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Azmuth: Are you inferring that you're smarter than me because your head is bigger?

Brainstorm: No, I'm implying that I'm smarter than you because my brain is bigger.

What's a fast way to clue the audience into a character's super-intelligence, either inborn or suddenly-gained? Why, give them a swollen (and often hairless) cranium, apparently housing a grossly enlarged brain. Variants include the head being fissured like a human brain, or the enlarged brain being exposed. The head may or may not pulsate, and the rest of the body be comparatively weak and underdeveloped. Often related to Evolutionary Levels or dubious experiments done For Science!. May involve the development of Psychic Powers if it's big enough.

This is also sometimes used as a generic "alien trait" and not a specific indicator of intelligence. The Greys are a prominent example.

No confirmed correlation has ever been scientifically discovered between brain-mass and intelligence [1]

See Also Forehead of Doom, which may be used to show this in a more realistic light.

Examples of My Brain Is Big include:


Anime and Manga

Comic Books

  • DCU examples
    • The Ultra Humanite's albino gorilla form
    • Evil telepath and Fearsome Five member Psimon has his exposed brain covered by a clear shell. The Joker can't help but smash it.
    • Green Lantern villain Hector Hammond's brain has been grossly enlarged to the point where the rest of his body cannot support it. Seriously, it's like three or four times as wide as a normal person. He's basically confined to a chair where his head has its own support beams.
    • The Legion of Super-Heroes guest-star Evolvo Lad (Evolvo in the reboot) has a head that actually gets bigger and smaller when he uses his powers. Does Freud know about this guy?
    • The fake "Superman of the Future" from Action Comics #256.
    • It happened to Jimmy Olsen
    • And Lois Lane
    • The Super-Genius Baby
  • Marvel Universe examples:
  • The Mekon of Mekonta, arch-villain of the British Dan Dare comics (see image above), specially bred to be his civilization's Supreme Scientist and ruler, exemplifies this trope with his huge head and withered body.
  • An early storyline in Bongo's Simpsons comics had most of the cast becoming superheroes; Maggie became "Brainbaby"
  • DN Agents villains Ape-X and Doctor Vlasov both had huge craniums; Vlasov's was under a huge glass bubble helmet for full Squicky visibility.
  • E-Man 's first foe, The Brain From Sirius, was nothing but a gigantic Brain In a Jar the size of a house!
  • Appropriately, this is the appearance of Veidt's fake alien in Watchmen
  • One of Charon's "ligis-bearers" in Negation has a big brain. By an amazing coincidence, he's also the team's telepath.
  • Miguel Angel Martin's Brian the Brain.
  • A curious case is Abelard Snazz, "the man with the two-storey brain" from Two Thousand AD. His remarkable brain is evident not from an oversized skull, but from two rows of eyes.
  • Zodon from PS238.
  • The cover story in issue 93 of Tales of the Unexpected involved this guy who invented an "evolution-devolution" ray then accidentally got caught in both beams at once, resulting in his head "evolving" into larger and more grotesque versions while his body was "devolving" into that of a prehistoric man/ape/etc. Eventually, his brain became so super-advanced that he was able to repair the broken device telepathically.
  • In All Fall Down, IQ and IQ Squared had extra-large heads while they were super-geniuses. Their craniums were reduced to normal in The Fall.


Film

  • The iconic Metalunan Mutants from This Island Earth; their humanoid masters might also qualify as a more subdued example of the "super-smart" type.
    • Possibly an inversion, as the Mutant didn't seem to be very smart.
  • Invasion of the Saucer Men
  • Explicitly invoked in Mars Attacks (Film)! - though possibly a subversion as when the scientists later actually study a Martian corpse they find the head seems to be full of green slime.
    • Brains typically are near-liquid, anyway.
  • In Sky High there is Dr. Medulla, who teaches Mad Science, has a huge head.
  • The Coneheads are extremely intelligent and have huge heads shaped like cones.
  • In the 1969 movie Le Cerveau, David Niven plays the role of the master-criminal known as The Brain. While his head isn'[t any larger than normal, his brain is apparently so heavy that when he is stressed out, his head falls to one side.
  • Megamind. One of the taglines was "It's big for a reason."
  • Although we never actually see it, it's the reason for Joe Dirt 's mullet--his skull is malformed due to a birth defect, leaving a small bit of brain exposed. A hairpiece was used to conceal it, and his soft spot just kind of grew over part of the wig.
  • The Time Machine (2002). The Uber-Morlock -- rather than have the usual huge head, his brain extended down the neck and lower back.


