This year has seen several much-anticipated DC ventures get released to a high audience and critical acclaim, making 2022 unofficially a year of DC Renaissance. Rounding off the course in a similar fashion, the last quarter of the ongoing year has been exciting for DC fans across the globe as several new updates have surfaced. Starting from Henry Cavill himself announcing his return to DCU to James Gunn and Peter Safran leading newly formed DC Studios since earlier this month, all the signs are pointing towards a brighter, more cohesive worldbuilding for DC media adaptations. As DC’s parent company, Warner Brothers Discovery, announced in their previous quarterly meeting, DC Universe will build its roadmap focusing on the Trinity: Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman, the three iconic DC characters. Following this mandate and after Cavill’s much-celebrated return to the role, it has been reported that making a sequel to “Man of Steel” (2013) as a new Superman movie is going to be of top priority for the studio. As the search for a director has already begun, it has been rumored that a classic Superman villain will serve as the movie’s antagonist. As a character, Brainiac commands an important role in fictional literature, being an archetypal one, and his possible inclusion in the DC Universe (which was changed from the DCEU recently) will provide a storytelling scope of vast cosmic proportions. We will briefly discuss the comics’ origin of “Brainiac” and the role he might play in the DC Universe in the near future.
Brainiac: Comics Origin
Among the ever-expanding rogue gallery of Superman, Brainiac is considered to be the second most iconic antagonist, right after Lex Luthor. In fact, the character is so iconic that the noun “brainiac,” which means exceptionally intelligent, was coined after the character. Brainiac made its first appearance in 1958 in the #242 edition of “Action Comics” written and designed by Otto Binder and Al Plastino. The character has gone through multiple origins and continuity changes through the decades; among those, we will try to discuss the most prominent one, which has been used in several animated and live-action adaptations earlier.
In all his iterations, Brainiac is shown as a bald, green-skinned extraterrestrial supergenius android/cyborg hailing from the planet Colu. The denizens of Colu constructed a supercomputer of 10th-level intelligence and imbued it with artificial intelligence and sentience. Unfortunately for them, their perfection in craft also became the instrument of their enslavement. The self-aware supercomputer replicated its form multiple times over and was collectively known as Computer Tyrants, who enslaved the entire Coluan Race. The Computer Tyrants wished to enslave various lifeforms and civilizations across the galaxy; therefore, they used their technology to create a living-computer-like humanoid that mimics the appearance of a bipedal biological lifeform, in this case, Coluans. To replicate the capacity to think and act like living beings, they gave it a similar 10-level intellect and used a Coluan scientist’s psychological imprint, which resulted in the creation of a humanoid with a mind and personality. They named their creation Brainiac and gave it the prime objective of scouring the universe in search of knowledge and enslaving civilizations. To achieve this objective, Brainiac used a device that can shrink entire landmasses into miniature versions, with all the living beings intact. To complete Brainiac’s transformation into humanoid form, the Computer Tyrants paired him up with a Coluan child named Vril Dox as a protege, whom they renamed Brainiac 2. After coming of age, Brainiac 2 enhanced himself with 12th-level intelligence using advanced technology and escaped the custody of Tyrants and Brainiac. After assembling the populace of the planet, Brainiac 2 staged a revolt and destroyed the supercomputers, returning the freedom of the Coluans.
However, his primary objective of collecting worlds did not change, and Brainiac kept collecting and enslaving parts of or entire planets throughout the known universe. His connection with Superman is initiated because he “stole” Kandor, the capital of Superman’s homeworld Krypton, long before the planet progressed to its doom. In some continuities, Brainiac’s invasion is the reason for Krypton’s destruction. Way later, he invaded Earth, minimized cities across the planet, including Metropolis, and ‘bottled’ them up for his personal collection. Superman managed to stop him and revert all the cities of Earth to their regular form but failed to restore Kandor to its original form. Superman took the bottled city of Kandor (with its people and ecology intact) and stored it in his “Fortress of Solitude.”
As one of the most technologically advanced beings in the DC universe, Brainiac keeps upgrading himself by enhancing his physical parts and channeling his consciousness into better physical forms. His 12th-level intellect gets passed down through generations, thereby creating a legacy of brainiacs in cosmic history. It should be mentioned that not all of his descendants are humanoids or evil in allegiance; for example, Brainiac 5 (a descendent of the original Brainiac) is a founding member of the 30th-century superhero team “Legion of Superheroes” and is a Coluan. Brainiac, as a character, exemplifies the obsession for knowledge and the corruption, greed, and selfishness that it entails. Possessing the highest level of intellect across the entire multiverse, he has knowledge of every art and science that has ever been conceived in the past, present, and future. With his vast knowledge accumulated by absorbing the collective hive knowledge of millions of civilizations, he is also a tech genius and can create force fields, space- and time-controlling gadgets, and the most advanced weaponry. Brainiac invades other worlds in his skull-shaped warship, which is laced with mechanical tentacles, giving it the appearance of a Lovecraftian monster. He also uses cybernetic battle drones as foot soldiers. Brainiac served as an inspiration for characters like Kang, Ultron, the Terminator, modern sci-fi franchises, and many other fictional characters.
Past Appearances And Possible Role in DCU
Brainiac has appeared in numerous DC animated series and movies, and several canceled Superman projects had him initially conceptualized as the primary antagonist. The genre-defining series “Smallville” was the first appearance of the character in live action, where he was portrayed by James Marsters, resembling T-1000 in mannerisms and appearance. The canceled series “Krypton” gave fans the most comic-accurate version of Brainiac with all his body horror glory, played by Blake Ritson. Even the DC Universe, which was kicked off by Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel” in 2013, had initial arrangements to make Brainiac the villain for its sequel, along with Metallo. Unfortunately, due to studio interference and insistence on competing with the MCU, the plan was scrapped and rushed worldbuilding ultimately resulted in disaster. After nine years, now that DCU is attempting a course correction, strong rumors are suggesting the Man of Steel will face Brainiac in the upcoming sequel. Not only were there hints of Brainiac’s appearance in the first movie in the form of tentacles attached to Zod’s World Engine in the skull-shaped codex, but a thematic resemblance will also be there as Brainiac’s apathetic quest for control will directly oppose the sympathetic, humanist zeal represented by our symbol of Hope. Brainiac’s cosmic threat and past with Krypton will once again put a more experienced Superman into an intense situation, where the sense of loss of his former homeworld and the dread of losing his current one will test his mettle. With Brainiac’s introduction, the halted worldbuilding of DCU can jumpstart again, as it can introduce yet unexplored cosmic vastness filled with various spectrums of lanterns, New Gods, Daxamites, Rannians, Thanagarians, Czarnians, etc. With reports also making the rounds that Sasha Calle’s Supergirl will be a part of the sequel, too, we can safely assume that cohesiveness will make a return to DCU quite fittingly with a new Superman movie.