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I'm interested in the alloy that gave us Wolverine's claws. I want to know where the idea came from, how was the name determined? Was it just completely random? Where did the concept come from? Who thought of it? And who applied it to Wolverine?

Lastly, I want to know if the idea of indestructible metals are seen in other great Science Fiction works. What's the first occurrence? Who created the concept? And why is the concept (predominantly) seen in X-Men (Wolverine)?

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    "Adamantine" is also used occasionally in Dungeons & Dragons, as a magically-hard metal.
    – Asmor
    May 8, 2011 at 4:36
  • I could swear I remember Samantha Carter calling something adamant/adamantine/adamantium in at least one episode of SG-1, but can't remember exactly and need to watch the whole series again to find out...
    – HorusKol
    May 8, 2011 at 23:25
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    In terms of uses in other sci-fi works, it's used in Warhammer 40k. One example is one of the Ork warbosses, who can use his adamantium skull to make a headbutt attack against an opponent. Mar 12, 2015 at 14:50
  • Even in the Marvel universe, there are other fictional metals like Vibranium, which is even stronger than Adamantium.
    – Rogue Jedi
    Sep 26, 2015 at 10:26

9 Answers 9

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Adamantium is not unique to Wolverine. Ultron's shell is made of the same stuff.

Adamantium Etymology:

The first use of the term adamantium in Marvel Comics was in Avengers #66 (July 1969) as part of Ultron's outer shell. The word is a pseudo-Latin coinage (real Latin: adamans, adamantem [accusative]) based on the English noun and adjective adamant (and the derived adverb adamantly). The adjective has long been used to refer to the embodiment of impregnable, diamondlike hardness, or to describe a very firm/resolute position (i.e. He adamantly refused to leave). The noun adamant has long been used to designate any impenetrably or unyieldingly hard substance and, formerly, a legendary stone/rock or mineral of impenetrable hardness and with many other properties, often identified with diamond or lodestone.

Adamant and the literary form adamantine occur in works such as the Aeneid, The Faerie Queene, Paradise Lost, Gulliver's Travels, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Lord of the Rings, and the film Forbidden Planet, all of which predate the use of adamantium in Marvel's comics. Adamantine is also the metal used by Hephaestus to construct chains to hold Prometheus in the ancient greek play Prometheus Bound.

The idea is related to Unobtainium, a material used in a lot of science fiction, which has whatever properties the author needs to move the story along.

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    @Justin: All of the information in the other answers is already in this one. May 5, 2011 at 14:29
  • So its just a clone, how sad... May 5, 2011 at 14:38
  • I remember the use of the term unobtainium in the movie The Core. Also apparently my eye glasses are made from this material. oakley.com/products/4305
    – JD Isaacks
    May 5, 2011 at 17:37
  • An old sci-fi word for "indestructible material" is impervium.
    – user14111
    Mar 11, 2015 at 21:49
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Adamantium first appeared in the 1969 Avengers comic, #66 as a part of Ultron's outer shell.

The word is derived from adamant and the Latin adamans / adamantem. Used as an adjective to refer to an impregnable or resolute attitude.

It is also used in the Greek play "Prometheus Bound" to chain up the Greek god Prometheus.

For more check out http://www.Wikipedia.org/wiki/Adamantium

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  • If one of you improve the answer to include each others useful info. You'll get the hit. May 5, 2011 at 14:24
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Adamantium's etymology is, according to wikipedia, derived from adamant, which carries the meaning indestructable, resolute, or exceedingly hard.

"Adamantine metal" appears in several other sources predating the Marvel Comics version, Adamantium. Adamantine itself is listed in several dictionaries as "middle english" in origin. Adamantium is a natural english construct for a metal name; the -ium ending is common for several metals.

There are appearances of Adamantine and Adamantium in several role playing games with little to no link to Marvel Comics group, as well.

