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Alter ego: Vril Dox

Species: Coluan

First appearance: Action Comics #242 (July 1958)

"You've told me that Lex Luthor is everything bad about humanity. Well, Brainiac is everything bad about aliens."
Supergirl, Superman: Brainiac (the story arc)

Collector of Planets. Knowledge and Strength of 10,000 Worlds. Terror of Kandor. Twelfth Level Intellect.

THE Alien Supervillain.

Brainiac is a prominent member of Superman's Rogues Gallery and one of the most iconic villains in comic book history.

Created by writer Otto Binder and artist Al Plastino, Brainiac debuted in July 1958 as a green-skinned alien with advanced technology who attacked an Earth spaceship and possessed a private collection of shrunken, stolen cities, including the Kryptonian city of Kandor, which Superman stole back and took back to his Fortress of Solitude. Notably, in that story, Superman never actually managed to defeat the alien and was completely outmatched by his Deflector Shields and tirade of insults, and this was the Silver Age Superman, the same one who casually tugged chains of planets through space.

He returned to menace the superhero over the years, often in a Villain Team-Up with Lex Luthor. Due to legal issues, he was reimagined as a living supercomputer in humanoid form, the renegade agent of the Coluan race.

He received a major overhaul in 1983, turning him into a SkeleBot 9000 with vastly greater abilities, note  but this version was wiped out by the Crisis on Infinite Earths only a few years later. Later versions do usually retain a version of his skull-shaped spaceship introduced in this period, however. In comics, Skeletal Brainiac appears prominently in Crisis on Infinite Earths and Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?; in other media, this version appears in the later seasons of Super Friends and was immortalized as an action figure for the popular Super Powers toyline.

Post-Crisis, he was reimagined again as an insane circus psychic named Milton Fine who believed he was possessed by an alien intelligence, though as that drew a fan backlash it was gradually implied that he might actually be Properly Paranoid and he began taking on genuinely alien characteristics, such as green skin and more audacious plans. Eventually this was all retconned and he was reimagined again as an evil alien robot, then as time went on his exact origins and nature might be either a robot, a pure alien, or an alien cyborg robot, Depending on the Writer. Once again, Superman receives (in different circumstances) a Kandor shrunk by Brainiac, this time apparently a holding city for non-Kryptonian residents of Krypton, in the interest of keeping Superman the Last of His Kind.

In adaptations such as Superman: The Animated Series and its sequel Justice League, and later Smallville, he was made into a living supercomputer with Kryptonian origins to create greater enmity with the Man of Steel. Legion of Super-Heroes kept him as Coluan, but still made him a formless supercomputer instead of an organic alien or an android. In the animated versions, Brainiac was given Fighting a Shadow qualities, the green-skinned humanoid being just one of many bodies used by the villain whose nature as a program means all of his technology is 'him' and he need only upload himself elsewhere upon physical "death." The cartoons also made it his standard modus operandi to destroy planets after absorbing their information (and, in the Legion cartoon, shrinking and bottling their greatest cities), so no one else could have access to the power and knowledge he gained from them. In the 2008 story arc Brainiac, these aspects of Brainiac became a Canon Immigrant and the various different versions Superman faced were retconned into probes themselves, and the true Brainiac was once again made into a Coluan cyborg who shrunk and bottled cities before destroying their planets, in hopes of eventually assimilating the entire universe, becoming "everything", and leaving the only sapient life in the universe those inside his ship. Once again he possessed Kandor (the one Superman had was "revealed" to be a fake), which again was a city full of Kryptonians. Upon finding out Superman was a Kryptonian, Brainiac set out to kill him and Supergirl, as the existence of Kryptonians outside of his bioshell threatened his control over their technology.

The New 52 reboot in 2011 changed Brainiac's personality and motives significantly, but he mostly kept the same design, power set, MO, and basic backstory of the post-2008 version, still being an organic scientist who turned himself into a cyborg before setting out to absorb the technology of the planets of the galaxy and bottle their greatest cities. As in his post-2008 incarnation, he did this both personally and through his horde of autonomous "probes" sometimes mistaken for the real guy. With the New 52 coming to an end in 2016, the post-Rebirth version of Brainiac is essentially his 2008-2011 version again, with minor aspects of his 2011-2016 self mixed in.

Brainiac is a Legacy Character and there have been (or will be) at least 13 different incarnations of the character in the future, Brainiac 2 originally being a clone-son, though some of them are actually future, stronger versions of Brainiac himself. The most famous is the heroic Brainiac 5, The Smart Guy of the Legion Of Superheroes from the 31st century. In one Story Arc, the Brainiac 13 version from a Bad Future even fought Brainiac 2.5, despite both being the same character. On most occasions, the ones who aren't actually Brainiac end up becoming the victim of his schemes.

Fun fact: Brainiac is not, as you might think, named after a popular slang word for "intellectual." It's the other way around: that particular piece of slang actually started with him, and the writers of Superman are credited with coining it via a portmanteau of "brain" and "ENIAC", the first digital computer. So, yes, every time a bookish comic book fan gets mockingly called a "brainiac," their tormenters unknowingly pay tribute to DC Comics.

For tropes relating to Brainiac 2 (Virl Dox II) and Brainiac 3 (Lyrl Dox) see L.E.G.I.O.N. (DC Comics). For tropes relating to Brainiac 5 (Querl Dox) see Legion of Super-Heroes: Silver Age.

The versions of Brainiac:

Comic Appearances:

Pre-Crisis comics

Post-Crisis comics

Elseworld Appearances

Appearances in other media

The character provides examples of:

