The scientific laws that govern the real world do not limit comic book plots. Ironically, the fictional atomic and subatomic particles, chemicals elements, and substances in the Marvel Comics Universes have either real-world counterparts, or borrow from one or several of them, often with an unlikely twist.
This is true whether we’re talking Wolverine, Captain America, Thor, the Metal Men, Superman, Deathstroke, Flash, Dr. Doom, Wonder Woman, Luke Cage, or the Fantastic Four or whether we’re referring to superpowers, costumes, or weapons. If we take a closer look, we find that one or more of the 10 real counterparts of comic book particles and elements on this list come into play in these comic book characters’ lives and universes, and what a difference they make!
For better or worse—or, actually, for better and worse—the real-universe counterparts of these particles and elements, in most cases, lack the properties of the ones in the Marvel Comics and DC Comics universes.
Without adamantine, where would Wolverine be? The same place that Captain America and several other Marvel Comics superheroes would be—a lot less dangerous and a whole lot more vulnerable, that’s where. Wolverine’s skeleton and Freddy Krueger-like retractable claws are both bonded to the virtually indestructible alloy. Captain America’s disc-shield, which is both a defensive instrument and an offensive weapon, is also made, in part, from adamantine, alloyed with vibranium, another element that exists only in the Marvel universe. Adamantine is both impervious and all-but-indestructible. There’s no other element quite like it in the Marvel universe.
Adamantine exists in real life, too. However, it’s nothing like the Marvel version. It is used in veneers as an ingredient.
The clockmaking process uses celluloid veneer. A product of the Celluloid Manufacturing Company of New York City, the veneer was available in black, white, and “colored patterns such as wood grain, onyx and marble” and was patented on September 7, 1880. The Seth Thomas Clock Company, which had the right to use the veneer a year later, began to glue it to the wood cases of its clocks in 1882.
9 Star Core
One version of Thor’s mystic hammer Mjolnir is—by his father Odin’s command—forged by elves from the core of a star. What exactly is the core of a star, you ask? Who knows what the core of a star is in Marvel’s universe? Even in the actual universe, it’s not easy to pin down the exact meaning, especially if we expect the definition to include an object.
The core of a star is actually more a place than it is anything else, a place in which enormous temperatures and pressures “ignite nuclear fusion, converting atoms of hydrogen into helium,” which results in the release of “a tremendous amount of heat.” The Universe Today website uses our own sun as an example. It’s a fairly normal star measuring 1,391,000 kilometers (864,938 miles) across.
Our sun’s core, which is about 278,000 kilometers (172,000 miles) across, makes up approximately “20 percent of the solar radius.” It is inside the solar radius that temperatures as high as “15,000,000 degrees Kelvin occur and nuclear fusion [takes] place.” The bigger the star, the bigger and hotter its core. Obviously, human technology couldn’t forge a hammer or anything else out of a star’s core, but, apparently, elvish technology is up to the task.
8 Iron, Gold and Platinum
We treat the Metal Men as one entity, since they are a group of adventurers.
DC Comics’ Metal Men had their origins in response to a real-life emergency. As Don Markstein’s Toonopedia article points out, The Atom had moved up from the ranks of the minor leagues of characters to the big league, meaning he was given a title of his very own. His promotion left Showcase, the comic book series in which he’d appeared, without a principal. To make matters worse, the next “issue was due at the printer in two weeks.”
Fortunately, writer-editor Robert Kanigher came to the rescue, creating a group of adventuring robots, scripting “a story for them in a single weekend.” Penciller Ross Andru and inker Mark Esposito also proved up to the task and drew the comic just before the deadline. Kanigher killed the robots at the end their debut story, not expecting them to appear in Showcase or any other DC comic.
He then resurrected them, and they continued their adventures after Dr. Will Magnus collected their remains and forged the team anew, complete with their life-giving “responsometers.” In all, the Metal MenNumber six
Each of them have a counterpart in both the DC Comics universe and the real world. The actual properties of gold are reflected in Gold’s personality and abilities. The leader of the Metal Men is a gold-colored man with the physical properties of gold. Armed with these qualities, Gold can “stretch into a thin wire miles long or flatten into a sheet four-millionths of an inch thick.”
“Big-hearted” Lead often shields his teammates from harmful rays and radiation. Iron, “the Metal Men’s strongman,” can be shaped and formed into an infinite variety of objects that help the team carry out their missions. Mercury, vain and arrogant, boasts that he is the only metal that can be melted at room temperature. Tin, the smallest and weakest of the Metal Men, feels “inadequate [and] stutters, although this impediment often vanishes in the heat of battle.” Bright and beautiful Platinum falls in love with her maker.
Chunks of kryptonite can vary in color depending on their color. various effectsSuperman and other Kryptonians, such as Supergirl, are covered. The chunks of the crystalline mineral are remnants of the planet Krypton, from which Kal-El’s parents dispatched him, as a baby, in a tiny spaceship just before the planet exploded. Kryptonite can be white, green, blue, gold or silver.
