Brainwave (comics)

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Brainwave (or Brain Wave) is a name shared by two characters in the DC Comics Universe, who are father and son.[1] Both characters have psychic abilities, while the father is a villain and the son a hero.

Publication history[edit]

The first Brain Wave was Henry King, a super-villain 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. The character made his first appearance in a story titled 'The Man Who Created Images' written by Gardner Fox with art by Joe Gallagher.[2]

The second Brainwave first appeared in All-Star Squadron #24 (1983) and was created by Roy Thomas, Jerry Ordway and Mike Machlan.[1]

Fictional character biography[edit]

Henry King Sr.[edit]

Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
First appearanceAll-Star Comics # 15 (February–March 1943)
Created byGardner Fox
Joe Gallagher
In-story information
Alter egoHenry King Sr.
Team affiliationsInjustice Society
Black Lantern Corps
Three-dimensional hologram creation

Henry King Sr. was born in the early 1910s as a metahuman with vast mental attributes. An introvert, he found solace in reading books, and he one day learned to create three-dimensional images of the characters from them, 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 when he tried to inject Johnny Thunder with it. Doctor Mid-Nite caused him to inject himself, and he was killed when he fell 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, but 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. 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 death.

However, King's smock was caught on the limb of a tree as he fell, thus saved, he sought revenge by utilizing his shrinking ray device to shrink the JSAers to a height of 8 inches. He lured Wonder Woman away by having the minutes from the past JSA meetings stolen, she went to get the copies, and while she was gone, Brain Wave shrunk the male members and took them with him. 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 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, but didn't realize that the road leading there was mined. Thunderbolt teleported the bombs underneath the tower, and the Brain Wave seemed to die once again.

He survived this time because the stones shielded him from the blast. 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 towards insanity. For example, Hawkman thought he was a thermometer, the Atom thought he was a sponge, Dr. Mid-Nite thought he was an infectious disease and the Green Lantern thought he was the sun and that three balloons were his planets. Only Johnny Thunder was unaffected- he was a wacky thinker anyway and as such, 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.

King escaped confinement in 1947 and joined the Wizard's first incarnation of the Injustice Society; each member was given an army of prison escapees (from five mass jailbreaks the ISW engineered) and assigned to steal a key item from the government and to 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 teammates, who had all been captured by the ISW and put on a mock trial. He got to them 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. In point of fact, however, the Wizard had been hired by Colonel Edmond H. Future, so that Superman would not be able to thwart Future's high-profile crime wave. Ultimately. the Wizard is eventually persuaded to bring Superman back (it turned out only Superman's memory of being Superman had been taken), proving the Wizard was behind it.[3]

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 Brain Wave was behind the disasters. 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; when Power Girl pushed the satellite away from Earth and towards the sun, the heat caused 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.[4]

Years later, the Ultra-Humanite recruited Brain Wave, the Monocle, Rag Doll, Psycho Pirate, the Mist and four villains from Earth-1, Plant-master, Signalman, the Cheetah and Killer Frost into a new Secret Society of Super Villains, he had devised a machine that, with the sacrifice of ten heroes from the Justice Society and Justice League to be held in stasis, (five from each team), all the heroes on one of their earths would disappear. Each villain then was assigned to dispose of his long-time nemesis. Brain Wave easily defeated Johnny Thunder and brought him to Ultra.

The captured heroes were dispatched to Limbo, clearing Earth of costumed heroes. Unfortunately, the Ultra-Humanite had deceived the Earth-One villains into helping by telling them they had an equal chance of their earth being purged of heroes; when the Earth-One villains found out they were lied to, Ultra sent them to Limbo too, to get rid of them. While the Earth-2 villains waged a massive crime wave on their hero-free world, the Earth-1 villains rescued the captured heroes in Limbo; the balance of heroes on Earth-2 was restored, and the freed heroes quickly defeated Ultra and his Earth-2 cronies. Ultra, Brain Wave, Psycho Pirate, Monocle, Rag Doll and the Mist were imprisoned in Limbo.[3]

While trapped there, the Ultra-Humanite with Brain Wave's psychic assistance made contact with himself in the past, when he occupied the body of Dolores Winters in 1942; the Ultra-Humanite taught himself a way to open a portal to Limbo in the 1940s. Ultra escaped back into 1983. Ultra convinced his 1942 counterpart to team with that day's versions of his teammates plus her own recruits; that Ultra had acquired the Power Stone, and used its power along with her minions to attack and defeat the All-Star Squadron. Unfortunately for them, Ultra chose to recruit Infinity Inc., the sons and daughters and mentees of the Justice Society, to use as his brainwashed attack force. He wanted them to kill their own parents/mentors before they could sire the very children who were sent to kill them, he sent them back through time, only to have the Brain Wave's own son follow them and join with the All Star Squadron to defeat them. There were simply too many heroes for Ultra, Brain Wave and company to handle, and they were beaten back to Limbo.[4]

Back in 1983, Ultra wanted revenge on Infinity Inc. for helping defeat him in 1942. To that end, he captured his old enemy Superman and "drowned" him in Koehaha, the River Of Evil, he used Superman to summon five more JSA members into a trap: Hawkman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, The Atom and Robin. Superman "drowned" them too, and all of them turned to evil under the influence of the famous river. While investigating the drowning, Brain Wave Jr. and the Star Spangled Kid were incapacitated by an avalanche set off by Ultra and presumed dead.

