Although Superman's villains don't enjoy as high a profile as, say, Batman's, most comic book fans are aware of Brainiac, an inhuman computer mind bent on destroying civilizations and stealing their knowledge.
However, modern fans may not be aware that Brainiac's earliest appearances portrayed him not as an malevolent computer, but as a living, green-skinned humanoid with an advanced intellect. Sort of an intergalactic version of Lex Luthor. In fact, his original design in Action Comics #242 (1958) didn't even include the telltale diodes that have criss-crossed the top of his head for decades (and, strangely, that same issue's cover).
Then, six years later in Superman #167, Brainiac was suddenly revealed to be the evil computer we're familiar with today. Why the sudden switch? For the answer, look no further than the Special Announcement printed on this issue's letters page:
Considering Otto Binder's affinity for actual science (which I infer from his work on Space World magazine), I'm guessing that his selection of the name "Brainiac" may not have been the "remarkable coincidence" the editor claimed it to be (perhaps under advisement from DC's legal department), but setting that aside, it IS pretty amazing to find out how DC Comics intersected with a guy like Berkeley (above inset photo), very much a "brainiac" himself in the nascent field of computer science & robotics.
So...how did DC respond to Mr. Berkeley's earlier claim to the term "Brainiac"?
Now, as much as I love the straight-forward innocence of these old letter pages, the 21st century cynic in me wants to peek a little further behind the scenes. In other words, was this public acknowledgment of the name duplication, and DC's decision to make Brainaic a "computer personality" enough for Edmund C. Berkeley and/or those representing his interests (i.e. "lawyers")? My answer seems to materialize in the very next paragraph, as DC hypes the living daylights out of Mr. Berkeley's "Brainiac" home computer kit...a little quid quo pro, perhaps?
Far be it from me to just end it here, right? After reading about this mysterious Brainiac Computer Kit, I just had to see a visual. After a bit of searching, I finally found a shot of an original kit in all of its "less than $20" glory. What do you think...does that look "simple" enough to construct at home?