Characters: Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Lex Luthor, Brainiac, Superman/Clark Kent, Angela Chen
First Appearance: N/A
Brainiac has arrived on Earth after making first contact with Lex Luthor. Luthor as always, sees an opportunity to use something against Superman, not knowing the connection that already exists between the two aliens. Meanwhile, Brainiac knowing that Kal-El is on Earth, attempts to emotionally manipulate the Man of Steel with the promise of sharing his knowledge of Krypton with Superman. Superman eventually learns that this is simply a ploy and is forced to take down the Luthor/Brainiac partnership.
“Stolen Memories” ends up being one of the strongest episodes to date for a number of reasons. First, it tugs on the emotional heartstrings. So many heroes from the Golden Age and Silver Age were orphans (Batman, Spider-Man, Captain America), but we need to remember that Superman was the first, and doubly so, as both of his adoptive parents were dead as well by the time he debuted as a hero. This episode plays on the strength of the question; while Superman lives on Earth, is he really of Earth? Raised by humans, yes, but he is a Kryptonian, and as a result there’s another side to his identity that comes with it, its own history, culture and society. This episode may not get into that nitty gritty of the material, but it does show that Superman has another weakness aside from Kryptonite or magic; his humanity. But this episode also demonstrates it is also his greatest strengths, playing with the idea of duality within the characters.
His humanity is what also gives him his greatest strength and his greatest connection to his adoptive home world, which is truly demonstrated in this series for the first time. Superman has vast his first global threat with Brainiac, and this was more than just a test. In addition to the emotional strength, this episodes shows Superman using a lot of brute strength and has some substantial, if generic, fight scenes throughout the episode. I would not mind seeing more of this side of Superman, especially when there are so few story-telling limits in animation.
Despite the strengths of this episode, I have never been sold on this version of Brainiac. The Brainiac that I grew up with in the Post-Crisis universe was the green-skilled Coluan Brainiac, not this mechanical monstrosity (Brainiac has frustratingly had many different iterations throughout the years, and in my opinion, all attempts at trying to consolidate it into a new version of the character have all failed). The cartoon Brainiac provides us with a much more elegant character with a simpler background, which serves the series well, but that does not mean I have to like the character!
This episode not only cements the idea that Superman’s main nemeses in this series will be Lex Luthor and Brainiac, but it also managed to pay a lot of lip service to the comic book fans. Interestingly, Jimmy Olsen refers to Brainiac as being green, and maybe it’s just my television, but this version of Brainiac has always looked more pale blue than green to me. This could be a clumsy reference to the green-skinned Brainiac comic book fans are familiar with, but that would make for a confusing reference.
In addition, we see the beginnings of the Fortress of Solitude, Superman’s Antarctic (but sometimes Arctic, but also sometimes Amazonian Jungle) hideaway. If I recall correctly, it becomes the full-fledged base we know in between episodes, but those beginnings are here.