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    A - E 
  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: In the New 52, he calls his bottled cities "Kan-Dor" and "Met-Trop-Ol-Is".
  • Actually a Doombot: Geoff Johns invoked this in an issue of Action Comics where every single appearance by Brainiac in the Post-Crisis DCU, prior to Johns' Superman: Brainiac storyline was actually a "Brainiac probe" (or a clone).
  • Adaptational Heroism: In the Bomb short that ties in with Justice League: Gods and Monsters, Brainiac is a child who can't control his powers and begs to this continuity's Superman to Mercy Kill him.
  • Adaptation Origin Connection:
    • Multiple adaptations, starting with Superman: The Animated Series, tie his origin into Krypton. The 2008 Brainiac story arc also heavily implies that he was responsible for the destruction of Krypton. Several adaptations, most notably Injustice 2, Smallville, and Legion Of Superheroes made that explicitly canon in their continuities.
    • In the New 52, he created Cyborg-Superman.
  • Adaptation Species Change: It varies per continuity whether he's a biological alien or a robot and as mentioned above, in some continuities, he comes from Krypton.
  • Age Lift: In Justice League: Gods and Monsters, he's a toddler-sized child.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: In some versions, he's this. In others, he was meant to turn out this way.
  • Alliance of Alternates: In two of his video game appearances, Brainiac teams up with alternate versions of himself.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: Just read the page quote. It makes for a nice contrast with Superman's innocent alien; as one internet fan once said, the reason Brainiac is such an enduring villain is that he's the alien Superman isn't.
  • Alien Invasion: A (sometimes literal) One-Man Army type.
  • Arch-Enemy: One of Superman's three chief foes, along with Lex Luthor and General Zod (Darkseid would qualify but he's more of a general DCU threat). After Luthor, he's probably the most iconic, the oldest, and easily one of the ones that Superman despises the most.
  • Archnemesis Dad: To his clone son, Brainiac 2 (Vril Dox II), his grandson, Lyrl Dox (Brainiac 3), and his great-great grandson, Brainiac 5 (Querl Dox). He's manipulated, fought against, and outright tried to murder all three at one point or another, and in turn, all of them have thwarted various schemes of his.
  • Ambiguous Robots: The various continuities and adaptations can never agree on what exactly he is. He's been an alien, a robot, an android, a robotic intelligence, a swarm of nanobots, an alien who transferred his mind into a swarm of nanobots that then became an android, a cyborg, a malevolent A.I.... the list goes on.
  • Ancestral Name: Brainiac 2 shares the same alter ego as his father Braniac 1, Vril Dox.
  • The Artifact: In the Bronze Age, Brainiac's skull shaped Eldritch Starship was modeled after Brainiac's head in his SkeleBot 9000 phase. While Brainiac would go back to his older green skinned appearance, the design of his ship stuck.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The Brainiac 13 incarnation.
  • Assimilation Plot: Again, Brainiac 13, who tried this twice, first on Metropolis (probably as a prelude to Earth), and then, later, on the entire universe.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: To the point where he once downloaded all of Superman's memories and used them to create a program that would anticipate his every move. Generally speaking, Brainiac is a master at gathering information on his foes and then using it against them.
  • Ax-Crazy: While normally stoic, there are times where Brainiac takes sadistic glee in torturing and tormenting his foes, beating them to a pulp and raving about what he would do to their loved ones if they dare oppose him, and that's not to mention his own obsessive desire to destroy worlds. This personality is most prevalent in his Brainiac 13 version.
  • Bald of Evil: One of the only things about his appearance to remain consistent, whether alien, human, robot, or some mix of all of the above.
  • Barrier Warrior: Brainiac always uses his Deflector Shields to maximum effect.
  • Based on a Dream: In-Universe. In the Post-Crisis Superman story "Panic in the Sky", Brainiac built his skull-ship, resembling the one from Pre-Crisis minus the tentacles. He claims the design came to him "in a dream". At the time, it was believed that it was from a subconscious memory of his pre-Crisis incarnation. Post-Birthright/Pre-New 52 stories reveal that that Brainiac was just one of his probes who recalls the original Brainiac's actual skull-ship.
  • Beard of Evil: Sported one as Milton Fine.
  • Beware the Skull Base: Evoked with Braniacs's preferred method of traveling the cosmos in a massive, skull-shaped starship that doubles as his base of operations. It's modeled after his face from his Bronze Age Skelebot 9000 phase.
  • Big Bad: Jockeys with Luthor, Darkseid, and Zod for the title of Superman's Biggest Bad, and has been the mastermind behind countless story arcs in both Superman's own book and the DCU at large (where, alongside the likes of Luthor and Darkseid he's one of the biggest bads around). His antimatter counterpart served as the Big Bad of JLA: Earth-2, establishing that no matter which universe you are in, Brainiac is at the top of the evil food chain. Outside of comics, he is the primary villain in Injustice 2, the MMO DC Universe Online, LEGO Batman 3, Justice League Heroes, a season of Superman: The Animated Series, a season of Justice League, two and a half seasons of Smallville, and the live-action series Krypton.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: He competed with General Lane and General Zod for New Krypton but was the first one to be taken out by Superman during the story.
  • Brain/Computer Interface: Brainiac is frequently portrayed as being wired into his ship via ports in his skull.
  • Brain in a Jar: Post-Crisis Antimatter Brainiac was little more than a genetically-engineered, super-intelligent brain with a face grafted on. He was kept in storage in Ultraman's Flying Fortress, and used to run most of the Crime Syndicate's computers.
  • Category Traitor: Brainiac, when he was originally an organic Coluan named Vril Dox. He loyally serves the Computer Tyrants, thus being hated by his own people as a result. Ironically, in Brainiac he mocks Superman as this for being a Kryptonian claiming to be a human.
  • The Chessmaster: Always. Brainiac plans well in advance, and is an expert at manipulating others into playing the roles he wants them to do.
  • Characterization Marches On: With DC Comics' retconitis, who Brainy is never seems to remain constant for more than a few years at a time. Today's galaxy-destroying Brainiac is definitely a far cry from the day-one incarnation, who was basically "Alien!Lex Luthor"—though his technological brilliance and obsession with collecting things has never gone away.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: He thinks nothing of disposing of his partners, subordinates, and cat's paws as soon as it's convenient to do so.
  • Classic Villain: Resprents Pride, Greed and Wrath. His massive pride leads him to blind himself to weakness, greed leads him take more than he can hold, and wrath ruins his long term plans.
  • The Collector: A shtick of his. He collects cities and its inhabitants to experiment on them... you know, For Science!!
  • Composite Character: In the New 52 continuity, he is also apparently known as Computo, previously a separate individual created by Brainiac 5.
  • Conqueror from the Future: Brainiacs 8 and 13.
  • Control Freak: His Fatal Flaw. Brainiac doesn't like any situation where he's not in control, often flipping out when things don't go his way. As Superman occasionally points out, this is basically his biggest weakness. Due to his absolute need to be in control of everything, Brainiac pretty much always works alone (and his rare team-ups are guaranteed to end in backstabbing), with his only consistent 'allies' being either his machines or people under mind control. By contrast, Superman always has friends and allies backing him, often giving him the edge over the alien.
