One of my favorite songs is “Brainiac’s Daughter” by the Dukes of Stratosphear, who are actually XTC posing as a psychedlic band. The song is done in the style of Paul McCartney, and includes the sound of a rock falling into water and an ocarina solo. It’s just a lot of fun, with its jaunty tune, nonensical lyrics, and nursery rhyme references. But what’s the song actually about? While this can be a dangerous question to ask of a psychedelic number, in this case it has to do with comics, and I’m not that knowledgeable in this area. I did know that Brainiac was a Superman villain, and looking on the Internet informs me that he was initially a bald green alien of extreme intelligence who went around the universe shrinking cities.
He was later retconned into a computer that took on different bodies. There were several other Brainiacs introduced in the comics, but it looks like a hyper-intelligent alien with a computerized brain and an affinity for collecting cities pretty well describes him. His name is obviously a combination of “brain” and “maniac,” and probably also refers to old computers with names like ENIAC. Andy Partridge, when describing the song, said that Brainiac “was like a Martian Lex Luthor and I thought he’d be a wonderful psychedelic subject to write about, and his potential daughter: I do not think he had one but if he had she would have been, well, colorful, mauve and purple.” Actually, Brainiac is from the planet Colu rather than Mars, but he IS bald like Luthor. What is it with bald guys hating Superman? Do they envy his full head of hair? The line “And I love the lights that blink on and off all around her head” implies that the daughter has diodes on her head like her father, and the Bottle City of Kandor mentioned in the lyrics is one of places shrunk by Brainiac. It was originally located on Krypton. There’s even a reference to DC Comics in the pseudonym Andy used for the Dukes, Sir John Johns. The Martian Manhunter, a member of the Justice League of America, is named J’onn J’onzz. I believe it’s actually pronounced “John Jones,” though.
From what I understand, a series in the nineties called Kingdom Come brought in Brainiac’s daughter as an actual character. Instead of being mauve and purple in color, she was green, which both matched her father and referenced the lines, “Ain’t nothing in the world like a green-skinned girl/But that don’t mean to say you can’t look,” in the XTC song “Omnibus.”
Other XTC songs that involve comic books are “Sgt. Rock (Is Going to Help Me),” “That’s Really Super, Supergirl,” and “New Broom.” The latter is about Mr. A, a creation of Steve Ditko, who’s mentioned in the lyrics.