Green weakens, causing severe pain and fatigue, and is ultimately “lethal to all Kryptonians.” Red weakens, causing extreme mood swings and mutations. Red kryptonite is negated by blue. Kryptonians lose their superpowers when they are stripped of gold. Silver causes extreme hunger, “intense delusions and hallucinations [and] paranoia.” Black has a Jekyll-and-Hyde effect, splitting a Kryptonian’s identity into good and evil personalities or even good-twin, bad-twin versions of themselves. Any plant in the universe is killed by white kryptonite.
According to a LiveScience article, kryptonite is also found in the real world. Except for its lack of fluorine, it has the same chemical composition as the varieties of Superman’s crystalline mineral. However, Earth’s sodium lithium boron silicate mineral doesn’t exhibit the same array of colors that the Kryptonian version does. Instead, it fluoresces pinkish-orange when exposed to ultraviolet light. Fortunately, real kryptonite, unlike the one that plagues Superman is also harmless.
As the DC Universe Infinite site article on Deathstroke indicates, his “origin has been revised and reimagined several [times] over the years.” In DC Comics’ original story of his origin, Col. Slade Wilson participates in an experiment. He is able to develop superhuman mental and physical abilities and becomes a black-ops agent. His friend and executive officer, scientist David Isherwood, develops a “‘gravity sheath’ bodysuit” for Slade. However, Slade rejects it in favor of custom-made promethium armor, which “absorbs kinetic energy and blocks it, making it impervious to bullets or the fist of a superhuman opponent.”
Prometium is a real-world element that exists in both the DC universe and in the DC comics. However, it does not have any of the properties or uses that DC Comics describes. Instead, as the Royal Society of Chemistry points out, most of the radioactive element is used in research, although “a little promethium is used in specialized atomic batteries…the size of a drawing pin…[and] for pacemakers, guided missiles, and radios.” It is also used as “a source of X-rays,” and its radioactivity is employed in measuring instruments.
In an issue of DC Comic’s Flash, as the superhero closes in on Alchemy while the villain seeks to force information from a victim, the Scarlet Speedster is puzzled. “I don’t get it,” Flash thinks. “Alchemy must know I’m chasing him—and yet he’s standing right out in the open. He’s unprotected!” The reason for Alchemy’s apparent lack of concern is revealed when Flash discovers that his foe has laced the entire area with strands of molybdenum. Had Flash not noticed the nearly invisible filaments, his charging through them at super-speed “would have been like running through a vegematic.”
Molybdenum is not only real, but it is also used in Flash comic books. This is a rare example in which the element could actually do what the authors portray. Molybdenum can make wire rope resist to corrosion. Specifically, we’re referencing Type 316 wire rope, which is used in severe environments that require a higher level of “resistance to corrosion” than is afforded by Type 304 wire rope, a “basic stainless steel alloy” variety that includes chromium, nickel, and carbon. The addition of molybdenum allows Type 316 wire rope, a chromium-nickel alloy, to fare better against many industrial chemicals and solvents and, in particular, “inhibits pitting caused by chlorides.”
It’s hard to say just how thick the strands of molybdenum shown in the Flash comic book are, but wire rope containing the element is usually stocked in diameters ranging from 1/16 of an inch to 4 1/2-inches. It’s possible that Alchemy cast thinner strands, which appeared nearly invisible to Flash. It’s also possible that Flash, whose speed afoot matches or exceeds that of Superman, might run so fast that he would streak through Alchemy’s molybdenum filaments without seeing them, in which case he would most definitely learn what it is like to be sliced to pieces.
Shawn S. Lealos explains this in his CBR.com article Dr. Doom’s armor, made of titanium, has been upgraded several times over the supervillain’s career. Ironically, the supervillain’s original armor was forged by monks and was later embedded with splinters of the true cross. His armor is equipped with several high-tech weapons and further enhanced by magic, too, but it’s the element of titanium we’re concerned about here.
The Royal Society of Chemistry website is just one of many that provide information about titanium, a real world element with many practical uses. None of these applications are related to armor. Some of its properties suggest that it could be used in this way. First, it is as strong and dense as steel but can be used to alloy with iron and other metallic elements. In fact, alloys, including titanium, are used primarily in aircraft, spacecraft, and missiles because of their “low density and ability to withstand extremes of temperature,” the website notes.
According to the Society of Engineers, titanium pipes used for power plant condensers resist corrosion in seawater. This makes the element suitable for use in the submarine hulls as well as ships’ hulls. It is also used to desalinate plants. Since titanium “connects well with bone,” it also has medical uses, including joint replacements and tooth implants. It is most often “used as a pigment in house paint, artists’ paint, plastics, enamels, and paints,” but it is also an ingredient in sunscreens.
Titanium also has a very high melting point (1.670 degrees Centigrade), or 3,038 Degrees Fahrenheit, and a much higher boiling point (3.287 degrees Centigrade), or 5,949 Degrees Fahrenheit). If Victor von Doom is reading this, perhaps Listverse has given the Fantastic Four’s nemesis some new ideas for armor upgrades.
