Everyone with even a passing knowledge of the Marvel universe knows that Captain America‘s mighty shield is made of a nearly indestructible substance called vibranium (except when it isn’t). But Cap isn’t the only character who makes use of the stuff, which arrived on Earth via huge meteorites.
Vibranium comes in a few different varieties, and they have such different properties and abilities that we have no idea why they even share a name. But that also means that both heroes and villains have found several applications for the material in all of its forms, and it appears so often and in such great quantities that we wonder if it’s really all that rare, after all.
Here are 15 comic book uses for vibranium, other than Steve Rogers’ shield.
15. Misty Knight’s amazing cyber arm
Misty Knight is set to appear in Netflix’s Luke Cage this fall. She’s a former New York police officer who lost her right arm to a bomb, but because science and economics in the Marvel universe are straight-up bonkers, she can easily get a cybernetic replacement. While the original model was “only” made of steel, she upgraded to a new one made of Antarctic Vibranium, also known as “anti-metal.”
This version of the material has a superpower not shared by its Wakandan counterpart: the ability to emit vibrations that can sever chemical bonds and liquify any metal. That includes the otherwise indestructible adamantium, which means that Misty Knight traded her disappointing, not-bomb-proof meat arm for one of the single most powerful weapons in the Marvel universe.
And that’s even before we mention its ability to shoot ice beams and concussive blasts. Also, it’s partly made of diamond, so it’s probably also one of the most valuable devices Marvel has ever created.
14. Black Panther’s boots
To be clear, most of King T’Challa’s superhero costume contains vibranium. It’s just one of the perks of being the king of the country with the largest deposit of the stuff in the world, although his claws are made of unpatriotic Antarctic vibranium. It’s still a good idea, though, considering both versions are nearly indestructible, and the icy version can melt anything. Still, including it in the boots seems a little ridiculous, but it makes sense considering the material’s secondary abilities.
It turns out that if you put vibranium on the bottom of your shoes, you can survive huge falls — provided you land flat-footed — because the metal will absorb all of the impact. Unfortunately, this extra resilience means that the traditional “Superhero Landing” is off-limits to you, unless you’ve also fitted your costume with vibranium knee pads and gloves. And since Black Panther has plenty of the source material to throw around, we aren’t ruling that out.
Because honestly, if you can’t jump off of something and do a three-point landing on one foot, the other knee, and one hand, while also keeping your head down so that you can snap it up dramatically to glare and/or smirk at your enemy before the fight starts, what’s the point of being a hero in the first place?
13. Spymaster’s battle suit
Three different people have taken the title of Spymaster, and the second and third killed for the title. The second one, Nathan Lemon, killed a bunch of other candidates as a sort of “audition” for the job, and the third Spymaster, Sinclair Abbott, had Nathan Lemon killed in prison. It was a whole thing.
The purview of the Spymaster is industrial espionage, and we’re not sure which part of leaking e-mails to the press and stealing secret formulas requires a suit with a Kevlar-vibranium weave (making it double bulletproof). But if the corporation you’re targeting is Stark Industries, whose owner happens to be the dang Iron Man, you should probably take as many precautions as you can.
The different Spymasters have had many adventures in their time, but a highlight has to be Nathan Lemon’s first outing. That involved disguising himself as Santa Claus, infiltrating Tony Stark’s Christmas party, and battling both Iron Man and his trigger-happy buddy James Rhodes in an attempt to steal the cheap, plastic angel on top of Tony’s tree. Lemon causes a lot of damage and endangers several small children in the course of this mission, and once Iron Man finds out what he wants, he just gives him the stupid thing because seriously, Spymaster?
From this plot summary, you might think this was one of those ridiculous, Comics Code-friendly stories from the ’60s, but no. This issue came out in 1990.
12. Some of Hawkeye’s arrows
If you’re known as an archer superhero, like if that’s your thing, and you don’t have arrows made of the two most resilient and powerful metals on Earth, you may have messed up somewhere. This doesn’t even fall into “trick arrow” territory — these are just things you need for work. Luckily, Clint Barton has not made that mistake.