Literature

  • In Edmond Hamilton's The Man Who Evolved, a scientist has accelerated his own evolution. Five examples are shown; first a giant human, then two cases of the trope, then a naked brain.
  • Taken to its logical conclusion in Last and First Men where the Fourth human species were basically giant, immobile brains. They were created as the equivalent of computers, and naturally rebelled against their creators. But in an interesting subversion, having wiped out the Third species they realized that their intellectual powers were crippled by the lack of bodies and created a Fifth species that was closer to natural humanity.
    • Earlier in the novel, we meet the Second human species early in their evolution, when they had evolved larger brains than the First Men (that would be us) but unfortunately hadn't yet evolved larger skulls. It basically drove their entire species insane and almost wiped them out, leaving behind only a very twisted literary corpus for future generations.
  • Chessmen of Mars, one of the John Carter of Mars books, gave us the Kaldanes, who look like oversized heads with crab legs and tend to travel around on rykors, creatures that look like idealized human bodies without heads. The result appears as this trope.
    • In "The Giant of Mars", the novella forming the first half of the final book in the series, this trope is inverted with Pew Mogel, an Evil Genius Artificial Human, who keeps his brain elsewhere and thus has a ridiculously tiny head.
  • Used horrifically in C.S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength, where the evil scientists have taken the head of an executed criminal and are keeping it alive(-ish) it to channel demonic forces; they've removed the top of the head and its "augmented" brains are bulging out over the top, pulsating under membrane. AAARGH.
  • Used by H. G. Wells when he designed the War of the Worlds Martians.
  • It's a plot point in Evolution's End, a 1941 short story by (IIRC) Robert Arthur. In a far future, humans have evolved into huge-headed, hyperintelligent and emotionally devoid beings. One of them invents a machine that accelerates evolution, tries it on some volunteers and is horrified to discover that in 100,000 years human brains will grow big enough to collapse under their weight. Also a textbook example of Evolutionary Levels.
  • December 1953 edition of Mechanix Ilustrated magazine. In the article "How Nuclear Radiation Can Change Our Race", Otto Binder speculated that the radiation from a nuclear war might cause mutations that could lead to the creation of a new species, Homo Superior. Among other differences, they would have brains (and heads) 50% larger than a normal human's. See the original article here: page 1, page 2, page 3 and page 4.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe has the Columi, a species with giant heads, tiny bodies, and limbs so small and useless they need hoverchairs just to move around. When Columi explorers first reached human-populated worlds, they immediately returned home in disappointment at having found no intelligent life.
  • Jeeves's head bulges out slightly at the back, and Bertie believes that this is a sign of his intelligence. He also attributes the size of Sir Roderick Glossop's head, which resembles "the dome of St. Paul's", to his vast intellect: "I suppose he must have taken about a nine or something in hats. Shows what a rotten thing it is to let your brain develop too much.”

Live Action TV

Magazines

Newspaper Comics

  • In one Calvin and Hobbes arc, this is an "unanticipated physiological consequence" of the thinking cap Calvin uses to give himself an intelligence boost.
    • Strangely, this doesn't seem to alarm his parents. Then again, they never notice anything, anyway.
  • In Dilbert, Dogbert once tried to invoke this. He ended up tying meat to his sides to fake it.
    • Also in Dilbert, the representative of Mensa is naturally big-brained.
  • There was a Far Side comic that had the hero rushing into the villain's headquarters, which had your typical My Brain Is Big guy as well as some huge-bodied, tiny-headed mooks and shouting, "Who's the brains of this operation?" And here it is.

Tabletop Games

  • Mortasheen subverts this with the Abcoulix, which has a giant brain not for purposes of intelligence, but rather for the purpose of generating electricity, as the Abcoulix was designed as an organic battery. This is played straight, however, for Krankenhyde.
  • Warhammer 40000 has Tyranid Zoanthropes which have stunted bodies with tiny vestigial limbs and a xenomorph like head with extra brain sticking out the back. It uses its psychic powers to float around and act as psionic artillery.
  • Double Subverted with Orkses. Their brains are bigger but are less intelligent than humans. However, the larger ones are more intelligent than the smaller ones.
  • The Columi in the first Star Wars RPG.
  • Champions adventure V.O.I.C.E.. The villain Le Maistre has a bulging head, is highly intelligent and has psychic powers to boot.
  • In GURPS, using Brain Tissue Grafts (from the Bio-Tech sourcebook) to increase your intelligence has the side effect of giving you a bulgy forehead. For a more cinematic option, there's the Genius Machine in Warehouse 23; the higher setting replaces the user's cranium with a big transparent dome, giving others a good view of his pulsating rebuilt brain.
  • Ghostbusters adventure Hot Rods of the Gods. If a Ghostbusters fires his proton pack at Meera at the same time as Meera shoots at him with the red devolvo ray, it will reverse the polarity,causing the Ghostbuster to evolve into a superior being with increased intelligence and a large head.

