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Material Mimicry

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"What, you're gonna stop me by tossin' concrete? So congratulations. Now I'm concrete. Now what?"
The Absorbing Man
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A character or object can change itself into a material simply by touching that material. Most often seen with metal and stone, but sometimes seen with rubber, wood, or other materials.

Characters with this ability need to be careful what they choose to use their powers on. Sure, pummeling your enemy with stone fists is great, but if you accidentally turn into paper or ice, you're going to have a bad time. Their foes might try and use this to their advantage and induce Assimilation Backfire. It also requires some ability to think on one's feet to find a useful substance to turn into. Alternatively, maybe they carry around small objects so they always have useful transformations available.

Just like Chameleon Camouflage, this can be done for camouflage purposes.

Related tropes include Cannibalism Superpower, The Assimilator and Power Copying which are about absorbing the powers of other characters rather than materials. See also Elemental Armour, where the character is only encased by the substance without transforming. Contrast The Magic Touch, where touching causes the object to change as well as Taken for Granite, where the transformation is against the victim's will and freezes them.

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Sub-Trope of Voluntary Shapeshifting. See also Elemental Shapeshifter.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • One Piece: Pica, with his Stone-stone Fruit ability, is able to assimilate with and move through stone that he comes in contact with. When he emerges, his skin is made of stone.

    Comic Books 
  • The Supervillain Absorbing Man, a longtime opponent of The Mighty Thor and the Incredible Hulk, can absorb the physical characteristics of anything he touches. This extends to inanimate substances like steel and concrete or even other people like The Incredible Hercules. Immortal Hulk sees him learn to absorb the properties of entire objects like rockets. Stonewall, his biological son, has also inherited this power.
    • Not being the sharpest knife in the drawer, he is often depicted as never being able to catch on that absorbing the physical characteristics of something means getting the weaknesses that come with it. Thor once defeated him by having him come into contact with hydrogen gas, which then harmlessly dissipated. In a battle with the Hulk on top of a skyscraper under construction, the roof collapsed and both fell hundreds of feet to the ground. Sneering at the Hulk, he said all he had to do to survive the fall was to reach out and grab a piece of falling debris, absorbing its properties. Unfortunately, he grabbed a shard of glass, and didn't have time to grab something else before hitting the ground...
  • All-Star Squadron: William Markus fought crime under the name 'Amazing Man' after an accident involving the Ultra-Humanite gave him the power to copy the properties of materials he touched. His two grandsons, William Markus III and Markus Clay, took up the mantle after he died, though Clay's transformations only affected his skin.
  • In Batman and the Outsiders, Shift was originally an accidental clone of Metamorpho (he was a part of the original that had split off and developed his own personality), but eventually, he underwent Divergent Character Evolution, gaining the ability to absorb and mimic almost any substance he touched, whereas the original Metamorpho could only mimic elements found within the human body.
  • The parody comic Captain Biceps has him defeat the Absorb Man ersatz by throwing a stale baguette at him, making him much easier to punch than water or brick. An inconvenient side of Absorb Man's power is also seen when he steps in a dog turd.
  • Firestorm had a Stalker with a Crush named Casey Krinsky with substance-copying abilities. She is defeated when Firestorm's transmuting abilities interact oddly with hers and accidentally petrify her.
  • Percival "Grunge" Chang from Gen¹³ started with the power to take on the properties of anything he touches by molecularly bonding to it. After Worldstorm, his powers were expanded to Power Copying.
  • Generation X: Mondo's power is to copy the properties of substances.
  • Madman: It Girl, member of the Atomics, has the ability to copy the genetic traits of anything or anyone she touches. Not only can she copy abilities from others, such as her teammate Mr. Gum, she can also take on the features of materials or objects and change her body to them.
  • West Coast Avengers (2018): Kate Bishop's boyfriend Johnny Watts, AKA Fuse, has this superpower, transforming successfully from steel to brick to rubber to even water. He wears Vibranium piercings for transformations into that element, but staying in that form too long cuts into his intelligence so he saves it for emergencies. His sister Ramone has a similar power, but in her case the transformation into Vibranium is mostly permanent.

