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Brainiac (comics)

This article is about the comic book character. For the Legion of Super-Heroes member, see Brainiac 5. For the Action Comics story arc, see Brainiac (story arc).
Brainiac battling Superman.
Promotional art for Superman vol. 2, #219, by Ed Benes.
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
First appearance Action Comics #242 (July 1958)
Created by Otto Binder (writer)
Al Plastino (artist)
In-story information
Alter ego Vril Dox
Species Coluan
Place of origin Colu
Team affiliations Anti-Justice League
Partnerships Lex Luthor
Notable aliases Dr. Milton Fine, Pulsar Stargrave, The Terror of Kandor, Collector of Worlds

Brainiac is a fictional supervillain appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics, most commonly in association with Superman. The character first appeared in Action Comics #242 (July 1958), and was created by Otto Binder and Al Plastino.

An extraterrestrial android (in most incarnations), Brainiac is a principal foe of Superman, and is responsible for shrinking and stealing Kandor, the capital city of Superman's home planet Krypton. Due to multiple revisions of DC's continuity, several variations of Brainiac have appeared. Most incarnations of Brainiac depict him as a green-skinned being in humanoid form. He is bald, except for a set of diodes protruding from his skull.

The character's name comes from the informal word meaning "genius."[1] The name itself is a portmanteau of the words brain and maniac, with influence from ENIAC, the name of an early computer.[2] In 2009, Brainiac was ranked as IGN's 17th Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time.[3]

Publication history

Silver Age

File:Action Comics 242.png
Brainiac's first appearance in Action Comics #242. Art by Curt Swan and Stan Kaye.

First appearing in Action Comics #242 (July 1958), Brainiac is a bald, green-skinned humanoid who arrived on Earth and shrank various cities, including Metropolis, storing them in bottles with the intent of using them to restore the then-unnamed planet he ruled. He is originally notable only for his having shrunk the bottle city of Kandor, for having a shrinking ray, and for using a force-shield.

In subsequent appearances in this early period, Brainiac is used mostly as a plot device rather than as a featured villain of the month. Brainiac's next appearance is mostly behind the scenes, when he tries to kill Lois Lane and Lana Lang, prompting Superman to give Lois and Lana super-powers. But the villain remains unseen except as a plot twist at the end of the story. Brainiac's next appearance in "Superman's Return to Krypton" in Superman #141 (November 1960) displays how the villain stole the bottle city of Kandor, which is ironically and tragically the only city on Krypton that believes Jor-El's warning of doom for the planet, and had already built a space-ark within the city to save the population. Brainiac's next present-day appearance is in Action Comics #275 (April 1961), which shows the villain planning to defeat Superman by exposing him to both Red and Green Kryptonite, giving Superman a third eye on the back of his head, forcing him to wear various hats to hide it. Superman soon defeats Brainiac and sends him off into the distant past. This is the first in-story appearance of Brainiac's iconic red diodes atop his head, which had previously appeared on cover of his first appearance in Action Comics #242 (July 1958), but were not shown in the actual story. In "Superboy" #106 (July 1963), Superman as a baby meets Brainiac and it is explained that Brainiac looks the same as he has a 200 year life span. It is revealed that he came from a planet called Bryak and after a voyage in space, he returns to find everybody dead from a plague. He intends to get people from other planets (in shrunken cities, and he has a growth ray) to repopulate Bryak, and he will rule them.

Brainiac's legacy was revealed in Action Comics #276 (May 1961), in a Legion of Super-Heroes back-up story. This story introduced a green-skinned, blond-haired teenager named Querl Dox, or Brainiac 5, who claimed to be Brainiac's 30th century descendant. Unlike his ancestor, Brainiac 5 used his "twelfth-level intellect" for the forces of good and joined the Legion alongside Supergirl, with whom he fell in love. His home planet was given variously as Bryak,[4] Yod or Colu.

In Superman #167 (February 1964), it was retconned that Brainiac was a machine created by the Computer Tyrants of Colu as a spy for them to invade other worlds, for which he was given a non-computer appearance. Brainiac's distinctive gridwork of red diodes across his head are also explained. He was created with visible "electric terminals of his sensory 'nerves'" that he cannot function without. Luthor discovers that the Computers could have given him a twelfth-level intellect, but gave him a tenth-level, the same as them, so he would not try to dominate them. Luthor frees Brainiac from a prison on another world and increases his intelligence, however implants a timer that will make Brainiac black out so the computer doesn't betray him, as only Luthor can reset the timer and if Brainiac tries to tamper with it, one touch will cause an explosion. However Brainiac tricks Luthor by making a device that hypnotizes Luthor, who removes the timer and forgets Brainiac is a computer. Explaining the 1961 introduction of Brainiac's descendant Brainiac 5, his biological disguise included an adopted "son", a young Coluan boy who was given the name "Brainiac 2". In the same issue, the letter column contained a "special announcement" explaining that the change in the characterization of Brainiac was being made "in deference" to the "Brainiac Computer Kit", a toy computer created by Edmund Berkeley and based on the Geniac that predated the creation of the comic book character.[5][6]

The boy, whose name was Vril Dox, went on to lead a revolt against the Computer Tyrants, eventually destroying them. Brainiac sees a monument to this when he returns to Colu.

30th century (Pre-Crisis)

At some indeterminate point in time, Brainiac fled into the 30th century. Developing the ability to absorb and manipulate massive amounts of stellar energy, he remade himself as "Pulsar Stargrave".[7] He became a powerful enemy of the Legion of Super-Heroes, and once masqueraded as Brainiac 5's biological father.[8] In current continuity, Brainiac's connection to Pulsar Stargrave remains an open question, one even Brainiac 5 has yet to resolve.[9]

Bronze Age

Brainiac's robotic incarnation, from Action Comics #544. Art by Ed Hannigan.

