Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Discuss: Shape-shifters


Humanbelly said...

There are sort of two different kinds depicted here, aren't there? (Although I'm embarrassed to admit that I don't recognize the first alien fellow-- is he an LoSH guy?)

You've got yer "change into another creature (or person)" types, like Changeling, Wolfsbane, Mystique, or Snowbird. And then you've gotcher "malleable body" types, like Metamorpho, Plastic Man, or the Metal Men-- whose shape-shifting is more a function of imaginative use of their molecular control over their physical forms.

To me, even in the realm Superhero Physics, both require a particularly huge dose of Disbelief Suspension. But most improbable of all would Rahne Sinclair's case-- where a "genetic mutation" would cause her to transform into a completely different,specific, evolutionarily-unrelated mammal. There's just. . . there's nothin' to support that whatsoever. Heck, she'd be more plausible as a traditional "cursed" werewolf who'd managed to gain astonishing control over her transformations. . .

HB (on the curmudgeon train again!)

Anonymous said...

I don't know who any of those pictured above are - the first thing I thought of were the Skrulls and my favourite Skrulls story was the one where they kidnapped Ben Grimm and took him to that planet that looked like 1920's Chicago.

William said...

I'm really surprised you didn't picture The Wonder Twins at the top there. :D And how come no Marvel love? You could have included Snowbird. In fact she would have fit the category better than Metamorpho I think.

Metamorpho is more along the lines of morphers like the Metal Men, or stretchy guys like Plasticman and Reed Richards, etc. I've always really liked the stretchy/morphing guys, but I was never a huge fan of the straight up shape-shifters. Their powers are just a little too ambiguous. However, I've always had a soft spot for Gar Logan. He is probably my favorite among that group.

Redartz said...

The Impossible Man immediately "popped" into my mind upon seeing today's topic. As HB noted, these powers require more suspension of disbelief than many others. It is basically a take on the old childhood question, "what would you be if you could be anything". It is fun and speculative, and examples such as Plastic Man have made good use of these characteristics. And for fun, it doesh't get much more so than watching "Impy" give grief to the Fantastic Four while just trying to get his kicks...

William said...

Wow! When I started typing my first post the thread was bare. lol

Anyway, Humanbelly made a good point of mentioning the Skrulls. I used to really like the Skrulls as villains for the FF (and others), that is until the god-awful "Secret Invasion" storyline retconned half the Marvel U all the way back to the Kree/Skrull War. Of course that little gem was penned by our old friend Mr. Bendis. (A man who seems hell-bent on destroying everything good about my childhood).

I'd also like to discuss the mention of Wolfsbane by Mr. Belly. He put it better than I when he I said that having a mutant power to turn into a Werewolf is pretty ridiculous (I'm paraphrasing).

In my own post I stated that shape-shifter's powers were too "ambiguous". I guess a better word would probably be "implausible".

But then again, almost all of Marvel's Mutants have pretty implausible powers that are supposed to have occurred "naturally", such as shooting force beams from your eyes, turning into solid steel, and my favorite-- weather control. How does that work?

William said...

Ooops, I'm sorry! I gave Humanbelly credit for mentioning the Skrulls. I meant to say Collin Jones. My bad. Sorry about that.

Also for you guys who don't know, the characters pictured above are Chameleon Boy (LOSH), Changling (New Teen Titans), and Metamorpho.

Doug said...

Well, my fellow Marvel Zombies, Chameleon Boy, Changeling (formerly Beast Boy), and Metamorpho have all been around for close to 50 years. Broaden your horizons, boys!

As to the lack of a Marvel pic, my choices, etc... Feel good that you got this post. I've been so very busy personally and professionally, that if you think this was a lame effort -- well, wait until you see what I threw together for Thursday!

Head above the water (barely) --


Murray said...

Chameleon Boy, Changeling/Beast Boy and Metamorpho the Element Man. (For those who need a refresher-reminder)

As HB says, this flavour of superpower stretches any attempt at argle-bargle explanation to snapping. The only way to save the day is by playing the magic card. But what's then so staggering is how many shapeshifters are "reality" based. Only Metamorpho and Snowbird come to mind as having mystic origins. Zany.

Good old Reep Daggle always caused me frustration as lad. Still does, for that matter, but I manage to carry on with my day regardless. As Chameleon Boy, he could change into anything. He could change into a fish and breathe and maneuver underwater. He could change into an elephant, with all its mass and strength. He could change into a space dragon and navigate-travel between planets. He could change into a kryptonian or daxamite and...gained no special abilities. I understand from a writing-plot standpoint why that couldn't be allowed. But they never had a vaguely decent explanation in-story.

Rex Mason doing his Element Man thing always frustrated me. I blame the writers for being unimaginative or ignorant of their chemistry. OR, being aware of his potential and realizing how powerful he could be if let loose. Anyway, Metamorpho always seems to be little more than comic relief when he's on a team.

Doug said...

