WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Batman/Superman #9 by Joshua Williamson, Clayton Henry, Alejandro Sanchez and John J. Hill, on sale now.
The oldest recurring DC Comics supervillain isn’t Lex Luthor or the Joker or Cheetah, but a different bald, mad scientist who first opposed the Man of Steel during the Golden Age: The Ultra-Humanite. Introduced by Superman creators Joe Siegel and Jerry Shuster in 1939’s Action Comics #13, the villain predated Luthor by nearly a full year and served as the superhero’s first ultimate nemesis.
Ultra-Humanite is back with a vengeance in the latest story arc of Batman/Superman, now with a new plot targeting the World’s Finest as he moves forward in his latest grab for global domination.
In his original, Golden Age appearances, the Ultra-Humanite appeared as an older, disabled man, as the physical opposite of the Man of Tomorrow. With any army of henchmen and advanced technology developed by his genius-level intellect, the Ultra-Humanite was able to consistently challenge Superman on multiple occasions, unlike any other villain he had ever encountered.
The Ultra-Humanite was killed in 1940’s Action Comics #21, with Luthor making his debut two months later to serve as Superman’s primary antagonist. However, Ultra-Humanite was revived on the Pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths Earth-2, as a villain for the entire Justice Society of America.
During a multiversal team-up between the Justice Society and the Justice League in 1981, the Ultra-Humanite transferred his consciousness into the body of a powerful albino ape, now with the physical strength to take on Superman directly while his enlarged brain gave him the ability to control minds.
This became the villain’s most recognizable form, surviving the transition to the new DCU following Crisis; it’s also how he has appeared in different media adaptations — including Justice League Unlimited and DC Universe Online — as he continues to menace the heroes.
In Batman/Superman #9, Batman discovers strange, seemingly zombified individuals masquerading around Gotham City disguised as police officers, with visible signs of extensive brain surgery. As the city reels from a devastating blast caused by longtime Superman villain Atomic Skull self-destructing against his will inside the city limits, a pair of police officers investigate an unusual disturbance in the tunnels feeding into Gotham Harbor. There, they are ambushed and kidnapped by the Ultra-Humanite himself, operating on his captives to create his own explosive army based on the technology used to create Atomic Skull.
Up until now, the Ultra-Humanite had been largely absent during the DC Rebirth era, with a radically different version introduced during the New 52. This incarnation was an extraterrestrial imprisoned within the Phantom Zone, who fed directly off of fear. Escaping from the Phantom Zone, this version of the villain had targeted Superman’s hometown of Smallville, only to be defeated after Clark Kent overloaded him with emotions and caused him to withdraw again.
With his return in the pages of Batman/Superman, the classic Ultra-Humanite is back — and up to his old tricks once again. It is unclear how much of his previous, pre-Flashpoint history is still intact, but with a plan that has already swiftly brought Gotham to its knees and nearly killed its greatest superhero, the antagonist is clearly playing for keeps. The World’s Finest have teamed up to take on their mutual foe, but the Ultra-Humanite anticipated them joining forces as he accelerates his new plot for global domination accordingly — which may put the coming fight in his favor.
The oldest DC Comics supervillain has targeted the World's Finest in his latest scheme for total domination.