In the 1980s, DC Comics attempted to re-define several aspects of its Superman series in order to boost sagging sales. At the same time as Lex Luthor acquired his green-and-purple battlesuit, Brainiac was re-envisioned (under the auspices of writer Marv Wolfman). In Action Comics #544 (June 1983), Brainiac had constructed a giant, artificial, computer-controlled planet and used it in his latest attempt to destroy Superman; unfortunately, his defeat at the hands of the Man of Steel left him trapped at the center of the planet, unable to escape. He was forced to make a nearby star explode in a nova in order to destroy the machine-world. It, however,also dissolved Brainiac's humanoid body into a stream of sentient molecules that, after a fantastic voyage through time & space, returned to the present and regestated as a living metal being. His new body (designed by Ed Hannigan) had the appearance of a skeleton of living metal with a grey (sometimes iridescent), honeycomb-patterned "braincase."[10] He also created a starship to house his new body which was actually an extension of himself; the ship was shaped like his own skull, with metal tentacles dangling from it that he could manipulate at will. Brainiac retained this appearance until after the Crisis on Infinite Earths.

The Silver/Bronze Age Brainiac met his end in the "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" story line that closed out Pre-Crisis Superman chronology. Lex Luthor found Brainiac's robotic head and was fused with it. Brainiac took control of Luthor's body and sought to destroy Superman once and for all, teaming up with the Legion of Super-Villains. Fighting Brainiac's control, Luthor begged a super-powered Lana Lang to kill him; she complied by breaking his neck. Though Luthor died, Brainiac was able to retain control of the body for a little while before rigor mortis set in and his brain was forced to leave it. "Propelled by sheer malice," the skull crawled a few inches before finally dying.

Modern Age

In the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths DC Universe, Brainiac's history was completely rewritten. The post-Crisis version of Brainiac was now a radical Coluan scientist called Vril Dox who, having attempted to overthrow the Computer Tyrants of Colu, was sentenced to death. In his last moments before disintegration, his consciousness was attracted light years away to Milton Fine, a human sideshow mentalist who worked under the alias "Brainiac".[11] Needing cranial fluid to maintain his possession of Fine, Dox went on a murder spree. He discovered that Fine had genuine psychic powers, which he frequently wielded against Superman.[12]

Panic in the Sky

In the early 1990s, Brainiac returned in the "Panic in the Sky" storyline. He seized control of Warworld and manipulated Maxima into assisting him. Then he brainwashed Supergirl and the alien warrior Draaga before capturing Metron and setting off for Earth.[13][14] Orion and Lightray of New Genesis attacked Warworld, but they were quickly taken down by Maxima and Supergirl. Brainiac sent the mental image of the New Gods captured to Superman in order to taunt him, and he also sent his "headship" (a green-hued variant of the pre-Crisis skull-like ship) to Earth in a punitive expedition.[15]

These acts prompted Superman to go on the offense rather than wait for the inevitable invasion. He gathered a coalition of most of the world's superheroes and launched a preemptive strike at Warworld before it could arrive on Earth.[15] A small, elite force was left behind for any scouting forces that would be sent ahead. Superman led the attack on Warworld, where Supergirl and Draaga managed to shrug off their brainwashing and rally to Superman (although Draaga was killed in the fighting).[16][17] Brainiac briefly took control of some of Earth's heroes, but it was not enough to turn the tide.[18] Maxima would shortly switch sides in the fighting too, perceiving Brainiac as the true villain at last. Flash, Maxima, and the Metal Men attacked him in his lair, where Maxima managed to lobotomize him (but was stopped short of killing him).[19] His vegetative body was taken back to New Genesis for observation.[20]

Dead again

Brainiac would next emerge about a year after the death and return of Superman. After a dead body appeared in Superman's tomb, prompting the world to wonder if the Superman who was flying around was the original or a fake,[21] Superman began to track down all of his foes who might be capable of such a hoax.[22] While Brainiac was initially eliminated as a suspect,[23] he soon turned out to be the true culprit, creating the illusion even in his comatose state on New Genesis. He managed to revive himself there and returned to Earth in secret. While hidden, he created even more delusions, causing Superman to question his very sanity before realizing who was really at fault.[24][25] Superman and Brainiac squared off in Metropolis, where Superman taunted the evil villain, claiming that at heart he was really just Milton Fine, a cheap entertainer. This caused some break in Brainiac's mind where Fine's personality reasserted himself, burying Brainiac's. Fine was then escorted off to a psychiatric facility.[26]

The Doomsday Wars

During a later skirmish with Superman in Metropolis, Milton Fine's body was irreparably damaged, leaving Brainiac with only a short time to live. In order to preserve his life, he concocted an elaborate scheme by having an agent of his, a Coluan named Prin Vnok, use a time machine to travel to the End of Time itself and retrieve Doomsday, who had been left there by Superman and Waverider to ensure that he would never be a threat again, and use Doomsday as a new host body.[27]

Seconds before the forces of entropy destroyed him forever, Doomsday was taken to safety by Vnok and returned to Colu. There, a terminally-wounded Brainiac transferred his consciousness into Doomsday's body, temporarily becoming the most powerful being in the universe; a genius psychic mind inside an unstoppable, indestructible titan. However, Doomsday's own raging mind would eventually overwhelm Brainiac's will, and he reacted too quickly for Brainiac and Vnok to erase his mind using chemical or psionic treatments, forcing Brainiac to find another body. While still lodged in Doomsday's head, Brainiac decided to acquire a sample of human DNA that he could modify with Doomsday's DNA to create a new version of Doomsday that did not possess the creature's mind. Brainiac chose to use Pete Ross and Lana Lang's newborn baby, born eight weeks premature - and at that moment being transported by Superman to the best Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit in the country - as the template for his new body. He intercepted Superman during the trip to the hospital and stole the baby to hurt his long-time foe, correctly deducing that it was the child of someone close to Superman.[27] Superman thwarted Brainiac's plot by driving him out of Doomsday's body with the use of a telepathy-blocking 'psi-blocker' that he had used in his last battle, forcing Brainiac out of Doomsday and leaving him with no other option but to adopt a recently designed robotic body, dubbed Brainiac 2.5, where he would be forever trapped as he could not abandon it.[28]

