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Superhero Academy 101: Metallurgy – Vibranium, Adamantium, and Uru
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Superhero Academy 101: Metallurgy – Vibranium, Adamantium, and Uru

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Welcome to the first day of class!

I’m your instructor and you may address me as Cerebriac 7. Please save all of your questions until the end of the lesson and leave them in the comments section.

Today’s lesson is in metallurgy.

One of the reasons we should talk about metallurgy is because the properties of metals is important regardless of their use. The same blacksmith who shoes a horse is usually the same one who makes chain mail, armor, swords and other weapons.

Class is in session. No gum chewing.SKY HIGH, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Michael Angarano, Kevin McDonald, 2005, (c) Buena Vista

 

Some of the metals’ properties are too good to be true. Their obvious usefulness might be both problematic and impractical. For example, a suit of armor made of a nigh-indestructible adamantium seems like a good idea. A man wearing such a suit of armor, in theory, might be invincible. However, the caveat is the same suit of armor could trap the wearer indefinitely if he can’t remove it.

When you consider the sound stifling powers of vibranium, it might be perfect as a gun’s silencer… in theory. It’s the perfect weapon to fire with complete stealth. But would the gun actually work? Is it possible this miracle metal might absorb the kinetic motion of the bullet traveling through it? Should that be the case, the silencer would be a very expensive and shiny cigarette holder as it’s useless with a gun.

So, it’s important we know more about these metals. We should know their practical uses and how inventors and arms manufacturers can use them.

Today we’re going to talk about three of the more popular metals from the Marvel Universe – vibranium, uru, and adamantium. Originally, I was only going to talk about vibranium and adamantium, but with the movie, Thor: Ragnarok coming to theatres in the not too distant future, you should know more about what Asgard is forging with uru. These three metals have fantastic properties and if you follow Wolverine, Captain America, The Black Panther, Thor, X-23, and The Falcon, you should know more about them.

We’re going to discuss where they come from, their properties, types, and how they are made. There are pragmatic reasons why only a handful of characters have access to these metals and why acquiring them is difficult.


 

Vibranium

Of all of the natural metals within the Marvel Universe, vibranium is the hardest to acquire. This is due to 1) it’s scarcity, 2) security within the borders of Wakanda, located within the jungles of Africa, and 3) getting to the lost savage land in Antarctica.

Common vibranium (or as common as it gets) is located almost exclusively in Wakanda.

Vibranium is an extraterrestrial metal. Wakanda’s supply came from a meteor that crashed there millions of years ago, leaving a large mound. The mild radiation present within the metal has affected much of the flora and fauna around it, including the mystic “heart-shaped” herb responsible for giving the Black Panther his powers along with the White Gorilla Cult and their powers. The radiation has also been known to strengthen mystical energies near it.

The Black Panther and his vibranium suitThe Black Panther and his vibranium suit

 

Wakanda has heavy restrictions on its mining and guards its reserves closely – treating the security of “the sacred mound” as a religious duty passed from chieftain to chieftain. As Wakanda has advanced scientific knowledge generations ahead of everyone else, the sentries are well armed and their surveillance systems are second to none. Due to this and its scarcity, vibranium is one of the most valuable substances on Earth. While this substance has been poached in the past (chiefly by Ulysses Klaw), the consequences of illegal mining are severe.

Since the murder of former chieftain, T’Chaka, few people are brave enough or stupid enough to violate border security to mine it.

There are two different types of vibranium – Wakandan vibranium (common) and the vibranium from the Antarctic Savage Land (known as Anti-Metal). They are both significantly different from each other.

 

Common Vibranium

Common vibranium chief property – and what makes it so sought after – is its ability to absorb vibrations into itself. Chiefly, it absorbs sounds and vibratory impacts and instantly nullifies them. This explains how such a massive meteor of vibranium could land on Earth without the expected cataclysmic consequences that would follow such an impact. When the meteor fell to earth it simply absorbed its own concussive force into itself.

Both The Black Panther and Sam Wilson (the Falcon and current Captain America) have components within their costumes made from a vibranium mesh.

With the Black Panther, it is his boots and gloves. This allows the Black Panther to survive great falls, provided he lands on his feet, which absorb the impact. The vibranium mesh within his boots also grants him stealth (much like a cat) as any sound his feet make is instantly absorbed by the mesh.

Sam Wilson has vibranium mesh sewn into his uniform. Any impact striking the mesh covered area is absorbed. This includes projectiles, punches, and small arms fire.