Video Games

  • Blitzkreig from Freedom Force vs The Third Reich not only has pulsing veins across his head, they glow due to his Psychic Powers.
  • The Psilons (no relation) from the Master of Orion series.
  • Averted in the Resident Evil series. Lickers have a large, exposed brain but while they're more intelligent than the zombies they were made from (to the point where they can follow orders), this isn't saying much.
  • The Spider Mastermind and the Arachnotrons from Doom and Doom II
  • The BFB from MDK2.
  • Dr. Nefarious from Ratchet and Clank Up Your Arsenal. Before he was a robot, at least.
    • Also, the Terachnoids from Ratchet and Clank Future A Crack In Time ... Who actually have multiple brains. They've been voted smartest race in the universe for 3,000 years, and weakest race for 4,000 years.
  • The Nihilanth from the first Half Life. There are also similar enemies called Alien Controllers.
    • Immediately subverted though: whatever that organ is, it's probably not where they keep their brains, given what they proceed to do with their heads.
  • Heimerdinger in League of Legends has this in quite ridiculous proportion since he is a very small humanoid with a very large brain.
  • Dr. Edgar George Zomboss in Plants vs. Zombies has a massive brain.
  • In Pajama Sam: No Need to Hide When It's Dark Outside, the titular Sam can mix up some chemicals to create a potion that increases his intelligence - and his brain size, to the point that it weighs too much for him to lift his head from the table.
  • Dr. Neo Cortex and Dr. Nitrus Brio of the Crash Bandicoot series fit this trope.

Webcomics

Web Original

Western Animation

  • Dexter from Dexter's Laboratory gained one of these in a dream sequence. Mandark also has this to some degree.
    • Even normally Dexter's head is huge compared to the rest of his body, which in a musical retelling of his birth had him diagnosed as "clinically genius".
  • The evolved mice from the Itchy and Scratchy cartoon "Planet of the Aches", in The Simpsons
  • The Lobe from Freakazoid
    • Also subverted by Mo-Ron, an alien who turns out to be a (literally) fat-headed imbecile.
  • The Brain and Snowball from Pinky and The Brain, though a slightly less extreme design than most
  • The titular Chowder after an overdose of Brain Grub. It even stretched out his Nice Hat!
  • Mojo Jojo from The Powerpuff Girls hides one under his glass dome.
  • Morbo from Futurama is likely a parody of the "generic alien" version.
    • Although in a subversion, his head is shown inflating and deflating in hot weather...
    • Also from Futurama: "Our calculations are always correct, for we are gigantic brains."
    • And again Braino, from professor Farnsworth's collection of busts of great geniuses.
  • Professor Zygote of Mighty Max evolved himself into an example of this trope.
  • When Sheen gained superintelligence (and eventually Psychic Powers which made him think he was a god) on Jimmy Neutron, he got a swelled head both figuratively and literally. Eventually it was going to split his head open.
    • Don't forget the titular character having a humongous cranium.
  • In one episode of Superfriends, a scientist turns himself into a megalomaniac "man of the future" complete with swollen bald head. He also zaps Wonder Woman with the device and she becomes his accomplice.
  • Brainulo, a supervillain from The Venture Brothers
    • Not to mention Master Billy Quizboy, Boy Genius. Really a middle-aged little person with hydrocephaly, but in all fairness he's a competent surgeon and good with mechanical prosthetics.
  • A few episodes of Big Guy and Rusty The Boy Robot had a giant scientist that got in the way of a particle beam and a spider (or something) that could suck out people's brains. With each brain that he absorbed, his head got bigger. Also, the company's CEO's nephew (a teenage Expy of the CEO) also got in the way of the particle beam, and received the same power.
  • Dr. Badvibes from C.O.P.S.
  • Charles/Brainchild from The Tick
  • Subverted in Invader Zim, where Dib faces continuous ridicule concerning his "big head" (a gag in and of itself, since it isn't actually any larger than the other characters').
    • Also parodied with Throbulator, a creature of pure headache!
  • The Neo Mega sub-brood of Neosapiens in Exo Squad
  • Brainard from Men in Black: The Series is a subversion. Although his huge brain gives him considerable psychic power, it doesn't keep him from being very dumb.
  • The super-intelligent Omnitrix aliens in Ben 10 and Ben 10 Alien Force, Grey Matter and Brainstorm respectively, have proportionally larger heads than Ben's other forms. Brainstorm can actually open the top of his head to shoot lightning from his brain as his main mode of attack, and its brain makes up something like 90% of its body.
  • Family Guy

 Stewie: I say, it appears my cranium has doubled in size!

