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May 29, 2024 6 mins

In this episode of STBYM’s The Monstrefact, Robert discusses Colossus, the metal-skinned mutant from Marvel’s X-men…

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Speaker 1 (00:03):
Welcome to Stuff to Blow Your Mind, a production of iHeartRadio.

Speaker 2 (00:09):
Hi, my name is Robert Lammin. This is the Monster Fact,
a short form series from Stuff to Blow Your Mind,
focusing in non mythical creatures, ideas and monsters in time.
I've been plowing through old episodes of The X Men,
the animated series from the nineties with my son in

anticipation of eventually diving into the X Men ninety seven series.
This show is a lot of fun, packs a lot
of nostalgia for me, and leads to some interesting conversations
with my son about the various themes. Some of our
favorite characters include Rogue and Wolverine, but Colossus is always
a treat as well. If you're not familiar with this

particular mutant, we're talking about Russian X Men Peter Resputant,
an already intimidatingly muscular man and who is able at
will to assume an impenetrable steel form. Sometimes, as in
his Marvel dot Com profile, Colossus's transformation is said to
convert his entire body into an organic steel like substance.

Other times, the transformation is interpreted as something that occurs
only at the dermal level, so only at the skin level.
Either way, the transformation generally looks as if a segmented
stainless steel coating flows over his entire body. We're going
to approach it here as a dermal transformation because the
idea of a full body transformation leaves us less room

to wonder over the scientific details of the feet. But
just the idea alone has always been a captivating one
because here is Peter Resputen, a powerful but peaceful man
who would far rather pursue art than conflict, but who
for the greater good can literally grow the thickest, most
impenetrable skin imaginable to throw down against adversity. For Colossus,

this might mean the grasping tentacles v Omega Red, always
a favorite of mine, or the machinations of the Shadow King.
Once the threat is dealt with, Peter reverts to his
normal form and continues on in his peaceful, creative pursuits.
Lynn Ween and Dave Cockrum created Colossus back in nineteen
seventy five, and he remains a popular character to this day.

So how might we think about Colossus from a scientific
and biological standpoint? Turning once more to marvel anatomy by
Mark Sumerac and Daniel Wallace. The authors here discuss his
ability in terms of a transmutation of his dermal layers
or skin into an organic steel, with his underlying body
retaining its flesh and blood form. Their explanation details a

process by which each individual's skin cell draws on metallic
extra dimensional mass to become an activated organic steel cell. So,
in other words, each cell of Colossus's dermal layer coats
itself in biological metallic material, and this translates into the

transformation of the entire epidermis, but at the cellular level. Thus,
his mobility is not compromised, and his already incredible baseline
strength no doubt helps out as well. Now, by this explanation,
we may not be dealing exactly with something like steel
shutters from nowhere flowing over his entire body, but that
metallic cellular coating has to come from somewhere if we're

to adhere to the law of conservation of mass. And
the answer they provide is that the ability draws on
another spatial dimension. That's where the metal comes from. And okay,
that works for me. Now. I also ran across an
excellent twenty eighteen paper in the journal Advances in Physiology
Education titled The Physiology of Impenetrable Skin and Colossus of

the x Men by Barry W. Fitzgerald. His whole point
is that Colossus is a great example of how a
fictional character can promote multidisciplinary scientific discussion in a classroom. Now,
I'm not going to summarize everything Fitzgerald has to say,
but he makes some great points about Colossus and thermoregulation. Basically,

we have to think about what human skin does for
the body and how that might be impacted by a
shift into a steel form. One key area of concern
is thermoregulation of body temperature, which the skin plays a
role in via such responses as vasodilation, vaso constriction, and

of course sweating. Can Colossus's steel skin do any of
this well? The author here contends that his body's ability
to thermo regulate would be severely impacted via this steel
or organic steel or otherwise metal coating, and specifically, during
a heated battle, he would simply overheat. He wouldn't be

much good battling the Juggernaut if he passes out from
overheating just a few minutes into the struggle. Fitzgerald isn't
here to yuck everyone's young, though with science he presents
a possible path forward. Perhaps he says Colossus's organic steel
skin is actually graphene due to its protective capability and

its biocompatibility. It's carbon after all, like we are, and
it's super thin, consisting of a single layer of atoms
arranged in a hexagonal lattice nanostructure. This biographine honeycomb lattice
layer hypothesis would therefore solve a number of the key
problems with Peter's mutant power, from thermoregulation to mass conservation.

The layer would swiftly form via protein folding and self assembly,
and bam, Colossus is ready for action. I highly recommend
checking out Fitzgerald's paper here of the topic in or
out of the classroom, because hey, presumably Colossus is headed
back into theaters and back into action this summer in
the next Deadpool movie, so it's a perfect time to

embrace both science and mutant powers. Tune in for additional
episodes of The Monster Fact each week. As always, you
can email us at contact at stuff to Blow your
Mind dot com.

Speaker 1 (06:32):
Stuff to Blow Your Mind is a production of iHeartRadio.
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