He uses projectiles made of both adamantium and vibranium, and they serve different functions. The adamantium ones are for punching through pretty much anything. The vibranium ones are of the Antarctic variety, capable of “dissolving” any other metal they come into contact with due to the material’s unique ability to shake apart molecular bonds. And that comes in handy when Hawkeye, who lacks any superpowers, goes up against killer robots that almost certainly do have superhuman abilities.
His quiver isn’t devoid of trickery, however. You can see the full array of his considerable arsenal in these three images, and after you’ve seen some of the other nonsense he’s pulled out of that thing, metal-melting vibranium makes complete sense.
11. Agent Zero’s stealth body armor
Agent Zero is no stranger to the rare, super-strong metals, as he carries a knife made of adamantium. And that would usually be enough for anyone, but if your job is tracking down and murdering people, you really don’t want to skimp on supplies.
Zero also owns some body armor made of vibranium, and thanks to the metal’s sound-absorbing abilities, it allows him to move in complete silence. It can also refract light to render him completely invisible in the dark (though, isn’t everyone?). He first acquired this gear to help him in a mission to track down and kill Wolverine, and we don’t blame the guy for wanting every advantage he can get in that fight. Sure, he and Logan went way back, and he intentionally failed to murder him, but if someone offers you some equipment that basically turns you into the Predator, you don’t turn that person down.
Agent Zero supplemented his awesome knife and even cooler armor with some legitimate superpowers, including a healing factor comparable to his grumpy old friend. But he loses those abilities in the House of M storyline, which has Scarlet Witch creating a new reality that strips the vast majority of Earth’s mutants of their powers.
10. Warpath’s daggers
The cringingly codenamed mutant Warpath has the superpowers you’d expect a Native American character created in the ’80s to have: He has superior tracking and hunting abilities along with more generic super strength, speed, and reflexes. But at least he can’t also talk to animals or go on mutant-powered vision quests or something.
He’s also a weapons master who wields dual vibranium blades that Storm of the X-Men gave to him to mark his admittance to the team. They’re pretty formidable on their own, but Warpath can use them either in close quarters or as throwing weapons, even though we’re not sure from looking at them that they’re properly balanced for the latter.
Because the ultimate expression of a weapon’s power in the Marvel universe is how it fares against the Hulk, Warpath gets a chance to test his knives’ abilities in the World War Hulk arc, which has the big green guy returning to Earth after an extended exile to beat up everyone. At one point during the rage-fueled giant’s assault on the Xavier Mansion, Warpath drives his daggers into Hulk’s shoulders, immobilizing his arms (somehow). That doesn’t slow the monster down for long, however: he works the blades out just by flexing his muscles, which is one of the most unabashedly macho things imaginable, besting even Dwayne Johnson’s similar move with an arm cast in Furious 7.
9. Stark Tower
We don’t blame Tony Stark for decking out the headquarters for the New Avengers with vibranium-laced concrete. One only need remember how many times the Baxter Building ended up on the business end of an alien invasion or supervillain attack to see that this is a pretty solid investment.
Not that a little something extra in the structure will prevent what ultimately happened to the Fantastic Four‘s headquarters (Doctor Doom flung the whole thing into space back in 1962), but it’s nice to know that if anyone takes a shot at your base of operations, you can maybe relax a little bit. Unless you’re standing by a window, because those are pretty destructible.
If nothing else, however, the vibranium in the walls should keep save the tenants a noise complaint or two when Tony Stark stays up late in his lab, working on secret projects and listening to Black Sabbath with zero irony.
8. Vibrania’s power blasts
Vibrania is not just something your doctor will recommend you take in tablet form for a B12 deficiency. It’s also the name of a short-lived heroine who derived her powers with an accident involving radioactive vibranium. Apparently, it’s not enough that this metal exists and has amazing properties; Marvel also had to make it give off ions and stuff.