Brainiac 13

At the turn of the millennium, Brainiac revealed that he had placed a sleeper virus in LexCorp's Y2K bug safeguards. This virus was intended to dramatically boost his abilities. However, the virus instead allowed his upgraded future self, Brainiac 13 (or "B-13"), to travel from the 64th century to the present day and take control of Brainiac 2.5's body.

Brainiac 13 then began transforming Metropolis into the 64th century version of the city, which he controlled, and also began upgrading Metallo into a giant-sized version of himself. Brainiac 13 then took control of several android superheroes, such as the Red Tornado and Hourman, and used them against Superman. Fortunately, the Metal Men's responsometers were able to protect them from his programming, and allowed them to help defeat Metallo.

Incidentally, during a fight with the Eradicator (who was attempting to 'hi-jack' the B13 virus and use it for its own ends), Superman discovered that Brainiac 13 could not cope with Kryptonian technology due to incompatibility issues. This gave Superman a plan to stop Brainiac's scheme. With the aid of the rebuilt Kelex, Superman tricked Luthor into connecting a Kryptonian battlesuit to one of Brainiac's power conduits. Kelex then reactivated the Red Tornado to help Superman break Brainiac 13 down into his respective nanobots and trap him in the suit.

Unfortunately, Brainiac 13 was able to work with Brainiac 2.5—now transferred into the aged body of Lena Luthor—and prepared a tactic against Imperiex for the upcoming Imperiex War. They planned for Brainiac to absorb Imperiex's power and use it to reshape the universe in his image. Superman was able to destroy Brainiac and Imperiex by sending them through a temporal Boom tube where they were destroyed in the Big Bang.

After the death of Brainiac 13, Superman discovered that the version of Krypton he previously visited via the Phantom Zone was in fact a trap created by Brainiac 13. Having been defeated by Kryptonian technology, Brainiac 13 had traveled back in time to the real Krypton prior to its destruction. There, he stole the Eradicator matrix and Jor-El's diaries, and created a false Krypton based on Jor-El's favorite period in history.[29]

Sometime later, Superman traveled into the future and battled Brainiac 12. He learned that everything Brainiac 13 did in the past was designed to ensure things reached the point where Brainiac 13 would be created. Brainiac 12's defeat before his upgrade apparently reversed the advances Brainiac 13 had made to Metropolis.[30]

The Insiders

Main article: Indigo (comics)

Around the time of the Graduation Day event, a future version of Brainiac, called Brainiac 6, used his "granddaughter", Brainiac 8 (also known as Indigo), to kill Donna Troy in order to ensure the fate of Colu. Indigo then infiltrated the Outsiders until she attacked the team, along with Brainiac 6 and his allies, Lex Luthor, and a brainwashed Superboy, who had attacked the Teen Titans. In the ensuing battle, Indigo died and Superboy broke away from the brainwashing, while Luthor escaped. While his ship was destroyed, Brainiac's condition and whereabouts after the battle are unknown.[31][32]

Silver Age Brainiac in the post-Crisis universe

Later stories revealed that elements of Brainiac's pre-Crisis history occurred in the post-Crisis character's history prior to his possession of Milton Fine and his first encounter with Superman. The citizens of Kandor recall that Brainiac stole their city from Krypton, and not the alien wizard Tolos.[30]

History of the DC Universe mentions his defeat by the Omega Men, although not seen in Crisis on Infinite Earths itself, and noted a second Brainiac was created in a laboratory on Earth two years later. In the Silver Age: JLA one-shot, the Injustice League discovered numerous shrunken alien cities found in Brainiac's abandoned spaceship.

Brainiac's updated mechanical form

Brainiac later reappeared as a swarm of interlinked nanotechnological units. Its operation was to sabotage a Waynetech research facility accomplished by infecting Metallo with a computer virus and controlling him from orbit. Superman and Batman tracked Brainiac's signal to an orbital facility and attacked. Brainiac's nanoswarm body was destroyed, though he had infected the Metal Men during their previous encounter with Metallo. Brainiac proceeded to use them to acquire a prototype OMAC unit, which Bruce Wayne had developed through the use of Brainiac 13 nanotechnology. Superman and Batman destroyed the OMAC body with the aid of the Metal Men, after the Metal Men overcame Brainiac's control.[33]


Main article: Brainiac (story arc)

Following revisions to Superman's continuity in "Infinite Crisis" and Action Comics #850, Brainiac reappeared in a self-titled five part story-arc in Action Comics. In Action Comics #866 (Aug. 2008), A Brainiac robot probe arrives on Earth and battles Superman. After the probe is defeated, information about Superman's blood is sent to the original Brainiac. As Brainiac wakes up, his computer announces "Attempt #242 in progress", a reference to Brainiac's first appearance in Action Comics #242, and to the many encounters between Brainiac and Superman. In the following issue, Supergirl reveals to Superman that Brainiac shrunk the Kryptonian city of Kandor and placed it in a bottle, and that all previous incarnations of Brainiac that Superman has encountered, were just probes and nanite-controlled bodies. She notes that no one has ever actually seen Brainiac. Inspired by Supergirl's story, Superman attempts to find Brainiac and stop him. In the process, he is caught and brought onto Brainiac's ship.

