Comic books have a proud tradition of inventing incredible substances that possess unique properties real-world manufacturers can only dream about. Of these, one of the most amazing is vibranium, one of the rarest and most precious metals found in the Marvel Universe.
Used in the fabrication of such iconic items as Captain America’s shield and Black Panther’s suit of mesh armor, vibranium is quite literally an out of this world material. Crashing to Earth as a meteorite millennia ago, this extraterrestrial metal comes in several varieties, each with its own remarkable attributes.
Of these, the most well-known (and highly coveted) is that found in the African nation Wakanda, the home of Black Panther and his people. Other types include Antarctic vibranium (also known as “Anti-Metal”) and artificial vibranium – man-made substitutes like NuForm and Reverbium, both of which are far less stable than the real deal.
With Black Panther pouncing into cinemas – and vibranium playing a key part in proceedings – we thought now was as good a time as ever to pull together a handy primer on the properties of this fantastic metal.
To that end, here are 15 Things You Didn't Know Vibranium Could Do.
15 Boost Mystical Energies
One of the lesser understood attributes of vibranium is its supposed ability to significantly increase the potency of nearby magical forces. Apparently, were a sorcerer to get their hands on a stockpile of the metal, they would find their magic-channelling capabilities were now far in excess of their previous, natural levels.
It was for this reason that Doctor Doom – an accomplished spellcaster, in addition to his scientific credentials – sought access to Wakanda’s vibranium supplies. The threat posed by Doom achieving this goal must have been a very real one, as the moment that the supervillain gained access to Wakanda’s vaults, Black Panther took drastic measures to thwart him.
Just how drastic are we talking? Well, our hero triggered a fail-safe precautionary measure designed to leave it effectively useless for any purpose, magical or otherwise!
14 Cut Through Other Metal
Lt’s take a look at what the Antarctic variety of vibranium can do. Found only in the secret jungles of the Savage Land, Anti-Metal’s chief distinguishing trait is it can emit (rather than absorb) vibrations.
The unique wavelength of these vibrations allows it to weaken and destroy the molecular bonds that hold other metals together. In practice, what this means is that Anti-Metal can used to cut through other metallic substances, even dissolving or liquefying them in some cases.
This effect is cumulative – so the more Anti-Metal you have in your possession, the more destructive the wavelength you’ll be able to generate. That said, Antarctic vibranium also boasts some of the same properties as the Wakandan variety, so surrounding yourself with too much of it can have unexpected (and even unfortunate) consequences.
13 Get “Cancer”
Seriously, we’re not being hyperbolic here: vibranium is susceptible to a form of shockwave known as “vibranium cancer”. It all starts when a tiny imperfection – we’re talking sub-molecular level, here – is introduced into vibranium, which slowly spreads over time, until the metal finally breaks apart.
This was seen when Captain America’s shield shattered as a result of an imperfection of this sort.
But that's only the tip of the iceberg.
In a delightfully bonkers example of comic book science, after the compromised vibranium is torn asunder, the resultant shockwave spreads to other, totally unrelated sources of the material, causing them to blow up as well! The knock-on effect represents the so-called “cancer” afflicting the substance, and it’s certainly as devastating as the name applies – once nearly violently wiping out all vibranium across the globe.
12 Absorb Vibrations
As its name suggests, the predominant characteristic of Wakandan vibranium – which we’ll just refer to as “vibranium” from here on out – is its ability to absorb vibrations. Although, to be honest, this description is underselling the precious substance quite a bit.
To be more accurate, vibranium is capable of soaking up any form of energy related to vibrations – so that includes anything from kinetic energy through to sound waves.
After drawing in this energy, the vibranium actually becomes stronger!
This is a huge element of the metal’s appeal, as not only is something fashioned from vibranium already impressively durable, but it becomes even more so the more vibration-related forces it’s exposed to. That’s why, for instance, Captain America can safely take shelter behind his shield from attacks that should otherwise incapacitate him – the vibranium it’s constructed from is absorbing (and being reinforced by) all the impact.
11 Mutate People, plants, and animals
Despite being a wildly sought after material, not all of vibranium’s qualities can be classified as purely beneficial. One such example is the tendency for raw vibranium to mutate flora and fauna exposed to its latent radiation for extended periods of time – and this includes humans. What does this mean in more simple terms?
