Who's Brain Wave?

Who's This? A myopic JSA villain.

 The facts: First appearing in All-Star Comics #15 (1943), this Justice Society villain would only plague the team three times during the Golden Age, the last as part of the Injustice Society. But he'd be back in the 70s revival, in a JLA/JSA crossover, in All-Star Squadron, and as part of Infinity Inc.'s DNA as one of the heroes' father.

How you could have heard of him: Well, he did appear as one of the Black Lanterns in the Suicide Squad issue of Blackest Night, but I dare say the more exciting recent appearance is in live action on Stargirl (where he's a bit taller and a lot more fashionable).
Example story: All-Star Comics #30 (August-September 1946) "Dreams of Madness!" by Gardner Fox, Joe Gallagher, Martin Naydel, Joe Kubert and Stan Aschmeier
This is gonna look familiar to All-Star Squadron fans, but we'll get back to that. The story - which apparently had to be redrawn in parts when it was pushed back a few issues because the JSA line-up had changed! - has the team submit to a "dream recorder", which shows they think the advancement of science is more important than their secret identities. Professor Forest Malone asked for them by name in the DAILY BUGLE classifieds (back when J. Jonah was just a cub reporter) to help in his sleep studies. Maybe they thought they needed a break.
But they've been had. The machine is actually a dream INDUCER, and Professor Malone is really... Brain Wave!
A note on the art: While Joe Gallagher - who also originated the character - has a rather primitive style that makes his superheroes look like plastic vacu-forms, Brain Wave is the kind of caricature perfectly suited to his style.

A note on the writing: We recently saw this in the Brain Storm article, but Gardner Fox has a fixation with villains who throw all sorts of distractions at the heroes while they go out and commit crimes. So now Brain Wave disappears from the story while the members of the JSA encounter ice cube men, giant surgeons, balloon planets, funny animals, shrinking effects, and the subjects of surreal paintings. Not only did this occupy the JSA's - and the readers' - time, but it's also given them strange phobias and delusions.
They start waking up and yes, they're gone off the deep end. Only Johnny Thunder seems immune. As the Thunderbolt says "Not Johnny, it only makes him sane!" I guess it's worth it to have crazy adventures. The Thunderbolt sets everyone straight with his genie powers and frees the JSA to do what the JSA does best. Brain Wave isn't much of a physical threat, so does he have a chance?
Well, yes, okay, if it's against Johnny. But it doesn't take long for the Justice Society to defeat the villain and all his cohorts. From the evidence here, it's hard to say if Brain Wave really did have psionic powers or if he just used mind-altering technology in his schemes. Did they just up the scale in the Bronze Age?

In any case, Roy Thomas would reuse this particular scheme in All-Star Squadron #19-20, in which he plugs the JSA into such a machine and makes them dream of fighting the Axis in Europe and Asia. Supernerd Roy Thomas had established that the superheroes couldn't very well go out and win the war for the Allies, so Hitler's Spear of Destiny and the Dragon King create a field that keeps the most powerful heroes out of their back yards. But because Roy can't possibly take stories out of his beloved continuity, this will account for all the stories where these characters DID fight the Axis in actual operational theaters. But don't call it a reboot, because this would have happened BEFORE All-Star #30 because Supernerd Roy Thomas meant all stories to happen when the original stories really did come out. So All-Star Squadron #19 is a good 3 years before the events depicted in the story we just covered. They might have known!

Who's Next? His much better-looking son.



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