How about this for a DC-Marvel throwdown?

Metamorpho vs. the Absorbing Man

Place your bets.


Murray said...

Ooooh...Rex vs Crusher. I'd never thought of that tussle in all my fan days. Interesting.

The Absorbing Man would need to be pretty quick on his mental feet, which Crusher usually ain't. By this, I mean it would be pretty easy for Metamorpho (once he sussed out the powers of who he was fighting. Which wouldn't take long, since Crusher loves to bellow out his powers every third panel) to trick the Absorbing Man into taking on the properties of helium or other sissy element.

Of course, if Crusher didn't just absorb Metamorpho's current element state, but absorbed the full elemental transmutation powerset...my brain just popped. And I think the Absorbing Man's would as well. That's probably how they'd write the story. Rex would go for the helium gambit. Crusher would take on the elemental power and go dizzy trying to change into elements while absorbing another element.

dbutler16 said...

Chameleon Boy must be my favorite shapeshifter, because I'm a LOSH zombie, and I loved Gar's sense of humor in The New Teen Titans, however, I'll have to admit that when I saw the title of this post, the Skrulls were the first thing that popped into my head. And let's not forget their "sister" race, the Dire Wraiths, from the pages of Rom! Secret Invasion 25 years before the other Secret Invasion. Good story possibilities with this type of shape-shifter, as long as the writer doesn't fall into the "it was a Skrull all along" escape too often.

William mentioned the Wonder Twins and Snowbird, and those are good suggestions that I wouldn't have thought of.

Anonymous said...

What was the Doctor Who (David Tennant) story where the aliens had landed and were taking over people. But they were a bit bigger than the humans they had to squeeze into so they ended up being compressed so they kept farting? Mickey ended up throwing vinegar at one....IIRC. I mostly remember the farting....


Speaking of mostly and farting, did we ever discuss Guardians of the Galaxy?

The Prowler (once had to squeeze in to the middle back of a Camaro).

Doug said...

Prowler --

Not in one confined post. To be honest, it didn't seem like many of our regulars went to see Guardians. I'm guessing that's why Karen and/or I just let the "spoil it!" post go by the wayside.

But go back into the original discussion of the film on the day of its release and spoil it to your little heart's content!


Anonymous said...

Well, I'm waiting for the Guardians of the Galaxy DVD in December and that's why I haven't seen it. William, I don't mind you attributing my Skrulls comment to Humanbelly but I do mind when Colin is spelt with two ll's - ggrrr :)

Anonymous said...

That should have been two l's not two ll's.

Dr. Oyola said...

Dire Wraiths.

But I love all things ROM.

Speaking of shape-changing, I have recently changed shape into a man with a new full-time job and thus have not been around as much. Still want to read yesterday's post, but have to grade 15 more papers before I can allow myself to do it.


Martinex1 said...

I always thought the shape shifters were better villains than heroes. The Skrull and Dire Wraith ability to blend in was the real threat - not so much what they changed into. For heroes like Changeling, his power was in what he became not so much in the stealthy nature (being constantly green probably prevented that somewhat). I don't know if a heroic character ever really used his shape shifting ability to infiltrate an enemy group. Not much opportunity to do that for Wolfsbane or the like. But has there ever been a hero to transform and "spy"? From the X-Men, Mastermin in the Hellfire Club issues and Mystique from DOFP - were particularly deceitful. Has there ever been a hero that counters with that same approach? I'd love to see a hero infiltrate the skrulls by transforming into a skrull; too bad Changeling is a DC character - his green skin would be perfect for that.

Edo Bosnar said...

Heh, Martinex makes a good point about Chanegling (I refuse to call him Beast Boy) - that could be used for a good cross-over story. Otherwise, I suppose one of my other favorites, Impossible Man, could also transform himself into a Skrull. Has he in fact done that? I see potential for a really funny story, there: i.e., the FF somehow talk him into infiltrating the Skrull Empire for whatever reason, and he keeps messing up and getting into all kinds of trouble...

Martinex also mentioned another one that had occurred to me, Mystique, and he makes a good point about shape-shifters possibly being better as villains, as everyone seems to noted about the Skrulls and Dire Wraiths.

I'll just throw out another personal favorite, E-man, since his power-set includes shape-shifting.

Murray said...

In the grand crossover "X-Men and Teen Titans", Changeling did some infiltration. Darkseid's shock troopers were apparently inhuman enough to fall within his "animals only" purview. It took Darkseid himself to dryly comment to his lackey "Since when are my shock troopers a bright, emerald green?"

But he should be able to do a whizbang job on Skrulls!

To Martinex- Chameleon Boy was, in fact, the head of the Legion "Espionage Squad". So he indeed went undercover and sneaky to ferret out the skullduggery by bad guys on several occasions.

Yes! Alec Tron aka E-Man!

Murray said...

Oops! J'onn J'onzz just popped to mind! What an oversight. The Martian Manhunter uses his shapeshifting to infiltrate gangs and villains all the time.