Basically, if you spend time around this stuff, and it’ll mess you up good!
Of course, this being comics, not every instance of vibranium-related mutation has involved negative side effects. On the contrary, where it has affected certain plant and animal life in Wakanda has been hugely beneficial for both the Black Panther and White Gorilla cults.
Indeed, if weren’t for vibranium altering the make-up of the heart-shaped leaves and white gorilla meat consumed by each respective cult, their superpowers would not exist.
10 Be Used To Scale Walls
Although most scientists and manufacturers tend to keep the different kinds of vibranium separate, when combined together, the differing strains of the metal can yield fantastic results. Consider the use of both Wakandan and Antarctic vibranium in Black Panther’s costume, which enables T’Challa to climb walls.
This is made possible largely because of the Anti-Metal claws in Black Panther’s gloves, which – being able to pierce any metallic surface – mean he can gain purchase on even the smoothest skyscraper. Complementing the gloves are his boots, which are covered in the same vibranium mesh as the rest of his bodysuit – providing a textured, durable covering for his feet, to help them grip.
Sure, Black Panther is never going to be mistaken for Spider-Man.
But even so, when the need arises (and the circumstances are right), he can do a little wallcrawling of his own!
9 Protect From A Multi-Storey Fall
As much as superheroes often spend their time swinging between (or leaping over) tall buildings, they just as frequently find themselves tumbling out of them. In situations like these, it can be extremely useful – not to mention life-prolonging – to be wearing some form of vibranium-based protection.
Black Panther and Captain America would undoubtedly agree, with both heroes having relied on vibranium – in their costume and shield, respectively – to cushion the impact of multi-storey falls on numerous occasions.
True, there is a limit to just how much damage that this precious metal can protect the wearer from – even by absorbing the majority of the forces involved. But considering that the prognosis without it is either instant death or permanent disability, it’s easy to overlook the occasional dislocated knee or cracked rib!
8 Make Punches And Kicks More Powerful
It’s easy to focus on vibranium’s defensive capabilities – especially considering the two most famous objects made from the stuff are a shield and protective bodysuit.
Even the less volatile Wakandan variety can still be used in an offensive context.
Aside from instances when Captain America uses his shield as a projectile rather than for protection, perhaps the best example comes in the form of Black Panther’s gloves and boots.
Fashioned out of the same vibranium mesh as the rest of his outfit, the unique properties of his hand and footwear enhances the power of punches and kicks thrown wearing them. Factoring in Black Panther’s already superhuman strength, this makes blows our guy delivers when kitted up formidable indeed – strong enough to seriously damage otherwise sturdy objects.
7 Impervious To Bullets And Edge Weapons
One of vibranium’s most underrated qualities is its strength to weight ratio. As demonstrated by Black Panther’s costume, even when fashioned into a light-weight mesh bodysuit, the substance still renders the wearer invulnerable to gunfire and stab wounds.
This makes it appreciably less hassle for Black Panther to leap into the fray.
He knows that he has little to worry about from knives and small caliber bullets – although there is a caveat attached to that first one. Regrettably, whilst Black Panther’s suit can protect him against any thrusting attack by an edge weapon, it’s vulnerable to certain types of slash-style assault.
It turns out that a cut made along the grain of the mesh could potentially breach it, injuring Black Panther in the process. At the same time, the odds of an assailant making so accurate mid-combat with T’Challa are so slim that it hardly bears worrying about!
6 Be Used To Run On Water
We’re getting to the point where it seems like vibranium is capable of just about anything, but what can we say? It’s a pretty amazing metal – so amazing, in fact, that it can be used to run on water, provided you’re wearing a pair of vibranium-mesh boots!
As you’d expect, this showstopping feat has previously been performed by Black Panther, wearing his mesh-weave costume.
We want to make it clear that his involvement also plays a big part in making this stunt work – without T’Challa’s enhanced athleticism, the average person would simply sink.
We also want to highlight that Black Panther was only really able to skim across the water’s surface, and only very briefly at that. In short, he’s not going to give genuine, water-traversing speedsters like Quicksilver any real competition. Yet all the same, with the help of his vibranium suit, he did it.