This character’s original name was Shara because naming her “Vibrania” from birth would be pretty on-the-nose, even for Marvel. Her father was the one messing around with isotopes in his lab, and the exposure costs her the use of her legs. But later, it let her fire vibranium-based energy blasts out of her hands that could destroy concrete, so maybe she broke even there. You know, except for the instant cancer she develops after the accident.
Her powers activate after the traumatic news that an earthquake has killed everyone in her home country (fictional Kwarrai), and the good news is that suddenly, she can walk again. The bad news is that she goes on a grief-fueled rampage, ultimately bringing a wall down on herself and dying from her injuries.
7. Gentle’s power-dampening tattoos
Nezhno Abidemi, who goes by the ironic codename Gentle, is a mutant with the ability to increase his body’s muscle mass until he’s even more powerful than the X-Men’s Colossus, who is a man made of muscles that are made out of metal. So that’s pretty strong.
The downside is that every time he uses his powers, he either passes out or has a seizure. So to counteract that, he’s covered his body with tattoos made of raw vibranium that help him keep the ill effects in check. It’s just a temporary fix, however; at some point, the strain is going to kill him. But meanwhile, his sweet ink glows blue every time he pumps himself up, which looks really cool if you can ignore the fact that they are lighting the way to his inevitable, painful death.
6. Echo’s staff
Maya Lopez, a deaf girl raised by Kingpin after he ordered her father killed, has the straight-up amazing ability to duplicate any action she can see. She first displays this skill on the piano, but once her evil training starts in earnest, she discovers that her knack also translates to fighting prowess. She defeats Daredevil after watching a recording of the superhero fighting his arch enemy Bullseye, and she can even learn complex acrobatics and dancing just by watching, like Commander Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation (but hopefully without the terrifying smile).
Echo later renounces villainy and travels to Los Angeles to team up with Moon Knight in his search for the secret kingpin running the whole city. While she’s there, she breaks her fighting staff in one of the many fights she ends up participating in. Moon Knight’s tech expert, former SHIELD agent Buck Lime, repairs the weapon and reinforces it with a strip of vibranium, to “give it a little kick.”
And it totally works, as she uses it to clobber Count Nefaria, the superpowered kingpin who wastes no opportunity to mention that time he fought Thor to a stand-still.
5. Mr. Fantastic’s Anti-Klaw knuckles
Alright, this one’s going to take some explanation.
Ulysses Klaw, who was born Ulysses Klaue but had it legally changed, presumably because he was tired of everyone pronouncing it “Klow” or “Klowee,” is the arch-nemesis of Black Panther. Andy Serkis plays him in the MCU, and you might remember him as the guy in The Avengers: Age of Ultron who sold the titular villain the vibranium he needed for both his new body — which became The Vision — and his city-dropping death machine. And also, Ultron just casually ripped his hand right the hell off, setting him up to replace it with one of those claws that his name demands he have.
During a confrontation with Black Panther and the Fantastic Four, Klaw builds a device — also made of vibranium — that creates a legion of “solid-sound” minions to do his bidding. And once the superheroes get through those, Klaw decides that his only logical course of action is to dive into the machine himself.
A few issues later, Klaw returns, the machine having (somehow) transformed him into a being of living sound bent on revenge. Makes sense.
After the villain defeats most of the Fantastic Four single-handledly — or whatever the living sound equivalents of one hand is — Reed Richards goes for the more straightforward solution of just whaling on Klaw with bands of vibranium wrapped around his fists. Because the metal absorbs all vibrations, Klaw’s sound-based body can’t stand up to the attack, and this is maybe the most action-hero thing Mr. Fantastic has ever done.
