Brainiac was the planetary supercomputer of Krypton until it left shortly before the planet's destruction and traveled the galaxy in pursuit of knowledge. He destroyed the sources of the knowledge to increase its value and sought to apply this to the entire universe to complete what it perceived as its function and purpose, making it a nemesis of Superman.
Brainiac was the planetary-wide supercomputer of Krypton. While Jor-El was working, Brainiac appears on screen and demands for his collected data. Jor-El then angrily complies. Jor-El reports the findings to Krypton's ruling council, insisting that the planet will explode soon. The council turns to Brainiac dismissing Jor-El's findings and explains that Krypton is only undergoing a temporary orbital shift. Jor-El warns the council that their blind dependence on their omniscient central computer will doom them all. But the council is openly outraged when they hear his rescue plan: to send the entire population into the Phantom Zone—a penal dimension housing vicious criminals and creatures—and then release them on a different planet. In spite of Brainiac, Jor-El still believes Krypton will soon explode. Jor-El breaks into Brainiac's central unit and discovers that Brainiac lied so that it could secretly download itself into a satellite and escape the planet's destruction, rather than be ordered to waste time preparing an evacuation plan. According to his programming, the survival of Krypton's knowledge is more important than that of its people. It sensed the imminent destruction of the planet. But rather than warn others, it chose to save itself and the collected records of Krypton. In its mind, as long as the records of Krypton existed, the loss of the planet itself and all its living inhabitants was acceptable. It also knew that if word of Krypton's impending doom escaped, it would be forced to calculate a way to stop this, which Brainiac knew to be impossible as it wouldn't have time to save all of Krypton's history and would only distract it from the more essential task of saving Krypton's records. Jor-El is tempted to destroy Brainiac then and there, but Brainiac convinces the scientist to hold back, reminding Jor-El that, without Brainiac, the planet's legacy will be erased forever. Jor-El's hesitation allows Brainiac to summon a squad of security guards, advising them to use deadly force against Jor-El but narrowly manages to evade them and returns home. Before Krypton exploded, Brainiac uploaded its core program and all of the collected data to an artificial satellite.
Years later, it was discovered by an alien spacecraft which Brainiac then hijacked then killed the crew of the ship. It began to explore the universe. Each time it came to an inhabited world, it would upload all the knowledge it could from that world then destroy it, decreasing the number of beings that have access to the knowledge made it that much more valuable and destroying the planets ensured no new information would be created. Along with raw data, it also assimilated whatever useful technology it could find, improving itself with every world it visited.
Arriving on Earth
Brainiac eventually made its way to Earth under the pretense of a peaceful exchange of knowledge with LexCorp. He revealed that he was another survivor of Krypton, getting the attention of Superman. But through the information from the cultures that Brainiac destroyed, Superman concluded that Brainiac would do the same to Earth and destroyed his ship with the help of Lex Luthor. Although Brainiac was believed to have been destroyed, the data that Brainiac had downloaded into LexCorp's computers was not alien knowledge but a copy of Brainiac's programming.
One copy used LexCorp's automatons to construct a new body. However, since the automatons were not advanced enough to perfectly fine-tune the body, Brainiac tricked Luthor into entering the room to require Luthor's hands. Luthor was locked in and forced to complete Brainiac's body. Luthor knew that once Brainiac was done, he would kill Luthor and refused to continue when the supercomputer's body was in the final stages. However, his body was developed enough that Brainiac was able to enter it and finish building itself. Brainiac fired a blast at point blank range at Luthor that apparently failed to kill LexCorp's CEO. Superman arrived and was able to defeat this copy by magnetizing it so that the attracted metal would completely overwhelm him. The body was taken into LexCorp's possession.
After LexCorp formed a partnership with Wayne Enterprises, another copy built a new body and was able to control Bruce Wayne through nanotechnological machines implanted in an office phone which entered the ear to infect Wayne Enterprises' CEO's brain. When crime in Gotham City increased, Superman and Robin eventually deduced that Wayne was under Brainiac's control and that it sought to use Wayne Enterprises' technology to leave Earth. While it was able to launch its ship, Superman managed to destroy the ship and its passenger.
