What Is the Meaning of 12th Level Intellect in DC Comics?

The history of DC Comics is filled with a lot of interesting concepts. Some of them are more famous – like, for example, the Mother Boxes, the Lanterns, the Flashpoint timeline, the Multiverse – and have survived the test of time, while the others are far less known and although they haven’t really died out with time, they have either entered obscurity or are still very confusing, which is why they are avoided. One of such concepts is going to be the topic of today’s article, as I am going to lead you into the complex world of DC Comics’ comic book lore. 

The 12th level intellect is an intelligence scale based on an old system used by DC Comics’ authors. The Xth level intelligence scale supposedly goes up to 16, but the 12th level is the largest one measured today. The 12th level intelligence is supposedly a guarantee for solving the Anti-Life Equation but that has not been proven yet.

In today’s article, I am going to tell you everything you need to know about the 12th level intelligence in the lore of DC Comics’ narrative universe. You’re going to find out what that means, how it is measured, how often it is present in the comic books, and which characters possess a 12th level intelligence in the comic books. Let us begin!

What is the highest level of intellect?

An intelligence quotient is something that is present in the real world and people generally have their intelligence measured at least once in their lives. Still, while a lot of comic book characters are such that a standard human intelligence quotient is applicable to them, there are a lot of others, whose intelligence is simply immeasurable by human standards. 

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This is why the authors of DC’s stories have come up with a completely new scale referred to as the Xth level of intellect. According to this scale, one could easily classify every comic book character’s intelligence, which is why it was a very useful tool. 

The main issue with this scale was that it was very subjective and that there was absolutely no possible way to determine a character’s intelligence without the author explicitly stating it, since the methodology was unknown. Also, there were several contradictory usages of the scale (for example, some stories referred to humans as having 0 level intelligence or the 1st level of intellect; also, Lex Luthor was wrongly referred to as having 12th level intelligence, which was later denied). 

Due to this ambiguity, authors have steadily ceased to utilize it and it has fallen into obscurity, although there are still situations in which one refers to this system. 

According to the system, the largest known level should be the 16th level of intellect, but that is more of a mythical number than anything else. There is no known character with that level of intellect and there has never been any confirmation of it existing. The highest known level of intellect is the 12th level of intellect, which has been recorded in only two characters so far. 

Metron once stated that only a 12th level intellect entity would have some possibility of solving the Anti-Life Equation. 

All the other characters are on a smaller level of intellect, with Lex Luthor supposedly being on the 11th level of intellect, but that has not been firmly established. In the sections that follow, we are going to talk about the characters that have a 12th level intellect. 

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Which characters have a 12th level intellect in DC Comics’ stories?

As far as it is known, there are only two characters who possess a 12th level intellect in the history of DC Comics. Bear in mind that the scale was never made official by DC Comics so these values aren’t completely official. 

The only two characters that are known to have a 12th level of intellect are the Silver Age iteration of Brainiac and the modern-day Brainiac 5. Both are machines that come from the same line, which explains why both of them are – and they have proven their intelligence on more than one occasion – equally intelligent and on the same level. 

Credit DC Comics

Why does only Brainiac have 12th level intelligence in DC Comics’ lore?

In DC Comics’ fictional universe, the Coluans, the alien race to which Brainiac, the character mentioned above, belongs, use a digital level intelligence system to classify their intelligence and the intelligence of other characters around the universe. 

Typically, the average Coluan rates an eighth-level intellect while all of humanity rates the first-level intellect; this is only comparison-wise, as these numbers have never been confirmed and there are contradictory reports as to humanity’s level of intellect. 

However, Brainiac’s family line, the Dox line, has always exhibited above-average intelligence and is, according to the stories, on the 12th level of intellect, which is above any other known being in the universe. 

This has actually been stated in an issue of Superman Adventures, where Brainiac made cannons that were activated when Kryptonian DNA was detected nearby. The story actually had an ironic twist, as Brainiac revealed the process to Superman. Superman then flew off to the opposite side of Brainiac, which causes the cannons to hit Brainiac instead of the Man of Steel.

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Seeing his enemy defeated by a technicality, Superman remarks that such canons were a “…rather stupid concept for a 12th-level intellect!”

The answer as to why Brainiac and Brainiac 5 are the only characters with a 12th level of intelligence liest in their heritage. Coluans are generally smarter than a lot of the characters in DC’s fictional lore, and Brainiac’s family, the Dox family, is – on average – smarter than the average Coluan. This makes them exceptionally smart and it seems that this trait is passed down generation by generation. 

And this is the full explanation of this concept. The concept itself is pretty scarce and has never become an important part of DC’s canon, which is why I couldn’t find out more about it, but this is certainly enough for you to understand the general idea.