Superman escapes from his imprisonment and sees Brainiac emerging from his "bio-shell". This version of Brainiac resembles a much larger and more muscular version of the original, pre-Crisis Brainiac, and has motives similar to the Superman: The Animated Series incarnation of the character in that he travels the universe and steals the knowledge of various alien cultures, abducting and shrinking cities from each planet as samples, and then destroys the planet so that the value of the destroyed civilization's knowledge is increased. Brainiac's ship then travels to Earth and prepares to abduct the city of Metropolis.

Brainiac successfully steals Metropolis, and prepares to fire a missile that will destroy the sun and the Earth itself. Supergirl stops the missile while Superman battles Brainiac. Superman knocks Brainiac out of his ship and into a swamp, where Brainiac is overwhelmed by the microscopic organisms covering his body. Superman uses this distraction to defeat Brainiac. While Superman frees the cities of Metropolis and Kandor, the villain launches a missile to the Kent farm in an act of spite. The farm is destroyed, and Jonathan Kent suffers a fatal heart attack because of it.[34] Brainiac is brought to a top-secret military base, where the imprisoned Lex Luthor is assigned to discover his secrets. Luthor eventually manages to use Brainiac's connection to his ship to kill the soldiers assigned to watch him. Brainiac manages to free himself from Luthor's control, forcing him on board the ship, and the two make their escape.[35]

Following this Brainiac unleashes his robot army against the newly created planet of New Krypton, and the Kryptonian citizens rise up to fight the drones. Superman manages to enter Brainiac's ship after penetrating its force field. Supergirl leads the Kryptonians against the drones, but is attacked by an anti-Kryptonian Brainiac probe. Superboy, Mon-El, and the Legion of Super-Heroes join the fight and save Supergirl. The Legion explains to Zod that, just as Krypton's city of Kandor was held in a bottle onboard Brainiac's ship, other planets' cities are also imprisoned, and, therefore, Zod cannot destroy Brainiac's ship until the cities can be rescued. Zod sends Supergirl off and then arrests the Legionnaires, branding them terrorists. Meanwhile, Superman is about to face off against Brainiac when he is knocked down by a Kryptonite energy blast fired by Lex Luthor and subsequently captured.

A city that Luthor expanded is still growing, now putting Kandor at risk. As Brainiac 5 works on the problem, Supergirl is shocked to discover Superman impaled by pieces of Brainiac's ship as a result of the explosion. Superman appears to have been fatally stricken. Luthor, though reeling from the explosion, is pleased with all the destruction he has caused. Brainiac confronts Luthor and is furious that Lex sabotaged his ship. Luthor mocks him and spits in his eye before Brainiac angrily snaps Luthor's neck, killing him. Meanwhile Zod is eager for a final showdown with Brainiac, who calls Zod a coward for confronting Brainiac with his powers intact and an army of super-powered Kryptonians at his back. In response, Zod fires the red sun radiation from an Archer rifle at himself, to remove his powers and thus supposedly level the playing field as he prepares to take Brainiac down. Brainiac 5 gives Superman a transfusion of Conner's blood and exposes him to a very large dose of concentrated synthesized yellow sun rays. Using these techniques, Brainiac 5 is able to revive Superman.

Despite the loss of his powers, Zod is able to get the upper hand and force Brainiac to his knees. Zod is about to shoot Brainiac when Superman intervenes. This causes a heated argument between Superman and Zod. Zod commands his soldiers to restrain Kal-El so Zod can proceed with the execution of Brainiac. Brainiac 5, sensing that this is his moment of destiny, steps in and teleports himself and Brainiac off of New Krypton.

It is revealed that Lex used a Luthor robot, supplied by Toyman, to accomplish his mission on New Krypton, and that Brainiac killed the robot instead. Lex is very much alive and discussing with General Lane how his objective, to bring chaos to New Krypton, was achieved. Lex has been working as an agent of General Lane all along. The disarray that Lex caused provides Lane with a window of opportunity as he prepares for the impending war with New Krypton. Lex receives a Presidential pardon for his efforts. The story ends with Zod rallying his people as he declares war on the planet Earth. The story concludes in the next mini-series, Superman: War of the Supermen.

Mon-El plants the many bottled cities that Brainiac has captured over the years on various planets across the galaxy. These cities will one day become the United Planets by the 31st century, the same planets that will produce the members of the Legion of Super-heroes.

Brainiac 5 takes Brainiac to their homeworld of Colu where he hands him over to Vril Dox aka Brainiac 2. Vril Dox happily turns his "father" over to his people for his crimes. However Lyrl Dox aka Brainiac 3 releases his "grandfather" with a weapon called Pulsar Stargrave. What then occurs is an all out battle for Colu between all 3 present day Brainiacs. Vril Dox even calls in Lobo for help. Brainac however escapes with Pulsar Stargrave in tow for parts unknown.

The New 52

Brainiac's origin in The New 52 is revealed in Superman #23.2. Vril Dox was acknowledged as the greatest scientist on his homeworld, Yod-Colu, given his advances in force field technology and miniaturization. He developed an artificial intelligence, C.O.M.P.U.T.O., allowing him to discover the fifth dimension. Dox discovered the fifth dimension was in a state of war, and a group of its inhabitants, the Multitude, had entered their dimension and destroyed over a hundred planets. Realizing Yod-Colu was next in the Multitude's path, Dox tried to find a way to save his planet, even performing experiments on his son. The magistrates of Yod-Colu sentenced Dox to exile, but Dox used C.O.M.P.U.T.O. to take control of Yod-Colu's computer networks. Copying the planet's database, Dox constructed an army of robot servants called Terminauts and miniaturized the city his wife and son lived on and bottled it in a force field, while the rest of Yod-Colu was destroyed by the Multitude.

