Hero History: Dream Girl

by

Or – “More Than Just Another Pretty Face…”

As I continue with these Hero Histories, I find two things to be true… First, the dang things seem to get longer every time, no matter how much I try to limit myself or edit (and trust me, each one feels like I’ve slashed it to the bone! Lord help me when I get to Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl, who’ve appeared in 85% of the Legion stories to date.) Second, I’m always amazed at how consistent the characters have stayed, even after decades of stories. Today’s subject has always had a bit of an image problem. She’s known primarily for her looks, and has been often underestimated in terms of wits, guts, and superpowers. Her greatest strengths lie in her will and intelligence, as well as her keen sense of tactics, and she served as Legion leader during arguably the most tumultuous period of their history, steering the team during both the Great Darkness Saga and the war with the Legion of Super-Villains. She has been called both coquette and martinette, bimbo and exemplar, but like all her fellows, she’s more than the sum of her parts (but man, the parts ain’t bad.) This is your Major Spoilers Hero History of Nura Nal of Naltor… Dream Girl!

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Nura, Nura, Nura… A mystery, wrapped in an enigma, encased in skin-tight future spandex and polished to a high sheen. Yowza. The Legionnaires came in all shapes and personality type, but our Dream Girl is the quintessential high-maintenance glamour girl, and her first appearance plays on that overwhelming beauty. Sashaying into Legion tryouts in heels and a bathing suit, (which was probably pretty racy circa 1964) Nura makes a first impression that can only be described as “mixed.” Legion leader Saturn Girl immediately takes a dislike to her, and points out, rightfully, that her powers of prophetic dreaming aren’t exactly Legion material, but the male members beg to differ…

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Are Mon-El and Star Boy not the creepiest things you’ve ever seen, there? Reminds me of Kramer and George when they found out it was Elaine whispering filthy entendres into the tape recorder… After being voted into the Legion in the most polarized tally since Florida in 2000, (all the male heroes voted yay, the females voted nay) Dream Girl proceeds to wrap the boys around her finger, manipulating the entire team, and cold-heartedly getting seven different Legionnaires drummed out of the ranks on various trumped-up charges. Triplicate Girl is ejected for making a false accusation against her, Matter-Eater Lad for calling her a fake, and she manages to turn several other Legionnaires into children (who are ejected from the team for not meeting the minimum age requirements.) Only a smitten Star Boy believes in her innocence, and discovers the truth…

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As seen last week, the vision was of one of the Legion’s “brilliant” security plans: a set of decoy mannequins designed to fool villains, apparently in the same manner as parking an empty police car in a speed zone. When the Legionnaires are NOT killed, Nura quits the team (as she joined under false pretenses) but not before helpfully changing Lightning Lass’ powers and capturing Star Boy’s heart. Months later, when an old flame comes calling, Dream Girl finds that Star Boy is far more than smitten. She is forced to watch helplessly as Kenz Nuhor nearly kills Star Boy, only to have the Legionnaire kill him instead. The couple is thrilled to be reunited until it is discovered that Star Boy’s actions were in violation of the Legion constitution. With his career on trial, S.B. entreats her to see the future on his behalf…

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It’s never quite clear to me if she saw the future or not, but she is prepared for the verdict anyway, arranging to have the Substitute Heroes on hand when Thom was inevitably fired from the team. Dream Girl and Star Boy eventually came back to the Legion proper in the guise of “Sir Prize” and “Miss Terious,” helping the team with a difficult case and saving Nura’s baby sister Mysa (later the Legionnaire known as the White Witch) to overcome the influence of Prince Evillo. Being surrounded by four Kryptonian-level @$$kickers, the greatest martial artist alive, an electrical powerhouse, and the most powerful of Titan’s mind-muckers makes her a bit insecure, though, and Dream Girl succumbs to worry about her status on the team. When Karate Kid has to step in and save her butt from a group of criminals, her fears get the better of her…

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It’s actually a pretty understandable complex, since Dream Girl makes even Triplicate Girl’s powers look fairly titanicby comparison.Nura’s visionsaregenerally used as a catalyst to start a story, foreseeing a tragedy that the more action-oriented Legionnaires have to step in and prevent. When she foresees Karate Kid collapsing, presumably dead, she races tosave him as he saved her, only to find him in a heap, nearlybledout from a minorwound that his disciplined body didn’t really even notice. She rushes him to Brainiac 5, whoquickly nurses him back to health, and the Kid reminds her of the Legion’s credo.