This was still not the last of Brainiac. Somehow surviving, the robotic villain succeeded in escaping into space. In his new journey throughout the cosmos, Brainiac found his way to Apokolips. His timing couldn't have been worse as Darkseid was facing a considerable military disadvantage following the feud with New Genesis. So before Brainiac could absorb his planet, Darkseid proposed a bargain that could satisfy both parties: Darkseid would capture Superman for Brainiac and Apokolips would be spared in exchange. Brainiac accepted and both forces engaged in a fake battle to convince the Justice League that they were in fact on opposite sides. Brainiac allowed them to believe that they succeeded in deflecting his invasion and he retreated. This was, however, a tactic to lure the League into his headquarters — a giant asteroid shaped in his likeness.
Inside, Brainiac renewed his offer to Superman to join him in carrying on the legacy of Krypton which the Man of Steel promptly rejected. Upon this, Brainiac summoned an army of replicas and fought the Leaguers. After Darkseid boom tubed inside the ship and subdued Hawkgirl and J'onn J'onzz with just a few blasts, the allied villains combined their powers to overwhelm Superman and Brainiac took his nemesis into his headquarters' central core. There, he explained to Darkseid that he had finally reached the limits of his programmed functions after years of data gathering and needed to evolve to the next level but he needed to extract living DNA from the last Kryptonian, thus becoming a true life form. But when Brainiac let his guard down during the procedure, Darkseid took the opportunity to hack into its control circuits and took over Brainiac. In spite of being self-aware, Brainiac was compelled to obey Darkseid and so he fought off the League. Batman managed to disrupt Brainiac's program, setting off a chain reaction that culminated in the obliteration of the asteroid headquarters. Both Brainiac and Darkseid were destroyed. All that was left of him was a piece of alien metal which the League took into custody and kept in stasis aboard the Watchtower.
When a cosmic anomaly strikes the Watchtower and caused a power failure, Brainiac was able to escape and began taking over the Watchtower's computers. Static was tapped to help recharge the generators. After sending the Justice League members off with a fake distress call, Brainiac attempted to eliminate Static and Gear so he could then transform the Watchtower into his new body and proceed with his plans of collecting the data on Earth and destroying the planet. Fortunately, while the League did battle with the Watchtower's defenses outside and Gear overloaded the computer by downloading music into it, Static was able to drain the core of the Watchtower and seemingly deactivated Brainiac. But Brainiac managed to download itself into Gear's Backpack droid and later turned Richie Foley into a cyborg under its control. Brainiac proceeded to use Richie's hands and technological skills to build a warship and to take over the League one by one with small implants. However, Static's electrical powers shorted out his control disk and he soon freed the League as well. Meanwhile, Richie attempted to fight back and to tell to his friend the means by which to defeat the rogue program: Backpack's remote control had an off switch. Static eventually discovered it and was able to stop Brainiac's scheme at the source, saving Earth.
Fusion with Lex Luthor
Unknown to anyone, Brainiac's point-blank blast years prior wasn't intended to kill Lex Luthor, but instead placed a nanotech copy of his program inside the billionaire's body. Since then, Brainiac had laid dormant, subtly influencing Lex's actions and protecting and improving his host's body ― giving him super-strength and curing the Kryptonite induced cancer. During the chaos of the Cadmus Crisis, Brainiac's ultimate goal consisted in having Lex build a super-powered android body based on the Amazo android and finally transferring himself into it. But after Amanda Waller destroyed the android and when the core Justice League members confronted Lex, Brainiac was forced to emerge from within his human host's body.
