Shape-shifters appear across all forms of media, be it those who can turn into animals, other people or even those who can change their size. Size-changing heroes specifically are somewhat of a staple of Sci-Fi superhero comics — their powers are often explained by or caused by science — though they are present in all kinds of stories and mediums. This isn’t to say that there is only one form of size-changing; there are a lot of ways that heroes shift their size and mass, and it results in a lot of uniquely-powered characters.
Be it growing 20 stories high or shrinking down to hang out with some subatomic particles, size-changing definitely has it’s advantages. If it truly is how you use your size, then these heroes aren’t to be messed with. With that, CBR is counting down some of the coolest size-changing heroes out there!
15. COLOSSAL BOY
While his name is just a “future-y” version of Jim Allen, this Legion of Super-Heroes member has gone through some pretty freaking awesome superhero names; Colossal Boy, Leviathan and Micro Lad. There’s definitely something to love bout the Legion’s love of the word “lad,” isn’t there? Anyways, Gim got his powers from a radioactive meterorite, gaining the ability to increase his size. He took on the name Colossal Boy and with his parent’s permission (how very ’60s) he joined the Legion of Super-Heroes.
The character was created by Jerry Siegel and Jim Mooney and was known for having a crush on his fellow size-changing Legionnaire, shrinking violet. In 1994, the character was rebooted as Leviathan, a science police officer from Mars who got his powers yet again from a meteorite. The character was once again rebooted in 2004 as a member of a race of giants who could “shrink” down to six feet tall, thus taking on the name “Micro Lad.” These reboots were cleared away after “Infinite Crisis” and his status as “Colossal Boy” was restored.
Like Gim Allon, Marvel’s Dr. Bill Foster has gone through quite a few superhero identities. He first premiered in 1966 simply as Dr. Foster, a Stan Lee and Don Heck creation who was a laboratory assistant to Hank Pym. In 1975, George Tuska and Tony Isabella gave Bill Foster his own superhero identity as Black Goliath. With the help of Pym Particles, Foster can grow to a height of 15 feet, increasing his strength and durability. Foster later became the second Giant-Man at the suggestion of Ben Grimm (The Thing).
After returning the Giant-Man title back to Hank Pym, Bill’s powers were disrupted and taken away during a battle with the West Coast Avengers. This wouldn’t last long as he would eventually regain his powers and take on a simplified version of his original identity, dropping the “black” and going with just “Goliath” (another title both he and Pym carried). Goliath was sadly killed in the events of “Civil War” at the hands of Ragnarok, though his consciousness would later be uploaded into a computer, a project that he and Pym were working on.
Credited as DC comics’ first African American female superhero, Bumble Bee, a.k.a. Karen Beecher-Duncan is known in comics for being a staple of the Teen Titans comics as well being featured in the animated series. Bee was created by Bob Rozakis and premiered in 1976, though only as Karen, the Bumblebee moniker coming a few issues later in 1977. A scientist and girlfriend to Mal Duncan (The Herald), Karen created a Bumble Bee super-suit as a means to make Mal look good, attacking the Titans so that Mal could “stop her.” When she revealed herself, the Titans were impressed and offered her a position on the Titans West team in San Francisco, where her and Mal moved to.
Bee’s suit gives her increased speed, strength, durability, flight, the ability to shrink down to the size of a bee and the power to shoot electrical “bee sting” blasts. At a point in the comics, Bumblebee gets stuck in her shrunken form which requires her to take medicine so that her heart doesn’t give out. Bumblebee has been featured in both “Teen Titans” as a member of Titans East, and in “Young Justice” as a member of “The Team.”
Cassandra Lang is the daughter of second Ant-Man Scott Lang and was created by David Michelinie and John Byrne. The character first appeared in 1979, but wouldn’t take on her identity as “Stature” until 2006. When she first premiered, Cassie was very sick, which lead her father to steal Hank Pym’s Ant-Man equipment as a means to rescue the only doctor who could save her. Cassie’s fascination with her father’s life as Ant-Man led her to experiment with Pym Particles, giving her size-changing powers without requiring equipment.
Cassie takes on the name “Stature” — only after considering Ant-Girl and Giant-Girl — after joining the Young Avengers, going on to have her own successful superhero career. Though, “successful” might not be the best word as Cassie had trouble keeping her secret from her mother and step-father. To top it all off, her powers are sometimes activated by her emotional state, meaning different feelings cause her to shrink or grow. Sadly, Cassie was killed by Dr. Doom after she attacked him for killing her father (who had actually escaped death by shrinking), but she would later be resurrected and would resume a superhero career alongside her dad.
Not to be confused with Elastigirl of “The Incredibles,” Rita Farr Dayton, A.K.A. Elasti-Girl (that hyphen is important) is a long-standing member of the Doom Patrol. Created by Bob Haney, Arnold Drake and Bruno Premiani, the character first premiered in 1963. Rita was once an Olympic swimming gold medalist turned actress. While on set in Africa, a mysterious volcanic gas infected her and gave her the ability to expand, shrink and stretch her body. Thinking herself to be a freak and abandoning her Hollywood career, she is taken in by Dr. Caulder (The Chief) and offered a position with the other “freaks” in the Doom Patrol.