DC Comics featuring the Amazonian princess doesn’t specify from what material her magical sword was forged, but Wonder Woman: The Ultimate Guide for the Amazon PrincessScott Beatty informs that the blade is sharp enough for removing electrons from anatom.
In Alexis Ross and Mark Waid’s graphic novel Kingdom Come, Wonder Woman’s sword cuts Superman when the Man of Steel draws her weapon before she can warn him of its effects. In one of Kyle Hill’s YouTube videos, he explains the stunning effects that such a sword would have if it existed in the real-world universe. An ordinary blade cuts objects (and people) by “applying more pressure than a material’s structure can withstand,” thereby separating the material’s molecules.
Wonder Woman’s sword, however, slices through the spaces between atoms and their orbiting electrons, “applying pressure directly to the ionic and covalent bonding [that holds] materials together,” notes Hill. In the process, her sword swings “separate atmospheric atoms from their electrons and ionizes them,” which would leave a trail of lightning behind each stroke. Her sword would be the sharpest thing in the universe, capable of slicing through Luke Cage’s bulletproof skin, Wolverine’s adamantine skeleton, or Captain America’s vibranium shield.
According to Stephen Reucroft and John D. Swain, professors in Northeastern University’s Department of Physics, three things split electrons from atomsThe electromagnetic radiation, heat, and particles are all examples. Heat is a form energy. Particles are almost all material objects. Radiation can either be energy or matter. Only the nucleus is left after all electrons have been removed from an atom.
We seem to be left with two possibilities, both rather broad: Wonder Woman’s sword is made exclusively of particles or of energy. The former scenario could allow the weapon a material form as most particles are matter. However, it could not. pure energyAlso, can you have a form? The short answer is probably no. Ethan Siegel explains it in his online Forbes article, with one possible exception, “energy is never seen to exist on its own, but only as part of a system of particles, whether massive or massless.”
The exception? Dark energy, which causes the Universe’s expansion to accelerate. It may also be the energy that is “inherent [in] the fabric of the Universe itself!” However, even if dark energy exists independently of matter, it cannot be generated by any technological means. As Siegel concludes, “Creating energy independent of particles? It might be something the Universe itself does, but until we learn how to create (or destroy) spacetime itself, we find ourselves unable to make it so.”
It seems, then, that Wonder Woman’s sword must be made of some sort of particles, such as those of light, which can be contained in the shape of a sword, the particles, or photons, of which knock electrons from their atoms. It is possible to do anything in magic, fantasy, or any other form of magic.
2 Bulletproof Skin
Although Luke Cage’s bulletproof skin seems possible only in a comic book, a news headline, “Bulletproof Human Skin Made From Spider Silk,” suggests otherwise. It’s kind of. Spider silk is obviously not the same thing as human skin. However, spider silk can make human skin bulletproof.
According to the online article, a Dutch team created a piece of “bulletproof” skin from special, U.S.-made spider silk and human skin cells and found that it indeed can repel bullets—as long as “they’re not traveling too fast.” If additional research allows improvements to the silk armor, soldiers may one day be impervious to bullets.
1 Cosmic Radiation
Comic books show that ordinary people can become supervillains by being exposed to radiation. Reed Richards and Sue Storm, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm are just a few of the people who have developed superpowers from such radiation. Fantastic, The Invisible Woman (The Human Torch), and The Thing are collectively known as The Fantastic Four. They were all exposed to cosmic radiation while testing a rocket ship experimental. This is how they developed their super elasticity, invisibility and combustion abilities.
Cosmic Rays are real and exist beyond the pages of comic books. They could also endanger space travelers. According to The Space Review website, galactic cosmic rays represent a “continuous background radiation to which the crew would be exposed, [and]…in an unshielded spacecraft, [such] radiation would result in significant health problems, or death, to the crew.” Shielding would absorb cosmic radiation, but it could also cause a problem even worse than the radiation itself: cosmic rays interact with the shielding and can create “secondary charged particles, increasing the overall radiation dose.”
Jeffrey Hoffman, a former astronaut and MIT professor, believes Earth shows how better shielding can be created to protect against cosmic radioactive and other hazards like solar flares. This hybrid system uses both a magnet field and passive absorption. “‘That’s the way the Earth does it,’ Hoffman explained, ‘and there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to do that in space.’”
Although cosmic rays are real, they wouldn’t have conferred superpowers on Richards and his crew. As the host of the Reactions’ “Can Radiation Give You Superpowers” video and her guest Professor Dan Claes, Ph.D., point out, even on Earth, everyone is bombarded with cosmic radiation every day, as much as 115 times a second. In space, inside the Van Allen Belt, the foursome “were probably hit around 15 million times a second,” Claes adds, and “ten times that” if a solar flare occurred during the crew’s trip.
However, it is so extremely unlikely that all 75 trillion cells in the crew’s bodies could have been struck the same number of times by the cosmic rays “in the same superhuman way and giving them each a different ability,” Claes explains. It seems much more likely that Richards and Susan Storm, her brother Johnny, as well as Ben Grimm, would have died than become The Fantastic Four.