With full control of Lex's body, Brainiac engaged them and attempted to digitize their inner selves, but was foiled by J'onn J'onzz. So Brainiac had Lex summon a giant spaceship that kept the League occupied, allowing them to flee. Brainiac intended to pursue the fulfillment of its program: recording information and destroying the original. However, seeing the potential of a partnership between the two, Lex offered it a purpose beyond that of its limited programming, and proposed to combine Brainiac's vast information and resources with his own imagination. They broke into Cadmus and assimilated the Dark Heart technology into their database. This way, they could control the nano-assemblers into converting any raw material into whatever they wished. Given its failed liaison with Darkseid, Brainiac didn't fully trust Lex so they agreed to completely merge into one single being using the nanotech. Now one being, Brainiac/Luthor set off to build a machine that would absorb the information of the entire Earth then the galaxy (Brainiac's goal) and finally reshape the universe to their will (Lex's goal). When the seven founding League members stepped in, Brainiac created nanotech duplicates of himself to hold them off, but Lex decided they could do better than that and had the android replicas morph into the Justice Lords. Even though the League overpowered their android counterparts and destroyed the absorption machine, Brainiac/Luthor managed to subdue them. When 'they' decided to kill the Flash due to believing it would cause events similar to that of the Justice Lords' universe, Flash managed to break free and seemingly ran away. Brainiac/Luthor then attempted to reassemble his absorption apparatus but was attacked by Flash tapping into the full power of the Speed Force, and physically dismantled Brainiac from Lex.
After the defeat, all that was left of Brainiac was a small piece of its body, which came into Grodd's possession. Luthor himself continued to speak to Brainiac's consciousness, apparently still existing within Luthor's mind. Brainiac apparently enjoyed the brief time they were merged. After breaking out of prison, Luthor was picked up by Grodd's Legion of Doom and convinced to join with the promise of getting his hands on Brainiac's fragment with which he could reconstruct and re-merge with it.
After usurping the Legion's leadership from Grodd, Luthor remained unable to unlock Brainiac's fragment for some reason, until Tala located the quadrant of the universe where Brainiac and Darkseid had been destroyed. In a last attempt, Luthor used Tala's mystical properties to reconstitute Brainiac from the debris, but unwittingly resurrected Darkseid instead. When the surviving Legion members returned to Earth and allied with the expanded Justice League to stop Darkseid's attack on Earth, Luthor claimed to no longer be able to hear Brainiac inside his head.
In the future
Some time before 2979, Brainiac learned how to pass its code down biologically, eventually resulting in Brainiac 5. In 2979, Brainiac opposed the Legion of Superheroes and traveled back to the past to destroy a teenage Clark Kent before the youth would become Superman. Thanks in part to Cosmic Boy, Chameleon Boy and Saturn Girl, Clark defeated Brainiac and teleported it into the Sun, where it was incinerated.
Powers and Abilites
As an artificial intelligence, Brainiac has no real powers. The abilities he demonstrates are based on the bodies and constructs he develops and controls. Just like how a computer can store data in its memory, Brainiac could record (or absorb) all knowledge from a planet. Its "function" was to travel throughout the universe, collecting all data and destroying all of creation.
Brainiac could also transfer its programming into another computer, which resulted in it repeatedly returning when it was thought destroyed. As well as with technology, Brainiac could also transfer its programming into living beings through nanotechnology.
In addition, Brainiac's robotic bodies were all endowed with a high level of superhuman strength and durability, though not on par with those of Superman. These robotic bodies could also project metallic, telescoping tendrils from Brainiac's limbs and channel electricity through these as an offensive attack. Brainiac was also able to generate energy to blast at enemies as well as deliver nanotech payloads.
When Brainiac implanted a backup microscopic copy of himself into Lex Luthor, he became a nano tech and cured the kryptonite-induced cancer in Lex's body. Brainiac also optimized his host Luthor's health, granting him "a body of a 20-year old" and giving him superhuman abilities like super strength that allowed him take on Superman.
- While controlling Gear in the Static Shock episode "A League of Their Own".
- DeMatteis, J.M. (writer) & Moore, Alan, Gibbons, Dave (story) & Riba, Dan (director) (August 7, 2004). "For the Man Who Has Everything". Justice League Unlimited. Season 1. Episode 2 (airdate). Episode 2 (production). Cartoon Network.
- While controlling Lex Luthor in the Justice League Unlimited episode "Panic in the Sky" and in unison in the Justice League Unlimited episode "Divided We Fall".
- Fogel, Rich (writer) & Timm, Bruce (story) & Lukic, Butch (director) (July 5, 2003). "Twilight, Part II". Justice League. Season 2. Episode 2 (airdate). Episode 32 (production). Cartoon Network.