  • Creepy Monotone: Especially when he's voiced by Corey Burton.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Thanks to his potent technology and often exceptional physical ability, he's of the few beings in the DCU capable of dishing these out to Superman on a regular basis- when Superman does finally manage to defeat him, it's always after a very hard fight and usually (ironically enough) via exploiting a specific Kryptonite Factor. Notable examples include:
    • Superman #338: Brainiac's forcefield belt let's him ignore Superman's attacks, while his energy blasts hurt Superman quite a bit and force him to retreat. Superman comes back and wins their second bout by tricking Brainiac into hitting himself with his own shrink ray.
    • Adventures of Superman #576: Brainiac 13 dismantles Blue Superman. He simply ignores Superman for most of the bout, not even bothering to taunt him while tanking his blows, before knocking him down with one punch and then sticking his Combat Tentacles through Supes' body.
    • Our Worlds at War: In Action Comics #763, Brainiac 13 is able to No-Sell all of Superman's attacks while literally beating him into the ground in turn, with Kelex stating that Brainiac's tentacles would have throttled Superman to death if help had been a second or two too late. Along with Red Tornado, Kelex, and Lex Luthor, he defeats Brainiac by trapping his mind in a Kryptonian warsuit.
    • Superman/Batman #36: Brainiac, in his nanoswarm form, creates a body that beats Batman to near death (Batman at this time had Powered Armor that made him as strong as Superman) and then proceeds to throttle the hell out of Superman (with the latter commenting with surprise that his grip is as hard as Doomsday's). Superman gets out of it when he destroys the ship they're on and introduces the nanobots to explosive decompression.
    • Superman: Brainiac: The titular villain handles Superman roughly in their first encounter, where he smacks Superman around with his ship's tentacles after Superman bloodies his fists in a vain attempt to punch through the ship's shields (the fights ends with him knocking him out with a supernova to the face). Their second encounter, and first one in the flesh, is just as one-sided, as Brainiac pulls a No-Sell on Superman's blows, sends him reeling and bleeding with his own, and incapacitates him a second time. Their third encounter is more even, but Brainiac still possesses a noticeable physical edge - Superman wins by targeting Brainiac's head diodes and then knocking him into a swamp, where he's disabled by Sensory Overload long enough for Superman to knock him out with a kick to the head.
    • To say nothing of everyone who's not Superman. He took out an entire assembly of New Gods (including Orion) with one blast while possessing Milton Fine, destroyed the entire Justice League while possessing Doomsday's body, later casually mind-controlled nearly every hero on Earth in Superman: Doomed, beat Cyborg Superman to near-death in the New 52, overpowered Krypto and Superboy with contemptuous ease in Adventure Comics #6, killed 11,000+ Kryptonians explicitly identical in power to Superman (using his ship and robot army) in under an hour in Superman #698, and even Zod seemed to be losing handily against him in the New Krypton arc before Luthor depowered him by destroying his ship. In Threshold, when Green Lantern Jediah Caul makes it on his ship and threatens to blow his head up with the ring, Brainiac just hefts him over his head before breaking his spine and throwing him out of his ship into the vacuum of space.
    • Taken to new levels in Justice League: No Justice when he (aided by his ships and robots) casually (and non-lethally) defeats every super-team on Earth within minutes of showing up. Even Superman gets shut down pretty easily when he tries to attack Brainiac, who pulls off first a No-Sell and then a Punch Catch. The entire rest of the League attempts to rush him during this fight only to get snagged by his ship without him even bothering to look in their direction.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Averted, he was emptied-out of any soul, way before he started to turn into a cyborg/robot//digitalized into AI/scatter across the universe/whatever.
  • Decomposite Character: The 2008 Brainiac story, via its Fighting a Shadow retcon, essentially turned the different versions of Brainiac into different characters subservient to the one true Brainiac. The Skele Bot, pantless android, and Bryakian scientist-emperor were all autonomous probes he programmed,note  while the consciousness (possibly multiple?) that possessed Milton Fine, Doomsday, Brainiac 2.5, and the Nanoswarm were nanites he also programmed and sent out. Rebirth continues this; the Green Lanterns have trouble with a skele-bot calling itself "Brainiac 2.0" which resembles a larger and slightly-differently designed version of his standard Mecha-Mooks. It states that it's "an older model of Brainiac" and that it's collecting worlds for the "Grand Collector", this being before the post-Rebirth debut of Brainiac proper. When he shows up in No Justice we see that another one of these autonomous probes with its own ship resembles the Superman: The Animated Series version.
  • Deflector Shields: Perhaps the Iconic Item along with his shrinking ray associated with the Silver Age Brainiac was his force field belt, which even Superman couldn't break through. Most later versions of him have also possessed these in one form or another.
  • Depending on the Writer: His appearance, origin, powers, backstory, and motives have all changed drastically over the years, even by comic book standards. Here's a brief rundown. Adaptations of the character are even more variable. Just about the only things that have stayed consistent about him are that he's very smart, very evil, very dangerous, and usually a bald green extraterrestrial humanoid.
    • Also, the Post-Crisis Vril Dox was disintegrated by the Computer Tyrants because he attempted to usurp them or they fear he was becoming too smart.
  • Demonic Possession: Of Dr. Hecla, Milton Fine, Lena Luthor, Lex Luthor, Doomsday, Darkseid and various others across his lengthy career.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: In Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? where he appeared to be the Big Bad, but was actually a front for Mxyptlk of all people.
  • The Dreaded: To Supergirl, who was on Krypton when Brainiac attacked and stole Kandor. The rest of the Kandorians are terrified of him as well, and General Zod views his failure to defeat the alien as his worst ever loss. The whole universe sees Brainiac as this due to him destroying thousands of planets and killing trillions of people, but even among other Galactic Conqueror types Brainiac stands out. It gets to the point that even other Superman-level foes like Zod and Mongul are terrified of him. A memorable reminder of this comes in the "Doomed" arc, where Mongul escapes the Phantom Zone and prepares to attack Earth... until he hears Brainiac is coming. He promptly flees back into the Phantom Zone. R.E.B.E.L.S. #18 also states that the people of his own homeworld of Colu are terrified of becoming his next target.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • Silver Age Brainiac was a silly Mad Scientist fond of bad puns and childish insults, restrained most of his villainy to cartoonish and unserious comic book plots, and could display Noble Demon traits if the story required it. In 1983-1986 he was retooled as a murderous, planet-destroying, utterly ruthless cosmic threat who was played completely seriously. While his history was rebooted Post-Crisis, this part of his Bronze Age characterization stuck. Stories since 1983 have consistently portrayed him as one of DC's deadliest villains and Superman's most unapologetically and seriously evil adversary well into the mid 2020s.