After the destruction of Yod-Colu, Dox constructed an army of starships and distributed his consciousness across a series of robots that would each travel the universe in order to preserve planets from the Multitude, becoming known as the Collector of Worlds. One of these robots attacked Krypton. Dox became fascinated by Jor-El, a Kryptonian scientist who actually saved his homeworld from the Multitude. Upon returning to Krypton, however, Brainiac discovered Krypton had been destroyed.[36]

Referred to at first as 'The Collector of Worlds', Brainiac is first seen as the mysterious informant that supplies Lex Luthor information of Superman and his alien nature.[37] Clark is having a dream of Krypton's final moments in which an artificial intelligence that controls the planet wakes up robots in an attempt to preserve the Kryptonian culture. Later, while Clark conducts an interview in a robotic factory, the same harvester robots appear.

John Corben (soon-to-be supervillain Metallo) is suddenly possessed by the artificial intelligence. It demands Superman.[38] The robots create havoc throughout Metropolis but Superman soon realizes that they are really after him. Superman fights the possessed Corben with the help of John Henry Irons.

Although they managed to defeat him, the alien sentience had already miniaturized and bottled the city of Metropolis and took it to his ship in space.[39] Superman travels to the ship to find many alien bottled cities, Kandor included. The alien identifies himself as a being from the planet Colu where he was known as C.O.M.P.U.T.O and on Krypton he was called Brainiac 1.0. He claims that without Superman and the ship that brought him to Earth, his Kryptonian collection is incomplete. The alien intelligence demands Superman make a choice: the intelligence will disable life support in both the Kandor and Metropolis bottles, and Superman must choose which city to save using indestructible Kryptonian armor found on the ship.

Superman decides on neither and wears the armor (which changes instantly into the current Superman costume design). Brainiac sends Metallo to attack Superman, but due to Superman reasoning with him over his feelings for Lois Lane, he breaks free of Brainiac's control and joins Superman in his attack. Superman then uses his rocket from Krypton that had also been miniaturized with Metropolis to attack Brainiac's mind, which the rocket was able to do since its primary mission was to protect Kal-El. In doing so, Metropolis was returned to Earth and Superman took possession of Brianiac's ship and made it his new super citadel.[40]

Notably, the ship Clark was placed into as a child was described as having "Brainiac AI", leaving the identity of the Collector of Worlds in doubt.[41] The Colony of the Collector of Worlds told Superman that its AI technology went by different names, beginning on Yod-Colu as C.O.M.P.U.T.O. On Noma, he was called Pneumenoid; on Bryak it was Mind2; on Krypton he was called Brainiac 1.0; and, finally on Earth, he is the Internet.[42]

After this defeat, Brainiac retreated to deeper parts of the cosmos, and eventually came across the planet Tolerance, the setting of a bounty hunting glimmernet game show called The Hunted. Striking a deal with Lady Styx, overlord of the Tenebrian Dominion. he bottles a portion of the Sh'diki Borough of Tolerance, to add to his collection. He encounters Jediah Caul, a former member of the Green Lantern Corps, who combats and infects Brainiac's ship. Ultimately, Brainiac abandons his plans with the Sh'diki Borough and ejects Caul and the bottled city before leaving for parts unknown.[43]

Back on Earth, during an investigation of 20 kidnapped people who developed metahuman powers after being kidnapped by Brainiac, one of these 20 infects Lois Lane, thereby giving Brainiac control over a close ally of Superman.[44] Brainiac plots his return to Earth, using Lane to infiltrate Earth's defense systems to allow an easier path for his physical return.[45] and even upgrading her body to contain his 12th level intelligence. His minion Cyborg-Superman (a reconstructed Zor-El, father of Supergirl)[46] constructs a portal to allow Brainiac's command ship and "daughterships" to travel to Earth from throughout the galaxy.[47]

Superman, whom Brainiac had conspired to 'infect' with the monster Doomsday in order to drive him away from Earth, uses his augmented power to attack Brainiac's gigantic mothership and break through to its core and, finally, Vril Dox himself. The Coluan appears still-humanoid, and explains his reasoning for stealing minds from throughout the universe: he has concluded that if he can 'unite' the minds of a certain critical amount of people, he will be able to change reality itself. His motivation for this appears a desire to right the wrongs he feels responsible for: the loss of his wife and child back on Colu. His plan is undone when Superman drags him, mothership and all, into a black hole. But then, Vril Dox is snatched away to safety, it seems, by a being who appears to be the true Brainiac: an immensely powerful entity from outside the universe itself. [48]

Powers and abilities

Brainiac has a "12th-level intellect", allowing calculation abilities, enhanced memory and advanced understanding of mechanical engineering, bio-engineering, physics, and other theoretical and applied sciences, as well as extensive knowledge of various alien technologies. For comparison, the population of 20th century Earth as a whole constitutes a 6th-Level intelligence and the population of 31st century Earth as a whole is a 9th-Level intelligence. The character has created devices such as a force field belt[49] and a shrinking ray capable of reducing cities.[49] Brainiac's advanced mental powers have shown him capable of possessing others, absorbing information from other beings, transferring his consciousness,[50] creating and manipulating computer systems, replicating multiple versions of himself, and exerting powers to traverse or control space and time. John Byrne's re-imagining of the character possessed telepathy and telekinesis that were further augmented by an implanted electrode head-piece.

The most recent version of Brainiac (a living Coluan who utilizes android "probes") is connected to his ship in such a way that he can be disabled for a short period if separated without warning. While inside his ship he is capable of fighting evenly with and overpowering the likes of Superman. He heals from injuries at incredible speed. After being separated from the ship he physically starts to deteriorate and is far less powerful. He is a biological creature that has altered his body to acquire more knowledge to become "better." With his ship, vast knowledge, and powerful technology, Brainiac has captured thousands of cities and has assimilated and destroyed just as many civilizations. He is considered one of the most powerful villains Superman has faced.