A product made from vibranium to be its total opposite is reverbium.  This metal was produced after most of the world’s vibranium was nullified through “vibranium cancer”.  Reverbium blows most metals apart rather than absorb vibrations.

 

Savage Land Vibranium (Anti-Metal)

There are a few things you need to know about the Savage Land. The first is that it shouldn’t exist at all. It’s a hot jungle located in Antarctica. The second is that it’s teeming with animals and people who should also, not exist.

Like dinosaurs and mutates.

The Savage Land was created by the alien Nuwali by order of another group of extradimensional aliens called The Beyonders. They created this area to study how evolution can work within a closed environment. The area is closed off from the freezing ravages of Antarctica by alien technology and surrounding volcanoes. The volcanos keep the area tropical.

Ironically, the Beyonders lost interest with their experiment and kept the machinery running. With that, the prehistoric life and primitive cavemen still exist within the area to this day.

Later within the modern age, Lord Robert Plunder (father of Ka-zar (Lord Kevin Plunder) and his brother “The Plunderer”) discovered the samples of vibranium there. This type of vibranium is known as anti-metal.

Antimetal

Unlike common vibranium, when this stuff works, it creates vibrations which make other metals around it weaken and melt. Literally, other metals liquefy around it. Through Wakandan science, scientists have found a way to convert a sample of common vibranium to anti-metal, proving the two are indeed related.

Outside of using it within the Savage Land, carrying it is problematic as it will liquefy any metal near it. One of the few weapons made from it is a blaster used by the criminal, The Plunderer, to fire its vibrations and liquefy metal. Ironically, the Plunderer can only use plastic weapons whenever he carries this device.

 

Adamantium

Perhaps one of the most famous metals unique to the Marvel Universe is adamantium.

Adamantium is an indestructible metal accidentally created by the metallurgist, Doctor Myron MacClain, while attempting to recreate the accident that created Captain America’s shield. Cap’s shield is made of a vibranium/adamantium alloy mix.

Wolverine's SkeletonWolverine’s Skeleton

 

During World War II, MacClain was tasked to create a super metal to be used with tanks and tank production. While experimenting with vibranium he poured an iron alloy into the mold for a tank cap in the shape of a disk. Discovering that the metal was indestructible, the government gave it to Captain America to use as his shield. The metal that his shield is made of has been dubbed “proto-adamantium”. This alloy is unique and has never been duplicated. Apparently, something was introduced to the metallic mixture during the cooling process which happened while MacClain had dozed off.

There are only two ways to destroy the proto-adamantium of Captain America’s shield. The first is to hit it with a sufficiently powerful force. This has only happened once while Thanos was in possession of his Infinity Gauntlet and shattered it with an omnipotent blow. Please bear in mind that this shield has survived direct blows from both Thor and a rampaging Hulk. Cap’s shield was only repaired when the character Nebula soon afterward used the Infinity Gauntlet to undo every event within the previous twenty-four hours.

shield shattered

The second way to destroy proto-adamantium is to interfere with its molecular bonding.

While MacClain was attempting to replicate Cap’s shield he discovered “true adamantium”. True adamantium is only slightly weaker than proto-adamantium.

It is produced by introducing separate blocks of its ingredients and set while it is in its molten form at 1,500° degrees Fahrenheit. Once it is completely mixed together and begins to cool, there’s only an eight-minute window to shape it before it hardens and becomes indestructible. Future attempts at raising the metal to a melting temperature will not work as the molecular bonding of the metal has permanently stabilized.

So powerfully indestructible and so impervious to harm is true adamantium that Thor, using his enchanted hammer at full strength, will barely dent it.

Once melted into a razor sharp edge, it will not dull, chip, crack, or flake. It will merely cut through anything else with relative ease.

The ingredients to making true adamantium are a closely guarded government secret. It is obviously classified.

It is also very expensive to make.

Adamantium made in large quantities is usually made by a cheaper and weaker grade called “secondary adamantium”. Secondary adamantium, while not as strong as true adamantium or proto-adamantium/vibranium, is still far stronger than titanium steel. Items made of this substance are not indestructible and have, on occasion, been destroyed by forces on the level of Thor’s hammer and the destructive use of the Overkill horn made by S.H.I.E.L.D.

Ultron with adamantiumUltron with adamantium

 

Items made from true adamantium are Wolverine and Sabretooth’s skeleton and claws, Ultron’s armored body, Lady Deathstrike’s skeleton and talons, Tess-1’s armor coating, The Constrictor’s tentacles, and the criminal, Cyber’s skin.