4. Charlie Weiderman’s skin suit
Adhering to the rule that Spider-Man must personally know every one of his villains, Charlie Weiderman was in school with Peter Parker and provided an even larger target for bullies. Unlike Peter, however, whose amazing superpowers certainly made daily ridicule a little easier to bear, Charlie attempted to fight back. His retribution became increasingly disturbing and included a failed attempt to home-brew some Super Soldier Serum and taking a knife to school.
Later in his life, Charlie developed another project: a super-durable, spray-on skin suit made of vibranium that was designed to protect soldiers in battle. But his lab practices hadn’t improved since that time he tried to become Captain America, and an explosion coats him in his own experimental substance. The stuff works well enough not to kill him, but not so well that he doesn’t go immediately insane, so Weiderman uses his new abilities to start a vengeful rampage against his enemies.
Despite the vibranium content of the suit, the process that created it keeps it fluidic and flexible. But Spider-Man tricks Weiderman into a chamber with a greater atmosphere, and the increased pressure hardens the metal, trapping the villain inside. Charlie is still alive inside the cocoon, but nobody’s in any hurry to let him out. And that’s kind of a jerk move on Spidey’s part.
3. The Tri-Sentinel fail-safe
The X-Men series’ Sentinels are gigantic robots programmed to seek out and destroy mutants. But Thor villain Loki fused three different models into one big, multi-armed can of nightmare fuel, and so the Tri-Sentinel came to be. And then, as if that weren’t weird enough, Loki sent the monstrosity after Spider-Man on the assumption that old Web-Head would have no idea how to handle that.
During their first encounter, Spidey manages to take out the Tri-Sentinel using some cosmic powers he just so happened to gain control of just in time. So that was convenient. The second time, however, Peter Parker had only his usual suite of incredible superpowers with which to fight the mechanical chimera.
Well, that and a box of anti-metal, which he hurls onto the Tri-Sentinel’s control panel after spending the entire book crawling around inside of the thing. It’s crazy. But more importantly, it disables the giant robot for good, and Spider-Man can go back to fighting all of his old friends and acquaintances again.
2. The Trans-Human Robot’s skeleton
Due to the serendipity of having the original, vibranium-laden meteorite impact within its borders, Wakanda controls most of the world’s supply of vibranium. So it’s really in the country’s best interest to make sure somebody’s keeping an eye on it. That “somebody” is the Trans-Human Robot (or “THROB” for short, but that abbreviation is too weird to use more than once). Doctor Doom created the sentry to protect Wakanda’s all-important mines, and it’s capable of withstanding any attack.
That’s thanks to its vibranium innards, which can absorb any force directed against it. But try telling that to The Thing, who hit the THR so many times that it almost exploded from all of the pent-up energy he’d crammed into it. T’Challa fixed that little hiccup by showing up just in time and kind of squeezing all the juice out of it with his hands, and that seemed to work just fine until he inexplicably decommissioned the guardian and relegated it to his trophy room.
1. Doctor Doom’s army of magical robots
Doctor Doom is the kind of evil tyrant who can’t even build a legion of deadly automatons without making them look exactly like him. And the version of these “Doombots” that he unleashes upon the world in the Doomwar storyline are no exception. What’s different about them, however, is that they are made of vibranium and are therefore just filled up with magic.
Here’s how it works: The ruler of Latveria discovers that among its several amazing qualities, vibranium is also capable of enhancing and amplifying mystical energies, and that’s just another service that Doom provides. He immediately sets out to threaten and murder his way to Wakanda’s entire stock of the stuff, which he steals and uses to make his army. So not only does he command soldiers made of an unbreakable mineral from space, but he can also control them via arcane means.
As a bonus, Doom’s new magical connection to vibranium puts him in vague contact with every scrap of the stuff in the world. And that means that he definitely notices when T’Challa activates a device that renders it all inert and useless. And he didn’t even ask Captain America first, so it might have come as some surprise when his usually dependable shield shatters on him later on.
Anyway, with the robots made vulnerable, Storm can just take them out with her lightning powers, and then all that remains is figuring out how to reorganize Wakanda’s economy without its most profitable export.