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Though her powers aren’t the most impressive or intimidating, Dream Girl quickly took over a niche within the group, as the one most familiar with the by-laws and the Constitution under which the team operates. When Sup– Excuse me, TOM WELLINGand Wildfire comes to blows over leadership, (it is later revealed that both men believe that the other will be killed if he takes the helm) it’s Dreamy who takes command and explains exactly why they’re both idiots.

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It’s an early sign of her later role in the administration of the Legion, and an interesting way tokeep the character from blending into the background (always a danger when your team has 26 members.)Dream Girl’s determination and outspoken nature are in their nascent stages here, but her status as Legion fashion plate stays constant. But like PrincessProjectra, the psychic nature of her powers doesn’t keep her from kicking a little criminal booty, Batman-style, when the mood strikes.

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After Matter-Eater Lad lost his sanity consuming the Miracle Machine, Princess Projectra and Dream Girl combined their powers to try and reach him through his psychosis. Why didn’t team telepath Saturn Girl do it? Even in her pink pleather bikini costume, she wouldn’t have made nearly as fetching a figure astride a white stallion…

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Tenzil’s madness was fated to last a bit longer (and have some odd side-effects) but Nura at least gets an ‘A’ for effort. Also on display in those panels area little DaveCockrum-designed touchthat would become one of her trademarks: the overly-elaborate wristbands of her costume. Though her relationships with teammates like Matter-Eater Ladcould occasionally be a bit strained, Dream Girl’s affection for her friends and respect for the Legion itself showed through.

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Chicks dig Bouncing Boy… No one is really sure why. Unfortunately, Nura’s image as fragile little spoiled brat is occasionally earned, and she tends to be ready with a snarky comment, even for her closest friends, but it doesn’t stop her from heroism. In fact, it is she who innovates the use of the flight ring as a combat aid, before even Karate Kid himself thought of it.

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It is easy to dismiss Nura as a snobbish little piece of eye-candy, but it is unwise to forget the cogs turning beneath those platinum locks. When Lightning Lad’s term as leader goes horribly awry, the various Lads and Lasses are forced to start looking elsewhere for a more confident commander. Stalwarts such as Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, and Wildfire have previously led the team, but to everyone’s surprise, Nura throws her ever-so-stylish hat into the ring.

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For all Ultra Boy’s bravado, and Element Lad’s earnestness, it takes Star Boy to point out the obvious… Would Nura has evenannounced her candidacyif she didn’t foresee herself winning? The Legion at this point is a diverse beast, with the three founders, Mon-El, Light Lass,Mon-El, Chameleon Boy, Phantom Girl, Shrinking Violet, Colossal Boy, Timber Wolf, Wildfire, Brainiac 5, Dawnsatr, Star Boy, Shadow Lass, Blok, Sun Boy, and a brand-new Invisible Kid onboard, and I can’t help but wonder who voted for whom. Star Boy is the only guaranteed vote for Nura that I can think of, and theCosmic Boy & Saturn Girlseem to agree with me, evincing great surprise when the results come in.

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Interesting is definitely the word for it. Almost immediately after her election, the Dream Girl-led Legion is thrust into thecosmic morassthat is the Great Darkness Saga, and faces the resurrection of Darkseid. Nura’s tactical mind and her ties to the Sorcerors of Zerox are key in Darkseid’s eventual defeat, but her demeanor remains the same. Remember how Quicksilver explained to Doc Samson why he was such a #&$@ in that issue of X-Factor? Nura’s attitude seems a bit similar, and when you putyourself in hershiny high-heeled shoes,you can imagine how frustrated you would get with the people who DON’T already know what’s going on. Imagine working with 24 slow children all day, every day, constantly harping on things YOU ALREADY KNOW.

