Monday, May 20, 2024

Brainiac Who's Who Pages

With House of Brainiac showcasing all the forms of Brainiac and with my recent review of Action Comics #544, I was struck with how much Brainiac has changed over time. One of the ways I sort of try to catalog the changes on this site is to look back at some of the official biographies of characters ... the Who's Who pages.

We'll start with the original, the mid-Crisis 1985 Who's Who. This issue was on the racks just 2 years after Action Comics #544 and the same month as Crisis on Infinite Earths #6.  So this version of Brainiac was relatively new. 

This is a nice page with art by Ed Hannigan, the designer of the new form. There is a nice retelling of his origin, a 12th level intelligence construct sent out by the Coluan computer tyrants to reconnoiter worlds for them to conquer. Given Vril Dox as a pseudo-son to cement the humanoid persona.  I forgot about that aspect of his origin to be honest.

But this catches us up to the recent change to this emotionless 'unique organic' life form with infinite technology at his disposal. 

While this version only was around for 5 years or so, it struck a chord. I am glad this design remains around today either in the Brainiac ship form or the drone soldiers look. 

But the changes didn't stop there.

The original Who's Who documented DC's history. But then that little thing called the Crisis happened and in the subsequent years there was an incredible outflow of new creations and new takes on characters. 

John Byrne stepped in as the leader of the post-Crisis Superman and made some serious changes, including with Brainiac.

In the 1988 Who's Who Update, we get a great Jerry Ordway page showing the new Brainiac. 

Brainiac is now a Earth-born named Milton Fine, a circus mentalist with real latent powers. A disembodied Coluan spirit calling itself Vril Dox, possessed Fine, unlocking his psionics. At this point, Dox said he was a benevolent scientist on Colu who tested an teleportation device on himself which disintegrated him. 

Obviously, this pudgy middle-aged man is a far cry from the Terminator-like robot we had before. But Byrne did a decent job bringing in some aspects of the classic.

Two years later in 1990, the 'loose leaf' Who's Who was published.

In this great page by Kerry Gamill and Brett Breeding, we can see how we are starting to veer closer to the very classic green-skinned Brainiac, complete with skull electrodes.

While the skeleton of the origin in that 1988 Who's Who remains, it has been fleshed out.

Again, we have computer tyrants on Colu, robot overlords who brainwash the populace.Vril Dox was allowed to keep his own free will but serve the Tyrants. When it was discovered he was trying to overthrow Colu for himself, the Tyrants did subject him to the faulty teleportation machine. 

Possessing Fine, the Dox personality took complete control of the body and the used his powers to upgrade the failing body to this more Coluan looking being. 

It is interesting that this version remains more a psionic and telepathic villain than the tech-based one that most people associate with the name Brainiac.

Flash forward 8 years to  1998's Superman Villains: Secret Files and Origins , and you basically have no movement with the character. The text here is basically a truncated version of the loose leaf entry.

Brainiac had come back by then, leading both 1992's Panic in the Sky and 1994's Dead Again. So this lack of new information is a bit sad for the character. But I love this Dave Johnson page.

I am sure I am missing some pages but the next Brainiac origin page was in Superman Secret Files 2009.  Solid subdued art by Francis Manapul. This issue came out just as the New Krypton mega-event was starting and the Geoff Johns and Gary Frank Brainiac arc was ending.

This was a 'back to basics' take on Brainiac. We learned in that arc that the other Brainiacs we knew were drones. This Coluan Brainiac was back to being a collector of cities and intelligence. He also was both extremely intelligent but also physically imposing and strong. 

Superman defeated Brainiac in that arc. At this time, the villain was biding his time to strike again, pretending to be catatonic while in captivity.

The book this appeared in was sort of covered by me way back in the early days of the site:

In the end, I think this is the current Brainiac even though that arc was out out in 2008! 

Pretty interesting to see the path of this character laid out in these official releases.  And glad that Joshua Williamson is leaning into the history by showing us these and other forms of Brainiac in the arc.


PT Dilloway said...

I like the classic green look though the more recent ones are better as that rugby shirt he was wearing back in the old days looked a little silly.

H said...

I feel like the metallic look held on because they used it in a couple of the cartoons, and the only other one before that was the guy with no pants (yeah, I remember the Cartoon Network commercial). I like it though- very distinctive, and those sharp lines work with the mechanical aspect really well.

Anonymous said...

Brainiac has always been a bit of cultural "follower", long overdue for an upgrade from his pink jersey & briefs of course DC simply samples "The Terminator" and drops him back into continuity. As of this month, in Superman #14 Brainiac is now referencing "The Borg Queen" (albeit one who consumes Czarnians like they were popcorn chicken) which means in the year 2024, DC has finally caught up to 1996.