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The concept and original use of Adamant / Adamantine to mean a super strong or indestructible metal material comes from Ancient Greek Mythology. From Wikipedia:

In Greek Mythology, Kronos castrated his father Uranus using an adamant sickle given to him by his mother Gaia.[2] An adamantine sickle or sword was also used by the hero Perseus to decapitate the Gorgon Medusa while she slept. In the Greek Tragedy, Prometheus Bound translated by G. M. Cookson, Hephaestus is to bind Prometheus "to the jagged rocks in adamantine bonds infrangible."

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  • I think this material was considered a rock or gem rather than a metal. It is usually attributed to a diamond.
    – Oldcat
    Mar 13, 2015 at 23:31
  • Except that weapons and chains were forged from them. Diamonds & gems were not items that they could manipulate in this fashion. OTOH, a chance encounter with a metal like "steel" could very well have been where the ancient Greeks got the idea from.
    – Jim2B
    Mar 14, 2015 at 0:49
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In terms of other "super metals", one of the first is Arenak - from E E "Doc" Smith's Skylark of Space.

Arenak is a transparent, super hard metal that is nearly indestructable.

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1941: This is from "Devil's Powder" by Malcolm Jameson, a short story in his Bullard series, originally published in Astounding Science-Fiction, June 1941, available at the Internet Archive. Probably not exactly what you're looking for, but at least it shows that the use of the word "adamantium" as the name of a science-fictional super-metal goes way back:

After the day's work was over and the men had formed in ranks to march back to the ship, Bullard went over the firing line yard by yard, taking note of the work of the sweepers, who were picking up the spent cartridges and otherwise cleaning up the place. At one spot he paused. Lying half trampled in the mud was a shiny white object. Bullard stooped and picked it up.

It was a bullet. It was a small slug of adamantium, the toughest and hardest of all metals, crammed to capacity with the terrific explosive feroxite and would burst instantly on any reasonably heavy impact. He pocketed it, wonderingly, and continued on down the line. Farther on he picked up two more. Then one; then another; then three in one locality. By then a deep frown engraved Captain Bullard's forehead. It was dangerous business to hand green men defective ammunition. Why had these pellets broken loose from their cartridge cases? Had it happened with a sharp jar, twenty men might have gone up in fragments and there would have been nothing left but a muddy crater to show where they had been.

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Per a reference on Wiktionary.org, a metal called 'adamantium' -- described as "the toughest and hardest of all metals" -- was mentioned in Malcolm Jameson's short story, "Devil's Powder," first published in the June 1941 edition of Astounding Science-Fiction‎:

It was a bullet. It was a small slug of adamantium, the toughest and hardest of all metals, crammed to capacity with the terrific explosive feroxite and would burst instantly on any reasonable heavy impact.

The full story is available to read on Project Gutenberg Canada.

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    This duplicates the answer by @user14111 May 29, 2022 at 14:41
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    Hi. Welcome to SF&F. This is a reasonably written answer, but please note that you are answering an old question with several answers; in such a situation it is recommended to read the existing answers first to see whether your answer will add anything. The link to Project Gutenberg is helpful (when you have enough rep to comment, you could add that in a comment). Enjoy the site!
    – Basya
    May 29, 2022 at 14:44
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"Adamantine steel" was referenced in the 1956 movie "Forbidden Planet" staring Leslie Nielsen and Walter Pidgeon.

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    This is mentioned in the accepted answer; scifi.stackexchange.com/a/3347/20774
    – Valorum
    Nov 7, 2019 at 19:28
  • @Valorum Ah, so it is. The wall of text there obscured it...
    – DavidW
    Nov 7, 2019 at 19:30
  • You're not the first to fall foul of that. There are two deleted answers (below the line) that also mention it.
    – Valorum
    Nov 7, 2019 at 19:54
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Marvel did not first use this metal. First movie I saw that mentions it was the 1956 film Forbidden Planet. The term was first invented by a metalurgist during WW2.

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    Hi, welcome to the site. Do note however that the metal mentioned in Forbidden Planet was "adamantine steel", not "adamantium". Also, this fact has already been noted in previous answers, such as Gilbert Bratton's answer and the accepted answer. Please only post an answer if you have something new to contribute. Feb 5, 2022 at 14:08

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