|First appearance||Action Comics #13 (June 1939)|
|Created by||Jerry Siegel|
|Alter ego||Gerard Shugel|
|Team affiliations||Injustice League|
Secret Society of Super Villains
Dr. Helga Jace
|Notable aliases||Delores Winters, Johnny Thunder|
The Ultra-Humanite was the first supervillain to appear in comic books published by DC Comics, usually as a recurring adversary of Superman.
Ultra-Humanite first appeared in Action Comics #13 (June 1939) and was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
The Ultra-Humanite is the first supervillain faced by Superman, and he is among the first supervillains of the Golden Age of Comics. He was designed to be the polar opposite of Superman; while Superman is a hero with superhuman strength, Ultra-Humanite is a criminal mastermind who has a crippled body but a highly advanced intellect. The Ultra-Humanite served as Superman's nemesis until Lex Luthor was introduced in the comics. The origins of the super-criminal known as the Ultra-Humanite are shrouded in mystery. Even he claims not to remember his true name or appearance and attributes his vast intellect and mental prowess to scientific experiments of an unknown nature.
A fiendish "mad scientist", he is paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair. His "great goal" is the "domination of the Earth". Portrayed as nearly bald in two texts and as completely bald in two others, he is a "mental giant" and the "head of a vast ring of evil enterprises" whose "fiery eyes burn with terrible hatred and sinister intelligence". His real name is never given, but he has been known as the Ultra-Humanite (Ultra, for short) ever since "a scientific experiment resulted in [his] possessing the most agile and learned brain on Earth!"
"--Unfortunately for mankind", proclaims the villain, "I prefer to use this great intellect for crime. My goal? DOMINATION OF THE WORLD!!"
Superman sets out to smash the so-called Cab Protective League, an underworld organization headed by a racketeer named Jackie Reynolds, which is attempting to seize control of the city's lucrative taxi trade. Reynolds' union, financed by the Ultra-Humanite, intimidates other cab drivers through violence and threats against passengers. Apprehended by Superman, Reynolds is convicted and sentenced to Sing Sing penitentiary. Reynolds escapes by using a cigarette that emits "a mysterious gas" that renders his guards unconscious. Superman tracks Reynolds to his secluded cabin hideout and is about to take him into custody when his attention is called to a second figure in the cabin, a "paralyzed cripple" whose "fiery eyes... burn with a terrible hatred and sinister intelligence": the Ultra-Humanite.
Ultra deals Superman electricity sufficient "to kill five hundred men", and Superman lapses into unconsciousness. With Superman now helpless, Reynolds and the Ultra-Humanite attempt to kill him with a buzz saw, but Superman's invulnerable skin obliterated the saw into tiny pieces. Reynolds is killed by one of the flying pieces. Ultra's henchmen set fire to the cabin and leave Superman behind to perish. The Ultra-Humanite is carried outside to a waiting aircraft. Superman regains consciousness and deliberately crashes into the plane. The Man of Steel is unable to find the Ultra-Humanite's body.
After scores of subway riders are injured in the collapse of a subway tunnel, Superman discovers that Star, Inc., the firm that built the tunnel, defrauded the city by using substandard materials. Superman pursues some of the criminals who lead him to the Ultra-Humanite. As Superman barges headlong into the shed, the villain freezes him inside a block of crystal. Superman is able to break out and stop the villain's plans.
The Ultra-Humanite tries to extort millions of dollars from a cruise line, but again is foiled by Superman even though Ultra uses some kind of hologram of himself to escape capture.
A mysterious epidemic sweeps through the city, killing hundreds. A young scientist, Professor Henry Travers, concocts an antidote. Ultra kidnaps Travers, but he is rescued by Superman. Ultra's henchmen fire an unknown ray and knock out Superman. Ultra tries hypnotizing him by placing a helmet on his head, but Superman fakes being controlled, and when he is taken to spread the plague with a henchman, he destroys the "fantastic airship of Ultra's creation" that was spreading its "cargo of Purple Death". Superman returns to Ultra's stronghold where the villain tries to blast him, but Superman places the Ultra-Humanite in front of the gun, killing him.
In the next issue, Superman learns that Ultra's assistant temporarily revived him "via adrenalin". Ultra orders his henchmen to kidnap actress Dolores Winters and transplant his brain into her body. As Dolores, the Ultra-Humanite announces her retirement from acting, and throws a retirement party on her yacht, The Sea-Serpent. When the party is in full swing, she moves the yacht out to sea, and her henchmen hold her guests at gunpoint. Ultra announces via ship's radio that she is holding the celebrities captive for $5 million. Dolores places helmets on the heads of the captives, wired to a control board where she can electrocute them. Despite receiving the ransom money, she still decides to kill the captives. Superman throws a huge stalagmite into the switchboard, breaking the electrical connection, and tries to capture Dolores. She waves a lighted torch in front of the captives and Superman, seeing the mad look in her eyes, realizes she is Ultra. After Superman extinguishes the torch, Dolores dives into the water and escapes.
