The Science Behind the Shapeshifters of the Marvel Universe
A man is walking down 5th street in New York, when a car alarm goes off behind him. He spins around, and sees a terrifying monster, moments away from wreaking havoc on the entire tristate area. This man would be one of the first victims if he didn’t have one incredible super power: shapeshifting! He rolls up and changes into the form of–
Well it depends. See, there are actually lots of different kinds of shapeshifters, especially in the Marvel Universe. It really depends on the limits of a person’s power and the specific ‘sciences’ behind their abilities to change their size, appearance, cellular structure, and more. Let’s shift gears and learn about all the different types of shapeshifters in Marvel Comics.
You might be most familiar with metamorphs – shapeshifters who can only take the shape of other human forms. They cannot change their size, and they can’t adapt their body to non-humanoid shapes. Mystique is the prime example of a metamorph. She’s an incredibly talented metamorph who is even able to mimic the exact voices of every person that she imitates when she successfully manipulates the structure of her vocal cords.
This indicates that she also has the ability to imitate the internal anatomical aspects of other humans, as well as rearrange her own biological structure. However, she is not able to copy the memories of others. Mystique gets all of her information through extraordinary reconnaissance missions.
Metamorphs like Mystique are also not able to truly replicate abilities or genetic enhancements, like Wolverine‘s adamantium claws- though she can make it appear as though she has.
The next common type of shapeshifter is the micro/megamorph – shifters that have the ability to change size, sometimes adding or subtracting mass to their person. Two of the most well known micro/megamorphs in the Marvel Universe are Ant-Man and The Wasp. Through the use of Pym Particles, they are able to shift their size and maintain or change their mass while bypassing the Square-Cube law of surface area and volume.
When they shrink down, their mass is extended into an extradimensional space, retaining their strength because technically they are not losing any mass. When they grow in size like Giant-Man, they borrow additional mass from the Kosmos Dimension, making them proportionally stronger and larger- although there are upper limits to this megamorphing, as the larger they grow, the more strength is required to hold them upright.
Shapeshifting takes an interesting twist when you talk about a polymorph – shapeshifters that can change the mass of their own body, expanding, stretching, reforming, and even contracting it like fluids. Does that sound familiar?
Think about Mister Fantastic. His power, often referred to as plasticity, makes him effectively impervious to punctures, and can even make parts of himself denser in order to protect himself from impact. He’s able to contain explosions, and he’s absorbed the impact from a 150 billion ton mountain. Polymorphs function, really, in any form that they’d like.
Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel, has even become famous for “embiggening” herself to fight crime, and once even transformed into Carol Danvers during a superheroic identity crisis.
Now these next two categories have a large amount of overlap. Bodimorph is the ability to change the elemental state – turning into metal like Colossus, or turning into diamonds like Emma Frost. The villain Absorbing Man can duplicate the material structure of anything he touches, and has often been defeated by being tricked into mimicking a vulnerable, less powerful compound like paper or gas. The mutant Husk can shed her skin and reveal new compositional states of matter beneath, such as reptile skin or hardened stone.
Characters whose bodimorphic abilites are limited like Colossus and Emma also fall into a secondary category- transmorphs. These are shapeshifters who are only able to change between two set states. Colossus can only switch between flesh and metal. Emma Frost can only switch between flesh and diamond.
Marvel’s most well known transmorphs are the cousins Hulk and She-Hulk. They each shapeshift back and forth between two specific, gamma-irradiated states wherein their size, mass, and strength also increases exponentially.
Shapeshifting in the Marvel Universe reaches the pinnacle of its power with omnimorphs – shapeshifters who are able to change their mass, internal structure, and assume human and non-human forms, even appearing as inanimate, inorganic objects.
The most recognizable omnimorph is the God of Mischief, Loki. He can change his body into any imaginable shape, object, or form. There is no limit to the ways that Loki can change his body, even functioning as a snake, a pigeon, or a bee.
Which type of shapeshifter would you most like to be? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to Let your Geek Sideshow!