Monday, September 08, 2014

The First Brainiac (Or the Sixth?)

In Jimmy Olsen #28, Jimmy gets caught in a whirlwind that Superman created to stop a hurricane from hitting Metropolis, and is transported to the Metropolis of 5921.  He is startled to learn that he is reviled as the man who killed Superman, way back in 1958 (when the story was published).  He is arrested, but hopes to get off as there are surely no witnesses who can attest to his identity. 

DOH! This is the April 1958 issue, which came out three months before the first green-skinned, pink-shirted Brainiac story in Action #242.  So is this the first Brainiac?  Or since it takes place almost 40 centuries in the future, well after the Legion of Super Heroes Brainiac 5's era, is it the sixth?  This time travel business can sure make things confusing!

We learn at the end of the story that Jimmy's murder of the Man of Steel was actually faked; it was all a ruse that Superman had come up with to trick a gang.  Later, Superman hurls a time capsule into the future to clear Jimmy's good name.


Jim Page said...

It's funny how one remembers certain stories from so long ago. When I first read this story, in the fourth Superman "annual" in November, 1961, I was nine years old and the story, while I was reading it, was utterly convincing. Folks can say what they want about how silly the Jimmy Olsen comics were, but they were my favorites. Who wouldn't want to be Superman's pal?!!?!? Mort Weisinger may have rubbed many of his staff the wrong way, but he was without a doubt the best editor Superman ever had. He and his staff created a wonderful series of adventures.

jim said...

The biggest "problem" with this time travel story is that Superman, quite obviously, lived well beyond his presumed death in 1958. Brainiac has all this info on virtual nobody, Jimmy Olsen (fingerprints, hair samples, etc), but is totally unaware that the God-like Superman lived on & on & on & on & on.....!!!!

Awww, those wonderful days of the Silver Age. lol

Kirk House said...

Curiously, there was also an electronic game a the time called Brainiac. I believe I recollect reading in a letter column that the manufacturers had agreed to change the name to Brainac.

Pat said...

Jim, yeah, I noticed that as well. There are probably a dozen stories that make the same mistake--for example, the second Legion tale where they imprison Superboy for crimes they thought he committed 5 years later. They explain that the records of what Superboy did at that time were lost in a fire, but were the records of all the good deeds he did as Superman also lost? Makes no sense.

Jim Page, I agree. For all his flaws as a person, Weisinger was a great editor.

Pat said...

Kirk, apparently the NIAC part came from ENIAC, a computer used in World War II to calculate ballistics for artillery weapons; the acronym stood for "Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer".

The NIAC suffix was also used in a computer that appeared in a 1958 kid's novel called Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine, where he used an early computer called MINIAC. From there to Brainiac is not a huge leap, especially since computers were often referred to as electronic brains. I do remember the electronic game being mentioned in a letter column; IIRC it was in Action around 1963 or so.

Kirk House said...

Thanks, Pat. I believe a friend of mine had the Brainiac game. If it's what I recollect, you had to use a stylus to jump either one or two spaces along a track, the goal being to land in the final spot, with the game taking the alternate terms. I think it was impossible ever to win, as Brainiac always wound up with the final choice of whether to move one or two. He was presented as a gaunt, pointy-eared alien guy, and the stylus was the long finger of a boney hand. IF I'm remembering it all aright!