Ultra chose those particular heroes because of their relationship to the Infinitors. After massive battles, the Infinitors (with help from the other JSAers), defeated their parents and had Ultra backed into a corner, he tried to flood the chamber with the waters of Koehaha, but instead, they were all sucked into Limbo. Brain Wave used his power to tap into that of his son and of Star Spangled Kid's converter to pull it off, and he let Ultra know he was not pleased that Ultra tried to kill his only son, they faced off in a psychic duel to the death, which ended when Brain Wave protected his son from a stray psi-bolt. Ultra took advantage of Brain Wave's distraction to kill him. Brain Wave's final act was to bequeath his power to his son, who used it to shut Ultra's power down.

In Blackest Night crossover, Brain Wave has been identified as one of the deceased entombed below the Hall of Justice.[5] Brain Wave's corpse is reanimated as part of the Black Lantern Corps.[6]

Henry King Jr.[edit]

Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
First appearanceAll-Star Squadron # 24 (August, 1983)
Created byRoy Thomas
Jerry Ordway
Mike Machlan
In-story information
Alter egoHenry King Jr.
Team affiliationsInfinity, Inc.
Notable aliasesBrainwave Jr.
Three dimensional hologram creation

Hank King Jr. is the son of Hank King Sr. and Merry Pemberton. As the second Brainwave, he 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 Green Lantern.

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.[7]

He shows up years later, with a group he calls the Legion of Doom, they fight several members of the Justice League.[8] 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,[9] 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.[10]

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.[11]

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,[12] he has given up his heroic identity and is currently in the country of Parador.

Henry, like all his Infinity Inc. counterparts, briefly made an appearance during the DC Convergence crossover. Powerless and trapped on Telos, Henry has continued his relationship with Jade, although slightly estranged due to his alcoholism. After regaining his powers and taking on a Post-Crisis version of Jonah Hex, Henry and all of Infinity Inc. take over for the Justice Society on a seemingly returned Earth-2.

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.

The New 52[edit]

In September 2011, The New 52 rebooted DC's continuity. In this new timeline, father and son characters have been related to Brainwave:

A man called Henri Roy, a weapons dealer of illegal hardware from Apokolips debuted in the Earth 2 series. Hunted by the World Army, he was defeated by the combined efforts of Atom and Batman; and the son of criminal and wanted man Henri Roy, an illegal weapons dealer, Henri Jr worked with the World Army, sending them information about his father whereabouts. After the arrest of Henri senior, Henri joined the world army, where he was under study because of his abnormal migraines.

Powers and abilities[edit]

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[edit]


  • 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 of Seaboard City and resurrect his heroes; the surviving citizens had to play along with Ray to avoid incurring his wrath. When Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, the Martian Manhunter, and the Flash arrive in the dimension as a result of their battle with Lex Luthor's giant robot, 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 the world is all an illusion, they also discover that 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; the surviving citizens of Seaboard City are relieved that Ray is defeated and state to the Justice League that they will rebuild Seaboard City. 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.
  • In the Smallville episode "Delete", villain Molly Griggs (played 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.'s telekinesis during a musical number to a disillusioned Captain Atom.
  • A variation of Brainwave appears in the Young Justice: Outsiders episode "Antisocial Pathologies". He appears as a member of Infinity Inc. and resembles a combination of the original Brainwave and his son Brainwave Jr.

Video game[edit]


  1. ^ a b Wallace, Dan (2008), "Brainwave", in Dougall, Alastair (ed.), The DC Comics Encyclopedia, London: Dorling Kindersley, p. 60, ISBN 0-7566-4119-5
  2. ^
  3. ^ Action Comics #484 - Pre-Crisis
  4. ^ All-Star Comics 66 (May-Jun 1977), DC Comics
  5. ^ Blackest Night #1 (July 2009)
  6. ^ Blackest Night #3 (September 2009)
  7. ^ Infinity, Inc. 1-53 ((Mar 1984 through Aug 1988)), DC Comics
  8. ^ Extreme Justice 14-18 ((Mar through Jul 1996)), DC Comics
  9. ^ Green Lantern/Sentinel: Heart of Darkness 1-2 ((Mar & Apr 1998)), DC Comics
  10. ^ Green Lantern v3, 152 ((Sept 2002)), DC Comics
  11. ^ "Black Reign" JSA 56-58 ((Mar through Apr 2004)), DC Comics and Hawkman v4, 23-25 ((Mar through Apr 2004)), DC Comics
  12. ^ JSA 63 ((Sept 2004)), DC Comics
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