Metamorpho, also known as the Element Man, is one of DC Comics’ most bizarre heroes, in both look and powers. He was created by writer Bob Haney, the man behind the Doom Patrol and the Teen Titans, and artist Ramona Fradon, famous for her work on Aquaman. Although never really becoming a big mainstream success on his own, Metamorpho nevertheless found a home in many DC team books, like The Outsiders, Justice League, and most recently, The Terrifics. Here’s everything you need to know about one of DC’s weirdest characters, soon to be a part of James Gunn’s Superman: Legacy.
Rex Mason was a soldier of fortune, hired by industrialist Simon Stagg to retrieve the ancient Orb of Ra from an Egyptian tomb. Unfortunately for Mason, he fell for Stagg’s daughter, Sapphire Stagg. Enraged by this, Simon Stagg planned a trap for Mason in the tomb, and had his brutish servant Java knock him out. The plan was to seal him in the tomb to die. Inside, exposure to the meteorite the Orb of Ra was fashioned from changed him. It transformed Mason into a being that can shapeshift into any element, or combination of elements.
Unfortunately, he was disfigured by this transformation, appearing like a pasty white being, whose torso and legs they made up of different elements. Rex hated his monstrous new appearance. And he vowed to find a cure. In the meantime however, he dedicated himself to a life of heroism. He eventually learned that he was one of the Metamorphae, other beings transformed by the meteorite into a superpowered soldier for the god Ra. Rex Mason is but the latest in a long line of Metamorphae.
Metamorpho’s First Appearance, in Brave and the Bold #57
The superhero Metamorpho made his first appearance in 1965’s Brave and the Bold #57, a title that famously introduced many DC characters and concepts like the Justice League of America. This first story presented his origin, and after a two-issue try-out, they deemed Metamorpho successful enough to garner his own ongoing series later that year. He even had his own female couterpart like Batman and Superman did, the heroine Element Girl. The Metamorpho series lasted only 17 issues, with the final issue coming out in 1968.
Metamorpho: DC’s Team Player
During the run of his solo series, he guest starred in an issue of Justice League of America, where he turned down membership, believing a cure for his affliction was coming soon. They eventually granted him a reservist membership. After they canceled his solo series, He made sporadic appearances throughout the ‘70s, mostly as a guest star in more famous heroes’ comics. In 1983, the Element Man joined Batman’s new team the Outsiders, and was a lead character in the Batman and the Outsiders title until 1987, when the group dissolved. During this time, he finally married his longtime love, Sapphire Stagg.
They left Metamorpho for dead at the end of Outsiders after a harrowing adventure in the crossover Millennium, but only two years later DC revived him, becoming a lead character in the series Justice League Europe. During that time, he found out that Sapphire had given birth to his son, Joseph Mason. The infant had Rex’s powers and aspects of his unusual appearance. Eventually, they discovered a cure for Joseph’s condition.
On a Justice League mission, his body appeared seemingly destroyed, but he reformed in a new ‘90s “extreme” look. Metamorpho now had giant crystal shards for shoulders, and a dramatic mist always followed him. He stuck around with various Leagues throughout the ‘90s, but once again died in Grant Morrison’s JLA #1, using his body to create a cocoon to protect his teammates as they fell from space into Earth’s atmosphere. Of course, years later, he came back to life again. He would briefly join the Doom Patrol, another team of famous DC freaks.
Shift, the Second Metamorpho
In the early 2000s, a new group of Outsiders came together. This team was led by Nightwing rather than Batman. But they had a tie to the old Outsiders team, as Metamorpho was a member. Except, it wasn’t really Metamorpho. A piece of Metamorpho had broken off during one of his many “deaths” and gained sentience. When the real Metamorpho turned up, he asked to reabsorb his twin. But the other Metamorpho was an independent being, and asked to remain so. He took on the new name of Shift. But after Shift accidentally killed several people during a mission, he asked for re-assimilation into the original Metamorpho. For him, it was better than living with the memory of what he’d done.
Metamorpho in the New 52 and DC Rebirth
In the New 52 era, circa 2011-215, we saw Metamorpho in small roles, but they did not explore his past. The assumption is that his backstory didn’t really change much due to the Flashpoint event, and was more or less the same. In the DC Rebirth timeline, Metamorpho was part of the Terrifics, a team led by Mister Terrific, which included heroes like Plastic Man.
Metamorpho can transform his body into all kinds of different elemental compounds. At first, it seemed like he could only transform into elements found in the human body. But later, that power expanded to include all elements. This includes transforming into liquids and gaseous elements. When he shapeshifts, he can elongate and change the size and mass of his limbs. Metamorpho can also replicate toxins found in his own body.
Metamorpho can change his physical size, and even duplicate his body and create a double. His body provided him with armor of a sort, and a degree of superhuman strength. He also retains the detective and martial arts skills from his former life as adventure Rex Mason, as well as all his archeological knowledge. Although certain comics have shown Metamorpho eating, for him, it’s purely for pleasure. He has no need to consume food after his transformation.
Is Metamorpho Immortal?
There is a lot of evidence to suggest that Metamorpho is immortal. He was rendered “inert” several times, because of circumstances that would have killed almost anyone else. But they always resurrected him. The first and second times happened in the original Outsiders series. They found a way to revive him a few years later. After saving his League teammates in Grant Morrison’s JLA, he once again became inert. The Justice League even held a funeral. Not too many years later, he returned. He can be incapacitated, sometimes for a very long time. Yet it seems that unless his body is totally obliterated, he cannot die.
Metamorpho in the DCAU and Other DC Animated Series Like Young Justice
Metamorpho was meant to get an animated series in the ’60s, but it was never produced. He finally made his animated debut in Justice League’s season one episode “Metamorphosis.” Voiced by the late Tom Sizemore. He later popped up here and there in the background of various episodes of Justice League Unlimited. But he never had a featured role again past his initial two-part episode. Another version of the Element Man appeared in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and later, the short-lived Beware the Batman. Most recently, he appeared as a member of the Outsiders in the series Young Justice.
Metamorpho and Superman
In the comics, Metamorpho doesn’t have much of a relationship with Superman. He has a much closer working relationship with Batman. But he has served alongside the Man of Steel on several missions during his time in various iterations of the Justice League. The pair have never actually fought. However, despite how powerful Rex Mason is, Superman is still stronger and would likely defeat him.
Anthony Carrigan Will Play Metamorpho in the DCU’s Superman Legacy
After over 50 years as a DC Comics mainstay, Metamorpho will appear in James Gunn’s Superman: Legacy. Barry actor Anthony Carrigan will play him. We know next to nothing about how similar or different the DCU Rex Mason will be compared to the comics and animation. But another character popping up in Superman: Legacy is Mister Terrific, which suggests that we may see their team, the Terrifics. Or, Metamorpho is part of an already established Justice League. We just know we’re excited to see this famously bizarre DC icon make it into live-action at long last.