Soon after, the Ultra-Humanite reads of the discovery of an atomic weapon created by physicist Terry Curtis. As Dolores, the villain seduces and kidnaps the scientist. After extended torture, Curtis agrees to help the Ultra-Humanite build an atomic arsenal. The Ultra-Humanite tells the city she wants $2 million or she will destroy every building and life in the city. As a demonstration, she promises to destroy the Wentworth Tower that afternoon. When an airship attacks the Tower, Superman holds the Tower up long enough to let the spectators escape. Superman destroys the disintegrator and follows the plane to the criminal lair, which is a city inside a volcano, and defeats the robot guards. Inside, the villain threatens to destroy Metropolis if Superman moves closer. In exchange for the release of Curtis, the Ultra-Humanite sends Superman to steal crown jewels, expecting him to be destroyed by the guards as she alerts them. Superman is able to battle past the guards and get the jewels. When Superman returns with the jewels, the Ultra-Humanite sends diamond drills at Superman, but Superman breaks past them. Curtis stops Ultra from pulling the lever that will destroy the city. Superman then disintegrates the photoelectric cell connections. Confronted again with her ultimate foe, the Ultra-Humanite dives to her apparent doom in the volcano's crater.
The Ultra-Humanite made his last Superman appearance in Action Comics #21 (1940), where he apparently dies, and made no further comic book appearances for several decades. He was subsequently replaced as Superman's archvillan by Lex Luthor who would be introduced in Action Comics #23 (1940).
With the introduction of DC's multiverse system, the continuity of Golden Age Superman stories and the Ultra-Humanite were retroactively placed on Earth-Two, the Earth of DC's Golden Age characters. The Ultra-Humanite was reintroduced during the Silver Age as a recurring villain in the "Mr. and Mrs. Superman" feature in the Superman Family anthology comic. The feature consists of stories about the early years of the marriage between the Earth-Two Superman and Lois Lane. These stories feature a number of Golden Age Superman villains of which the Ultra-Humanite is the most prominent.
In the annual JLA/JSA teamup in Justice League of America #195-197 (1981), the Ultra-Humanite transfers his consciousness to an albino gorilla body and becomes a major super-villain on Earth-Two. In one instance, he recruited Brain Wave, Monocle, Rag Doll, Psycho-Pirate, Mist, and four villains from Earth-1 (Plant Master, Signalman, Cheetah, and Killer Frost) into a new Secret Society of Super Villains. Afterwards, the Ultra-Humanite regularly appears in DC Comics titles, opposing the All-Star Squadron in the 1940s, and the Justice Society of America and Infinity, Inc. in the decades since World War II.
After the 1985-86 limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths, Superman's history was rewritten in The Man of Steel miniseries, and the Earth-Two Superman was removed from continuity. The Ultra-Humanite was excluded from Superman's reboot, and his post-Crisis history remained tied to the 1940s and to the Justice Society of America and All-Star Squadron. Previous appearances of the Ultra-Humanite fighting Golden Age Superman in the 1940s in Action Comics #13-21 and in All-Star Squadron were re-told for the sake of continuity (a technique known as retconning) to show him having fought other 1940s heroes.
The Ultra-Humanite's most ambitious scheme occurs in the 2002 "Stealing Thunder" story arc from JSA #32-37 where, having taken over the body of an aged Johnny Thunder, he deceives Jakeem Thunder into handing over his magical pen. With the power of the near-omnipotent Thunderbolt, the Ultra-Humanite restores his body's youth, and then proceeds to take over the world. Under his rule, Earth is transformed into essentially a single mind, with nearly every metahuman becoming an extension of the Ultra-Humanite. A few heroes manage to escape the control of the Ultra-Humanite: Jakeem Thunder, Captain Marvel, Hourman, the third Crimson Avenger, Power Girl, Sand, and the second Icicle. Wildcat and Hector Hall are also free—Wildcat as an apparent side effect of his 'nine lives', and Hall so that he could summon the garb of Doctor Fate and thus provide the Ultra-Humanite with access to Nabu's power—but both are held captive by the Ultra-Humanite. After the reserve JSA are able to temporarily short out the Thunderbolt, the Ultra-Humanite is seemingly killed by the Crimson Avenger (although the Icicle nearly beats her to it) as revenge for the death of the first Crimson Avenger, who dies earlier in an explosion triggered by the Ultra-Humanite.
Main article: One Year Later
After the events of "Infinite Crisis", history was altered to bring Dolores Winters (now called Delores Winters) back to life via the reveal that her brain was placed in a new body after Ultra-Humanite stole her body for his own use.
The Ultra-Humanite's secret origin is revised, shedding more light on his past life as genius youth Gerard Shugel (a name derived from Superman creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel). He was born with both an intellect that surpassed the world's greatest minds and a degenerative disease that was slowly eating away at him. He used his intellect to find ways to keep the disease at bay, while trying to find a way to transplant his brain into a healthy body.
Working with a reckless and young Satanna, a fellow college researcher, they worked together at their brain/transplant and animal hybridization technologies. Forced to relocate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and beset by rebel forces and the military, Satanna transplanted the brain of Gerard into the altered body of an albino gorilla. They shared an intimate relationship for a while, then they parted ways for a long time, paving the way for their separate adventures as chronicled pre-OYL.