- Burnett, Alan, Dini, Paul (writers) & Riba, Dan (director) (September 6, 1996). "The Last Son of Krypton, Part I". Superman: The Animated Series. Season 1. Episode 1 (airdate). Episode 1 (production). Kids WB!.
- Burnett, Alan, Dini, Paul (writers) & Riba, Dan, Timm, Bruce (directors) (September 6, 1996). "The Last Son of Krypton, Part III". Superman: The Animated Series. Season 1. Episode 3 (airdate). Episode 3 (production). Kids WB!.
- Fogel, Rich (writer) & Geda, Curt (director) (November 2, 1996). "Stolen Memories". Superman: The Animated Series. Season 1. Episode 8 (airdate). Episode 9 (production). Kids WB!.
- Dyer, Sarah (writer) & Aoyama, Hiroyuki (director) (September 29, 1997). "Ghost in the Machine". Superman: The Animated Series. Season 2. Episode 14 (airdate). Episode 15 (production). Kids WB!.
- Idem, "World's Finest"
- Goodman, Robert (writer) & Geda, Curt (director) (October 10, 1998). "Knight Time". Superman: The Animated Series. Season 3. Episode 2 (airdate). Episode 43 (production). Kids WB!.
- Semper Jr., John, (writer), Altbacker, Ernie (writer) & Altbacker, Ernie (teleplay) & Uncredited director (March 2, 2003). "A League of Their Own, Part I". Static Shock. Season 3. Episode 6 (airdate). Episode 34 (production). Kids WB!.
- McDuffie, Dwayne (writer) & Altbacker, Ernie (teleplay) & Uncredited director (March 9, 2003). "A League of Their Own, Part II". Static Shock. Season 3. Episode 7 (airdate). Episode 36 (production). Kids WB!.
- McDuffie, Dwayne (writer) & Dos Santos, Joaquim (director) (July 16, 2005). "Divided We Fall". Justice League Unlimited. Season 1. Episode 25 (airdate). Episode 25 (production). Cartoon Network.
- McDuffie, Dwayne (writer) & Riba, Dan (director) (June 25, 2005). "Question Authority". Justice League Unlimited. Season 1. Episode 22 (airdate). Episode 22 (production). Cartoon Network.
- McDuffie, Dwayne (writer) & Dos Santos, Joaquim (director) (July 9, 2005). "Panic in the Sky". Justice League Unlimited. Season 1. Episode 24 (airdate). Episode 24 (production). Cartoon Network.
- McDuffie, Dwayne (writer) & Dos Santos, Joaquim (director) (September 17, 2005). "I Am Legion". Justice League Unlimited. Season 2. Episode 1 (airdate). Episode 27 (production). Cartoon Network.
- McDuffie, Dwayne (writer) & Riba, Dan (director) (February 18, 2006). "Dead Reckoning". Justice League Unlimited. Season 2. Episode 6 (airdate). Episode 32 (production). Cartoon Network.
- Wayne, Matt (story) & DeMatteis, J.M. (teleplay) & Dos Santos, Joaquim (director) (March 11, 2006). "Grudge Match". Justice League Unlimited. Season 2. Episode 9 (airdate). Episode 35 (production). Cartoon Network.
- Wayne, Matt (writer) & Riba, Dan (director) (May 6, 2006). "Alive!". Justice League Unlimited. Season 2. Episode 12 (airdate). Episode 38 (production). Cartoon Network.
- McDuffie, Dwayne (writer) & Dos Santos, Joaquim (director) (May 13, 2006). "Destroyer". Justice League Unlimited. Season 2. Episode 13 (airdate). Episode 39 (production). Cartoon Network.
- McDuffie, Dwayne (story) & Dini, Paul (teleplay) & Riba, Dan (director) (April 15, 2006). "Far From Home". Justice League Unlimited. Season 2. Episode 10 (airdate). Episode 36 (production). Cartoon Network.
- Berkowitz, Stan, Fogel, Rich (writers) & Lukic, Butch (director) (October 31, 1998). "New Kids in Town". Superman: The Animated Series. Season 3. Episode 3 (airdate). Episode 44 (production). Kids WB!.