While most fans think Wolverine’s skeleton is the coolest weapon ever, the thing to bear in mind is that the adamantium strips bonded to Wolverine’s skeleton were introduced while the metal was molten hot. Only his mutant healing factor allowed him to survive the process.

 

Uru

This metal, pronounced oo-roo, is almost exclusively used within Thor’s title and the dimensional city of Asgard. It is a metal ore mined in the Nidavellir dwarf world of the nine worlds of Yggdrasill, the world tree.

If ye be worthy...Mjolnir

 

It is mined, forged, and crafted by those dwarves. Raw uru has the appearance of badly wrought iron, which is contrary to either vibranium or adamantium which take on the appearance of stainless steel once hardened.

Due to the quality and durability of this quasi-mystical metal, it requires exceptional pressures to forge. Most lean toward a forging in the heart of a star or a magically enchanted forge.

Uru’s near indestructible durability is only one reason to use it in the creation of mystical weapons, the other is its ability to absorb and maintain magical properties and energies. Uru not only does a great job absorbing magical energy like a sponge, but it is also notoriously difficult to enchant. However, once it is enchanted, it becomes even more durable.

Mjolnir, Stormbreaker, and ThunderstrikeMjolnir, Stormbreaker, and Thunderstrike

 

The problem with getting details regarding uru-based weapons is that all of the samples provided within the Marvel Universe are loaded with enchantments keeping others from lifting them for further analysis. Something about “having to be worthy”.

Uru does have a symbiotic relationship with its main user where a user, like Thor, can lend some of his own strength into the metal to increase its durability.

Weapons made from uru are the following: Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, Beta Ray Bill’s hammer, Stormbreaker, the late Thunderstrike’s mace, Thunderstrike, Odin’s spear, Gungnir, and Heimdall’s sword.

Mjolnir, Stormbreaker, and Thunderstrike have several enchantments placed on them by Odin. The first is that only one who is worthy can lift them. The second enchantment forces the weapon to return to the exact spot it was originally thrown (once striking its target or being called back by its master). The third enchantment allows the user to summon the elements (like rain, thunder, and lightning). The fourth enchantment opens mystical portals. The fifth enchantment allowed its master to change guises with a strike onto the earth – a limitation to Thor was in his lessons of humility, his hammer could not be out of his hand for more than sixty seconds or he would revert to his mortal guise of Doctor Donald Blake (this limitation has been removed from Mjolnir with Thor, but it remained with Thunderstrike and Beta Ray Bill).

Mjolnir breakingMjolnir breaking

 

While uru is incredibly durable, it is not indestructible like adamantium or proto-adamantium. It can be broken with a significant force or through beings that have equal or greater mystical power than Odin. After all, a durable metal with an enchantment is only as good as the metal and the enchanter. Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, has been broken and re-forged more than once. The Destroyer (Asgardian automation) has cut through it. The Molecule man vaporized it. It has also been sliced apart by a mystical scythe.

 

Comparative Analysis

There are other interesting metals within the Marvel Universe. I encourage you to research them as well.

For example, there is promethium – which has to remain in Belasco’s “Otherplace” and it looks like a giant animal heart.

There is nega-metal which was used to make Captain Mar-Vell’s nega-bands. It is an alien Kree race product that has several beneficial effects including flight and energy manipulation.

There is carbonadium a metal that was poisonous to Wolverine and would interfere with his healing factor. It is radioactive and used by the criminal, Omega Red.

There is epidurium – which is a key metal used in the creation of S.H.I.E.L.D. Life Model Decoy skins. It is rarer than adamantium or vibranium.

Marvel even has its own version of cavorite, which hearkens back to H.G. Wells’ novel, The First Men in the Moon. Its chief property was its ability to negate gravity and work in space crafts.

While all of these metals have their place within the Marvel Universe, they are not as widely seen or used as adamantium, vibranium, or uru. It is also important to know the difference between adamantium and the proto-adamantium/vibranium substance Captain America’s shield is made of.

What makes Captain America’s shield the perfect offensive/defensive weapon, is that along with its indestructibility in withstanding tremendous forces, it also allows those impacts to be absorbed and disbursed through the vibranium component. An ordinary adamantium shield without the vibranium would protect someone from harm but it would not absorb the shock of an object like Thor’s uru hammer from hitting it – hence the reality of Newtonian physics would throw back anyone holding it. A shield made of vibranium would have the shock absorbing characteristics but might still be bent or destroyed by a force that was strong enough without striking it. Hence, it would disburse the kinetic energy of Thor’s hammer, but it might not survive being bent in half by the Hulk or being dipped in acid.

