Brainwave (or Brain Wave) is a name of the supervillain with vast psionic powers shared by two characters in the DC Comics universe, who are father and son.
Henry King, Sr.
The Brain Wave was Henry King, a supervillain who used his psionic powers to battle the Justice Society of America in the 1940s, first appearing in All-Star Comics #15 (February/March 1943). He was a member of the Injustice Society.
Henry King, Sr. was born in the early 1910s as a metahuman with vast mental attributes. An introvert, he found solace in reading books, which he one day learned to create three-dimensional images of, such as Sir Lancelot of the Round Table. He had developed a crush on a neighbor girl named Lucy who eventually married his acquaintance Edwin Ackerman, causing King tremendous jealousy.
As an adult, King was a college and later medical school graduate, obtaining a psychiatry degree. He decided to use his now more fully developed image projecting abilities in a secret life of crime. His first criminal act was creating thought-constructs that stole money needed by him to fund his new activities. He then became a crime lord.
In early 1942, Brain Wave contacted Professor Elba, developer of the "insanity serum", augmented by Brain Wave's mental abilities. It was administered to people around the nation causing them to commit crimes. Professor Elba was defeated by the Justice Society and when he tried to inject Johnny Thunder with it, but Doctor Mid-Nite caused him to inject himself, he was killed when falling out of a window.
Noticing this team of vigilantes, Brain Wave approached individual members of the JSA as psychiatrist Dr. Henry King. Implanting a post-hypnotic suggestions to assemble at the 1939 World's Fair Perisphere, he attached each of the JSAers (except Green Lantern) to a mental chamber which immersed them in a fantasy of wartime conflict. Brain Wave next assembled the All-Star Squadron at the World's Fair's Trylon tower, imprisoning each of them in the same device. However, once Green Lantern was connected to the device, his willpower proved too great for the chamber and its orchestrator, leaving it in ruin and King mentally unstable.
In 1943, Brain Wave again battled the Justice Society, when its individual members traced various criminal operations back to Dr. King. At this time, he vented his revenge on Edwin Ackerman. Starman tracked King to his office of psychiatry, however he was unable to produce sufficient proof to arrest the villain. Each of the JSAers, plus heroines Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl, Inza Cramer, Dian Belmont, Doris Lee and Peachy Pet Thunder who were dressed as their male counterparts, eventually converged on King's Sharktooth Bay tower. However he used images of their boyfriends to capture them, but when he tried to gas the group Wonder Woman broke her fetters and went after King, who jumped off of his tower to his assumed doom.
However, King's smock was caught on the limb of a tree by him throwing it over. Thus saved, he sought revenge by utilizing his shrinking ray device to shrink the JSAers to a height of 8 inches. Wonder Woman was lured away by the minutes from the past JSA meetings had been stolen and she was getting the copies. Storing them as trophies in his lair, King left his foes to meet with his minions. With the aid of Hawkman's bird allies, the JSAers left to confront the criminal henchmen directly as they attempted to commit crimes. Eventually, Johnny Thunder commanded his Thunderbolt to help restore each member to their proper height, and when he got into trouble his Thunderbolt got the other members to the Tower. The JSA then converged once more at the Sharktooth Bay tower, the road to which was mined by King. However, Thunderbolt teleported the bombs to under the tower, which again seemed to have ended the life of King.
Having once again survived by the stones shielding him from the blast though he was cut and scratched, King adopted the alias of dream psychologist Dr. Forest Malone. In 1946, he petitioned his adversaries to subject themselves to his experimental dream analyzer. This device slowly drove each member except for Johnny Thunder towards insanity, such as making Hawkman think he was a thermometer, the Atom think he was a sponge, Mid-Nite he was an infectious disease, the Green Lantern that he was the sun and the three balloons were his little planets. As Johny Thunder was a wacky thinker anyway he was immune to it and actually became sane. With the assistance of Thunder's Thunderbolt, King was this time apprehended and placed in jail, though a blow to the head restored Johnny to his normal state.
However, King escaped confinement in 1947 as he joined the Wizard's first incarnation of the Injustice Society. Each member was assigned to steal a key item from the Government, while leading an army of prison escapees from one of five mass jail breaks the ISW had orchestrated and capture or kill a JSA member. Green Lantern arrives in Uthorium Town just as the armed forces are closing in on the criminals that control the city. Suddenly, the town disappears in a flash of light. G.L. begins a search for the criminal army, when he discovers the town has re-appeared a few miles away, and the felons are looting uthorium from a lab. The Emerald Crusader zooms in for the attack, when the Brain Wave appears on the scene, opening a canister of uthorium in his presence. Blinded, G.L. forms an energy bubble for protection while Brain Wave and his men finish their job. Recovering later. Green Lantern discovers a radioactive trail left behind by the uthorium and follows it, discovering some of the thugs with an invention called the "Mirage-Thrower," which fools the Army tanks into crossing a frozen lake which really isn't frozen. G.L. saves the tanks and men, then follows the trail to discover Brain Wave inside a weird glass box. Firing his power ring at it, the ray bounces back, knocking the Emerald Crusader off a cliff, apparently to his death! However Lantern 's power ring saved him at the last moment and he freed his fellow teammates, who had all been captured by the ISW and put on a mock trial, by capturing and impersonating the Thinker and captured King and his colleagues. When Superman disappeared for a year due to a spell cast by the Wizard, it is mentioned that Brainwave claimed he had been behind it. However the Wizard is eventually persuaded to bring Superman back (it turned out only Sperman's memory of being Superman had been taken), proving the Wizard was behind it.
