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Contributed by Ronald Byrd

One of Superman’s first notable opponents, the criminal mastermind Ultra-Humanite was originally a bald, crippled criminal genius whose efforts at crime, terrorism, and eventual world domination brought him, naturally enough into conflict with the Man of Steel. Meeting seeming death in the course of his third clash with Superman when his weapon misfired, the Ultra-Humanite in fact survived via brain transplant. However, with time of the essence, the only available host body was that of noted actress Dolores Winters, victim of an earlier kidnapping scheme, resulting in an unscheduled sex change for the villain as well as a body shift. A rather startling twist by most standards, certainly by those of the comic books of 1940. In this female body, the Ultra-Humanite clashed both with Superman and, as was later revealed, with the wartime super team known as the All Star Squadron. In All Star Squadron #24, the Ultra-Humanite notes that, despite his/her female form of the time, “my thoughts, my desires, my ambitions are still those of the middle aged male scientist I feel myself to be,” and he/she makes it clear to lecherous underling Deathbolt that those ambitions do not include romancing a man. Of course, cerebral mad scientist types are rarely known for sexual passion anyway, but whether or not the Ultra-Humanite ever sought out female companionship while in female form is unknown at present. Following World War II, the Ultra-Humanite eventually abandoned Winters’ body in favor of that of a gigantic flying ant. An “Elseworlds” saga also claims that he took possession of the heroic Mister America, a.k.a. the Americommando. Still later, his brain was transplanted into the body of a mutated ape, in which form he organized an incarnation of the Secret Society of Super Villains and clashed with various super teams. Both animal forms are presumed to have been male, although one never knows. Following the reality-altering Crisis on Infinite Earths, the golden age Superman was eradicated from existence, presumably indicating that in revised history, the Ultra-Humanite clashed with other heroes in Superman’s place. However, in Legends of the DC Universe, an “updated” Ultra-Humanite clashed with the modern Superman (Thanks to Jess Nevins for reporting this), possibly negating the existence of the wartime Ultra. Nevertheless, although the original Ultra-Humanite may now be lost to oblivion, his status as the first transgender super villain in comic book history seems unlikely to be challenged.

In his original body, the Ultra-Humanite apparently possessed no superhuman powers. He was, however, a remarkable scientific genius who developed a wide array of advanced weaponry and technology, including the brain transplantation methods that enabled him to switch bodies throughout his career. While in the body of Dolores Winters, he/she for a time possessed the Powerstone, an extraterrestrial gem which empowered him/her with energy to be used for a variety of effects. As a gigantic flying ant and a mutated ape, he possessed the appropriate physical powers, greatly amplified, of those animals. Furthermore, his ape body was been mutated to grant him telepathy and telekinesis.

Ultra-Humanite first appeared in Action #13 (1939) and in the body of Dolores Winters in Action #20 (1940). The villain’s real name is unrevealed and originally operated out of Metropolis, and become mobile later. An updated, contemporary version was created by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti as a villain for their Power Girl series. Their version was for all intents and purposes a younger, straight male who had not yet to that point ever had his brain transferred to another human or ape.

Created by Jerry Siegel and Paul Cassidy. Art by Jerry Ordway, Mike Machlan, and Gene D’Angelo from All Star Squadron #22.

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September 29, 2021
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