skjam: Man in blue suit and fedora, wearing an eyeless mask emblazoned with the scales of justice (Default)
[personal profile] skjam posting in [community profile] scans_daily
As mentioned in my previous post, Action Comics #544 was the 45th Anniversary of Superman special, and to celebrate, DC revamped two of Superman's classic villains. While the Lex Luthor story was one of the great Luthor stories, the revamp portion was mostly "new costume and the same but more of his motivation." Brainiac's revamp was rather more drastic, as we'll see. Seven pages of twenty-three, and since this was a three-part story, two more posts will be forthcoming in the next week or so.

We open exactly a year ago, with Superman standing on the Daily Planet's globe and wondering how the people of Metropolis feel about him today. (The mild angst is one way to immediately see we're in the Bronze Age.) He breaks off the philosophy when he sees a blind girl and her dog about to be hit by a careless driver. One rescue later, the girl asks if it's true that Superman is the greatest man in the world. He replies that he's just a man. Most of the onlookers are convinced this combination of power and humility makes Superman the greatest, but at least one worries that one day Superman will use his powers against humanity.

But Superman has no time to worry about an audience now. He's noticed a star about to go nova. By coincidence (so he thinks) it's in the same sector where Brainiac built a computerized planet that nearly killed Superman last time out. A quick check reveals that Brainiac is still paralyzed at the core of the planet, so Superman proceeds.

Just a moment too late, as Epsilon 4 goes nova. There are sentient races in the area that would be negatively affected, so Superman flies at ludicrous speed around the exploding star, sending the heat and radiation back into the center. Oops, overdid it, and turned Epsilon 4 into a black hole. A hazard to navigation, but not as immediately harmful as the nova would have been. Superman barely escapes the event horizon.

Tired from the exertion, Superman heads back to Earth, then remembers that he's got a hot date with Lois tonight.

Okay, time for the actual scans.

The Hand at the Beginning of Time is a classic DC image, but this is rather a different take on it, perhaps because of Brainiac's unusual perspective.

Brainiac decides that if he's going to battle the powers that be, he's going to need an army. (Note that I use "he" only because the original text does; the new Brainiac has no gender as such.) Brainiac descends on the advanced civilization of Systus Two, and wipes out a quarter of the population with his first attack. He feels no remorse or joy over this fact. Then a swarm of missiles rain down on the planet, but seem to have no effect. (These will later turn out to be mass mind-control devices.) Finally, Brainiac takes control of the ion missiles the planet's defenders launch at his ship, and makes them explode in population centers. The Systusians surrender. Brainiac notes that it took less effort to conquer the planet than calculated, and that he will need to recalibrate his systems to correct any computational flaws.

Back on Earth, Clark Kent ends a date with Lana Lang early, claiming a headache. It's actually a distress signal coming in from the Fortress of Solitude. Once there, he gets a message from Skora, leader of Systus Two, asking for help against Brainiac. Superman briefly notes that Brainiac should still be imprisoned, but goes to check out the problem anyway.

He also notes that outright devastating a planet isn't Brainiac's MO; he's a thief, not a destroyer. Arriving on Systus Two, Superman's appalled by the carnage; not Brainiac's style at all. Superman is then attacked by the Systusians, first civilians, then their star-flyers. Since he's well-known to the Systusians as their friend, it's not a mistake, and Superman goes searching for Brainiac. No sign of the Brainiac he knows--perhaps Skora was mistaken?

Then the new Brainiac shows up in his new ship and announces his intention of killing Superman. He then shoots a single missile at the Man of Steel. Not impressed, and not feeling any Kryptonite, Superman merely punches the missile out of the sky, noting that his Code vs. Killing doesn't apply to machines. The missile promptly explodes, causing Superman pain and forcing him to the ground. The Systus ground warriors swarm Superman, who's surprised when their punches hurt him.

When Superman is too groggy to stand, Brainiac comes down in a shuttlecraft and explains that the missile bathed Superman in red-sun energy, weakening his powers. Brainiac boasts that he has now become like unto the gods themselves. To him, Superman is now like an fly, an insect that Brainiac will finally get to swat. Superman doesn't recognize Brainiac in his new body, but Brainiac assures him "I am--the new Brainiac. And I am your death."


Your thoughts and comments?

Suggested tags
char: Brainiac
char: Superman/Clark Kent
creator: Gil Kane
creator: Marv Wolfman
publisher: DC Comics
title: Action Comics

Date: 2010-05-29 08:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
i've always wondered how Brainiac got "upgraded"

Date: 2010-05-29 08:59 pm (UTC)
halloweenjack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] halloweenjack
I really like the redesign; it's got some H.R. Giger notes to it, but not too obviously derivative, and the skullbot look makes him more obviously alien. (Particularly in that silhouette shot before the Big Reveal where he looks like a sort of cyber-spider-centaur.) Plus, of course, Gil Kane FTW.

Date: 2010-05-29 09:20 pm (UTC)
blake_reitz: (Default)
From: [personal profile] blake_reitz
Very strange! I was expecting a simple "and then I uploaded my brain to a computer to destroy superman", not "then I turned into energy molecules and floated around the universe a whole bunch then possessed my ship again and then turned into an awesome robot." Nifty though.

Date: 2010-05-29 11:39 pm (UTC)
hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)
From: [personal profile] hatman
The redesign/rebirth is interesting. A good way to totally revamp the character whilst in some way staying true to who he was.

But what I actually liked best about this post is the opening summary of what we missed. Completely ignoring the whole concept of "light years," fixing any problem by spinning around it really fast, and then zipping home for a hot date with Lois... it's just so beautifully classic.

Date: 2010-05-29 11:46 pm (UTC)
jlroberson: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jlroberson
Has anyone every connected this up with the world of machines that Moore & Totleben had in that one illustrated-text issue of SWAMP THING(which, come to think of it, I may post some of--you rarely get to see Totleben do collage)? Which was very near the same time.

Come to think of it, given Swampy made a machine pregnant, has anyone ever followed up on that?

Date: 2010-05-30 03:57 am (UTC)
thormonger: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thormonger
Brainiac's robotic incarnation is my favorite one. Nice to review its origin.

Date: 2010-05-30 06:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My favorite Brainiac as well. I love the design of his face; it's like an electrical socket with a slight smile to it. He has the look of a robotic bespectacled professor. Combine that with the skeletor robot body and the unrelenting homicidalness and the batshit insane paranoia and you have one of the most terrifying villains in DC history.

Incidentally, did anyone ever follow up with that whole "Master Programmer/Superman as the Angel of Death" thing?

Date: 2010-06-03 03:33 am (UTC)
aaron_bourque: default (Default)
From: [personal profile] aaron_bourque
Skullface Brainiac is and will always be the best Brainiac.


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