac 5's monstrous creation, Omega, Matter-Eater Lad was brought back to destroy the Miracle Machine. The device, given to the Legion by the Controllers, had the potential to destroy the universe. Matter-Eater Lad had to eat it because no other Legionnaire could physically affect it. As a result he was driven insane by the massive intake of so much cosmic power. He spent some time in a sanitarium until cured by Brainiac 5.
After he returned to Bismoll he remained in friendly contact with the Legion, and apparently his bout with insanity did nothing to harm his political career.
Powers and abilities
Matter-Eater Lad has the ability to eat and digest anything, as do all natives of Bismoll.
Beyond this, Matter-Eater Lad is a skilled politician.