    Film 
  • David Banner in Hulk gets this power after injecting himself with Bruce's DNA, taking elements from the Absorbing Man. In the climax, he goes through electrical, rock, and water-based forms in quick succession.
  • In the director's cut of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, after the T-1000 gets frozen and shattered, he exhibits some malfunctions with his morphing ability. When he touches a steel railing in the factory, his hands take on the texture and painted warning stripes of the material.
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    Literature 
  • Animorphs: Animal morphs are "acquired" by physical contact. The process puts them in a slight trance, useful for the more dangerous morphs like sharks and tigers.
  • In The Fall of Five, Number Five has this ability — he constantly carries a rubber ball and a steel bearing so that he can fight at will whenever necessary, though it does seem to be a choice response as he doesn't become cotton when wearing clothes and is able to roll the balls over his fingers when nervous.

    Live-Action Television 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering: Tyvar Kell, a Planeswalker from Kaldheim, has both this power and The Magic Touch with natural materials. Examples of his capabilities include giving himself armor made of stone or growing thorns to get out of grapples.

    Toys 
  • BIONICLE: A type of Rahi, called the Tunneler, has the ability to take the physical properties of a material used to strike it, like rock, crystal, or fire. In the novels, Vakama and Onewa defeat it by causing to absorb glass, which forces it to remain still. Since it was around twice the size its species is normally it would crack if it moved.

    Video Games 
  • Pokémon: Kecleon's Ability Color Change, while presented as Chameleon Camouflage, functions closer to this trope. Its type changes to that of the last attack that hit it.
  • Yooka-Laylee. The title character has the Slurp State, an unlockable move that allows Yooka to take on the properties of certain objects by licking them. For example, a beehive makes him sticky like honey, a cannonball makes him heavy, and a bonfire makes him warm.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!: Carl "Crusher" Creel, a Marvel Universe supervillain, can absorb the qualities of anything he touches. This ability makes him a dangerous opponent, but it also means he often absorbs the weaknesses of whatever he's touched and most of his defeats come from heroes who exploit this. Thor shows him why taking on Mjölnir's properties was a bad idea in the "Gamma World Part 2" episode.
    Absorbing Man: Fight back!
    Thor: I cannot... for I am concentrating...
    (Absorbing Man rushes him, only to freeze in his tracks)
    Absorbing Man: I - I can't move! What's goin' on?!
    Thor: You were foolish to take on the essence of Mjolnir, mortal. The hammer's power is not yours to control. It is mine!
    (Thor proceeds to use Absorbing Man as a hammer against the Leader's robot suit)
  • Ben 10: Alien Force. Kevin E. Levin has this power. He has Energy Absorption too, but using it drives him insane and turns him into a self-described "monster". In the "Kevin's Big Score" episode, Vulkanus captures Kevin and forces him to absorb a precious gem called Taydenite. Vulkanus then proceeds to painfully harvest the Taydenite crystals that grow from Kevin's body.
  • Bureau of Alien Detectors: Moose Tengauneau, after having his genes messed with during an alien abduction, has the power to take the properties of inanimate objects he touches, a move he calls the "Elemental Morph." In practice, he usually just absorbs the power of steel, though once he used rubber.
  • The Teen Titans fight a villain with this superpower, called the White Monster, in the Dénouement Episode "Things Change". The White Monster actually gets tougher when it absorbs a liquid like oil since it can then reform like the T-1000.
  • Wakfu: The absorbent genie from "Le sac de Ruel" ("Ruel's Bag") takes on the properties of whatever he eats and since he has been feasting on Kamas (coins), the other characters cannot even scratch him. Ruel defeats him by tricking him into eating some chocolate coins and he starts to melt.

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