The Ultra- Humanite

The Ultra- Humanite

(pop culture)
Lex Luthor prototype the Ultra-Humanite was the first recurring supervillain to challenge Superman during comics' Golden Age (1938–1954). A hairless mad scientist with a crippled body, the Ultra-Humanite (sometimes shortened to “Ultra”) was envisioned by the Man of Steel's co-creators, writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster, as an evil counterpart to the hero, harkening back to the pair's original 1933 vision of Superman as a bald bad guy. First seen in Action Comics #13 (1939), the Ultra-Humanite devotes his “tremendous brain” to world domination, and realizes to achieve such a goal he must first eliminate the Metropolis Marvel. His electrical weapon fails to vanquish the hero, but he doggedly keeps trying, appearing in Action six times in nine months, with schemes including a biological “purple plague” and a deadly “atomic disintegrator.” The Ultra-Humanite's most successful anti- Superman weapon was evasion, as he ducked both death and the Man of Steel in Action #20 (1940) by transferring his mind into the body of Hollywood ingénue Dolores Winter. Not content to be DC Comics' first transvestite supervillain, Ultra skirted capture by diving into a volcano in issue #21, and he was shunted into limbo by the premiere of Luthor two issues later, who grabbed the baleful baton of baldheaded badness in Metropolis. The door to limbo is revolving, as countless buried-but-unearthed supervillains have shown. The Ultra-Humanite worked “her” way back into comics in the early 1980s in the “Mr. and Mrs. Superman” feature (the adventures of the Golden Age, or “Earth-Two,” Man of Steel and Lois Lane) in Superman Family, taking the form of “Ultra-Ant,” a gargantuan insect. He then relocated his brain into the form in which he is most famously known, a mutated albino gorilla, reorganizing the Secret Society of Super-Villains in 1981 and fighting the Justice Society of America (JSA) and the Justice League of America. Writer Roy Thomas frequently used the Ultra-Humanite in the mid-1980s as a JSA adversary in the pages of All-Star Squadron, a series set during DC's Golden Age (in which the villain wielded the strength-inducing Powerstone, an artifact used by the Golden Age Luthor), and in the then-present day in Infinity, Inc., the title starring the JSA's progeny, although post–Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985–1986) continuity rewritings have altered some of these appearances. The 1993 miniseries The Golden Age, set in the years immediately following World War II, disclosed that the Ultra-Humanite had transferred his brain into the body of the superhero Americommando. After decades of mind-swapping and malevolence, Ultra met his demise in the pages of JSA in the 2002 storyline “Stealing Thunder.” Occupying the body of Justice Society hanger-on Johnny Thunder to usurp the might of Johnny's “genie,” Thunderbolt, the Ultra-Humanite was executed by the Crimson Avenger II in retribution for killing the hero's predecessor, the original Crimson Avenger. Death didn't stop the Ultra-Humanite from appearing, in his white-gorilla form, in episodes of the animated television series Justice League (2001–2004), at the insistence of Warner Bros. animator James Tucker, a self-professed DC Comics fanboy. In his TV incarnation, voiced by Ian Buchanan, Ultra, despite his grotesque appearance, was an urbane mastermind with a passion for classical music.
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