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Dream Girl’s term as leader isatumultuousone, as she is quite suited to giving orders but often (and possibly intentionally) comes across as dictatorial. As with any good leader, she doesn’t play favorites, and makes her decisions based on the information before her (information that he teammates usually lack due to her precognitive flashes.) Working for the best advantage of the entire team occasionally earns her the ire of individual members, especially the hot-headed Wildfire and Ultra Boy.

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Even as Legion leader,Miss Nal’slife on the social circuit doesn’t end, as Dream Girl becomes known as a sort of 30th Century socialite. Essentially Naltorian royalty, she is like a more responsible future Paris Hilton,managing to balance the party circuit and her hedonistic urges with the duties of a Legionnaire, thoughsometimes by the barest of margins.

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Once again, her bubble-headed party girl routine is a mask for a fierce competence and willingness to do whatever it takes to be the right thing. Dream Girl leads the team through her term, then serves as Element Lad’s deputy, taking command again when E-Lad and four other Legionnaires are lost after the war with the Legion of Super-Villains. It is Nura who decides that the team needs new blood, inducting FIVE new members (including previous History subject Sensor girl) andfacing a new incarnation of the Fatal Five. When the chips are down, Dream Girl shows her mettle, rallying the Legion into action on sheer force of will…

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She assaults the godlike power of the Emerald Empress WITH HER BARE HANDS to avenge the death of Mentalla, a young hero whose Legion rejection turned her to the dark side, and Dream Girl proves more than able to physically outclass the mistress of the Emerald Eye, if not the Eye itself. As always, though, she makes a point of hiding her light under a bushel of perfect hair and impeccable makeup, worrying about her manicure and being as quintessentially girly-girl as she possibly can while maintaining her heroism. Indeed, she takes pride in maintaining her identity while serving the greater good…

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Dream Girl seems in many cases to be focused entirely on herself, but her relationship with Star Boy is one of deep mutual devotion, and her support of her teammates is unequivocal. When Polar Boy doubts his leadership skills, Nura quickly reminds him that he ran theLegion of SubstituteHeroesfor years, and tells him that he’s “the best leader the Legion has ever had, and that includes me.” Her relationship with baby sister Mysa, The White Witch,can likewise be a bit rocky, but her obvious affection still shows through.

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The strange Cassandra nature of her powers gives Dream Girl a constant sad undertone that her flighty facade ocassionally fails to hide. Knowing what’s coming may be useful, even crucial, fora Legion leader, it can also make the inevitable pains of life that much more unbearable, as she as much as admits to Element Lad on the night of Star Boy’s resignation and return to Xanthu as planetary protector.

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The loss of her beloved Thom would weight heavy on her for a long time, giving Nura a tragic air. Among the Legionnaires, there are some whose mental faculties are without question: Brainiac 5. Saturn Girl. Even Invisible Kid and Mon-El are known for scientific breakthroughs and deep-thinking, but most people miss the obvious intellect that Nura has.When in the field, Dream Girluses her attention to nuance and detail for more than just upkeeping her lipstick…

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When Universo (disguised as Earth President Vid Gupta) uses his hypnotic powers to take control of the entire world, including the Legion, he exiles Dream Girl, Chameleon Boy, Saturn Girl and Brainiac 5 to a special prison planet where they harvest plants to feed the rest of his empire. The four Legionnaires can’t figure out why they, of all the team, were considered so threatening as to be singled out, until Chamelon Boy, his nature making him adept at seeing through disguises of all kinds, points out what even the twelfth-level mind of Brainiac missed.

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The four Legionnaires find themselves forced to work undercover, something nearly anathema to Dream Girl’s theatrical attention-seeking nature, but soon find that their most powerful cohorts are completely under Universo’s control. With telepathy, precognition, shape-shifting, and a computer mind as their only weapons, the team has to get creative. In another rare moment of emotionality, Dream Girl finally gets to apologize to Saturn Girl for the duplicitous way she joined the Legion in the first place, and to finally show her admiration for Imra’s steely nature.