As Elasti-Girl, Rita would have a long and successful career in the Doom Patrol, falling in love with and marrying fellow member Mento, the two adopting a recently orphaned Gar Logan, A.K.A. Beast Boy. Elasti-girl can grow as big as a sky-scraper, can shrink down to mere inches, and can do the same for individual parts of her body instead of all at once. Her powers also allow her to change the size of objects she touches and regenerate parts of her body similar to a reptile’s regenerative abilities.
10. SHRINKING RAY
Often on the short end of the superhero stick, Shrinking Ray is a member of the Guardians of the Globe and a side-character of Robert Kirkman’s “Invincible.” The character is often seen shrinking down to sneak past the chaos of a super-powered battle, attempting to stop the problem unseen, only to be upstaged by bigger (both literally and figuratively) heroes like Invincible. Not much is known about Shrinking Ray beyond his appearance and powers, besides the fact that his costume was redesigned because both Art (the superhero tailor) and Kirkman himself thought his original outfit was too derivative of the Fantastic Four.
Ray’s surname is not known, though like many “Invincible” heroes, his first name is used as part of his superhero name so having a secret identity doesn’t seem to be much of a concern for the shrinking superhero. In an expose of the hero on the fictional TV program “Unmasked” (a show within the “Invincible” universe) it is speculated that Ray was an employee of Microrganics, a company that was destroyed in a lab explosion that also gave the pun-named hero his superpowers.
9. DR. MANHATTAN
Dr. Jon Osterman was once a nuclear physicist who was transformed by an accident that disintegrated him in an instant. Jon would later reconstruct himself as a supreme being, one who could manipulate atoms and matter at will. Dubbed “Dr. Manhattan” he was drafted by the U.S. government to use his powers for the benefit of America’s economics and war efforts. As he gains more control over his powers, becoming smarter and smarter, Jon begins to pull back from his humanity, his god-like status and abilities making it harder for him to relate to his fellow man.
Dr. Manhattan is the only super-powered character in “Watchmen” and his powers give him an unlimited number of abilities, including the ability to change his size, as seen in both the comic and film when he grew to an enormous size during his assistance in the Vietnam War. Of course, Dr. Manhattan’s powers allow for much more than just size changing, but with such an iconic example of size-changing in the pages of “Watchmen,” how could we not include him?
8. JAKE THE DOG
Always by the side of his best pal and adoptive brother, Jake the Dog is a faithful and stretchy-powered sidekick to Finn of the ever-popular “Adventure Time.” Jake is a talking yellow dog who was thought to have gotten his stretching powers from magic mud he had rolled around in, but it was later revealed that his powers came from more alien origins. Jake is a mentor and partner to Finn and his powers allow him to be an asset in combat, transportation and pretty much any other situation you can think of.
While Jake’s stretchy powers are just that, stretchy, he is known to just as as often increase or decrease his size. Sometimes he’s gigantic, so Finn can ride him or he can take on a colossal enemy, and other times Jake shrinks down to talk to smaller creatures or sometimes just to hang around in Finn’s backpack or pockets. Over the course of the series, Jake’s shrinking and growing evolved into weirder and much more complex shapeshifting, including turning into vehicles and a squishy suit of armor for Finn to wear into battle.
7. KAMALA KHAN (MS. MARVEL)
The very first Muslim comic book character to headline their own book, Kamala Khan began her career as the new Ms. Marvel back in February of 2014. Kamala comes from a Pakistani family and was born and raised in Jersey City. When she was exposed to an Inhuman virus, Kamala was transformed, giving her the ability to shape-shift and heal incredibly fast. After her initial freak out, Kamala decided to use these new powers for good, taking up the “Ms. Marvel” moniker as a tribute to her favorite superhero, Carol Danvers, A.K.A. the current Captain Marvel.
Since she hasn’t fully mastered her powers quite yet, Kamala’s shapeshifting abilities are limited to “embiggening” (as she calls it) parts or all of her body. She can punch with a giant fist or grow to the size of a house to lift heavy objects. The character received critical praise for depicting a muslim girl living in America, both for its accuracy and it’s showcase of diversity. Though her career has been short thus far, Kamala has had a rather successful career as Ms. Marvel both on her own and in iterations of the Avengers and the Champions.
6. MARIO BROTHERS
Mario and Luigi may not be the most conventional heroes, but they’ve saved Princess Peach and the Mushroom Kingdom too many times to count. The plumber brothers have had lots of adventures, taking on all kinds of strange enemies of both the turtle and mushroom-themed varieties. Both Mario and Luigi have gathered countless types of upgrades throughout their travels, the most basic of which are mushrooms. In their many video game iterations, the two will pick up mushrooms that will double their size. In more recent games, there are even more types of mushrooms that can make them even bigger or shrink them down.
The Mushroom goes all the way back to the very first “Super Mario Brothers” game and has been a staple of the series ever since. Though the power up isn’t technically a power that the brothers wield, they use them enough for it to be considered part of their many natural abilities. The mustachioed plumbers are always facing dangerous situations, and their trusty mushrooms are always around to give them a much needed increase in size and power.