    • Another one:

 Stewie: Good lord, Lois, either I was a C-section or you're Wonder Woman.

  • One Totally Spies plot involved the villain transmitting the intelligence of Nobel Prize winners into his son. The results? [1]
    • Also the villain Margie, who had the intelligence of several geniuses transferred into her brain. But we don't see it because she keeps it hidden under a Beehive Hairdo.
  • Brainchild on The Ren and Stimpy Show.
  • In Phineas and Ferb Hawaiian Vacation, Doofenshmirtz turns his De-Evolution-Inator into an Evolution-Inator and uses it on himself, causing his head to grow so huge he falls over under its weight.
  • An episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force revolves around the Aqua Teens' attempts to defeat Wayne "The Brain" McClain in a sports bar trivia contest. Results in My Skull Runneth Over.
  • In The Penguins of Madagascar, Kowalski invents a device to make himself smarter, and it gives him an inflated cranium. Unfortunately, not only is the effect temporary, it actually deflates his head entirely, leaving him a dimwitted pinhead.
  • Lactose the Intolerant from Sam and Max Freelance Police. Subverted when Max lobotomizes him into submission.
  • Yugopotamians on Fairly Oddparents, of the "generic alien" variety


Other

  • Spoofed in this post at Dial B for Blog.
  • Garbage Pail Kids's Brainy Janey

Real Life

  • This has been the cause of much dispute among the scientific community about whether or not size really does matter. On one hand humans have a larger brain than most of the world's creatures, then again, so do sperm whales and elephants [2].
  • Women on average have smaller brains than men, but they make up for it with denser neuron distribution. Proportionate to body mass, there's little difference between men's and women's brain mass. Especially when you exclude fatty tissue (which women have more of due to breasts being almost entirely fat, and which don't contribute much in the way of sensory input for the brain to process) from the body mass.
  • Subverted by Neanderthals: While they had a brain size comparable and even slightly larger that those of modern humans, the shape of the skull was quite lower that ours, and the visual effect was the opposite of this trope.
  • An old theory credits this trope with why the Industrial Revolution occurred in Europe. Since Europeans are outsized by the Xhosa, Buryats, Iroquois, Eskimos, and Mongols, it's obviously long since been discredited.
  • The Corvidae, crows and ravens have brains the size of a walnut, yet are almost as intelligent as the great apes. Which just shows that the Brain/Body ratio is a lot less reliable when applied to non-mammals. Birds use different brain regions for "thinking" than other creatures, so you really can't judge them by the size of their frontal lobes.
    • The brain has to process the sensory input from the whole body, and elaborate an appropriate motor response. Seeing that cell size and cerebral cortex structure don't change with body size, and that larger animals have quite a bunch more of sensorial structures; the brain has to be larger and with an even more folded surface just to process the incoming information. Doesn't take away the fact that Hominids, Elephantids, Delphinids or Corvids have larger than expected brains and extensive processing areas.
  • This is often a consequence of hydrocephalus, which is caused by cerebrospinal fluid being prevented from draining out of the brain. This enlarges the ventricles that normally hold the fluid and pushes the rest of the brain outwards. If it occurs during development, the skull enlarges to accommodate the larger brain. However, the buildup of pressure actually compresses the brain tissue and in severe cases can cause mental retardation.
  • Conan O'Brien.
    • Conan who self deprecatingly refers to his "big fat Irish head" studied history at Harvard and wrote a thesis on the use of children as symbols in the works Of William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor.
  • In his book The Dragons Of Eden, Carl Sagan notes that the species with large brain-mass to body-mass ratios tend to be those that most biologists think of as the most intelligent. Then again, this is based on subjective perception (scientists still disagree about how to measure animal intelligence), so another possible interpretation is that humans are subconsciously Wrong Genre Savvy.
  • Research has shown that people with Autism can have as many as 60% more neurons in their brains than most people. A major theory is that the "pruning" of excess neurons that normally occurs in development goes awry, leading to an overburdened and disorganized system.

Notes

  1. Which makes the real life folder mostly all subversions
  2. although humans have most vertebrates beat in brain-to-body mass ratios
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