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Brainiac

DCD Justice
by yo go re

As we said in the Hulk vs. Leader review, sometimes you have to counter a super-strong character with a super-smart one. When Superman got tired of running circles around Lex Luthor, DC gave him a new super-smart enemy to fight, the alien genius Brainiac.

Brainiac This brilliant alien cyborg is one of Superman's most potent enemies, using his knowledge of science to terrorize everyone and anyone in his path.

Brainiac has had several incarnations over the years, but since Alex Ross is basing this entire project on the Super Friends cartoon, this is the green-skinned alien rather than the bubble-headed robot. Of course, Ross also recognized that Brainiac's old costume - a pink golf shirt, black panties and white knee socks - was stupid, so Mr. Green Genes got a redesign. And given Ross' tendency to pay homage to older sources, one with a surprising potential source.

Ross' goal was to make Brainiac creepy, tell me that's not freaking creepy and he definitely succeeded at that. The red dots on his head - actually the electric terminals of his sensory nerves - originally looked like shirt buttons glued to his skin, which is less than intimidating. These, however, really look like they've been twisted and clamped onto his scalp, tugging at the skin beneath them. Ewww! He has a calm and calculating look on his face, which fits with the goal of the story.

Really playing up the notion that Brainiac is a computerized robot, Justice casts him much like Agent Smith in The Matrix: detatched, dispassionate, with an indifferent cruelty, but still consumed with curiosity about the thing he can't understand - the human mind. So here he is, wearing a surgical smock and rubber gloves, ready to operate on some unwilling victim. The sculpt is simple, but Karen Palinko did a good job making it look like a real gown, complete with a tie in back.

The paint, often a problem on these Alex Ross figures, is perfect. Brainy-ick! Brainiac's skin is a dark green, and the brain bumps are all crisp. His gown is a pure white, with none of the stupid blue shadows that ToyBiz and Hasbro like to wash onto their white figures. His gloves have a slight yellow tinge, which is beautiful: rubber gloves like this aren't pure white, so painting them this color really adds to the realism. The fingertips (and only the fingertips) are bloody - trust a living computer to have the precision to not get blood all over himself. Or maybe it's just that mass-produced toys can never achieve the subtlety of realistic "smeared blood" paint apps.

Brainiac has three accessories: a brain, a scalpel and a monkey. not a scalpel You heard that right, he's got himself a little diode-monkey that sits on his shoulder. Like Dr. Mid-Nite's owl, the monkey is magnetic; to ensure a tight fit, both Koko and Brainiac's shoulder have magnets, rather than one just being metal. The brain is sort of a pinkish gray, which is okay but could be better - it needs to be more gray and less pinkish to be the appropriate color. Diode Monkey He can hold the brain in his right hand and the scalpel in his left, though neither is a very secure fit. And if you want to get technical, that's not a scalpel, it's an X-Acto knife. This figure is based directly off Alex Ross' character sketch, which also showed him with an X-Acto; I guess he didn't bother to look up a scalpel when he was sketching. Whatever it is, it gets the nomination for this year's Most Easily Lost Accessory award.

When he first appeared in 1956, Brainiac was an alien conqueror, collecting miniturized cities to repopulate his decimated homeworld. However, engineer Edmund Berkeley was already selling a toy "computer" (a rotary-switch construction set) called the "Brain-Imitating Almost-Automatic Computer," or "Brainiac" for short - and had been since 1955. Since his was on the market first, Berkeley had every right to tell DC to stop using the name; he recognized that they hadn't really ripped off his idea, but was worried about confusing the brand. After a bit of legal wrangling, DC agreed to change the alien scientist to a living computer, and even included a footnote in the issue pimping Berkeley's company. Basically, in order to keep people from confusing the character and the toy, they made the character more similar to the toy in an odd bit of cross-promotion. How weird is that?


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