|First appearance||Action Comics #13
|Created by||Jerry Siegel
|Alter ego||Gerard Shugel|
|Team affiliations||Secret Society of Super Villains
|Notable aliases||Delores Winters, Johnny Thunder|
The Ultra-Humanite is a fictional comic book supervillain that appears in books published by DC Comics, usually as a recurring adversary of Superman. The character first appeared in Action Comics #13 (June 1939), and was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
Fictional character history
The Ultra-Humanite is the first supervillain faced by Superman, and 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 represents one of the most significant threats to 20th century incarnations of the Justice Society. 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 hopelessly 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 stated in the chronicles, 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 by launching a reign of terror against the independent cab companies, murdering their drivers and demolishing their taxicabs in an effort to coerce the independents into joining the League. Reynolds organizes unscrupulous cab drivers into a union, the Cab Protective League (CPL). Reynolds' union, financed by the Ultra-Humanite, intimidates other cab drivers through violence and threats against passengers. In the summer of 1939, a cab carrying Clark Kent (alias Superman) is assaulted by a CPL driver.
Defeated and apprehended by Superman, Reynolds is convicted of his crimes and sentenced to a term in the Sing Sing penitentiary. However, while en route to the prison by automobile, under police guard, Reynolds receives permission to smoke a cigarette, and within moments, he has knocked his police escort unconscious by exhaling smoke from a specially prepared cigarette containing "a mysterious gas," hurled the unconscious policemen from the speeding car, and made good his escape.
Superman thinks this was too advanced for Reynolds and searches the area, finally finding the stolen vehicle outside a house. He corners Reynolds at 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 "paralysed cripple" whose "fiery eyes... burn with a terrible hatred and sinister intelligence." The Ultra-Humanite introduces himself.
Ultra deals Superman electricity sufficient "to kill five-hundred men," and Superman, trapped "amidst a sheet of flame" produced by the high-voltage current running through the electrified floor, lapses into unconsciousness. With Superman now helpless, Reynolds and the Ultra-Humanite attempt to annihilate him with a buzz saw, but it cannot damage Superman's invulnerable skin. The saw is obliterated into tiny pieces, one of the steely fragments "pierces [Reynolds'] throat---!" Ultra's henchmen leave Superman behind to perish in the cabin which the Ultra-Humanite has ordered them to set on fire, carry their crippled leader outside to a waiting aircraft, but Superman regains consciousness in the nick of time and leaps upward into the sky "out of reach of the hungry blaze."
Superman "deliberately... crashes into the plane... and together" they hit "the ground with a thunderous crash," but Superman remains unharmed. "Strange," muses Superman grimly, as he searches painstakingly through the wreckage of the aircraft, "I can't find any trace of 'the Ultra-Humanite'! Well that finishes his plan to control the Earth --- or does it?"
After scores of subway riders have been injured in the collapse of a subway tunnel and an inspector is nearly killed by a train when he is knocked out on train tracks, Superman discovers that Star, Inc., the firm that built the tunnel, defrauded the city by charging the city for expensive materials and then using substandard materials on the actual project. 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. "BEHOLD!" gloats the Ultra-Humanite. "My mortal foe imprisoned in crystal.... so that I can look upon him and laugh until eternity!" Of course, Superman is not so easily defeated and breaks out.
The Ultra-Humanite tries to extort millions of dollars from a cruiseline, but again he is foiled by Superman even though Ultra uses some kind of hologram of himself to escape capture.
Later, a strange epidemic plagues the population, with strange purple blotches killing the affected. Soon, "the streets are clogged with death [...] Horror grips the city!!" A young scientist, Professor Henry Travers, after reading on old history books of a similar "Purple Plague" that blighted the Middle Ages, recognizes that the symptoms are identical, and concocts an antidote. The first test fails and he is ridiculed, but he is able to save the son of the scientist who ridiculed him. Ultra sees Travers interest in the old book, and after intercepting Traver's call to Clark, kidnaps him. Superman rescues the scientist. After receiving news of Superman's interference, Ultra swears that "No freak of nature will stop me from achieving my goal!" and then assures that "The human race shall be blotted out so that I can launch a race of my own".
Later, 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 then returns to Ultra's stongholds where the villain tries to blast him, but Superman places the Ultra-Humanite in front of the gun, killing him.