    • The Bronze Age also introduced his iconic skull-ship and Combat Tentacles, which have also stuck around to the present. In the Silver Age he instead used a typical Flying Saucer.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The New 52: Futures End claims that Brainiac is actually a lovecraftian entity beyond time and space who routinely sends probes to collect knowledge (incidentally explaining all of its various forms as just probes. Across all continuities). The status of this reveal within canon is debatable, however, since its not been used for any comic ever since but it still hasn't been explicitly retconned.
    • His mid-80's upgrade into SkeleBot 9000 form turned him into this for the few years leading up to the Crisis, or at least into more of a "Cosmic Entity" than he's usually portrayed (note, this version was partly based on V'Ger).
    • His Convergence incarnation sees him turned into something like this... and he realizes he doesn't like it.
  • Encyclopaedic Knowledge: Considering how many civilizations he's stolen knowledge from, it is not surprising that he possesses this.
  • Enemy Mine: Not Brainiac himself, but he has managed to inspire this towards his own enemies upon himself. Brainiac is one of the very few beings that has forced Superman into an alliance with Lex Luthor and General Zod, and just for the sole intent of having to oppose and defeat him.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: In a What If? story in Superman #215, a villain called the Dimension Master killed Lois, and then returned to further torment Superman by having his wife, the Chameleon Queen, impersonate her while he's grieving. Luthor and Brainiac show up to catch the villains and hand them over to the Space Police, saying when all's said and done, they respect Superman too much to watch what the scum were doing to him.
  • Even the Loving Hero Has Hated Ones: On the receiving end; Superman hates Brainiac more than he does Lex Luthor and General Zod because, in addition to letting his place of birth get destroyed and terrorizing his cousin, he also caused the death of Superman's adopted father because he was being sore and petty about being bested by the Man of Steel. Superman even had a dream about violently and remorselessly killing a terrified Brainiac in a prison cell. Tellingly, Superman has joined forces with Lex and Zod on a few occasions against a mutual threat but has never done so with Brainiac.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Brainiac can't understand what Superman sees in Earth, as its scientific and technological advances are nothing compared to Krypton's. He never considers less quantifiable qualities, like love or family. Epitomized near the climax of the Brainiac arc, when Brainiac has beaten and imprisoned Superman. He derides Earth for its perceived flaws, concluding that its technology is primitive and its culture useless, and asks Superman what it could possibly offer him. The whole time he's talking, Lois Lane, thinking the end is nigh, is desperately crying out to Superman from the shrunken Metropolis, trying to tell him she loves him before it's too late. The implication is that if Brainiac had listened to her, he would have the answer to his question.
  • Evil Counterpart: A cold, distant, remote alien with evil designs on earth? He's everything that people like Luthor think Superman is like.
    • This is more apparent with stories playing up Superman's own Super-Intelligence, collection of sci-fi technology in the Fortress of Solitude, image as the "Man of Tomorrow", and connection to his alien heritage. Brainiac, especially when he's played up as emotionless, often represents the temptation Superman might have to view himself as superior based on his gifts and non-human heritage. Brainiac thinks of Earth as being weak, worthless, and primitive, especially in contrast to himself. As a Kryptonian Superman has access to the Fortress which is light years ahead of Earth science and could allow him to live there by himself just soaking up the knowledge of Krypton, just like Brainiac and his ship. However, unlike Brainiac, Superman understands that there's more to life than just raw knowledge and that Earth has more to offer than purely material and intellectual goods.
    • Brainiac's Control Freak nature, view of himself as the supreme being, and habit of shrinking and bottling cities and aiming to control all knowledge (partly so none can oppose him) are also in direct contrast with Superman's stance that he's merely a normal guy who happens to have extraordinary powers which he's obligated to use to help people, and that those with power should use it to uplift those weaker than them, rather than use it to rule over them. This comes up in the infamous Armor-Piercing Question at the climax of Superman: Red Son. With full context, Luthor is causing Soviet Superman to go through a Villainous Breakdown / Heroic BSoD by comparing him to Brainiac- insinuating that he's a monster shrinking humanity, just as Brainiac shrunk Kandor.
  • Evil Genius: Well, duh. Brainiac describes himself as a "twelfth-level intellect".
  • Evil Is Bigger: Initially averted, but played straight later after Brainiac became a more physical villain. Post-Crisis Brainiac towers over Superman and is much more muscular.
  • Evil Is Petty:
    • Post-Crisis Brainiac is incredibly petty. In "Superman: Brainiac", right after Superman defeats him, he commands his ship to fire a missile at the Kent Farm. Superman ruined his home so he wants to destroy his. In other words, Brainiac attempts to murder an elderly couple who never did anything to him and he has never met because their foster son defeated and humiliated him.
    • Pre-Crisis Silver Age Brainiac would often use his super-technology to commit petty crimes like stealing from stores on Earth. In one story (Action Comics 275) he also came to Earth for the more-or-less sole purpose of giving Superman a dunce cap.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Will have a deep metallic-tinged baritone in most adaptations (unless he's disguising himself as a human). Even in works where he doesn't have the HAL-9000 inspired Machine Monotone popularized by Corey Burton, he's still been voiced by Ted Cassidy and Lance Henriksen... but never deeper than John Noble!
  • Eviler than Thou: Has come into conflict with Luthor, the Anti-Monitor, Zod, Imperiex, and numerous others over the course of his decades-long career, and usually comes out on top. In some cases, such as Our Worlds at War, he even eclipses Darkseid. It's also notable that in Crisis on Infinite Earths, he assembles and leads an entire army of supervillains from various universes, none of whom question his authority.
    • In Injustice 2, he and Darkseid both see themselves as superior to the other. Brainiac is unimpressed by Darkseid's track record with fighting the forces of Earth and says his status as "god" doesn't matter as much as he thinks, while Darkseid insists that not even his intellect can protect Brainiac from his Omega Beams and his motives for villainy are pathetic as shown in Darkseid's arcade ending, where despite considering the Coluan to be a genius without peer, he's nothing more than an "errant intellect" who pales in comparison to the power of a Physical God and got in the way of his revenge against Superman. Note that every character can potentially beat Brainiac in their own arcade mode. Canonically though the Injustice universe Brainiac is more than justified in looking down on the Injustice universe Darkseid, as the former is a Big Bad requiring all the heroes and villains on Earth to team up to have even a chance of beating, while the latter was beaten with moderate difficulty by Superman alone in the prequel comics - hence him mocking Darkseid's performance against Earth's defenders.
  • Expy: In his first appearance, and for much of the Silver Age he was just Lex Luthor (back when Lex was a standard Mad Scientist) but with green skin. This changed in the Bronze Age, when he became a skeletal robot (resembling the Terminator) who aimed to now not just attain, but to be all the knowledge and strength in the universe.