Alternative versions

The character has been depicted in various out-of-continuity stories, such as the JLA: Earth 2 one-shot, where he is an organic—but still villainous—lifeform, having tricked the Justice League of America and the Crime Syndicate of Amerika into switching worlds so that they are each trapped in realities where they cannot win, only to be defeated when the League deliberately walk away so that the Syndicate can return in time to stop him. In the Amalgam Comics line, which was a joint venture between DC and Marvel Comics, readers are introduced to Galactiac, a combination of Brainiac and Marvel Comics antagonist Galactus. Brainiac also appears in The Dark Knight Strikes Again where he is allied with Lex Luthor and blackmailing various superheroes to obey them before he is destroyed by Lara, the daughter of Superman and Wonder Woman and the population of Kandor,[51] as well as Superman: Red Son,[52] JLA: Shogun of Steel,[53] and The Last Days of Krypton novel by author Kevin J. Anderson.[54]

Bizarro Brainiac

Bizarro #1 created this doppelganger of Brainiac to live on Bizarro World. Since Brainiac shrank the city of Kandor, his Bizarro counterpart felt compelled to do the opposite, and expanded a city in Antarctica, creating Big City.[55]


In the alternate timeline of the Flashpoint event, Brainiac is the ruler of 31st century Earth, and has captured Kid Flash, whom he then placed in stasis, but Hot Pursuit managed to rescue the young speedster.[56] Escaping from Brainiac's base, Kid Flash and Hot Pursuit formulate a plan to return to the 21st century. Kid Flash then allows himself to be recaptured by Brainiac and put into stasis. Kid Flash uses his super-speed in the virtual reality access port to shut down the security program and Hot Pursuit then blasts Brainiac from behind. While they used his orb energy to return to the past, Brainiac impaled Hot Pursuit and attacked Kid Flash. Hot Pursuit breaks the orb energy projector to allow Kid Flash's super-speed to return. Kid Flash then returns to the 21st century, promising to rescue Hot Pursuit from Brainiac.[57]

In other media


  • The pre-Crisis green-skinned version of Brainiac with robotic diodes made his first television appearance in the episodes of the Filmation animated series The New Adventures of Superman. In this series, Brainiac was from the planet Mega whose entire population had perished in a series of atomic wars with the exception of one survivor, Professor Hecla. Hecla created Brainiac and sent him to Earth to use his shrinking ray to create a sort of "cosmic Noah's Ark", by shrinking a male and female of each Earth species to take back to repopulate Mega. Brainiac appeared in several episodes of this series which began in 1966.
Brainiac in Superman: The Animated Series and in Superman: Brainiac Attacks.
  • In Superman: The Animated Series, Brainiac (voiced by Corey Burton) is the supercomputer that runs most of the day-to-day operations on the planet Krypton. He heeds Jor-El's warning about the imminent destruction of Krypton, but rather than validate Jor-El's claims, he dismisses them as false while secretly working to save himself. As he contains the collective knowledge of Krypton, Brainiac reasons that, should he inform the government, they would put him to work to stop the inevitable and doom both parties. Brainiac survives Krypton's destruction after downloading his programming into a satellite and takes off into space, travelling to other planets and assimilating their knowledge and technology before destroying them. Brainiac eventually builds an android body for himself and makes his way to Earth under the pretense of a peaceful exchange of knowledge with Lex Luthor. Superman, however, discovers Brainiac's true intentions and with the help of Luthor defeats Brainiac. He appears a few more times over the course of the series but is defeated each time.
    • Corey Burton reprises his role of Brainiac when he reemerged in the Justice League' episode "Twilight." He ends up attacking Apokolips after Darkseid had suffered a major defeat at the hands of Orion. This prompts Darkseid to come to the Watchtower and ask the Justice League for help. The story was a ruse, however, one intended to lure the Justice League, Superman in particular, to Brainiac's headquarters. Brainiac's full plan was to assume the body of Superman for him to inhabit. Darkseid betrayed Brainiac, however, and in the subsequent battle, both the machine intelligence and Darkseid were destroyed.
    • In the Static Shock two-part crossover episode "A League of Their Own", Brainiac (now reduced to a single circuit board kept in stasis and again voiced by Corey Burton) escaped confinement following a power failure at the Justice League's Watchtower. Static and Gear had been recruited by the Justice League to help recharge the Watchtower's generators. During that time, Brainiac slowly began gaining control of the Watchtower. He sent the Justice League a fake distress call to lure them away, then attempted to dispose of Static and Gear before turning the Watchtower into his new body. Fortunately, the teen superheroes discovered his plan and alerted the Justice League to return. The voice of Brainiac here sounds quite different, but it is still Corey Burton; the producers of Static Shock decided to pitch Burton's voice significantly lower for their show.[58]
      Brainiac combined with Luthor.
    • In the Justice League Unlimited episode "For the Man Who Has Everything", Superman was experiencing a dream world when attached to the alien hallucinogenic Black Mercy plant. In his dream, Brainiac is still in his position as Krypton's monitoring system and the planet did not explode at the time Superman was an infant. Brainiac himself later reappears in the season 2 finale once again voiced by Corey Burton. When the League confronts Lex Luthor, it is revealed in a major plot twist that he had put a part of himself in Luthor in their confrontation years earlier, which has been influencing Luthor, curing his cancer and giving him superhuman strength. He tries to digitize the League, but the Martian Manhunter escapes and stops this. He turns the top of the Building into a giant craft to distract the League while he escapes into the sewer. Brainiac announces his intention to absorb the knowledge of every world in the Universe then destroy them, however Luthor says he can help Brainiac find a higher purpose. The two combine into a hybrid villain, once both are fully merged, the appearance of the character is inspired by that of the Silver Age Brainiac. The heroes purge Luthor of him and Brainiac is seemingly destroyed. However, his consciousness survives in Lex Luthor and the two are able to communicate. Following a prison escape orchestrated by Gorilla Grodd, Luthor takes control of Grodd's Secret Society with the ultimate end of restoring Brainiac. After discovering the location where Brainiac's asteroid base was destroyed following numerous failed attempts at restoring Brainiac, Luthor leads the Society to the coordinates, sacrificing villains to further his means or who simply got in his way. His final attempt to restore Brainiac is thwarted; the procedure instead resurrects Darkseid and Brainiac's presence is removed from Luthor's mind.
  • Brainiac 1.0 (voiced again by Corey Burton) appears in the second season of Legion of Super Heroes. Brainiac 5 is a descendant of him who is an unwanted robot on his home planet. In the second season episode "Message in a Bottle", Brainiac 5 reveals the past atrocities caused by his predecessor, one such atrocity being the shrinking and abduction of the Kryptonian city of Kandor, which would cause a chain of events leading to the demise of Krypton. In the two part finale of the series "Dark Victory", Brainiac 1.0's programming takes control of Brainiac 5. He destroys Imperiex and begins his plans to bring order to the universe. To do this, he uses technology that transforms matter, living beings, and entire worlds into digital information to be stored inside him. With help from Superman and Kell-El merged inside his mind, he is ultimately destroyed by Brainiac 5, but in the end[clarification needed] he survives and starts rebuilding himself as Brainiac 6. While the Legion of Super-Heroes television series does not share the same continuity as the Justice League Unlimited series or its predecessors, the version of Brainiac which appeared on the show is also voiced by Corey Burton and shares the same musical leitmotif from his DC animated universe appearances.
  • In the fifth season of Smallville, Brainiac is introduced as a recurring villain and the main antagonist of season 5 played by James Marsters. He takes the name of Prof. Milton Fine, posing as a professor at (fictional) Central Kansas A&M University. "Brainiac" is mostly referred to by his assumed name, although Jor-El refers to him in the fifth season finale "Vessel" as the "Brain InterActive Construct", and Raya is the first person to call him "Brainiac" in Season 6's "Fallout." Smallville‍ '​s interpretation of Brainiac is similar to the DC animated universe version; that of a self-aware computer in humanoid form with a Kryptonian origin, but is portrayed as a shape shifting AI created by Dax-Ur who abandoned the project only for it to be completed by Jor-El but corrupted by Zod.
  • Brainiac is featured in Batman: The Brave and the Bold voiced by Richard McGonagle. Brainiac's earliest outfit (albeit with slight modification) as a Coluian is seen in the episode "The Siege of Starro" Pt. 2 as a trophy in the spaceship of the Faceless Hunter (the minion/herald of Starro). In "Battle of the Superheroes!", Brainiac shows up at the end of the episode following Lex Luthor's defeat plotting to shrink Metropolis in order to repopulate his destroyed planet causing Batman and Superman to spring into action.
  • Brainiac's body makes a cameo appearance in the Teen Titans Go! episode, "Laundry Day." Cyborg heads to his room to get a new body while his current one is in the wash. Brainiac's body is one of the choices, but Cyborg dismisses it, saying that its "too brainy."


