10 Words Popularised By Comics

Did we ever call people "Braniac" before DC's infamous Superman villain first appeared?

Nightcrawler Mutants
Marvel Comics / Chris Samnee

It's not hard to believe that many words originated from comics. Characters like Superman or the Joker gave birth to terms like "superhero" and "supervillain". Terminology like "Doomsday weapon" multiverse", or "sidekick" may not have stemmed from superhero stories but comics are directly responsible for making phrases like this the norm.

But there are a couple of idioms that we all know that you'd never suspect arose from publishers like Marvel and DC. The usage of words like "brainiac"," and "atomic bomb" are all owed to the superhero medium. Not only that, some expressions were uttered for the first time in comic strips. Certain phrases like "canon" or "retcon" don't directly appear in comics but were popularised by people who discuss such stories.

It may sound unbelievable that slang we use on a daily basis came from tales of grown men in tights beating the crap out of monsters, robots, and aliens, but considering thousands of comics have been published annually for nearly a century, a couple of sayings and colloquialisms here and there were bound to seep into the common tongue.

10. Brainiac

Nightcrawler Mutants
DC Comics

Since 1958, Superman has had countless run-ins with the nefarious Brainiac, an alien who proclaims to be the smartest being in the universe. To enhance his knowledge to maximum capacity, the extra-terrestrial travels to worlds, carves out and shrinks cities for study before destroying each planet.

As formidable as the diode-skulled Coluan is, some people take issue with his name. "Brainiac" means "Know-it-all". What kind of name is that for a supervillain? That's like calling him "Really Brainy" or "Super Smart".

But that wasn't always the case. According to the character's creators, Otto Binder and Al Plastino, Brainiac's name is a fusion of "Brain" and "Maniac". These words were chosen to highlight the fact that he's been driven mad by his intelligence.

However, the writers didn't realise until later that a computer kit created three years earlier was also called Brainiac. The kit's name is a portmanteau of "Brain" and "ENIAC", which refers to the first ever computer.

Binder and Plastino may not have coined "Brainiac", but the popularity of the green-skinned supervillain helped the word become synonymous with anyone of vast intelligence.


James Egan has written 80 books including 1000 Facts about Superheroes Vol. 1-3 1000 Facts about Horror Movies Vol. 1-3 1000 Facts about The Greatest Films Ever Made Vol. 1-3 1000 Facts about Video Games Vol. 1-3 1000 Facts about TV Shows Vol. 1-3 Twitter - @jameswzegan85