In the next issue, however, Superman learns that Ultra's assistant revived him "via adrenalin", but as this recovery was only temporary, Ultra orders his henchmen to kidnap Dolores Winters, a movie actress, and then "places his mighty brain in her young vital body." As Dolores, the Ultra-Humanite announces her retirement from acting, and plans a retirement party on her yacht, The Sea-Serpent, where she invites "a gay crowd of leading movie actors, writers, directors, and producers", some of the world's wealthiest men. When the party is in full-swing, she slips away unnoticed and moves the yacht to sea. She then corrals her guests with guns, having replaced the crew with her henchmen, and shoots one in cold blood when he thinks it is a joke. Ultra then announces via the ship's radio that she's holding the celebrities captive and that $5 million must be paid to see them again. Dolores places helmets on the heads of the captives, wired to a control board where she can electrocute them. Even though she receives the ransom money which is placed on a buoy and magnetically drawn down, she still decides to kill the captives. Superman throws a huge stalagmite into the switchboard, breaking the electrical connection, and then tries to capture Dolores. She waves a lighted torch in front of the captives, and Superman, seeing the mad look in her eyes, realises she is Ultra, at which point the villain tells him what happened. But after seeing Superman blowing the torch out, she dives into the water and escapes.
Soon after, the Ultra-Humanite reads of the discovery of an atomic weapon created by physicist Terry Curtis after Clark reports it in The Daily Planet. As Dolores, the villain seduces and kidnaps the scientist with the help of two thugs after he sees her stealing his plans. Ultra forces Terry into an autogyro. After extended torture under the torture ray, Curtis agrees to help the Ultra-Humanite build an atomic arsenal of his own. The Ultra-Humanite tells the city he wants $2 million or he will destroy every building and life in the city. As a demonstration of their power, they will 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 by throwing a boulder and follows the plane to the criminal lair, which is a city inside a volcano, and defeats the robot guards. In the lab of Ultra, the villain threatens to destroy Metropolis if Superman moves closer. In exchange for the release of Curtis, the Ultra-Humanite sends Supermen 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 however.
When Superman returns unharmed with the jewels, the Ultra-Humanite first sends diamond drills at Superman, but Superman breaks past them. A thug fires the disintegrator at Superman, but Superman knocks him out and takes the weapon. Curtis seizes Ultra to stop her pulling the lever that will destroy the city. Superman then disintegrates the photoelectric cell connections. Confronted again with his ultimate foe, the Ultra-Humanite dives through an opening in the side of "his" lair to "his" 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. Mr. and Mrs. Superman 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, the Ultra-Humanite transfers his consciousness to an albino ape body and becomes a major super-villain of Earth-Two. Afterwards, he 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, in the aged body of Johnny Thunder, he deceives Jakeem Thunder into handing over his magical pen. With the power of the omnipotent Thunderbolt, the Ultra-Humanite first 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.
However, a select few heroes manage to escape the control of the Ultra-Humanite: Jakeem Thunder, Captain Marvel, Hourman (Rick Tyler), 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 to deprive their enemy of access to the Thunderbolt's power, 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 in the pages of JSA Classified #19-20 (2007). In Power Girl (vol. 2) #2 (2009), 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 was forced, as a stop-gap measure, to transplant the healthy brain of Gerarld into the altered body of an albino gorilla. They shared an intimate relationship for a while, then they parted way 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 Mr. 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. However, 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 were defeated, while other members were returned to their previous places in time.
In Justice League of America (vol. 2) #1 (2006), 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 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, however, 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 scientist 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.
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 noticeable 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 (though it did not work on Superman), and robots.
- 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.
- 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, swore 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.
In other media
- Ultra-Humanite appears in his 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 later encountered Flash and they ended up delivering toys to some orphans because he wanted to bring culture to the uncorrupted.
- 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 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 body and 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 the Young Justice episode "Revelation" with his vocal effects provided by Dee Bradley Baker. He appears 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.
- 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 is assisted by UGA Commanders, UGA Commandos, UGA Elite Guards, UGA Elite Snipers, UGA Engineers, UGA Marksmen, UGA Sergeants, UGA Soldiers, Bean, Furious George, and Tiny.
- 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.
- 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.
- Action Comics #17, October 1939
- Action Comics #14, July 1939; and others
- Action Comics #13, June 1939
- Action Comics #19, December 1939
- Action Comics #20, January 1940
- Power Girl #11
- Secret Batfiles from Batman: The Brave and The Bold #3
- Legends of the DC Universe #1-3
- The Golden Age #3
- The Golden Age #4
- Superman and Batman: Generations #1
- Superman and Batman: Generations II #1
- Superman and Batman: Generations II #4
- Cool Toy Review photo archive - Ultra Humanite
- OAFE - DC Universe Classics 14: Ultra-Humanite BAF review
- Ultra-Humanite on DC Database, an external wiki, a DC Comics wiki
- A biography about the Ultra-Humanite