In 1976 King appeared again as a villain, this time insane after his many years in solitary confinement. He blamed the Justice Society for his punishment. Using the sheer power of his brain as well as devices reconstructed from his days with the Injustice Society, he created a space station headquarters which orbited the earth. His desire was to collect many of the beautiful art objects of the earth, to have a new body constructed for himself, and to eventually destroy the JSA.
In order to accomplish his second goal he sought out and found a very diminished Per Degaton, another JSA villain and founding ISW member, now nothing but a homeless vagrant. He brought the man to his space station and used his scientific devices to rejuvenate the old man. This was accomplished by tapping into the "will energy" of the JSAers and feeding that energy into Degaton.
Brain Wave set up three disasters and transmitted the information, anonymously, to the JSA computer. The disasters would take place in Seattle, Washington; Cape Town, South Africa; and Peking, China. The transmission also caused the JSA computer to conclude total destruction of life on Earth if these disasters were not averted. The JSA (Hawkman, Flash, Dr. Mid-Nite, Wildcat, Doctor Fate and Green Lantern) split into teams and traveled to those cities in an attempt to investigate and stop the destruction. Their actions resulted in the team gaining the help of Robin, the Star-Spangled Kid, and a woman they had never yet met before: Power Girl who helped stop a volcano.
It was Power Girl who discovered that the cause behind the disasters was the Brain Wave. Using the JSA Sky-Rocket (a re-usable spacecraft) the Flash, Wildcat and Power Girl entered Earth orbit in search of Brain Wave's satellite. They were later joined by the other heroes. Together they fought Brain Wave and Degaton, yet they almost lost the battle when Brainwave used his powers to set the Earth on a collision course with the Sun, until Power Girl pushed the satellite away from Earth and towards the sun, the heat causing the villains to pass out. The electronic devices shorted, the battle ended, and the powerhouses of the JSA brought the team and the villains back to Earth.
In 1977, less than a year later, Brain Wave appeared again, no longer incarcerated, but within the JSA HQ as a member of the regathered Injustice Society (Icicle, the Wizard and the Thinker). The villainous team had captured both Hourman and Wildcat and issued a challenge to the JSA: "You must battle us for their lives at places of our choosing, the land of frozen gold and the isle of the ever-burning flame." In the end, both heroes were saved.
In Blackest Night crossover, Brain Wave has been identified as one of the deceased entombed below the Hall of Justice. Brain Wave's corpse is reanimated as part of the Black Lantern Corps.
Henry King, Jr.
Originally born on Earth-Two as the son of the criminal Brainwave and Gimmick Girl (who was originally written as being tricked into the relation but later openly acceptant of her husband) Hank Jr. was revealed to have inherted his father's superhuman mental abilities.
Hank Jr. would remain mostly hidden from the condemnation of his famous parents until he attained early adulthood and sought to actively pursue an active crime-fighting career in some measure to atone for his father's past deeds in his uncle, Sylvester Pemberton, Jr., the original Star-Spangled Kid who was forming a new superhero group called Infinity, Inc.. Following his father's death, he dropped the 'Jr.' from his name and began calling himself just 'Brainwave'.
Infinity, Inc. consisted of many of the direct children and successors of the Justice Society members. Despite their youth the team proved their effectiveness when they defeated their elder heroes when the Justice Society was possessed by the Stream of Ruthlessness. While a member of Infinity, Inc., Hank met and became romantically attached to Jade the daughter of Alan Scott. Despite his best attempts the relationship ended badly.
After the disbanding of the original Infinity Inc. Hank suffered a mental breakdown due to unresolved guilt issues over his villainous father and, shaving his head in order to more closely resemble his father, founded the Legion of Doom and used them to attack a branch of the Justice League. He was captured and sent for psychiatric treatment but was not cured. Black Adam used his mental instability to convince him to join his crusade to free his native Kahndaq and bring peace to Earth as Adam saw fit. During the ensuing battle against the JSA a miniaturized Atom entered Hank's head in an attempt to destroy the growth that gave him his powers. Inside Hank's head Atom found that Hank's brain was actually harboring the parasitic worm-like Mr. Mind who was using him as a source of food and development and the real cause of his mental problems causing him to run amok acting villainous. Hank was saved from Mr. Mind by Atom treated by his fellow JSA members and eventually turned over to the care of his mother, Merry Pemberton.
As Brainwave Jr., Hank is a founding member of Infinity, Inc., doing so in an attempt to bring honor to his family name. During the run of Infinity, Inc. Brainwave develops a relationship with fellow team member Jade, daughter of the original Alan Scott.