  • Brainiac returned in the 2006 direct-to-video animated feature Superman: Brainiac Attacks voiced by Lance Henriksen and he serves as the primary antagonist. The movie begins with Brainiac landing on Earth in a meteor. Brainiac goes around absorbing information until Superman destroys him with his super-breath. However, Lex Luthor is able to save a piece of Brainiac and forms an alliance with the Kryptonian robot. Luthor gives Brainiac a new body, made from his satellite weapon. Brainiac is also equipped with a kryptonite beam and the ability to track Superman by his Kryptonian DNA. Luthor and Brainiac's bargain revolves around Brainiac using his new body to destroy Superman, and afterwards, Brainiac would allow himself to be "defeated" by Luthor and leave for another planet so that Luthor would appear as a hero. However, Brainiac betrayed Luthor after he believed Superman was destroyed, but in the end, Superman returned to defeat Brainiac after a lengthy battle. This time, Superman made sure that this copy of Brainiac was completely destroyed.
  • In All-Star Superman, a statue of Brainiac resembling his pre-Crisis green-skinned version with robotic diodes is seen in Superman's Fortress of Solitude.
  • Brainiac was considered to be the main antagonist for Superman III, along with Mister Mxyzptlk, when Ilya Salkind made an early treatment. In the treatment, Brainiac was from Colu and has discovered Supergirl in the same way that Superman was found by the Kents. Brainiac is portrayed as a surrogate father to Supergirl and eventually fell in love with his "daughter", who did not reciprocate his feelings, as she had fallen in love with Superman.[59] However, Warner Bros. rejected the treatment, and the final product featured a powerful computer as a major "villain."
  • Brainiac was considered as a villain in the scrapped Superman Reborn and Superman Lives film projects. Most notably, the villain was featured with Doomsday in Kevin Smith's version of the script, which was later discarded by director Tim Burton. Burton's own script included Brainiac's intellect bonding with Lex Luthor, as would later happen in Justice League Unlimited (and which had previously been seen in the comic book story Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?)[60]
  • Brainiac was being considered, along with Lex Luthor, to be the main antagonist for Man of Steel,[61] but the role was instead given to General Zod.
  • Brainiac is being heavily considered to be the main antagonist for part one of the Justice League film for the DC Cinematic Universe.