Anonymous said...

Tend to agree shape-shifters make for better villains.... at least in the hands of a competent writer. But its just annoying when they're used as a convenient way of filling gaps in plot and/or continuity. Space Phantom(s) anyone?


Anonymous said...

PS Actually, maybe Space Phantoms aren't shape shifters... trying to remember exactly how they work. Do they become a duplicate of the original (does that count?) or just occupy the host body?


Doug said...

I think Space Phantoms are mimics, although if I recall they do maintain the host's powers. The host is sent to limbo, correct?

Murray's comment about J'onn J'onzz made me think of Kurt Wagner's image inducer. Similar tech was used by the Vision in the Busiek/Perez series. What does everyone think of that?


Steve Does Comics said...

@The Prowler. The Doctor Who story was Aliens of London/World WarIII but it was a Christopher Eccleston story.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Doug - Yes, the host body goes to limbo, so I guess that does make the Space Phantom a shape-shifter of sorts (limited to the host form).

I think the use of phantoms to rationalize Avengers continuity confused me there.... But that's my point - a shape-shifting villains can end up as just a convenient deus ex machina to explain away continuity, which is annoying. Even in the hands of a good writer thats ultimately unsatisfying.

Maybe the skrulls would be a better example - haven't those four skrulls turned into cows at the end of FF2 turned up a few times over the years...?


Humanbelly said...

Yeah, the Space Phantom(s)- even with the later attempts to make him/them. . . well. . . make any sense at all- don't bear up gracefully under anything like close scrutiny. I kind of feel like it would have been better to just acknowledge him (originally) for what he was: an off-the-cuff nemesis that Stan wasn't in a position to think through thoroughly at the time (and really, why would he?). Trying to make his powers, origins, motivations, etc. fit into the greater whole of Marvel continuity (or even a logical universe, period) seems to be throwing good creative energy after bad, as it were.

(Hmm-- are there girl Space Phantoms, even? What do they look like?)


Karen said...

I thought it was an interesting idea in the Days of future Past film that (SPOILER) Mystique's shape changing ability was the source of the Sentinels' ability to adapt. The way they explained it made sense and tied things together in a neat way that no one had ever done before.

Anonymous said...

IIRC, back during the days when Mystique, Sabretooth and Wild Child were all crammed into X-Factor, there was a letter sent in about Mystique's power. It had something to do with mass and density and blah blah blah, I'm zoning out even now. Anyhoo, the question was asking if Mystique would transform into something larger or smaller than her, say the Hulk or Jubilee, where does the extra mass come from or go. The explanation ran that though she could LOOK like them, she couldn't BE them. She wouldn't have the Hulk's strength or Jubilee's power set (which was what again), so her limits were in looking like someone not being someone. My question, especially from the DOFP movie, is when she does change, where do the clothes come from? In the seen where she becomes the old man to help disguise her limp, where did the suit and the cane come from?

The Prowler (same thing with Dr O, when he changed shapes, where did all the new clothes come from).

Humanbelly said...

Prowl, the answer to your question might be found in, of all places, the old ANIMORPHS book series for young readers. (I imagine that those of us with kids in the 16 to 25 year old range may be familiar w/ that looooong series. . . if not with the rather low-budget kids TV show it spawned-)

Animal shape-shifting was, of course, the central concept of that series, and the author eventually took a shot at justifying the increase/decrease in body mass scientifically in a universe where conservation of mass has to be given its proper due. IIRC, the morphing process activated a little wormhole to another dimension or "place" in space where raw, unshaped body mass could be "parked" (like when the kids were mosquitoes), or mass from that region could be drawn from to increase the body size back on Earth (like when someone's a Cape Buffalo). And somehow, that inter-spatial cannot be broken.

Sure, it's hinky-- but at least it's not flat-out ignoring one of the most fundamental laws of physics, right?

HB (who was DEVESTATED at the end of that series! Young HBSon & I were plowing through it at the same time. . . when he was a lad.)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, gotta love Mystique, Metamorpho, Beast Boy, the Skrulls and Chameleon Boy. I'm surprised my old pal HB didn't recognize Reep Daggle aka Chameleon Boy.

To me, shapeshifters have always represented the uncertainty and fear of the unknown - if aliens or some other hostile species could change their shape to look like us or someone close to us, we'd be in really deep doo doo! It's enough to make someone paranoid, which is one reason why they've been so popular in fiction. The physical transformation from one character to another somehow unnerves readers and gives writers enough fuel to write compelling stories.

- Mike 'tried to change my looks by getting a haircut' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Anonymous said...

I've just started watching Ladyhawke again. I know they often remark on the unusual size of the wolf but no one ever says that the hawk is larger than a normal hawk. Just poor writing or lazy plotting?

The Prowler (Dyno-Mike, at Supercuts, not only will you get an Super cut but helpful hints on products that can keep it looking amazing! I'm thinking a comb).

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