Contrary to what fans of the MCU might think, Hope Van Dyne has never been The Wasp, and her Mother Janet is the only Marvel heroine to hold the title. Janet Van Dyne was introduced in 1963 in “Tales to Astonish” #44, predating the aforementioned and somewhat derivative Bumblebee of DC comics. Wasp’s first appearance depicted her as the daughter of a scientist who was murdered, seeking Hank Pym for help. Pym used his particles to give Janet the ability to shrink down and grow wings. After avenging her father’s death, Janet would continue to work as a hero for good.
The Wasp is one of the founding members of the Avengers and actually gave the team its name, which is why its so surprising that she only had a small (pardon the pun) appearance “Ant-Man.” Wasp even has one of the longest careers with The Avengers, second only to Captain America himself. As the Wasp, Janet can shrink, grow, sprout wings and antenna, and can shoot her bio-energy as electrical “stinger blasts.” While these powers were originally the result of Pym-tehcnology, her exposure to the particles eventually made her abilities biological.
4. ATOM SMASHER
Despite having a similar name and pretty much the same color scheme, Atom Smasher is not in fact The Atom, though we’ll get to him soon. After obtaining the power to alter his size and density from his grandfather — a supervillain named Cyclotron — Albert Rothstein took on the name Nuklon to fight crime, eventually going by Atom Smasher. Atom Smasher was able to get his dream job of working for the JSA when they reformed, the original members being his idols as a child.
After a successful stint with the JSA, Al went on to have careers on his own with a reformed Black Adam and with other super-teams. Al is also the godson of the original Golden Age Atom, and tries hard to live up to his name, something that inspired him to be a hero in the first place. As Atom Smasher, Al is super-strong at his normal size and can grow up to 60 feet with no problems, getting proportionally stronger and denser as his size increases.
3. THE HULK
We all know the story: when Bruce Banner get’s angry, he turns into The Hulk, a monstrous green behemoth with impossible strength and durability. In older comics, the Hulk was much different looking from Banner, but most modern versions and even the MCU depict the Hulk as being a giant green version of Bruce with the same facial features. With that in mind, it’s easy to call The Hulk a size-changing hero, since he goes from a scrawny scientist to an 8-foot-tall hulking monster. As most know, in this form, Banner is super-strong, nearly indestructible and can heal incredibly fast.
The Hulk’s strength is proportionate to how angry he is, though he doesn’t seem to get bigger based on this principle, just harder to stop. The Hulk can jump into orbit and is known to have the power to destroy entire planets. In fact, the Hulk is so strong that a cosmic entity known as the Beyonder concluded that there is no limit to his strength; it is infinite. Banner’s growth into The Hulk is almost always depicted with the result of ripped clothes that show just how massive the hulking force of nature is.
2. THE ATOM
One of the many Silver Age reimagining of DC superheroes, Ray Palmer premiered as The Atom in DC’s “Showcase” #34 in 1961. Created by Julius Schwartz, Gardner Fox and Gil Kane, The Atom is perhaps DC Comics most famous size-changing hero. Physicist Dr. Ray Palmer was once a professor at Ivy University who specialized in research regarding matter compression. When he discovered a mass of white dwarf star that landed on Earth, Palmer developed a lens that could use the star’s power to shrink objects down to any size he wished. Unfortunately, the compression would cause objects to explode, which Ray ended up fixing thanks to a special fabric he developed. This fabric would later become part of his suit when he decided to use the shrinking powers to become a superhero.
Ray Palmer is immensely creative with his shrinking abilities, shifting his mass to make himself fly, increase his strength and most famously to travel across phone lines by making a call and hitching a ride through the handset. He’s also taken this a step further by catching rides with photons to travel through fiberoptic cables. The Atom has also bee known to shrink to subatomic levels for limited periods of time.
1. HANK PYM
Though he came after The Atom, Hank Pym is perhaps the more famous shrinking superhero of the two, taking on multiple superhero identities throughout his size-changing superhero career. Created by Lee and Kirby, Hank Pym was first depicted as a scientist in a standalone story, returning a few issues later to take on the Ant-Man moniker. After experimenting with his later-named Pym Particles, Hank shrank down to the size of a bug and became trapped in an ant hill. After escaping, Hank became fascinated by ants and developed a superhero identity around them.
Hank would later go on to adopt the identity of Giant Man after feeling inadequate around his Avenger teammates. After leaving the Avengers, Pym returned under the name Goliath, only to have several mental breakdowns and take on the persona of Yellowjacket before returning to Giant Man and eventually back to Ant-Man. As confusing as all these identity changes may be, Hank Pym’s abilities are almost always depicted as being able to grow up to 100 feet and shrink down to microscopic levels. With his many superhero identities and long crime-fighting career, Hank Pym is perhaps the greatest size-changing hero of all time.
Are there any other shrinking violets or growing giants who deserve to be on this list? Let us know which size-changing superhero you think needs representation in the comments!