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The foursomesuccessfully faces the entire Legion and frees them from the mind-control, but afterward, Nura finds herself haunted by a new sort of dream… a recurring nightmare about a man she met on the prison planet, a Xanthuan named Atmos.

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Her precognition once again correct, Dream Girl is not surprised when Atmos arrives at Legion headquarters soon after, ready to claim both Star Boy’s membership slot and his woman. Dream Girl is overwhelmed by what feels remarkably like real emotion, as Atmos’ attentions pull her away from everything, even her Legion duties. Even as she becomes more and more involved, Nura’s strength of will fights against what seems inevitable. Legion leader Polar Boy is unsure about the cocky nuclear youth, asking Dream Girl’s opinion of Atmos. While she can’t bring herself to stop seeing him, a part of her is strong enough to know the truth: Atmos is NOT Legion material.

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Slowly, the truth becomes apparent to her: Atmos is somehow taking over her emotions, sapping her will. Taking a leave of absence from the team, Dream Girl continues to date the armpitless wonder, slowly building up a tolerance to Atmos mind-sapping powers. Finally, one night when he falls asleep, she regains herself enough to click her flight-ring alarm and bring her former lover running…

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Kapow! And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy, too. The Legion’s third series ends immediately afterward, and Dream Girl returns home to Naltor and a life of government service. Of course, government service for her means using her powers to predict the future so that Naltor can take advantage of the future knowledge to advance, and her life consists of pretty much pure hedonism. So much so that when the Legion meets for a reunion five years later, there’s much more Dream Girl to love.

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I really like her whole “Auntie Mame” thing here and the Barbara Eden costume is weirdly attractive, if somewhat poorly drawn… Seems like the vamps never really age gracefully, do they? For some reason, she reminds me greatly of Lwaxana Troi, and uses her wiles on the now-happily-married Star Boy. Though Thom rejects her, citing a need to stay faithful to new wife Yvvya,Dream Girl stays positive. When the Legion reunion takes them to one of Thom’s batball games,Nuraand Projectra even have a moment to reminisce on another former celebrant, Matter-Eater Lad, when someone asks whenTenzil will settle down andjoin the domestic side of things…

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Am I the only one who sees something lascivious there? I mean, after all, the man does have the most powerful tongue and jaw muscles in the universe, right? You put a bunch of kids in spandex in a rocketship with a future-predicting computer, and who knows what’s gonna happen? Either way, Nura’s heroic days seem to be behind her, until the Zero Hour crisis begins affecting the timestream, causing widespread panic and chaos throughout Naltor and the United Planets. Faced with a need for heroism, even a fortyish, BBW Dream Girl is ready to answer the call…

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I like how they incorporated the design of her original costume, with that scarlet girdle thingy… As the universe unravels, the various Legionnaires come together to find a solution. Nura works with Projectra and her sister to try a mystical defense, but both the younger Legionnaires are wiped from existence before itcan succeed. Teamed with time-tossed younger versions of themselves from the past (long story) the Legion finds that the entire timestream seems to bereversing itself, leaving only the oldest members of the team extant. As the survivors gather, Star Boy turns to the woman whopractically defined his existence for support.

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Moments later, with his wife gone and the world ending, Star Boy takes a moment to kiss Dream Girl within an inch of her life, and the remaining Legionnaires sacrifice themselves to reset the timeline. With the new Legion reboot, members old and new are seen, but it takes nearly three years for our first sighting of Dream Girl. When the Emerald Eye of Ekron possesses Shrinking Violet and takes mental control of the Legion, the high seer of Naltor is nearly overwhelmed by the visions, and takes action…

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…well, sort of takes action. This new rebooted version of Nura shares the flightiness that she seemed to exhibit pre-Crisis, but without the force of will that drove her to succeed. Some months later, she arrives in person for the team’s first open auditions, as the 31st century’s last surviving Valley Girl.

