It was announced recently that James Marsters, known widely for playing the witty vampire Spike on the shows “Buffy” and “Angel”, is joining the cast of SMALLVILLE to play Brainiac, Superman’s biggest arch-enemy next to Lex Luthor. Comic book fans know Brainiac very well in all his different incarnations, usually as the green-skinned killer android whose ship could nuke a continent. The animated series breathed new life into him by making him a guy who always seemed to be just that close to destroying the planet or actually killing Superman. So when I first heard this, I was a mite excited.
I’m not a regular fan of the show, but I catch it now and then and I have friends who watch it regularly. Some of the stuff they’ve done I thought was very clever and fun. Some, not so much. I saw no reason to make Jor-El’s ghost/spirit/whatever basically a villain and I thought the introduction of a Kara-like character who turned out to be just one of Jor-El’s pawns was a sad tease and now makes it impossible for them to ever include Kara Zor-El in the future. I also thought bringing in Lois Lane was silly when they were supposed to focus on Lana and Chloe as a love triangle. Little things like that. But Brainiac is Brainiac so I thought “Well, maybe they’re getting things back on track.” And I chuckled as I imagined Spike in green make-up, speaking with a robotic voice. And then I read this interview by producer Al Gough on how the character will be protrayed in SMALLVILLE.
According to Gough, “[Brainiac's] going to be one of Clark’s college professors. Professor Milton Fine … It’s more of the grand seduction of Clark Kent rather than someone coming in and them throwing each other around.”
I’m sorry? College professor? We have an evil alien robotic life form who gets off on conquering planets and shrinking cities so he can study them in his lab. A guy who can actually frighten Lex Luthor and, in two stories that took place out of mainstream comic continuity, took over Luthor’s body for his own twisted ends. A guy who anytime you think you’ve killed him, chances are he just downloaded his consciousness into a new body elsewhere. A guy who you literally cannot reason with or plead with because emotions like sympathy aren’t part of his programming, he just wants to conquer, and the only emotion he ever shows is hatred for Superman.
And you turn him into a college professor who’s supposed to lure Clark to the dark side?
We need to ask the main man (robot/synthetic alien life form/what have you) what he thinks.
ALAN KISTLER: Hey, Brainiac. You are THE Brainiac right, not Brainiac 5 or 13 in disguise?
BRAINIAC: I am he whom you seek, organism-known-as-Kistler.
AK: All right. What do YOU think of this?
BRAINIAC: I do not understand their logic. They seem to think that I will be an enemy to outwit Kal-El rather than one he “merely” fights head on. As I understood it, one of the things that made me special was that I was not merely intelligent as Luthor but that I could, if I wished, give Superman a fight. Indeed, that I am one of the few who can, as evidenced in various recent cartoon episodes where I am able to tackle the entire founding members of the Justice League for several minutes quite effectively.
AK: I agree. Yet, are we over-reacting to the writers altering you? Didn’t the cartoon change your origin too?
BRAINIAC: Making my home planet Krypton instead of Colu may seem drastic to some. But they maintained the spirit of my character, that of a remorseless robotic life form bent on Superman’s destruction. Thus, they preserve my character. Far more, I must say, than John Byrne did.
AK: Yeah, it sucked when he turned you into a mustached telepath for a while. But at least you later got your green skin back and your head-ship and all. And you finally got a robotic body back during the Doomsday Wars. Writers realized you’d been much cooler originally.
BRAINIAC: Indeed. The final triumph was when Mark Waid gave me a brief cameo in my original Pre-Crisis body in his SILVER AGE crossover, thus letting fans know that some of those old adventures did indeed occur. And in today’s comics, I have returned to a glorious form that is both new yet pays homage to my being a techno-life form bent on conquest. And we need only wait a short while longer before Alex Ross’s JUSTICE series shall show me once again in my green-skinned robotic glory as I experiment on human life forms as I please.
AK: But what if we’re not giving them enough credit? What if this college professor thing is just a disguise? What if you turn out to be an alien robot later?
BRAINIAC: I would not waste my time with trivial organisms who are of no consequence just so that during one or two of my weekly classes I could speak to Kal-El. If I wished him at my side, I would approach him directly. And if he refused, I would force him to see the error of his ways through force and destroy him either directly or with the cannons of my space-ship. I am not Emperor Palpatine, with years to spare to turn a single person into my apprentice.
AK: Seriously. You think this is just an excuse to not put Marsters in green make-up and diminish his sex appeal or alienate TV fans by making the show “weirder”?
BRAINIAC: You find this Marsters person “sexy”?
AK: Never mind that, just answer the question.
BRAINIAC: It is possible. After all, you humans are far more accepting of aliens who appear to be caucasian humans than those with green skin. By the same token, I fear we shall not see my glorious head-ship blaze through the skies over Kansas, laying to waste everything in its path.
AK: Now that IS a crime. But knowing how Smallville is, we might at least get to see your old monkey sidekick Koko.
BRAINIAC: DO NOT SPEAK TO ME OF KOKO! That wretched simian betrayed my trust and went to play an extra on Tim Burton’s dispicable remake!
AK: Ooh, sorry, didn’t know.
BRAINIAC: It is a shame. This James Marsters could play me well, were he given the right script and direction. I saw BUFFY and enjoyed his character. Sadly, I fear for what he will be directed to do on this new show. I swear now, should he spend the entirety of the next season of SMALLVILLE without ever donning green-face make-up or showing my three-circle insignia on his forehead, I, Brainiac, shall destroy the bottle city of Kandor!
AK: YEAH! And if we don’t at least get the three-circle insignia put on Marster’s head or if the SMALLVILLE writers make Brainiac not an alien or a robot of some sort, I, Kistler, shall punch fellow poster Chris Arndt in the face!
BRAINIAC: Well spoken, organism-called-Kistler. Let the cosmos TREMBLE at our might!
AK: So … you wanna grab lunch? I’m hungry.
BRAINAIC: I do not eat.
AK: Okay, you can watch ME eat. And then we can get you into a death-match with the Terminator.
BRAINIAC: You think I cannot beat a mere low-level cyborg?
AK: No, I just wanna watch you kick Arnold’s ass. C’mon, let’s go!