5 Amplify And Project Vibrations
We’ve covered the naturally-occurring types of vibranium – now it’s time to consider the artificial varieties, specifically, Reverbium. Cooked up by Horizon Labs scientist Sajani Jaffrey, Reverbium is so potentially dangerous that her boss demanded she destroy all samples of it.
What makes Reverbium so bad? Well, instead of absorbing surrounding vibrations and related energies, this substance projects them to a greatly magnified degree. These projections take the form of gradually more powerful pulse waves, which only stop once the Reverbium itself has exploded!
It’s easy to see why Jaffrey was ordered to get rid of the volatile material, given just how much destruction it could cause. Unfortunately, she opted to save a small batch on the side, which inevitably fell into the wrong hands – causing no end of trouble for heroes including Spider-Man and Black Panther.
4 Ricochet Without Losing Velocity
We’ve mentioned Captain America’s shield a few times now, and you might be wondering if the vibranium it was forged from is responsible for it always returning to Cap’s hand once thrown. The short answer is “no” – with “but it certainly helps” tacked on the end.
According to Marvel, the reason why Cap’s shield invariably makes its way back to its point of origin – even after deflecting off multiple walls or baddies along the way – comes down to our hero’s incredible skill.
As a peak-condition super-soldier, Steve Rogers is blessed with uncannily precise aim and borderline-superhuman coordination, which together allow him to launch the shield at the optimal trajectory to ensure its trademark “boomerang” effect.
That said, Cap certainly benefits from vibranium’s ability to absorb kinetic energy, which allows the shield to ricochet off other surfaces several times with only negligible loss in velocity.
3 Create An Even More Durable Substance
Vibranium is already so impressive, it’s hard to imagine wanting to improve it. But that’s just what scientist Myron MacLain did, when he successfully fused the rare metal with iron – while he was asleep!
Exhausted after working late hours on behalf of the US Army during WWII, MacLain dozed off in the middle of his latest experiment to create an even more resilient substance to aid the war effort.
When nap time was over, the good doctor discovered he had created a new vibranium-iron alloy.
Given it had set in a circular tank hatch mold, it was perfectly suited for Captain America’s shield. Subsequent attempts by MacLain (and others) to replicate the formula failed, although it did result in the creation of another nigh-indestructible substance: adamantium – the metallic alloy that famously coats Wolverine’s skeleton.
2 Be Rendered Inert
Remember when we mentioned the fail-safe initiated by Black Panther, which made Wakanda’s stockpile of processed vibranium worthless, but didn’t say exactly what it was? Well, let’s take this opportunity to clear things up.
The reason that a large chunk of the world’s most precious metal was consigned to the scrap heap was that T’Challa was able to render it inert. That’s right: he stripped the vibranium of its ability to absorb vibrations, in the process presumably cancelling out any magic-amplifying properties it may have, too.
We’re not entirely sure how he did it (although a heavy dose of comic book science was likely involved).
After all, unlike Black Panther, we can’t lay claim to ranking amongst the smartest people on the planet. Regardless, he managed to pull it off – although in the wake of the recent Secret Wars event, Wakanda’s vibranium has been restored to its former potency.
1 Amplify Klaw’s Sonic Powers
To say that Ulysses Klaue – aka the supervillain Klaw – is a bad egg is putting it mildly. Utterly ruthless in pursuit of his goals, this depraved physicist is guilty not only of stealing vibranium from Wakandan soil, but also of murdering Black Panther’s father, T’Chaka.
Klaw later lost his right hand at the hands of a vengeful T’Challa, forcing him to replace it with a vibranium-powered sonic emitter of his own design.
This self-styled “Master of Sound” can manipulate sonic energy and generate solid sound constructs.
As if that weren’t enough, Klaw also transformed himself into a quasi-immortal, sound-based life-form – so dude is pretty powerful, aurally-speaking. But throw Reverbium into the mix, and things get even worse. As you probably guessed, this volatile substance boosts Klaw’s sonic powers to an even greater degree – although Black Panther does a good job keeping it out of his grasp.
What other amazing things can vibranium do? Let us know in the comments!