    F - L 
  • Faceship: Since the Bronze Age, Brainiac's ship looks right like his SkeleBot 9000 persona's skull.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Brainiac may speak in a polite demeanor, but it's just a front for his true obsessed and power-hungry persona who will collect humans, cities, worlds, and universes into his ship without second thought.
  • Flying Brick: Post-2008, his probes. They're strong enough to make Superman bleed and give Supergirl trouble in numbers, tough enough to survive some of Superman's weaker blows (at full strength he can tear through them though) and No-Sell small arms, can shoot energy beams and harpoons, can generate force fields that can block Superman's heat vision, and of course can fly. His Bronze Age SkeleBot 9000 incarnation had pretty much the same power set.
  • Flying Saucer: He used a distinctive purple one for most of his Pre-Crisis career. When he was revamped as a cosmic level threat in 1983, he started using a much creepier-looking skull-shaped ship.
  • Foil:
    • Brainiac is one to Lex Luthor; both are hyper-intelligent beings with Green being their main color association, are heavily reliant on the technology they possess, have strong narcissistic tendencies, and are unquestionably Superman's greatest enemies. However, Lex is simply a human being (albeit one with incredible intelligence and in peak-human physique), wishes to be adored as a paragon for humanity, and his enmity towards Superman is driven out of petty jealousy, Brainiac comes from an inherently gifted race known for their intelligence, couldn't care for anything other than his interests and his enmity towards Superman is based on Brainiac playing a role in Krypton's destruction. Lastly, there are times where Lex Luthor and Superman begrudgingly respect each other in some shape or form, whereas Brainiac is actively detested by the Man of Steel at all times.
    • He and Darkseid are also comparable; both are alien conquerors who are infamous for being one of the most powerful and feared beings in the entire DC Universe, have menaced entire superhero teams, and even forced enemies into temporary alliances with heroes against the two, are two of the beings Superman hates the most, and were a driving force in a Crisis Crossover event; Final Crisis for Darkseid, and Convergence for Brainiac. However, Brainiac is a being who collects cities and civilizations in an attempt to "evolve into perfection" and comes from a race who were masters regarding their use of technology and their intelligence. Darkseid, however, is a literal god who usually attempts to subjugate civilizations and planets into his own will and, as a god, inherently possesses a great deal of power, in contrast to Brainiac's which was mainly acquired through his technology and from the cities he collected throughout his destructive travels.
  • Full-Conversion Cyborg: His final Post-Crisis and New 52 versions are Coluan aliens enhanced by advanced cybernetics.
  • Fusion Dance: With Luthor in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?. This was given a Shout-Out in Justice League: Unlimited, though it was far more willing in that version ...and then, there's his fusion with Darkside at the series' very end.
  • Future Badass: Brainiac 13, an upgraded version of Brainiac from the future, powerful and cunning enough to defeat Imperiex and become a universal-level threat after absorbing his power.
  • Future Me Scares Me: In Superman: Y2K, Brainiac 13 comes from the future and hijacks Brainiac 2.5.
  • Galactic Conqueror: His goals and methods have varied a lot over the years, but he still usually fits this trope.
  • Genius Bruiser: Even in his true form, he's stronger than Superman and backs it up with far superior intelligence and gadgets. When he possessed Doomsday, this became literally true as he was a genius in the hulking form of one of the physically strongest beings in the universe.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: During the 80's, he believed there was a being called the "Master Programmer" conspiring to destroy Brainiac by sending his "angel of death", which is Superman.
  • Goal in Life: A very dark and morbid take. Brainiac has dedicated his entire life to being the greatest source of knowledge and keeping all of this to himself. Even if this means several, or all worlds have to die for this to be accomplished.
  • A God Am I: In The Bronze Age of Comic Books and in JLA: Earth-2 where his Antimatter Universe counterpart tried to become an "Nth Level Intellect". Defied in New Krypton when he states "Gods do not exist, Lex Luthor".
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The real Brainiac retroactively became this when it was revealed that the incarnations of Brainiac who had served the Big Bad role in many stories were just his drones/probes. In some continuities, he is also responsible for destroying Krypton. This would then make him the indirect cause of Superman's story by causing Jor-El to send his son to Earth to protect him and by killing Superman's biological parents. This would also by extension make them a greater-scope villain for Supergirl too.
    • Pre-Crisis, this was first suggested in Brainiac's second ever appearance, Superman #141 (November 1960). There he abducts the city of Kandor, the only one whose population actually believed Jor-El's warnings about Krypton's destruction, thus ensuring the planet would not be saved (he also took the ark they were building to evacuate as the back-up plan, ensuring the near-extinction of the Kryptonian species).
    • Post-Crisis, the Superman: Brainiac rather heavily implies that Brainiac directly destroyed Krypton by sabotaging its sun, with the Superman Secret Files (2009) even stating that Superman believes this to be the case.
    • Several adaptations make his part in Krypton's destruction more direct and explicit, including Injustice 2, the DC Animated Universe, Smallville, and the Legion of Super-Heroes cartoon.
  • Green-Skinned Space Babe: Brainiacs 4 and 8. And the Ame-Comi Girls version. Also his clone/son, Brainiac 2/Vril Dox II, is usually drawn as a handsome guy.
  • Godzilla Threshold: His existence is one, Post-Crisis. Along with Cyborg-Superman, Darkseid, Imperiex, the Anti-Monitor, Zod, and a handful of others Brainiac is one of the very few beings who Superman is willing to kill. He's also a big enough threat that bitter enemies will often unite to take him down. Who else could make Superman and Darkseid fight on the same side? Or Superman, Zod, and Luthor?
  • Hive Mind: Brainiac 13 forced this on the citizens of Metropolis. Also, the Retcon that Superman has been Fighting a Shadow invokes this to an extent.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
  • Human Aliens: A very early depiction in Filmation's The New Adventures of Superman, showed that all of the "Brainiacs" the titular superhero had fought against, were merely creations of a senile, decrept Mad Scientist called "Professor Hecla" from planet Mega.
  • Humanoid Aliens: Sometimes, Depending on the Writer.
  • I Have Many Names: In the New 52, each civilization that adopted him assigned him a different name.
  • Ingesting Knowledge: Nearly every version of Brainiac has had this ability, usually by interfacing with computers.
  • It's All About Me: The only thing Brainiac is going to give a damn about is his own desire for knowledge and to become the "perfect being". Everything is disposable and will be destroyed by him if need be, and even his own alliances are expendable for his own uses, something a malignant narcissist would have for their own rationale.
  • Joker Immunity: Even before the Fighting a Shadow retcon, he always came back, no matter how thoroughly his previous incarnation was destroyed. DC One Million revealed that a version of him had survived into the 853rd century.
  • The Juggernaut: Post-Crisis, he's stronger than Superman, though lacks certain capital abilities without the use of additional gadgets. His ship is also an example, being so powerful thanks to its Deflector Shields that no brick can harm it (even an entire army of Kryptonians was insufficient), and sporting weapons and tendrils capable of killing Kryptonians.
  • Killer Robot: In the Silver Age and Bronze Age when he was a murderous android. The Modern Age saw him possess numerous robotic bodies before it they were retconned into being probes under the control of the actual alien.
  • Knight of Cerebus: As an Omnicidal Maniac who's already destroyed many worlds and someone who's feared by many of Superman's friends and foes alike, Brainiac is generally considered one of Superman's most dangerous foes who's rarely if ever played for laughs.
  • Lack of Empathy: More like lack of any general emotion, making him all the more creepier.
  • Legacy Character: There have been at least 13 Brainiacs, roughly speaking each more powerful and advanced than the last, with 13 being so powerful he can conquer the Earth just by showing up and later very nearly destroyed and remade the entire universe. However, while the likes of 5 and 8 are distinct characters, quite often the different Braniacs' are just upgraded versions of the villain himself.
  • Lust: For knowledge. Brainiac wants to control all the information in the universe and is prepared to slaughter billions to keep that information secret.

