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Comicbook: Metamorpho

Metamorpho the Element Man is a DC Comics superhero. Metamorpho was created by writer Bob Haney (Metal Men, Doom Patrol) and artist Ramona Fradon, and debuted in The Brave and the Bold #57 in 1965 before getting his own ongoing series.

Rex Mason, Adventurer Archaeologist, became Metamorpho after being exposed to the Orb of Ra, an artifact made from a radioactive meteorite. He has the ability to shift his shape and to transform parts of his body into any element found in the human body. It came with several downsides, the most obvious of which is that in human form he is bald, lumpy, and his skin is divided into areas colored white, orange, brown, and purple. (Yes, he's one of those superheroes who regards their condition as more of a curse than a blessing.)

His supporting cast includes Simon Stagg, the amoral business tycoon who hired him to find the Orb, Sapphire Stagg, Stagg's daughter and Rex's love interest, and Java, Stagg's unfrozen-Neanderthal manservant. For a while he had a Distaff Counterpart, Element Girl, who is now mostly known for a memorable guest appearance in The Sandman.

Metamorpho was clearly inspired by what was happening down the street at Marvel Comics, with Haney giving the book an oddball hipness and his own version of teenage lingo, as well as engaging Stan Lee's famous trash-talking on his own terms. He gave the comic its Marvel-baiting tagline, and even parodied the Galactus Trilogy with the story of The Thunderer!, who was heralded by Neutrog the Forerunner!.

Metamorpho was one of the few characters to turn down an invitation to join the Justice League of America, and later became a founder member of the Outsiders, Batman's superhero team for superheroes who didn't belong in teams. Some time after that he became a member of Justice League Europe.

In Flashpoint and the New 52, Metamorpho doesn't exist, but has a Distaff Counterpart named Element Woman. Real name Emily Sung, she's a bubbly Cloud Cuckoolander, but an effective crimefighter. She helped the Justice League during the Throne Of Atlantis story arc and was recruited into the League in issue 18.

In other media, Metamorpho has appeared as a recurring character in the Justice League animated series, with the Outsiders in Batman The Brave And The Bold, and as a in Beware the Batman.

In 2009, Neil Gaiman wrote a Lighter and Fluffier Metamorpho, directly inspired by the tone of the original Haney-penned adventures, for Wednesday Comics, with art by Mike Allred.

Metamorpho's adventures provide examples of:

  • Adventurer Archaeologist: Rex Mason.
  • All Cavemen Were Neanderthals: Java.
  • Blessed with Suck: Metamorpho's powers come bundled with a freakish appearance (although actually it doesn't seem to have put Sapphire off as much as you might think).
  • Catch Phrase: Truckloads of them.
    • Metamorpho: "Blue Blazes!", "Holy Hannah!"
    • Simon Stagg: "By Jasper!", "By Gadfrey!", "By the great Harry!"
  • Clones Are People Too: Metamorpho's clone Shift tries to live his own life as a member of the Outsiders, with the original Metamorpho's blessing. But when his android girlfriend gets corrupted by pre-existing evil programming, betrays the team, and dies, Shift says he can't bear to live any more and begs Metamorpho to reabsorb him, which he reluctantly does.
  • Contemporary Caveman: Java.
  • Death Is Cheap: Metamorpho has died and come back at least twice. On one occasion, Superman was the only person who bothered to attend his funeral, because everyone else just figured he'd be back sooner or later.
  • Depending on the Writer: Whether a metamorphae is able to access (for simplicity's sake) all the elements of the periodical table, or only those found within the human body.note 
  • Fashionable Asymmetry: Metamorpho's default form.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Java - ever the heartsick, scheming fool - absolutely despises Rex for "stealing away" Sapphire, the girl of his affection, to the point where he believes Metamorpho to be a lesser romantic rival to himself and visibly cringes every time the two lovers kiss, thinking Sapph's trying to make him jealous.
  • Happily Married: After finally getting fed up with Rex's constant indecision over proposing (his main concern was finding a cure, for her sake, before he popped the question), Sapph chewed him out for his self-pity and asked him herself. He immediately and joyfully said "yes", and the couple have since persevered through thick and thin.
  • Magic Meteor: The source of Metamorpho's powers.
  • Monster from Beyond the Veil: After one of Metamorpho's deaths, his son wishes to have him back (without specifying "alive"), and this is the result.
  • Monster Modesty: As mentioned below, he wears nothing but underwear.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: He rarely attempts to directly kill Rex, but Java has proven himself a remorseless opportunist several times, slinking away quietly when Metamorpho is in trouble rather than helping him out; only when Sapph's in trouble can he manage to (briefly) put aside his rivalry for her sake.
  • Nigh Invulnerable: Early on, Metamorpho changed himself into gunpowder and let himself be exploded. His powers let him get better.
    • Case in point, Element Girl with the same powers tried numerous times to commit suicide and found it impossible. She required divine intervention to finally die. Logically then Metamorpho also has I Cannot Self Terminate.
  • Underwear of Power: In his default human appearance, Metamorpho is naked except for his underwear of power — which therefore are presumably part of his body.
  • The Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer: Java.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: One of Metamorpho's powers.

See also the trope lists at Batman and the Outsiders, Justice League, Batman The Brave And The Bold, Wednesday Comics, Beware the Batman.
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