Ultra in albino ape's body, art by Ed Benes
|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|
Superhuman physical attributes in ape body
The Ultra-Humanite is a fictional character, a supervillain appearing in stories published by DC Comics. The Ultra-Humanite first appeared in Action Comics #13 (June 1939) as an enemy of Superman, and is one of the earliest comic-book supervillains.
The Ultra-Humanite is the first supervillain faced by Superman. 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.
Superman first discovers Ultra-Humanite as the mastermind behind a series of crimes with criminals wielding advanced technological weapons. After a series of battles with Superman, the Ultra-Humanite is presumed killed. Superman later encounters the Ultra-Humanite alive in the body of actress Delores Winters. The Ultra-Humanite explains that he kidnapped Winters and replaced her brain with his own. He attempts to use his new appearance to ransom a group of celebrities for $5,000,000, but Superman defeats him again.
Siegel and Shuster replaced the Ultra-Humanite as Superman's archfoe when Lex Luthor was introduced into the Superman comic. Originally, Luthor was depicted as a mad scientist with a full head of red hair. An artist later mistakenly drew Luthor with a bald head and Siegel approved of Luthor's new look. Because Siegel and Shuster didn't need two bald mad scientists battling Superman, they dropped the Ultra-Humanite from Superman comics in favor of Luthor. The Ultra-Humanite made his last Superman appearance in Action Comics #21 (1940), where he kidnaps an inventor and forces them to build a disintegration ray to extort $2,000,000, and made no further comic book appearances for several decades.
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, and features 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, the Ultra-Humanite regularly appears in DC comics fighting against the All-Star Squadron in the 1940s and against the Justice Society of America and Infinity, Inc. in the decades since World War II.
After the 1985-1986 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. However, 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, Ultra-Humanite first restores his body's youth, and then proceeded 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, 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. However, both are held captive by the Ultra-Humanite. 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.
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 the 2006-2007 "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 on Ultra-Humanite was seen aiding the Reach in their plans to conquer Earth; he was defeated by Blue Beetle and Guy Gardner. Most recently he appeared in 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.
In Power Girl (vol. 2) #2 (2009), the Ultra-Humanite's secret origin is finally revealed. He informs Power Girl that his name is 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. However 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.
During his studies he met a young Satanna in college with whom he shared a mutual attraction. The two worked together on experiments in human/animal hybridization but were removed from the college due to protests at the unethical nature of the work. From there the two wound up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, beset by rebel forces and the military but still trying to find a way to save Shugel. As a stop gap measure Satanna helped him transplant his mind into an ape body that could hold his intellect until he could find a suitable host. The two entered into a sexual relationship shortly after this but Satanna and he eventually parted ways amicably, with Satanna applying his teachings to her own human/animal hybrid research.
Note: In the new timeline, Dolores Winters was now the second, instead of first, host body that he would have his brain transplanted into.
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 spar into Humanite's computer, causing it to electrocute the villain.
The Ultra-Humanite, a mad scientist, in addition to his scientific genius, has the power to transfer his brain into another body. Various bodies occupied over the years include actress Delores Winters, a giant insect, a Tyrannosaurus rex, a mutated albino gorilla (his best-known and most frequently revisited form), Justice Society of America member Johnny Thunder, and a glass dome.
The 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 primary protagonist in the episodes he appears in, albeit for his own reasons.
The Ultra-Humanite's appreciation of music becomes a major component of the denouement of the episode "Injustice For All", when Batman persuades him to turn over Lex Luthor to the authorities by offering to donate double of Lex's offer to public broadcasting.
In "Comfort and Joy", Ultra-Humanite attacks a museum of modern art, damaging a toy which the Flash had traveled the world looking for as a gift for some orphans. Upon learning of the intended recipients, he repairs the toy and agrees to turn himself in. He reprograms the normally obnoxious talking toy to recite The Nutcracker Suite to the children. In return, the Flash has an aluminum Christmas tree placed in Ultra-Humanite's cell, who is moved by the act of kindness and hints that such trees were common in his youth.
The Ultra-Humanite's origin in the animated series is unknown since this world did not include an explicit JSA for him to fight, but a passing reference while talking to the Flash during the Christmas episode "Comfort and Joy" suggests he once had a more normal appearance.
Ultra-Humanite has a cameo appearance in the animated film Justice League: The New Frontier. He is seen during the famous speech by John F. Kennedy.
Ultra-Humanite is set to appear in the upcoming video game DC Universe Online in his albino ape form.