With a history as confusing as the DC Universe, Brainiac is also one of the more interesting of all of Superman’s Rogues gallery. Brainiac was introduced in Action Comics #242. His plot at the time was to shrink cities on Earth to use on his home planet of Byak, which he ruled. It was in this story that we were first introduced to the bottled city of Kandor.
Later in the Silver age we would find that Brainiac was a creation of the Coluans. This is where things get tricky. There’s a whole Brainiac 2 thing, who long time readers of the Legion of Super Heroes will know is who Brainiac 5 claims to be descended from. It was from the story of Colu creating Brainiac that the accepted history of Brainiac being a super computer came.
From that point on in his history, Brainiac was just that a super computer. In the eighties Brainiac was given a more robot looking body with a metallic brainlike structure adorning the top of his head. It was also during this time that Brainiac’s Skull shaped spaceship was made popular. This form of Brainiac was made even more popular by his appearance in the Saturday Morning super hero spectactula SuperFriends: The Super Powers Show. In a story arc featuring the ever present Darkseid, Brainiac was even given an origin and a reason for his change in appearance from his time doing battle with the Superfriends in Challenge of the Superfriends.
While we all waited with bated breath to see if Y2K would really be the end of the world, DC comics launched a story arc that saw Brainiac 13, a version of Brainiac from the future, travel to the year 2oo in Metropolis and overtake it’s technology replacing it with his own futuristic tech. In the end, Lex Luthor actually saved the day by offering up his daughter in return for the secrets to Brainiac’s tech. Brainiac would return later to cause the Man of Steel trouble yet again. (Honestly though, I don’t think I read that arc. Maybe my good friend Mike Bailey will help clear things up where there are holes in my knowledge.
Brainiac made another appearance recently in the Superman/Batman title, and as that title doesn’t quite take place in the proper continuity of the DC Universe, (Whatever that may be this week.) it’s hard to really tell if that particular story is a proper take on Brainiac.
With such a long and, quite honestly, twisted history, if you had asked me three years ago, Brainiac wouldn’t have been in my list of favorite super villains. Further, if you had asked me six months ago, Brainiac would have only made the honorable mentions list. What happened? How did the crazy emperor of byak/coluan computer/city shrinker/futuristic computer that wants a child come to be on my top ten list?
Two things…or rather two people.
The first person, and the reason Brainiac would have made his way into my honorable mentions 2 or 3 years ago, is James Marsters. Marsters joined the cast of Smallville as a sometimes guest star in Season 5 of the show. He played a shape shifting, humanoid Kryptonian computer known as the Brain InterActive Construct, Brainiac. Marsters brought a certain air to the character that I don’t know that I ever read in any of the comic stories I’d ever seen with Brainiac, and I had certainly never seen the character portrayed that way in any animated version of him I’ve watched over the years.
Masquerading as Professor Milton Fine, Brainiac arrived on Earth in a second meteor shower and sought to release General Zod from the Phantom Zone. During that time, he ran into Clark, befriended him, betrayed him, and was thought defeated by him. That is until he made his return in subsequent seasons. Now, his presence is felt through a connection he made with Chloe, and I am really psyched to see where the take the character in the future.
The second person that brought Brainiac into my favorite super villains and is directly responsible for Brainiac actually making the top ten is Geoff Johns. In the most recent story arc of Action Comics, Johns reintroduced Brainiac as a city bottling, Coluan twelth level intellect. Taking all of the best parts of Brainiac from his long history (including his role in the destruction fo Krypton) and giving us one big, scary baddie for Superman to face. By scary, I mean SCARY. In the story arc, it takes everything Superman’s got to take on Brainiac and defeat him. He basically hangs in a catatonic state absorbing information and controlling his drones until Superman comes face to face with him. Then this drooling, seemingly lifeless mass of Coluan comes alive and kicks all kinds of butt. So he presents Superman with a physical and mental challege. (Kind of like that old show Double Dare only messier and more dangerous.)
I’m looking forward to this villains return in the future whether on Smallville or in the comics. The great characterization of Brainiac in the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited cartoons isn’t lost on me either. However, even on that slice of animated awesomeness, he nowhere near approaches the coolness brought to him by Marsters, and the awesomeness bestowed upon him by Johns.
A challenge for Superman on all fronts. A threat to the Earth and the Universe at large. Brainiac is definitely worthy to be in anyone’s top ten.