In the 2006-07 Lightning Saga crossover between Justice Society of America and Justice League of America, the untold story of how Ultra-Humanite transitioned from Delores Winter's body to his albino ape form was revealed: Per Degaton, the villainous time traveler, and a young version of Despero rescued the Delores Winters-version of Ultra-Humanite from a hospital in the year 1948. It is revealed that the Ultra-Humanite was stricken with terminal cancer and in exchange for his loyalty, Per Degaton agreed to provide a new body for the villain, in the form of a rare albino ape from the secret civilization known as Gorilla City. Christening themselves the "Time Stealers", they align themselves with Mister Mind, Rex Hunter, the mysterious Black Beetle, and the villainous father of Booster Gold in an attempt to manipulate time for their own selfish goals. Their conspiracy ultimately unravels at the hands of Booster Gold and Blue Beetle Ted Kord. In the end, Ultra-Humanite and Despero were sent back into the past after their group was defeated, while other members were returned to their previous places in time.
Ultra-Humanite is said to still be alive and well, having stolen a copy of Steve Dayton's Mento helmet.
Later, Ultra-Humanite is seen aiding the Reach in their plans to conquer Earth; he is defeated by Blue Beetle and Guy Gardner. Ultra appears in the first arc of Power Girl (vol. 2), using an anti-gravity mechanism to raise New York City into the air, holding the city hostage in exchange for being able to transfer his mind into Power Girl's body. The attempt fails, and Power Girl accidentally scars his whole body with acid burns, maiming his form permanently.
Satanna returns to New York, attempting to aid her former lover, stealing the body of the current Terra, Atlee, for Gerard's use. After a lengthy fight, Power Girl is able to retrieve Terra's brain (now in the crippled simian form of the Ultra-Humanite) and bring both of them to Strata, Atlee's advanced underground birth society, to get her friend restored to her proper body. Strata's scientists agree to clone a new, fully human body for Gerard Shugel, resembling a healthy version of his twenty-year-old human self, cured from his degenerative disease. Power Girl attempts to hire him as a scientist for her Starr Labs, and Gerard plays along showing a fake desire of reformation.
In The New 52 reboot of DC's continuity, Ultra-Humanite reappears in the pages of Action Comics. This version is a fear-feeding alien in the Phantom Zone who manages to get out and feed on the fear of Superman when he is just a child. Young Clark is too strong for him, so he retreats to the Phantom Zone.
During the "Superman: Doomed" storyline, a portal opens in Smallville allowing the Ultra-Humanite to escape. Superman is able to defeat him by filling him up with too many emotions.
In "DC Rebirth", a second Ultra-Humanite appeared where he is depicted as an evil genius who placed his brain into an albino gorilla. He is a member of the Secret Society of Super Villains.
The Ultra-Humanite is a scientific genius, and possesses one of the most advanced human minds in the DC Universe. He has the medical knowledge necessary to surgically transfer his brain into another body without transplant rejection, even when using two vastly different species. Various bodies occupied over the years include actress Delores Winters, a giant insect, a Tyrannosaurus rex, Justice Society member Johnny Thunder, and a glass dome. His best-known and most frequently revisited form is that of a mutated albino gorilla. He has also invented numerous other devices including an invisible car, a mind-control helmet, and robots.
In the New 52, Ultra-Humanite was portrayed as an alien who fed off the fear of others. To help him do this, he could send out small alien tentacled creatures that possessed the person as well as sucking on their fears.
Ultra-Humanite appears in Batman: The Brave and the Bold #3. The character targets the President causing Batman and Green Arrow to team up and stop Ultra-Humanite. The reason established for him switching his mind into apes is that he didn't want people to mistake him for Lex Luthor.
The first three issues of Legends of the DC Universe feature the post-Crisis Superman, early in his career, battling a scientist named Morgan Wilde who, angered by the death of his wife, swears revenge on Luthor and gains the ability to transfer his "life essence" (called "Under-Light") as the U.L.T.R.A. Humanite.
In the Elseworlds miniseries The Golden Age, the Ultra-Humanite places his brain into the body of Tex Thomson, known as the Americommando. He also arranges to place the brain of his ally Adolf Hitler into the body of Danny Dunbar, while simultaneously arranging to give Hitler (as Dunbar) super-powers.
The Ultra-Humanite is the principal villain in the John Byrne limited series Superman & Batman: Generations. He first appears in the 1939 story, but is believed to be killed when his escape rocket explodes. Decades later, it is revealed that the Humanite had his brain placed in the body of his lackey Lex Luthor and posed as Luthor for the intervening time. He then attempts to swap bodies with a then-powerless Superman, but is killed when Superman, attempting to escape, throws a metal spear into Humanite's computer, causing it to electrocute the villain.
A different Ultra-Humanite appears as the main villain of the "One Nation" arc of Earth 2: Society #12-16, where he is a survivor of the destroyed Earth 2 and uses the lost children of the old Earth as his personal soldiers, one of whom is John Grayson, the son of the Earth 2 Dick Grayson, aka Batman III. He is killed by Hawkgirl with the Amazonion Casket, the object he was going to use as part of his plan to take over Earth 2.