Second DC character from casualgamer‘s list is another big bad from Superman‘s rogues gallery: Brainiac, the cybernetic alien. Despite having been rumored to appear in pretty much every live action adaptation of his nemesis, Brainiac has had only one portrayal so far, as the main villain of Smallville‘s Season 5. Arrived on Earth after the destruction of Krypton, the Brain InterActive Construct built by Jor-El disguises himself as Professor Milton Fine and becomes a mentor for young Clark Kent, only to reveal his true, malicious nature after. He’s behind many of the series’ misfortunes, including the return of General Zod and Doomsday, but he’s eventually sent to the XXXI Century to be reprogrammed in a more hero-friendly way. There are countless versions of Brainiac in the comics, but we’ll focus on the main one from New Earth, who’s not a Kryptonian sentient computer like his live action counterpart, but rather an evil alien conqueror with limitless intelligence. Let’s see together.
Vril Dox was born on planet Colu, a remote world near the Magellanic Clouds; Colu was known as one of the most technologically advanced planets in the universe, and in fact its entire surface was covered with futuristic machines and semi-sentient computers. Vril Dox himself was one of the most gifted scientists there, a genius even for Coluan standards. Obsessed with knowledge, he decided that theoretical research wasn’t enough for him anymore, and built a giant spaceship in order to continue and complete his studies throughout the galaxy. Studying from afar wasn’t exactly his style, and he arrived to the point of kidnapping living beings to put them in a zoo of sort inside his ship, so that he could study them thoroughly. Even single organisms weren’t enough to sate his hunger for knowledge, and he resolved to observe more complex and dynamic subjects: entire cities. He devised a ray capable of miniaturizing matter without destroying it, and used it on many worlds, shrinking down the most relevant and representative cities of those planets and keeping them along with their inhabitants in bottle-like canisters, in a personal, perverse collection. Eventually he arrived also on the dying planet Krypton, since he didn’t want to lose the opportunity to study Kryptonian society and people before their extinction: he attacked the cultural capital, Kandor, and all the efforts of the planet’s army were simply useless against his technologically superior ship. The Kryptonian forces were repelled, and Kandor was shrunk, embarked and added to the collection, just months before Krypton was destroyed. That single appearance was more than enough to make all the surviving Kryptonians shiver in fear at the simple mention of Vril Dox’s name. With his researches growing in number, Vril Dox eventually came in need of help, but he didn’t trust anybody with an intellect inferior to his own… so he eventually cloned himself, first in an organic copy he named Vril Dox II, who acted as his lab assistant, and later in entirely robotic copies in which he infused his conscience, and that were sent in any corner of the galaxy as probes to find other research material for Dox. Apparently, nothing could stop his destructive thirst for knowledge.
Although for Coluans science and research were almost sacred, they couldn’t stand by as one of their best minds committed one genocide after the other, so Vril Dox was eventually arrested by his peers and sentenced to death. After putting his collection in a safe hiding place, Dox let himself being brought to Colu for the execution… but projecting his conscience in other “vessels” was a long-learnt trick by then, and he escaped death by transferring himself in open space, looking for a mind powerful enough to contain him; the right opportunity arrived on a remote planet, Earth, where a mentalist named Milton Fine was performing in a sideshow. Unwillingly, Fine (whose stage name was “Brainiac”, a moniker Vril Dox quite enjoyed) opened his mind enough for Vril Dox to enter it, and the alien took control of his body and erased his previous persona as a virus on a computer. He even got access to all of Fine’s memories and knowledge, as well as to his latent psychic abilities. Since the alien needed cranial fluid to maintain his connection with Milton Fine’s brain, he eventually went on a murder spree, and he was stopped by a local hero, Superman, who turned out to be one of the last living Kryptonians. The alien was intrigued, but he had to postpone all his projects involving Superman, as his human body was captured by Lex Luthor, somewhat his equivalent on Earth: brought in one of Lexcorp‘s secret labs to be studied, Brainiac used his superior intellect and his psychic abilities to take control of the entire corporation from the inside. Under Brainiac’s orders (which appeared to be Luthor’s), the scientists followed unknown specifics and rebuilt a fully-functioning cyber-organic Coluan body, that Brainiac eventually took possession of. Now free from the limitations the human body imposed to him, Brainiac recovered his ship, as well as his entire collection of shrunken cities… but now he wanted to add some more from Earth, specifically Metropolis, Paris, Rome and New York. He sent another drone, just to challenge Superman: the hero, who defeated the drone without problems, was warned just in time by his cousin Supergirl of what kind of nightmare their adoptive planet would have soon faced…
Vril Dox is an absolute genius, but also a cold-minded and rational conqueror, a genocidal megalomaniac who sacrifices entire worlds and races to his thirst for knowledge. As Brainiac, he possesses numerous superpowers, which however can vary depending on the body his conscience is inhabiting; usually, he displays superhuman strength and durability, vast psychokinetic powers, telepathy, the ability to interface with any technological or digital device, and of course the capability of projecting his conscience into other bodies, being them organic or mechanical (sometimes, he’s also been able to duplicate the powers of a Kryptonian under a yellow sun). With an unlimited intellect and a just as wide knowledge, now the head of a “bloodline” of clones and descendants who refer to him as the “great ancestor” Brainiac 1, Brainiac is the ultimate conqueror, an alien genius who aims to seize the entire universe to work out its secrets… even if that means destroying a big part of it in the process.