    M - R 
  • Mad Scientist: Particularly during the Silver Age, when he was essentially an alien Luthor. To this day he retains many elements of this as a builder of robots, spaceships, and his own cyborg body parts. He's also fond of vivisecting prisoners For Science!.
  • The Man Behind the Monsters: The most recent version of Brainiac has been revealed to a biological Coluan scientist and conqueror who has been fighting Superman for years using his robotic probes and psychic powers.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Oddly, some of his most successful manipulations are against himself, but he has still played several characters like pianos over his career, including highly intelligent ones like Superman and Lex Luthor.
  • Mechanical Abomination: His late The Bronze Age of Comic Books SkeleBot 9000 form was created to invoke this trope, granting him power levels (and a general creepiness factor) far beyond what he'd ever had before.
  • Minored in Ass-Kicking: Though Brainiac is a largely-intellectual villain who usually leaves the heavy duty of fighting Superman and his allies to his army of drones (since he views physical combat as beneath him), he’s extremely powerful even without his ship and gadgets. Post Superman: Brainiac, he is able to easily overpower the Man of Steel in a fight, though (true to the trope) his untrained fighting style puts him at a disadvantage against skilled foes who can rival his strength (which admittedly is a very small list).
  • Muscles Are Meaningful: Post-2008 Brainiac is 6'6, 300 pounds, and heavily muscled, dwarfing Superman. He's also (in this portrayal, at least) strong enough to trade blows with him. The Superman Secret Files (2009) note that this Brainiac is "as strong and invulnerable as a Kryptonian", which implies he's about as strong per muscle unit area (Kryptonian strength is proportional to their "normal" strength; that's why Power Girl works out), justifying why he'd want to be so buff. When kept away from his spaceship for prolonged period, he's explicitly said to get far weaker, which is accompanied by him losing muscle mass.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: Past and ending. In Adventure Comics vol. 2 #9, Brainiac's 31st century descendant Brainiac 5 comments that at one point the original Brainiac simply disappeared from history (or, at least, stopped blowing up planets), with no one knowing exactly what happened to him. The leading theories are that he either died, traveled to the future to become Pulsar Stargrave, or was destroyed when he was sent back to the birth of creation and "had his miserable life snuffed out by an ancient power greater than his." The events of Our Worlds at War heavily implies that the latter is the truth (and, by extension, that Brainiac 13 is the real Brainiac in chronologically his last form), as Brainiac 13 gets sent back in time to be disintegrated in the Big Bang by Superman, Darkseid, and Luthor at the end of it.
  • My Brain Is Big: Bronze Age Brainiac had a huge brain case (despite obviously being a robot). Depending on the Artist, the Milton Fine version of Brainiac also had a distended brain.
  • Mythology Gag: His robotic probes post-2008 resemble his Bronze Age SkeleBot 9000 incarnation, likely because that incarnation actually was supposed to be one of those probes.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: His people do have the same qualities as him but he is the only one who is willing to destroy planets and take people from there as a collection which his people condemn him because of it casting him out and causing his family to hate him also because that his actions have caused their family’s name to have a bad reception on their home planet and the universe at large.
  • Nanomachines: One of the weapons in his arsenal.
  • Narcissist: Brainiac is a malignant narcissist, which lines up accurately with his sociopathic mindset; he destroys planets and steals their most prized city and culture for the sole intent of keeping it to himself, as well as seeing any inhabitant imprisoned with his collection as experiments to study, experiment on, and discard. On another note, his desire to evolve into "perfection" also pushes him into being an overt narcissist.
  • Neck Snap: Brainiac does this to an android replica of Luthor during New Krypton, and the real Luthor returns the favor during the finale of The Black Ring.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Depending on the Writer and the adaptation, Brainiac is either a regular Mad Scientist who happens to be an alien; a living alien computer; an evil psychic circus performer who's either Ax-Crazy or possessed by an alien intelligence; a Mad Scientist alien cyborg; an evil alien robot; an originally organic alien mind digitized and inhabiting a colony of nanomachines; and quite often and recently all of the above. Also, in the mainstream comics, he's always a Coluan, but in the DCAU and Smallville, Brainiac is a Kryptonian artificial intelligence; meanwhile, the 60s Filmation series declared he was from the planet Mega.
  • Not So Stoic:
    • While generally not very emotive and despite his claims to simply be acting on what seems logical to him, deep within, he does have an interest in inflicting pain and torture towards others for his own amusement.
    • He's such a perfectionist when it comes to his collection that a single tampering with them will cause him to react with panic and deal with his aggressor with clear agitation and anger.
    • When thrown into a swamp, he starts screaming in panic, confusion, and pain, undergoing a Sensory Overload that takes quite a while for him to just barely get back to his senses. As it turns out, he has a case of mysophobia, which connects to his nature as a Control Freak and has a tendency to be severely rattled when taken out of his comfort zone (as in his spaceship).
    • If defeated and/or humiliated, he would act in a condescending and rageful tone, unable to handle being bested. For one, he was so infuriated with being beaten by Superman that he blasted a rocket aimed at his adopted parents. In addition to being a Sore Loser, Brainiac is also not above being pettily vindictive.
  • Not Worth Killing: Modern Brainiac's normal MO is to collect the knowledge and major cities of a planet and then destroy it. While he took the city of Kandor, he was able to detect the seismic activity that would destroy Krypton shortly thereafter, so he simply left the planet to its fate.
  • Omnicidal Maniac:
    • His quest to achieve or become "all of knowledge" is him scouting for a planet, attacking and taking their most advanced city and then obliterating said planet as his way of keeping said knowledge exclusive to himself. He has killed billions of lives from hundreds of planets without a shred of remorse and intends to continue on with his twisted desire for knowledge, uncaring about the fact that he has to kill off an entire universe to get what he wants.
    • Post-Crisis his Antimatter counterpart took this up to eleven, attempting to annihilate both the matter and antimatter universes. Since they were, at the time, the only two universes in existence, this would have resulted in the destruction of all creation everywhere.
  • Organic Technology: Prior to 2008's Brainiac storyline and the retcon within, the Post-Crisis Brainiac was normally portrayed as a classic robot. Accordingly, his Antimatter Universe counterpart was a genetically engineered organic "syntellect", essentially a supremely-intelligent, vat-grown mind/computer.
  • Out-Gambitted: For all his brilliance, this has happened a few times to him, usually at the hands of Lex Luthor. Most notably in The Black Ring.
  • Parrot Pet Position: In his first ever appearance back in The '50s, Brainiac had an alien pet monkey named Koko to fulfill this trope.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: During Crisis on Infinite Earths, Braniac killed Alexei Luthor, mainly just for being redundant.
  • Planet Destroyer: In addition to his main motif of bottling up cities and shrinking them, Brainiac will also destroy planets once he's gotten what he's wanted from them. And at one point in the 2008 Brainiac story, he blew up a star, causing a supernova strong enough to knock Superman out.
  • Planet Looters: His main gig is bottling up cities and shrinking them. His reasons have varied and normally, the planets he loots aren't so lucky. At least some versions tend to blow up the planets after he's done with them.
  • Pluto Is Expendable: In Our Worlds at War, he converts Pluto into a Planet Spaceship. It's later destroyed when he gets defeated.
  • The Quisling: Before becoming Brainiac, the Post-Crisis Vril Dox was this to the Coluans for willingly serving the Computer Tyrants.
  • Rasputinian Death: A necessity to finish him off. The best example is Brainiac 13 in Our Worlds at War, who was killed by being taken back in time and dropped off at the beginning of the universe, right as the Big Bang occurred, which in the words of Superman "scattered [his] mind across sixty trillion light years." Notably, 13 is Brainiac in his chronologically last known form, so it's perfectly possible that this is what finally kills him for good in the Post-Crisis continuity.
  • Really 700 Years Old: He was around when Krypton was still in one piece; this makes him several thousand years old at least.
  • Red Baron: To the universe at large, he is the Collector of Worlds. To Krypton, he is the Terror of Kandor. "Brainiac" itself is an example Post-Crisis where his real name is Vril Dox.
  • Reimagining the Artifact: As noted up above in the opening paragraphs, Brainiac coined the word brainiac. This does mean modern writers have tried coming up with justifications for why an alien robotic intelligence uses that as a name, such as making it an abbreviation of "Brain Inter-Active Construct", or just a name given to him by others, not something he chose himself. Some of these attempts are clunkier than others.
  • Ret-Canon: These days, as of the New 52, he's much like the Superman: The Animated Series version, which is also what most other adaptations' Brainiacs are based on. Apparently he still got started on Colu, but he also was the Kryptonian AI, and exists in many places under many names (including Earth, as the Internet).
  • Retcon: Colu wasn't originally his homeworld. He went through two different origins before then.
  • Robot Master: The Modern Age version of Brainiac was retconned into being an organic alien behind a horde of robotic probes, buffed-up clones, hive-mind nanobots or all of the above.
  • Robotic Psychopath: In The Silver Age of Comic Books and The Bronze Age of Comic Books, though it was more emphasized in some stories than in others. He was also one for much of the Modern Age, before being retconned into being the alien behind the robots. Several adaptations, including Superman The Animated Series and Smallville would adapt the original, Post-Crisis version, making him fully robotic.
  • Rogues' Gallery Transplant: Less prone to this than other villains, and has fairly consistently remained a Superman/Justice League foe, but his various incarnations have clashed with other heroes before. A future version of him (possibly) becomes one of the main foes of the Legion of Superheroes is the form of Pulsar Stargrave, Brainiac 6 and Brainiac 8 feuded with The Outsiders, and one his drones managed to capture and bottle the entire Green Lantern Corps early in the Rebirth continuity, to name a few.
  • Rubber-Forehead Aliens: In the stories where he's an actual Coluan, he basically looks human, just with green skin, brain-implanted diodes and no hair.

