Unstable molecules (comics)
|In story information|
|Element of stories featuring||Fantastic Four|
Unstable molecules are a fictional technology appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. They exist as a configuration of unknown atomic nuclei and electrons that are responsive to certain energized matter around them. Developed by Reed Richards (Mister Fantastic of the Fantastic Four), unstable molecules are typically utilized in fabrics for superhero or supervillain costumes, allowing the fabric to conform with the wearer's form and to not succumb to the deleterious effects of wearer's powers. For example, as Mr. Fantastic stretches, his costume stretches with him instead of tearing. The same goes for his teammates: the Invisible Woman's costume becomes invisible when she does and the Human Torch's costume doesn't burn when he activates his powers. Essentially, it acts as an extension of the wearer's skin.
Unstable molecules are not generally employed by heroes other than the Fantastic Four, although Mr. Fantastic has, on rare occasion, gifted fellow superheroes with costumes of the material (most notably the X-Men's costumes, as well as Henry Pym's. Mr. Fantastic also made a suit of unstable molecules for Spider-Man which allowed him to masquerade as Venom). The formula has occasionally been stolen by supervillains such as the Mad Thinker (who used it to create Awesome Andy), as well. It was also swiped by Taylor Industries, the company owned by Night Thrasher. Reed Richards allowed Thrasher's team, the New Warriors to keep the costumes they had, so they could fight crime more effectively. The Power Pack had costumes made of unstable molecules manufactured for them by the Kymellian smartship Friday; as the alien Kymellians had no direct contact with Earth natives prior to this, it's possible that they developed their own form of unstable molecules, as certain Kymellians naturally develop super-powers.
The molecules also had a downside. The Trapster once defeated Reed Richards through the use of a white powder which rendered unstable molecules inert, thereby preventing Reed's suit from stretching with him. Also, if repulsors are set to a certain frequency, synchs the atoms in the materials and breaks them down.
Although a potentially lucrative commercial enterprise, unstable molecules are deemed too dangerous for use by the public in general - when a fashion designer procured a small sample of unstable-molecule fabric and attempted to have the process reverse engineered, the "lock" kept on the molecules by Mr. Fantastic was undone, unleashing their instability, which spread to neighbouring molecules in a chain reaction that dissolved surrounding matter, including humans. The reaction was thankfully contained by the Invisible Woman.
To a certain extent the phrase has become a source of humour regarding the pseudo scientific explanations that arose during the Silver Age of Comics.
- The name was also used in the name of Fantastic Four: Unstable Molecules, an Eisner Award-winning miniseries published by Marvel in 2004, and written by James Sturm with artwork by Guy Davis.
- Unstable molecule fabric have become a common material by the time of the Marvel 2099 line of comics (referred to as UMF for short), to the extent that Miguel O'Hara, Spider-Man 2099, owned a Day of the Dead costume made of them. This costume became associated with his Spider-Man identity, as it was the only UMF clothing that he had. Although available as clothing of the ultimate durability, it is implied to be quite expensive to purchase.
- Slapstick has a body composed of living unstable molecules dubbed Electroplasm. Similarly, Morph of the Exiles once said his body is made of Unstable Molecules.
In other media
In the 2005 feature film Fantastic Four, the origin of unstable molecules was not a deliberate invention on Reed's part, but actually mere chance; the FF's suits consisted of an all-purpose bodysuit that Victor von Doom and Susan Storm had developed to be worn under their astronaut suits while on the survey mission that resulted in the team acquiring their powers, the suits thus being exposed to the same cosmic radiation as their wearers and gaining the ability to change in the same manner.
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