Vibranium has an important part to play in the forthcoming Black Panther movie, so to bring you up to speed with the rare substance, the following is a brief history of the fictional metal in both comics and movies…
What is Vibranium?
Vibranium first appeared in Daredevil #13 in February 1966. Written by Stan Lee and illustrated by John Romita, the story involved pirates, ape-men, a villain called Slagg, and a pair of medallions made from a mysterious material called Anti-Metal.
That version of the substance eventually became known as the ‘Antarctic Variety,’ which is native to Savage Island and produces vibrations that cause other metals to liquefy. Artificial versions of Vibranium have also been created, including NuForm and Reverbium.
But Vibranium proper first appeared in Fantastic Four #53 in August 1966, with the FF meeting Black Panther, and journeying to Wakanda to learn of his origin, as well as the origin of the precious metal.
That back-story has developed through the years. Accepted lore now states that Vibranium first reached the earth via a meteor landing on the tiny African nation of Wakanda some 10,000 years ago.
Able to absorb sound waves, vibrations and kinetic energy, Vibranium was found to be incredibly durable, powerful, versatile and strong. Realising its worth, and wishing to protect their precious resource, the rulers of Wakanda hid their country from the rest of the world, turning Wakanda into the stuff of legend.
Why is Vibranium Important to Wakanda?
Wakandans sold off tiny amounts of Vibranium for huge sums during their country’s isolation. They used the material — and the money made off the back of it — to develop, modernize, and educate the people of Wakanda.
Black Panther T’Challa ended that isolation, but continued to use the profits made from those vast reserves — found in the ‘Sacred Mound’ — to turn Wakanda into the most technologically advanced country in the world. And as King of the nation, he became richer than even Tony Stark.
Vibranium can also be found in the flora and fauna of Wakanda, imbuing some who consume it with superhuman abilities and causing mutations in others.
Why Vibranium is Important to Captain America and Black Panther
During WWII, Dr. MacLain was charged with the task of crafting indestructible armour for the Allies. MacLain fused Vibranium with a vast array of metal alloys, to no avail. Then, overcome by exhaustion, the metallurgist fell asleep. Only to wake up and discover that the various materials had bonded in pretty much indestructable fashion. And so Cap’s shield was born.
As far as Black Panther goes, his suit is made from a Vibranium weave that’s pretty much impossible to pierce, and which robs objects heading his way of their momentum. The soles of his boots are also made from Vibranium. This allows Black Panther to survive large falls when landing on his feet, to scale walls, and — with the right momentum — pretty much walk on water.
The ‘Heart-Shaped Herb‘ — which bestows strength and agility on the Black Panther — is also filled with Vibranium.
How Has Vibranium Been Used in the MCU?
In terms of Wakanda, Vibranium’s backstory in the forthcoming movie looks like it pretty much mirrors the comics. Though T’Challa’s outfit is slightly different, the suit is now pretty much bullet-proof, and features retractable Vibranium claws.
When it comes to Captain America however, the Vibranium story is a little different. There’s no Myron MacLain in The First Avenger, for starters. Instead, Howard Stark is the man with the plan. The playboy genius obtained a small supply of Vibranium in the early 1940s. Stark uses the entirety of that supply to craft a shield which is “stronger than steel and a third of the weight,” and duly gives it to Cap for his showdown with Red Skull.
Vibranium also plays a big role in Avengers: Age of Ultron, with the titular robot endeavouring to forge a new body from the precious metal using the tissue-printing Cradle device. The Avengers stop him however, and Tony Stark instead uses the Cradle to give J.A.R.V.I.S. physical form, thereby creating Vision.
Ultron had enough Vibranium left over to craft a robotic body for himself, however, and it took the combined power of Vision’s Mind Stone, Iron Man’s repulsors, and a lightning bolt from Thor‘s hammer to melt his metallic shell and precipitate his fall.
With Black Panther largely taking place in Wakanda, expect Vibranium to play an even bigger role in the next Marvel movie, which hits UK screens on February 12 and US screens four days later.