    S - Z 
  • Sadist: While largely emotionless, Brainiac does occasionally let it slip that he enjoys causing others pain, being especially prone to a Psychotic Smirk while abducting planets or vivisects its inhabitants. The Smallville version was a Robotic Psychopath who was described (with good reason) by the Legion of Superheroes as being infamous for his sadism. Brainiac 13 is particularly sadistic; he could have killed Superman instantly, but took the time to torture him to death, because in his own words: "I have run simulations of your death 1,098,288,546 times; this one is a particular favorite." His dillydallying directly leads to his defeat.
  • Secondary Color Nemesis: Is green, wears purple/pink.
  • Self Made Super Powers: His only innate power his Super-Intelligence, and even that he enhanced further. All of his other abilities, from his psychic attacks, to his telepathically-controlled ship and drones, to the strength and invulnerability to match Superman, comes from technology, most of which he invented.
  • Shrink Ray: Owner and creator of one of the earliest in sci-fi literature.
  • Shadow Archetype:
    • Brainiac is essentially what Superman could be if his capacity for hope, compassion, and love is nonexistent and in its place is a desire for control and domination without any sort of moral and ethical restraint to keep him from being a monstrous sociopath.
    • He's also what Lex Luthor can be as an advanced superpowered extraterrestrial, being completely upfront about his selfish desires and unapologetic about his villainy instead of having to come up with false pretenses of being a force of good.
  • Shooting Superman: Inverted- the Trope Namer is constantly doing this to him, forgetting that Brainiac's ship-mounted shields are not only basically invulnerable, but often hit back with more energy than they're struck with, damaging or killing the attacker. Superman eventually learns and tries different tactics. Played for Drama in New Krypton, where Zod (ignoring Superman's warnings) wastes hundreds of Kryptonian lives in a vain attempt to break through Brainiac's force fields.
  • Sigil Spam: In some adaptations he puts his symbol on everything of his.
  • SkeleBot 9000: Brainiac became skeletal in the Bronze Age, and in some Elseworlds stories, after experiencing a rebirth and absorbing all the knowledge the universe had to offer. His probes in Brainiac and New Krypton reference this.
  • Smug Snake: Sometimes. Brainiac is an incredibly competent Chessmaster (at times even better than Luthor), but is arrogant, and has great difficulty innovating or dealing with the unexpected. How well he handles this depends on the writer.
  • The Sociopath: Brainiac has absolutely no capacity for feeling emotions and generally couldn't care less about anyone else other than himself; the only thing that effectively motivates him is his own desires and interests and he doesn't give a damn about having to destroy planets and civilizations and kill billions of lives to harvest something to add to his collection. On the rare occasions that he does have an emotional reaction, it's either sadistic glee or panic and rage over being defeated and being interfered with. All of these make a harrowingly dark mirror to Superman; while Kal-El is an All-Loving Hero who brings hope to the universe and wants to help everyone, Vril Dox is a megalomaniacal tyrant who inspires nothing but fear and seeks only to satisfy his own monstrous ego.
  • Sore Loser: Brainiac would sooner blow up the planet than admit defeat. When he was beaten by Superman by being thrown into a swamp, Brainiac's immediate response was to send a missile directed at the Kent Household out of petulant rage over being beaten, an event that caused the death of Jonathan Kent and eliciting a rageful feeling from Superman that he hasn't shown towards anyone other than Darkseid.
  • Starter Villain: In Grant Morrison's run on Action Comics, he's the first big villain Superman faces early in his career.
  • The Stoic: A defining trait of Brainiac is that he's almost always seen with a blank facial expression and speaks with a matter-of-fact tone, regardless of whether he's explaining himself and his plans or addressing a death threat. It's to emphasize how out of touch he is from expressing emotions and empathy, making Brainiac look more creepy and monstrous than he already does. Even so, there are moments where he does become more expressive than usual.
  • Story-Breaker Power: On top of Super-Intelligence eclipsing by a long shot those of Batman and Luthor (alone or combined), he has enormous Psychic Powers, Super-Strength and Super-Toughness matching or surpassing Superman's, Deflector Shields so powerful that no proper or living being or BFG have any effect on him or his equipment when they're up, technopathy, an entire army of Flying Brick robots that can fight Kryptonians, a ship equipped with Kryptonian-killing weapons, a shrink ray that can reduce entire cities and also depower whoever it hits, a cloning machine he uses to duplicate or heal himself, the ability to take control of other beings, the ability to heal even after taking grievous wounds, and a ton of other abilities and gadgets. At least one of these will need to be nerfed for the story to work, unless it's a Crisis Crossover event.
    • Post-2008, Superman only personally defeats him once without help from the rest of the League. Even then, he had help from Supergirl and Brainiac was given a Weaksauce Weakness he didn't possess before and which hasn't returned since.
    • A more specific example is Silver Age Brainiac's force field belt, which made Superman unable to harm him. It was dropped from all subsequent incarnations.
  • Squishy Wizard: In the Silver Age. His technology was as potent as always, but Brainiac himself had no powers. He made up for this via weaponry- most notably his shrink ray, force-field belt, and headpiece that could do just about anything from interface with technology to shooting Eye Beams. His later incarnations almost always avert this, being both physically and mentally formidable.
  • Superpower Lottery: As one of the most dangerous villains in the DCU and the Arch-Enemy of Superman, he has an impressive repertoire of abilities (granted or acquired) due a match between Bizarre Alien Biology and his Evil Genius intellect letting him create essentially whatever tech he wants.
    • Gadgeteer Genius: Creator-innovator of possibly the most advanced technology in the known universe. His most known inventions grant him:
      • Barrier Warrior: In his early days, his most iconic artifact was his Force Field Generator belt granting him Nigh-Invulnerability. His robotic bodies in the Silver Age, Bronze Age, and Modern Age typically possessed some version of this, as does his Coluan self following the events of Brainiac. In the latter arc, Superman bloodies his fists trying to punch them. It's an indication of how much he was identified with it that when his heroic descendant Brainiac 5 debuted in Legion of Super-Heroes, he was A) green, B) smart, and C) had an unbeatable force field belt.
      • Eye Beams: Well head beams- Silver Age Brainiac could shoot "sizzling shockwaves" from his brain-implanted diodes (e.g. Superman #338), which are so powerful that even Silver Age Superman is in danger of dying from them, describing them as "unbearably painful" and being forced to block them with his cape.
      • Hand Blast: One of his more rarely shown powers is the ability to discharge energy blasts that can wound even Superman. Brainaic 2.5 for example would've outright killed Superman with such a blast in Superman Vol 2 #150 if not for Vartox stealthily throwing up a "invisible hyper shield" and teleporting him away to only make it look like he was incinerated.
      • Healing Factor: Created advanced medical technology wich enables him to heal from injuries remarkably quickly.
      • Psycho Electro: Sometimes. As Brainiac 13, he jacked the entire Metropolis powergrid and attempted to electrocute Superman to death with it.
      • Reality Warper: Both his New 52 self (circa the Doomed arc) and true form in Convergence are enormously powerful versions of this, his scientific advances are such that he's now seeking to remake the entire universe in their image.
      • Super-Strength: All of his cyborg/robotic bodies have inevitably possessed this to one degree or another. The current version is a Coluan Full-Conversion Cyborg who implanted Kryptonian and similar races DNA into his remaining organic tissue, granting him also Super-Reflexes and Super-Toughness, enough that he refers to Superman's punches as "nothing" in the New Krypton arc. His Post-Crisis incarnation is easily stronger than Superman (even able to do a Punch Catch and crush his fist), with punches that could make the Kryptonian bleed, making Brainiac one of the physically strongest beings in the DC Universe.
    • Psychic Powers: Since he possesed Milton Fine (possibly enhancing a latent ability of Fine´s own) and to a degree even now granting him mostly Telepathy. His New 52 version takes this up a notch and can only really be defeated by a mental battle with Superman.
      • Mind Manipulation: He can do this via his technology Post-Crisis, but pre-2008 this was one of his main abilities; he constantly pulled-off Grand Theft Me to get new "hosts" performing Mind Rape either by touch or inserting a probe into his victim's brain.
    • Super-Intelligence: His one, most well-known and consistent power, whether he's an alien, a machine or something in between. A "12th level intellect", Brainiac may well be the most intelligent being in the DC Universe. He's certainly capable of storing and processing trillions of minds worth of information in his natural Coluan brain an added data banks.
      • Body Surf: From Prof. Hecla to Milton Fine he has demonstrated several hints of this. Back in the Silver Age he even created his own assistant as a Modified Clone of his own: "Vril Dox II."
      • Fighting a Shadow: One of his most definitive character traits in his recent times portrayals. His Skull-ship, as Psimon learned the hard way when the latter blowed up what he thought was Brainiac, only for the entity to inform him that his robotic skeleton was just an avatar... the whole ship is Brainiac, then proceeds to kill the psychic. Also in the DCAU (and regular DCU post-Superman: Brainiac), he acts exclusively through probes and drones.
      • Immune to Mind Control: His 12th-level intellect is far too powerful for any other psychic to control, hence why none of the League's psychic members are able to immediately defeat him. In No Justice it takes all of Earth's greatest psychic villains to overpower him, and even then they only do so with great pain and effort.
      • Technopath: When turned into a robot/A.I. Brainiac can inhabit and control most forms of technology, enabling him to assemble new bodies for himself with ease, and allowing him to arm himself more and more effectively. It also makes using any sort of technology against him an iffy proposition at best.