  • A Brainiac loosely based on the Silver Age version appears in The Last Days of Krypton, a novel by Kevin J. Anderson.[54] This version of Brainiac is known as the Brain InterActive Construct, later renamed Brainiac by Commissioner Zod. Brainiac had admired the beauty and architecture of Kandor, and wanted to preserve the city from destruction should disaster strike Krypton as it did on his home planet of Colu. Zod permitted Brainiac's taking of Kandor, stating that Brainiac could have the city, as the rest of Krypton belonged to him. Brainiac's ship fired three lasers that pummeled the surrounding crust around Kandor and literally upheaved the city from Krypton's surface. A force field was then erected around the city which contracted, shrinking the city and its inhabitants. Brainiac departed without causing further destruction or seizing other Kryptonian cities.
  • Brainiac (referred to again as "The Collector of Worlds") is introduced in Issue 20 of the Young Justice comic series, based off the show.[63]

Video games

  • Brainiac was the main antagonist and boss in the 1992 Sunsoft game Superman.
  • In Superman 64, Brainiac, from the DCAU, appears not only as a villain and level boss, but also as a playable character in multiplayer. However, when the player faces Brainiac in the game's final level, Brainiac simply stands in place unless the player attempts to use heat vision on him.
  • In the Xbox video game Superman: Man of Steel, Brainiac 13 is the final boss of the game. Players must compete against B13 drones throughout the game, before facing the android on the final level.
  • Brainiac was featured in the concept art in the console versions and as a main boss in the Nintendo DS version of 2006 video game Superman Returns, looking vastly different from other incarnations.
  • Brainiac is a featured major villain in the video game Justice League Heroes voiced by Peter Jessop. In the game, Brainiac first invaded S.T.A.R. Labs and ordered a huge legion of robots to seal off the area. Batman and Superman head for S.T.A.R. Labs, destroy Brainiac's robots, and battle Brainiac. Later the League infiltrates his underground fortress on earth and engages Brainiac in combat. Brainiac, defeated, is later resurrected/possessed by the villain Darkseid.
  • Corey Burton reprises his role as Brainiac and is the main antagonist in DC Universe Online. Here, Brainiac returns to Earth and both super heroes and other villains of the DC universe appeal to a truce to combat Brainiac. He is also (indirectly) the source of the player characters' powers, as a future version of Lex Luthor used his technology to create "exobytes", highly advanced nanorobots with the ability to infuse an organic host with superpowers. Brainiac also appears to be able to create Avatars and Sub-Avatars from the digitized information on superhuman powers, enormous robots that use technological, meta or magical abilities.
  • Brainiac makes an appearance in Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes voiced by Troy Baker. He is seen briefly in the final scene of the main story watching Earth from an orbiting spaceship, and after witnessing Green Lantern shoot a green beam summoning others to the planet, Brainiac mutters: " I Have Located It". Brainiac is also a boss fight and unlockable character, found in Gotham Park.
  • Brainiac subsequently appears as the main antagonist in the sequel, Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham voiced by Dee Bradley Baker. He summons representatives of all known Lantern Corps (such as Sinestro, Atrocitus, Star Sapphire, and Hal Jordan) in order to claim their energies, which will power a crystal that will shrink Earth. According to him, he has lost his appetite for simple cities and plans to claim entire worlds. The Justice League and the Legion of Doom defeat him on his ship, but the villain escapes as his ship crashes in Gotham. Brainiac returns once Earth is returned to normal size, mind-controlling a giant-sized Superman, but is eventually defeated and shrunk himself, placed next to Lex Luthor and The Joker in Arkham Asylum. However, Luthor inadvertently breaks the bottle holding him, freeing him once again, after which Brainiac prepares to vengenfully beat them both.
  • In the video game Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure, Brainiac is the secret leader of the villains and the main antagonist. With the help of the Scribblenauts' Doppelgänger, he wants to use the Starites and Lily's globe to summon and merge with the other 51 Brainiacs and become a "perfect" being. He unites with other DC Comics villains to obtain the Starites, each failing to do so. When the Justice League arrives, he hacks Cyborg and uses Lex Luthor, The Joker, Harley Quinn, Cheetah, Professor Zoom, Ocean Master and the Sinestro Corps to fight their respective nemisises, again, each failing. When the Justice League reach Brainiac, he steals Lily's globe, adds the last Starite, teleports the Justice League away and puts his plan into action. After betraying Doppelganger, Brainiac and his clones begin to merge. Maxwell manages to summon alternate versions of the Justice League to defeat him and retrieve the globe.

Cultural references

  • The band The Dukes of Stratosphear, an alter ego for XTC, released a song called "Brainiac's Daughter" on their 1987 album Psonic Psunspot. The lyrics include references to the bottled city of Kandor and the Daily Planet. Songwriter Andy Partridge has said of the song: "Right, well, Brainiac is the character in the Superman comics, the evil genius with the green skin and the sort of lightbulb screwed in his head. He was like a Martian Lex Luthor and I thought he'd be a wonderful psychedelic subject to write about, and his potential daughter: I do not think he had one but if he had she would have been, well, colorful, mauve and purple."[64] This reference eventually came full circle when Alex Ross and Mark Waid created a background character named "Brainiac's Daughter" in the 1996 limited series Kingdom Come. The band Royal recorded a cover version of the song for the 2006 compilation album Sound of Superman, released by Rhino Records in conjunction with the opening of the movie Superman Returns.
  • In the list of people "playing", in the 1967 song "The Intro and the Outro", by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Brainiac performs on banjo.
  • In The Big Bang Theory, Penny finds a miniature replica of Kandor in Leonard's closet and while explaining what it is, Leonard mentions Brainiac.
  • In the TV show, ChalkZone, The Crainiacs act similar to Brainiac.
  • The TV show The Venture Brothers features a villain named Brainulo in an episode, a supergenius from the future who is a clear homage to Brainiac (including the signature diodes implanted in his head).


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External links