When Hank's father dies, he passes on his mental powers to his son, greatly increasing them and causing him to become somewhat unhinged. He drops the "Jr.". After Infinity Inc. disbands, Hank drops out of the public eye.
He shows up years later, with a group he calls the Legion of Doom. They fight several members of the Justice League. After that adventure, he reappears in a mental institution. This facility had been specifically created for him; its funds come from the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott. Brainwave is still very ill and is almost slain by Obsidian. He appears again later in New York City, causing riots and general chaos with his telepathy, even mind controlling Jade and Green Lantern (Alan Scott) until finally confronting Kyle Rayner. He leaves peacefully.
He resurfaces again as part of Black Adam's team, including Infinitors Northwind and Atom Smasher, helping to liberate Kahndaq. In an attempt to stop Hank, considered the most dangerous member of the team, Hawkman has Ray Palmer shrink and enter Brainwave's body. Guided by Dr. Mid-Nite, Palmer plans to operate on King's brain, specifically the abnormal mass of nerve fibers leading from the auditory cortex to a growth on the side of the inferior colliculus, the supposed source of Brainwave's powers.
While a member of Black Adam's group, Brainwave acts both malicious and calculating, seemingly being depicted as a supervillain again. His telepathy is also portrayed at a high point, being able to will the powerful Captain Marvel to turn back into young Billy Batson by forcing him to say "Shazam!"
The source of these actions are found in Hank's brain, where Palmer encounters Mr. Mind, a Captain Marvel villain, who is feeding on Brainwave's growth. He finds it especially delicious, unlike regular humans. Palmer eventually gets past the worm and successfully incapacitates Brainwave. He is taken back with the JSA and left in the care of his mother Merry Pemberton. It is unknown when Brainwave became a host for Mr. Mind.
Later, Brainwave is recruited by Doctor Fate to save Sand from The Dreaming. In that mental plane, he is able to destroy the brainwashing that has been done to Sand and returns him to the waking realm. He has given up his heroic identity and is currently in the country of Parador.
Henry King, Jr. is portrayed differently over his many appearances, being heroic at first, appearing as a villain secondly, and with a third portrayal as a mixture of the two, but largely heroic.
Powers and Abilities
Both King Sr. and Jr. have a variety of mental powers. King Sr. is originally much stronger, but upon his death, he somehow passes his powers on to his son, vastly increasing King Jr.'s power level.
Chief among their powers is telepathy. Both are able to dominate many minds at once and cause people to see illusions or even have complete control over them. Proximity seemed key to the effectiveness of this power, even though it had no defined range. King Jr. had mentioned how even strong wills could not resist him when he was right next to them. While many telepaths filter out the thoughts of others, King Jr. allows the millions of minds he constantly comes across to flow freely through his mind.
Lesser used powers of the Kings include telekinesis, the creation of realistic three-dimensional holograms, and the ability to fire blasts of psionic energy.
In other media
- Brainwave appeared in the 1988 television special Superman: 50th Anniversary where he was portrayed by Robert Smigel.
- A character similar in some ways to Brainwave appeared in the Justice League episode "Legends". Here, his name is Ray Thompson (voiced by Neil Patrick Harris), and he resides in an alternate dimension where the Justice Guild of America was real (they were John Stewart's childhood comic heroes). A devastating nuclear war, that the Justice Guild died in, had all but destroyed the world; the aftereffects of the nuclear war had granted him psychic powers, but mutated and deformed him into a hideous monster. The transformation drove him insane, and he used his powers to restore his ruined home city and resurrect his heroes. When Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, the Martian Manhunter, and the Flash arrive in the dimension as a result of their battle with Lex Luthor, Ray initially seems to be nothing more than the Justice Guild's boy sidekick; he even takes a cue from the 1966 live action Batman show by shouting corny exclamations. As the heroes discover, however, the world is all an illusion, and the disturbances J'onn felt come from Ray. Determined to keep things the way they are, Brainwave distracts the Guild with a giant robot, while he battles the League with his powers. Ultimately, the Guild makes the decision to fight him, despite the fact that they will disappear with his illusion. The shock of his heroes turning against him, and the combined stress they put on him is too much for Brainwave, and he collapses. The city returns to its normal ruined self, but its future has returned.
- Bruce Timm has commented that Ray Thompson is based on both Roy Thomas, who collaborated on the animated series, due to his famous admiration of the Golden Age comics, and science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury, because many of Bradbury's stories deal with nostalgia compared to the harshness of the present. The original script of Legends had Ray calling himself Brainwave.
- In the Smallville episode "Delete", a villainess named Molly Griggs (portrayed by Missy Peregrym) can control the minds of others through computer-aided hypnotism, and her internet handle is "Brainwave", suggesting she is Smallville's version of Brainwave.
- In the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Powerless", Aquaman is seen portraying Brainwave Jr. telekinesis during a musical number.
- Brainwave is mentioned in Batman: The Brave and the Bold – The Videogame. Hawkman mentions him when he is talking about villains that he used to face. Hawkman states that Brainwave had a head "that must've been three feet tall". Batman comments that he always got Brainwave and Doctor Sivana mixed up, to which Hawkman replies "You're not the only one, kid.".