The vibranium in Captain America’s shield also makes it the perfect throwing tool and assists with its aerodynamics. It is perfectly balanced and slices through air friction like nothing else. Throwing cap’s shield is more art than science. Only a few people have mastered throwing it – among which are Captain America, USAgent, the Taskmaster, Hawkeye, and Sam Wilson (the current Captain America).

Working with metal objects may seem to be the be-all-end-all of weaponry, however, they still have the limitations that all metals have. As all ferrous material is affected by magnetic forces, characters like Magneto have a definite advantage during battle, as Wolverine has learned more than once. An adamantium skeleton sounds good on paper until Magneto forces the metal through your skin pores.

Steel bones are a disadvantage against Magneto

There is also the consideration of weight. Metal is heavy. When you consider that it not only takes a mutant with a healing factor to survive the process of having adamantium bonded to his skeleton, but it also takes a man exceptionally strong to carry an extra hundred and fifty pounds within his body just to move and function. There is a trade-off in knowing a standard .45 caliber bullet won’t penetrate Wolverine’s skull, at the same time, he might never want to go swimming in deep water – which was the bane of any armored knight.

Working with these metals requires careful preparation and consideration as the consequences from improper handling can be explosive.

This was the case of Peter Parker’s childhood friend, Charlie Weiderman. While attempting to use a shortcut in preparing vibranium, Weiderman blew up his lab and emerged with a flexible vibranium coating around his skin which gave him meta-human abilities at the cost of most of his sanity. This vibranium “molten man” was stopped when he was placed into a pressurized chamber which forced the flexible skin metal into a solid state. Weiderman has since been freed from his skin suit and has returned to civilized society.

Vibranium-coated Charlie WeidermanVibranium-coated Charlie Weiderman

 

Adamantium is equally dangerous as it cost Wolverine his life. In the final chapter of his adventures, he fought Doctor Abraham Cornelius – the man who bonded the adamantium to his skeleton. At the climax of the battle, Wolverine slashed through a container of molten adamantium and was covered in it. He suffocated during the cooling process and died.

The lesson, of course, being “be careful working with molten adamantium”.

 

Summation

To sum up, here is what you should take away:

  • Vibranium, adamantium, and uru are three different durable metals with three very specific uses. Vibranium is used to absorb and disburse vibrations and impacts, while adamantium and uru are known for their durability as well as their indestructibility and magical absorbing aspects, respectively.
  • Wakandan vibranium is highly guarded by the Wakandans – which makes it hard to acquire.
  • There are two types of vibranium: Wakandan (common) vibranium and Savage Land “anti-metal”. Common vibranium absorbs vibrations while anti-metal liquefies any metals in the vicinity.
  • Common vibranium has been used as both body armor to Sam Wilson, the Falcon, and mesh within the gloves and boots of The Black Panther.
  • Adamantium was invented accidentally by Doctor Myron MacClain during World War II for tanks.
  • There are three types of adamantium.  The strongest is proto-adamantium, followed by true adamantium, and secondary adamantium.  It is very expensive to produce and the formula is classified by the government.
  • Uru is a metal produced within the nine worlds of Yggdrasil, the world tree by dwarves.
  • Uru is highly durable and resembles badly wrought iron.  It is highly desired due to its ability to absorb mystical energies and enchantments.
  • Uru and vibranium are not indestructible.
  • Vibranium and adamantium are difficult and dangerous to work with.

If you have any questions, please submit them in the comments section below.
 
 


Christopher Peruzzi Christopher Peruzzi is a comic book shaman and zombie war survivalist. When our dystopian future falls upon us, Chris will be there preaching in the First Church of Marvel. As a comic book enthusiast for most of his life, Chris has written over 150 articles on geek culture. He does lectures on Superheroes: The New American Mythology and how today’s superheroes are the new pantheon of American Gods. His short story The Undead Rose was published within the zombie anthology, Once Upon An Apocalypse by Chaosium Press. He writes regularly on zombie war preparedness and the Cthulhu mythos. Chris lives in Freehold with his wife and fellow SuperWhoLock fan, Sharon, and both are ready for their first TARDIS trip.