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The vision she sees? “Like, I see, rejection?” No surprise there. And by the way… Nura Schnappin? WTF? The reboot writers had less respect for the goofier of the Silver Age Legion’snotions, so Dreamer serves only as Star Boy’s flaky little girlfriend for a couple of years, a situation that only changes after The Blight (an alien hivemind, kindasorta) takes over the Legion and destroys the Stargate system that keeps the ‘united’ in United Planets. Trapped on Xanthu, Dreamer and Star Boy are forced to defend the planet against the attack of Robotica,an artificial intelligence that controls an army of machine slaves. Using Khund techniques, (and lord knows THOSE guys know how to whip you into shape) silly bubbly Dreamer becomes more dangerous, and regains her Pre-Crisis iron will.

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Directing the efforts of Star Boy, XS, and the Xanthuan army, Dreamer is key to stopping Robotica. Nura once again takes her rightful place with the Legion once interstellar travel is restored (though still unfortunately using the “Dreamer” alias) and stands alonside her fellows as an equal once more. It is Nura who, as before, is able to stop Universo from taking over the entire world, even if her fellows don’t have complete faith in her predictions.

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Girl’s got a mean right cross… When a coalition of villains manages to use her to shut down all technology on Earth, (one of their members is able to use Naltorian mental energiesas an energy source for her machine-mucking powers) Dreamer unwittingly becomes the instrument by which the Legion will be destroyed. Knowing that the link that allows the villain to steal her powers works both ways, Nura literally sets herself ON FIRE, thrusting her hand into a torch to break the link.

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That, my friends, is a good thing to keep in mind when dealing with Dream Girl, in any incarnation. Nura’s heroism here made her the last Legionnaire to be cover-featured before the “Threeboot” that, once again, restarted Legion continuity from scratch. But this run seems to have a little more respect for the classics, as the team starts with Nura already on board as a hero, wearing the Dream Girl nom de guerre once more. The new iteration even takes on some of the thornier questions of precognition…

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Note once again, the fancy schmancy armbands… Dream Girl still has her formidable wit and acid tongue, even sparring with Brainiac 5 and getting in the last word. “The universe is more unpredictable than we give it credit for,” insists Brainy upon hearing one of her prophecies. “Your predictions don’t HAVE to be infallible.” Nura smiles to herself, replying “You’ll feel differently when we’re married.” Even the 12th level mind of a Brainiac doesn’t have a quick comeback for that. A few issues later, the unthinkable happens: an all-out attack on Legion headquarters. Nura uses her powers to protect innocents, getting as many bystanders out of the way as possible. Dodging debris is easy when you can see the future… until the entire building gives way.

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Brainiac, never the model of mental stability, is so moved by her loss that he immediately takes her body and encases it in an unbreakable forcefield, and begins working on a method to bring her back. When the high seer of Naltor questions the Legion as to the whereabouts of the body of one of their planets’ honored citizens, Cosmic Boy leads the team to confront Brainiac 5…

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The Legionnaires think that Brainiac has finally fleeped his leed, but some time later, it is revealed that he has, apparently, succeeded in capturing her essence. Dream Girl advises him, appropriately, in dreams, even going so far as to confront her replacement (Dream Boy) when all seems darkest for the Legion…

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It still hasn’t been revealed whether she’s alive, or dead, or a little of both, but it doesn’t matter. Even when no one believed in her (except Star Boy) Nura Nal did what she had to do, regardless of the consequences, or what anyone thought about her. Dream Girl has always been a study in contrasts,the girl who wants to do nothing more than have fun with pretty boys who nonetheless takes her responsibilities seriously. Though her power isn’t the most impressive, she uses it to it’s full effect, and since her very first appearance her overarching character trait has been a need to prevent tragedy and pain from affecting the innocent. Though occasionally self-centered, and acid-tonguedly bitchy, Dream Girl proves the theory that you can’t judge any book by it’s cover.

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