|First appearance||Action Comics #13|
|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|
Fictional character history
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).
Silver Age and the Multiverse
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.
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.
Thee 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.
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.
The New 52
In September 2011, The New 52 rebooted DC's continuity. In this new timeline, 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.
Powers and abilities
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.
- An alternate Ultra-Humanite appears in issues three and four of the Tangent: Superman's Reign series. This version is a living weapon created by the Soviets that went out of control. He is allegedly destroyed in battle by the Tangent version of Superman, but it is later revealed that he was preserved and reprogrammed to fight for the Tangent's Superman's cause. He is finally destroyed by the combined efforts of the Tangent Batman and New Earth Superman.
The Brave and the Bold
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.
Legends of the DC Universe
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.
The Golden Age
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.
Superman & Batman: Generations
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.
In other media
- Ultra-Humanite appears in his albino gorilla body form in three episodes of the Justice League animated series voiced by Ian Buchanan. In this version, he is depicted as a cultured intellectual criminal with a deep love for classical music and violent hatred for most modern forms of art. The animated series version is shown to be somewhat more benevolent than his comic counterpart, as he, in one way or another, always helps the hero in the episodes in which he appears, albeit for his own reasons (such as once betraying Lex Luthor after Batman bribed him with additional funding to a public broadcasting channel). In "Comfort and Joy," he encounters Flash, who is trying to deliver a specific toy to the kids at Central City Orphanage, and accidentally breaks the toy during their scuffle. In the spirit of the holiday season, Ultra-Humanite calls a truce and repairs the toy, with some more cultural modifications (rather than rapping and making flatulence noises, the toy now delivers a narration of The Nutcracker voiced by the Ultra-Humanite's cultured and precise enunciation).
- Ultra-Humanite appeared in Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Four Star Spectacular" voiced by Jeff Bennett. This version appears to be a brain in a small mobile robotic brain jar that can possess the body of anything, and works for the Axis Powers during World War II. In the final short of that episode called "The War That Time Forgot", he took the body of a white Tyrannosaurus rex on Dinosaur Island. There, he mind-controlled the local dinosaurs, using them to destroy Allied planes, and planned to use them to ensure Axis victory. The Creature Commandos are sent in to rescue Batman who is being held captive on the island. During the ensuing fight the heroes manage to destroy Ultra-Humanite's mind-control device which causes the dinosaurs to regain their senses. He manages to escape the other dinosaurs and make his way back to his base where he then retreats from the Tyrannosaurus Rex's body back into his brain jar and runs for his life. He was last seen backed into a corner by the dinosaurs which have broken into the facility.
- Ultra-Humanite appears in Young Justice with his vocal effects provided by Dee Bradley Baker in season one and voiced by Greg Weisman in season three. He first appears in the season 1 episode "Revelation" as a member of the Injustice League and is shown working with Count Vertigo, Poison Ivy, Black Adam, Wotan, Atomic Skull, and Joker to unleash giant plant monsters (modified by Kobra Venom and sorcery) upon the major cities of the world. He spent most of the episode fighting Superboy and Wolf. As of season 3, he has become a member of The Light, replacing the Brain. In addition, Ultra-Humanite now speaks through a vocalizer on his harness. In the second half of said season, he is revealed to be the mysterious mentor of Dr. Helga Jace, who she references in several episodes, claiming to help stop Halo from dying. At the end of the episode "Unknown Factors" Helga texts him, saying that complications have arisen and that they must take Prince Brion/Geo-Force and Halo away from their fellow Outsiders.
- Ultra-Humanite appears in DC Universe Online, voiced by Brian Jepson. He is encountered in a wrecked spaceship on Gorilla Island where he plots to fire missiles at Metropolis if his demands aren't met. The players managed to defeat Ultra-Humanite. Gorilla Grodd was watching the outcome from his base and stated that Ultra-Humanite is no true ape.
- Ultra-Humanite appears as a playable character in Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, voiced by Travis Willingham.
- Ultra-Humanite appears as a playable character in Lego DC Super-Villains.
- Ultra-Humanite appeared in issue 19 of the comic book tie-in to Young Justice. The comics revealed that Ultra-Humanite was an old lady who worked with a thin man (who would later become Brain) who had her brain transplanted into an albino gorilla. He worked with Brain and Monsieur Mallah in a plot to experiment on the gorillas in Bwunda while using a base called Gorilla City to carry out their operations. Although Ultra-Humanite and Brain were defeated by the Team, Congorilla, and the gorillas the Team freed, they managed to get away after setting their Gorilla City base to self-destruct.
- Ultra-Humanite received a figure in Mattel's Justice League Unlimited toyline.
- Ultra-Humanite was the Collect and Connect figure for the fourteenth wave of the DC Universe Classics line.
- Cowsill, Alan; Irvine, Alex; Korte, Steve; Manning, Matt; Wiacek, Win; Wilson, Sven (2016). The DC Comics Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to the Characters of the DC Universe. DK Publishing. p. 316. ISBN 978-1-4654-5357-0.
- Fleisher, Michael L. (2007). The Original Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes, Volume Three: Superman. DC Comics. pp. 476–480. ISBN 978-1-4012-1389-3.
- Greenberger, Robert; Pasko, Martin (2010). The Essential Superman Encyclopedia. Del Rey. pp. 450–451. ISBN 978-0-345-50108-0.
- Walt (February 1, 2013). "Superman 75 Years Old Happy Anniversary". Comics Talk Blog News.
- Action Comics #17, October 1939
- Action Comics #14, July 1939; and others
- Action Comics #13, June 1939
- Action Comics #19, December 1939
- Rovin, Jeff (1987). The Encyclopedia of Supervillains. New York: Facts on File. p. 357. ISBN 0-8160-1356-X.
- Action Comics #20 (January 1940). DC Comics.
- Action Comics #21 (February 1940). DC Comics.
- Cowsill, Alan; Irvine, Alex; Manning, Matthew K.; McAvennie, Michael; Wallace, Daniel (2019). DC Comics Year By Year: A Visual Chronicle. DK Publishing. p. 193. ISBN 978-1-4654-8578-6.
- The Man of Steel. DC Comics.
- JSA #32-37. DC Comics.
- JSA Classified #19-20 (2007). DC Comics.
- Power Girl Vol. 2 #2 (2009). DC Comics.
- Justice League of America Vol. 2 #1 (2006). DC Comics.
- Power Girl #11. DC Comics.
- Action Comics Vol. 2 #37. DC Comics.
- Action Comics Vol. 2 #39. DC Comics.
- Deathstroke Vol. 4 #24. DC Comics.
- Secret Batfiles from Batman: The Brave and The Bold #3. DC Comics.
- Legends of the DC Universe #1-3. DC Comics.
- The Golden Age #3
- The Golden Age #4. DC Comics.
- Superman and Batman: Generations #1. DC Comics.
- Superman and Batman: Generations II #1. DC Comics.
- Superman and Batman: Generations II #4. DC Comics.
- Earth 2: Society #12-16. DC Comics.
- "Cool Toy Review photo archive - Ultra Humanite". Cooltoyreview.com. Retrieved 2014-05-22.
- "DC Universe Classics 14: Ultra-Humanite BAF review". OAFE. Retrieved 2014-05-22.
- Ultra-Humanite on DC Database, an external wiki, a DC Comics wiki
- A biography about the Ultra-Humanite
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