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The Brainwave Scanner is a fictional device found in Marvel's G.I. Joe comic series used by Cobra for interrogation and brainwashing. It was invented by Doctor Venom and later refined by Dr. Mindbender.
In the Scanner's first appearance, Dr. Venom uses it to interrogate the captive Snake Eyes. Despite the pain it causes him, Snake Eyes resists Venom's attempts to extract the location of G.I. Joe headquarters from his mind. Venom does manage to get snippets of Snake Eyes' personal history and a few fleeting glimpses of some Joe personnel. Snake Eyes uses techniques to fake his death and escapes when Venom and a guard unstrap him from the machine. Venom uses technology from the Scanner in the creation of the SNAKE robots. This enables Venom to control anyone who wears the armor. He is able to control Snake Eyes and Kwinn and use them in battle with the Joes. However, Snake Eyes uses his prior experience with the Scanner to break free.
After Venom's death, the Scanner is not seen again until Cobra Commander uses it to probe his son Billy's mind to find out who aided him in a foiled attempt to kill the Commander. Like Snake Eyes, Billy is able to resist the Scanner and Cobra Commander is forced to call off the interrogation when Billy starts remembering watching the Commander start Cobra. When Dr Mindbender joined Cobra, he borrowed the Brainwave Scanner to use in the creation of Serpentor. Mindbender had his own brain scanned so that Serpentor would be familiar with modern tactics and politics. He was not aware of the pain associated with being scanned and passed out. No sooner was he unstrapped then the Joe Ripcord was placed in the Scanner so they could find out if he warned the Joes where Cobra headquarters is. They confirmed Ripcord had alerted the Joes just as the attack on Springfield began.
Mindbender later redesigned the Scanner, debuting the new design in a Terror Drome in Sierra Gordo. Ironically, Snake Eyes is subjected to the Scanner when he infiltrates the Terror Drome disguised as Flint. A team of Joes led by Stalker try to rescue Snake Eyes but fail when Stalker is injured. Scarlett teams with a reformed Storm Shadow to rescue Snake Eyes when he is transferred to the Cobra Consulate Building in New York. While there, Snake Eyes once again uses his ninja techniques on the Scanner, this time overloading it.
In the Cobra town of Broca Beach, Baroness and Zarana use the Brainwave Scanner to brainwash Clutch and Rock & Roll. Cobra Commander uses multiple copies of the Brainwave Scanner to brainwash the residents of the town of Millville. The Baroness herself is subjected to the Scanner when Cobra Commander captures her during an attempt to kill Destro. Firefly uses another Scanner to brainwash both Joe and Cobra ninjas in an attempt to overthrow Cobra Commander.
After Dr. Mindbender returns, he and Cobra Commander use the Scanner to brainwash Storm Shadow, Baroness, and Billy into rejoining Cobra.
The Joes sabotage the Scanner and as a result, Billy, Destro, Baroness, and Zartan all break free from Cobra Commander's control. Storm Shadow is not so lucky and Cobra Commander is able to keep him control through repeated sessions in the Scanner. Storm Shadow is able to resist for small periods of time and is able to warn Snake Eyes when cobra Commander orders an assassination attempt on Hawk. Storm Shadow finally breaks free long enough to flee to Los Angeles, but despite the efforts of Snake Eyes, Billy, and Kamakura, Cobra Commander uses a handheld version of the Scanner to rebrainwash Storm Shadow.
Valor vs. Venom
One of the action figure versions of Overkill comes with a small stretcher like version of the Brainwave Scanner. This version of the Scanner is featured in the Valor vs. Venom animated movie. Overkill and Cobra Commander use the Scanner to interrogate the captive Hawk.
The Brainwave Scanner can be used for two basic functions, interrogation and brainwashing.
The Interrogation part works by flashing a series of images in the mind of the subject and recording their reaction. Soon the Scanner will have a "library" of the subject's thinking patterns. The Scanner then reads the subject's mind and projects the images on a monitor. This technique, called "neural decoding," is actually an increasingly popular methodology in neuroscience that is beginning to produce impressive results (see "Neuroscience imitates G.I. Joe" under External Links below).
When the Scanner brainwashes a subject, it creates a computerized landscape of the subject's mind, representing it as a maze filled with images and items from the subject's life. Representations of the person running the Scanner then run through the maze, altering what they choose. Once the alterations are complete, the subject's new personality is cemented with a massive jolt of electricity.
In both cases the Scanner is a painful experience for the one being scanned, even more so if they resist. Also, Dr Mindbender modified the Scanner so that those who are brainwashed by it get addicted to the Scanner despite the pain and feel a constant need to undergo sessions in the Brainwave Scanner.
Most of the time, only one person is subjected to the Scanner at one time. However, there are variations of the Scanner that can affect two or more people in one sitting. One of these types can be concealed in a structure the size of a small trailer.
- G.I. Joe: a Real American Hero (vol.1)#10
- G.I. Joe: a Real American Hero (vol.1)#19
- G.I. Joe: a Real American Hero (vol.1)#35
- G.I. Joe: a Real American Hero (vol.1)#49
- G.I. Joe: a Real American Hero (vol.1)#54-55
- G.I. Joe: a Real American Hero Annual#3
- G.I. Joe: a Real American Hero (vol.1)#90
- G.I. Joe: a Real American Hero (vol.1)#115
- G.I. Joe: a Real American Hero (vol.1)#127
- G.I. Joe: a Real American Hero (vol.1)#150
- G.I. Joe: Frontline#4
- G.I. Joe: a Real American Hero (vol.2)#6-8
- G.I. Joe: a Real American Hero (vol.2)#20-21