  • Superior Species: Sees Coluans as superior to all other beings, and himself as superior to his fellow Coluans.
  • Tangled Family Tree: Especially in early days, where retcons made it unclear if the future Brainiacs were actually his descendants or not (and in cases where "Brainac is a robot" and "they are his descendants" are both true, how that even worked). Things have gotten better since the Post-Crisis canon solidly confirmed him as an organic Coluan, but it's still complicated.
    • Brainiac 1 AKA Vril Dox is the main version of the character, a Coluan scientist and the smartest being in the universe who went rogue and started destroying planets and collecting cities. Originally, Post-Crisis, he was executed by Colu's rulers but managed to transfer his mind to a swarm of nanites that then possessed various bodies. The 2008 retcon implies that version was either a clone, a probe, or just the real Brainiac mentally controlling the bodies the whole time.
    • Brainiac 2, AKA Vril Dox II, is a Modified Clone of the above (Pre-Crisis, he was an adopted child meant to make the android Brainiac believe he was Coluan- long story), his Good Counterpart (though still a Nominal Hero) and founder of L.E.G.I.O.N., predecessor of the Legion of Superheroes.
    • Brainiac 2.5 is the name of a body that Brainiac 1 utilized for a few years in real time, later retconned (like all the other previous Brainiacs) as a drone controlled by the real guy.
    • Brainiac 3 AKA Lyrl Dox is the son of Vril Dox II (in fact one of only three people of the Brainiac line who is not a robot, a clone, or just Brainiac 1 in another body) and a member of the Space Police.
    • Brainiac 4 AKA Kajz Dox is the father of Brainiac 5 and a brilliant scientist.
    • Brainiac 5, AKA Querl Dox: Great-great grandson of Brainiac, member of the Legion of Superheroes in the 31st century. See here.
    • Pulsar Stargrave is a supervillain who battles Brainiac 5 and the Legion of Superheroes in the 31st century. He has claimed on separate occasions to be both the real Brainiac 4 and the original Brainiac 1. What he actually is has never been revealed. It's possible he's a clone of the real Brainiac who survived until the 31st century, but he could just be a crazy Coluan claiming a legacy he has nothing to do with. Though one Post-Crisis story implied he's the Computer Tyrants who downloaded their consciousnesses into a single organic being.
    • Brainiac 6 is the "grandfather" (possibly builder) of Indigo/Brainiac 8, and is a cybernetic being similar to the original Brainiac. Not much is known about him.
    • Brainiac 8 AKA Indigo is a gynoid who traveled back to the past and joined the Outsiders as The Mole as part of Brainiac 6's scheme.
    • Brainiac 13 is a robot from the 64th century, explicitly stated in both his initial appearance and in the later DC Comics Encyclopedia to be the original Brainiac, upgraded in a new body. Given the 2008 retcon, he's most likely the mind of the original Brainiac (who was actually a clone of the real original Brainiac), copied and stored on digital format, hidden for thousands of years until it managed to break out and become the Big Bad of the 64th century, where Brainiac still fights Superman. Confused yet?
  • Techno Dystopia: In Pre-Crisis days, Brainiac's homeward of Colu started out like this. They'd had a Robot War, and the robots won. The "Computer Tyrants of Colu" built Brainiac as their agent and sent him out into space, but he eventually returned home to find that the organic population had successfully revolted and regained control of their planet, averting this trope. As for Brainiac, this just meant his bosses were dead and he was now free to be a self-directed spacefaring super villain all on his own.
  • Terrified of Germs: The true Post-Crisis Brainiac was seriously mysophobic, at least in his first appearance; Superman was able to beat him by knocking him into a swamp, which caused full-on Sensory Overload from the sounds and microscopic organisms that severely debilitated and stunned him. This weakness hasn't reappeared since and he's been seen walking around on Earth's surface without trouble, implying he fixed it, but he still dislikes being outside of his ship for longer than strictly necessary.
  • Time Travel: Brainiacs' 5, 8 and 13 have all traveled to the present from their respective futures for varying reasons, invariably involving the original.
  • Tragic Villain: His interpretation in the New 52. According to Superman: Doomed, his homeworld and family were destroyed in an invasion from another dimension and Brainiac has been kidnapping species from across the universe to harvest their Psychic Powers in order to recreate his lost home and see his family again.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: Brainiac initially desired to destroy his masters, the Computer Tyrants of Colu, after they executed him out of fear that Dox was smarter than them and might eventually overthrow them. Though they disintegrated him, his mind survived and reborn as Brainiac.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Post-2008. Brainiac is pound-for-pound as strong as Superman and much bigger, meaning he can overpower the Man of Steel and is among the physically strongest beings in the DC Universe. However, despite his vast intellect, he's generally not a skilled fighter (likely due to so few beings in the universe being able to challenge him to begin with, and his true profession being "scientist"), with the 2009 Superman Secret Files even noting that his style "appears sluggish and lumbering." This is shown quite clearly at the end of the Last Stand of New Krypton story line; when they're both powered, Brainiac easily trumps Zod, but when they're both depowered, Zod manages to beat down Brainiac despite being a good fifty pounds lighter, boasting that he has a warrior's instincts and skill which Brainiac lacks. Brainiac's not completely inept however; one of the reasons he was able to curb-stomp the Justice League so easily when possessing Doomsday was that (in Wonder Woman's words) they were expecting to fight a wild animal, while Brainiac actually fought tactically.
  • Viler New Villain: Usually written as the more evil Evil Genius in Superman's Rogues Gallery, regardless of whether he or Luthor is Eviler than Thou. While Luthor is selfish and motivated by an Irrational Hatred, he's a humanist who often Affably Evil and has Pet the Dog moments. Brainiac, however, is almost always written as a literally and figuratively inhuman foe with zero care for anyone or anything, and who destroys civilizations just to keep their information to himself.
  • Villains Never Lie: In something of an Out of Character moment, he follows this in the Silver Age story "Lana Lang, Superwoman" (Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane #17/2 ). In this he finds out Superman escaped his clutches and stole and restored his collection of bottled cities while he was in cryosleep. An angry Brainiac comes back to Earth and threatens to destroy it with a planet-busting bomb. Superman still can't do anything against him due to his forcefield belt, so Brainiac, feeling playful, says that if Superman tells Lana and Lois to go to a building where he had a bomb set up and they somehow survived, he would spare the Earth. Thanks to Superman giving them part of his blood, temporarily endowing them with superpowers, they survive it no problem. Brainiac is angry that Superman 'cheated', but Superman responds Brainiac only said he couldn't use his robots or technology to save them, not his blood. Brainiac reluctantly concedes and agrees not to harm the Earth, as he gave his word.
  • Villain Team-Up: All the time with Luthor in the Silver and Bronze Ages, to the point where Luthor genuinely seemed to consider the robot a friend. This was entirely one-sided, as Brainiac's possession of Luthor in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? would go on to demonstrate.
  • Villainous Breakdown: He's prone to doing this when he loses control of a situation, experiencing a spectacular one at the conclusion of Brainiac.
  • Villainous Friendship: A Type III with Luthor during the Silver Age and Bronze Age. Luthor seemed to respect and like Brainiac, but Brainiac was only too willing to betray Luthor, stealing his body in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?.
  • Villain Respect: Brainiac respects knowledge above all. He's disdainful of Superman because "Earth made [him] into a simple brute", but is complimentary of Luthor's Super-Intelligence, considering him the closest thing in the universe to a peer intellect.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The New 52 has tried to recreate Brainiac as one of these, out to save the universe from destruction by invaders from the 5th dimension. Whether this will stick, no one knows.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Even before he found out he was Fighting a Shadow, Superman had generally shown a willingness to destroy/kill Brainiac in spite of his Thou Shalt Not Kill rule.
  • Would Harm a Senior: He launches a missile at the Kent Farm after being bested by Superman and because Brainiac flew into a petulant rage over being defeated and wanted to get back at his enemy in the pettiest way possible. His attack effectively kills Jonathan Kent after saving Martha from being caught in a blast, the stress of which induced a fatal heart attack. Even with that aside, Brainiac's shtick around his goals would mean he's killed an immeasurable amount of elderly people.
  • Would Hurt a Child: He has no problems with wanting to capture a teenage Supergirl and to study her would mean a series of painful experimentations and torture methods to be conducted on her. Not to mention Brainiac would have certainly killed billions of children by blowing up their worlds all for the sake of preserving "his" knowledge.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: A truly bizarre example - Edmund Berkely started selling a primitive rotary switch-based computer called the Brainiac a year before the character debuted in the comics, and when he expressed concern that the character would create confusion over the brand identity, DC actually retconned him into a computer rather than changing his name.
    • His name was inspired by a different computer anyway, so it's a bit less bizarre (or possibly more).
  • You Killed My Father: Killed Jonathan Kent in Brainiac, as revenge for Superman's defeating him. Superman was pissed. The same storyline heavily implies he destroyed Krypton, which if true would make him the killer of both of Superman's dads.
  • You Monster!: Has been on the receiving end of this from Supergirl, Superman, and even Luthor.
  • You're Insane!: Numerous characters have called him out on his madness.

Alternative Title(s): Brainiac, Superman Brainiac