Real Name: Inapplicable
Voiced by Ian Buchanan
Years ago, a physically handicapped criminal scientist was engaged in a series of experiments designed to enhance his already formidable cognitive abilities. Seeking ways to increase his genius, as well as produce other potential mental abilities, the scientist succeeded, but accidentally sparked an impurity within his brain, one that grew into a secondary, alien intelligence. Over time, this impurity grew, eventually overwriting the scientist's consciousness and usurping his mind. Gaining control of the scientist's body, the consciousness named itself the Ultra-Humanite and took over the scientist's life. Continuing in his antecedent's path of criminal activity, the Ultra-Humanite's schemes eventually brought him into contact with Earth's costumed heroes and, during one encounter, his body was destroyed. However, his brain had developed to the point where it could survive for limited periods without a body, and his henchmen transplanted his brain into the body of kidnapped actress Delores Winters.
Over the years following the Ultra-Humanite's "birth" he has worn many faces, eventually bringing him to the form that he currently inhabits: a giant, albino gorilla that has been genetically modified to provide housing for his now-enormous brain. Declaring himself to be the pinnacle of human advancement, he has divided his time between criminal activities and scholarship, as he devotes his off-hours to reading, the opera, and other activities that stimulate his aesthetic tastes. However, he is not to be underestimated, as his genius, coupled with his powerful simian body, makes him a formidable opponent for even the likes of Superman.
Currently incarcerated, the Ultra-Humanite bides his time feeding his hunger for enlightenment while he plots his next step. Taking the long view of things, he realizes that he has all the time in the world to ponder the intricacies his next scheme, just so long as his brain has a place to call home.
Cartoon Network on the Ultra-Humanite: "A brilliant scientist who transplanted his over-sized brain into the body of an albino gorilla (courtesy of Cartoon Network press materials)."
Excerpts from the Justice League Panel at the 2001
Bruce Timm: This one I’m going to have James Tucker explain because James specifically requested that we put the Ultra-Humanite in this episode.
James Tucker: First, I have to preface [this by saying] that I’m maybe, next to Rich [Fogel], one of the biggest DC geeks there is. And so I kind of think it’s my personal job to keep the integrity of DC Comics. I’m the kid who traded, like, Master of Kung Fu, Spider-Man, or X-Men #99 for Superman Family—that’s the kind of guy I was. So I really love DC and any chance I get to use a really weird, goofy villain I’m going to fight for it. And Ultra-Humanite was just a given—he’s a great character.
He has a long history: he’s this mad genius who just sticks his brain anywhere he wants to—he was a woman, he stuck his brain in an ape. You’ve got to love it! I think I just read recently where he’s in somebody else’s body, but they don’t know yet. And I really like drawing big, goofy apes.
Bruce Timm: With giant brains.
James Tucker: With giant brains. So, I think I did the body and Bruce [Timm] came up with the ape head.
Bruce Timm: I just made the head bigger. That’s all I did: make the brain bigger. Got to have a big brain. Big, big, big brain. Chicks dig big brain.
James Tucker: Big brain…but he’s really fun. He’s sort of like Kelsey Grammer in a gorilla suit.
Bruce Timm: He is. He’s, like, the suave, quiet villain in this goofy gorilla body.
James Tucker: Very
urbane. Ian Buchanan did the
voice—Ian Buchanan from
Courtesy of Revolution Science Fiction and Comics2Film.
Mighty Isis on the Ultra-Humanite: “Cultured and erudite, the Ultra-Humanite brings some class to the Injustice Gang. I thought he was an odd choice for the team, especially since Gorilla Grodd will be appearing in "The Brave and the Bold" (how many world dictator apes do we really need?), but his serene personality balances out Luthor’s mania.
“He doesn’t seem to have any special powers other than his strength and his scientific genius (this latter trait comes to the forefront in Part Two). He appears to be Lex’s second-in-command and was the first member of the Gang to be recruited. We don’t know much about his origin, though his reputation appears to precede him—both the League and the other villains know who he is (courtesy of Toon Zone).”
Bruce Timm on the Ultra-Humanite: “Most of [the fans] can’t wrap their heads around an intelligent, suave, giant mutated ape but, again, it’s total DC Comics. You’ve got to embrace the weird (courtesy of RetroVision CD-ROM Magazine).”
"Do you believe the horrendous amount of public funding spent on this so-called art? It's garbage; an affront to any decent human aesthetic!"
"Okay...I'll just take you back to prison where you won't have to look at the ugly, old sculptures anymore."
An exchange between the Ultra-Humanite and the Flash from "Comfort and Joy"
Hard as it may be for some people to believe, this relatively obscure DC Comics character is considered to be the first “supervillain” in modern comic books, predating both the Joker and Lex Luthor by a year. Created by Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the Ultra-Humanite, who made his debut in Action Comics #13 (June 1939), was conceived, in a way, to be the antithesis of the Man of Steel—whereas Superman was handsome and a physical powerhouse, the Ultra-Humanite was bald, crippled, and physically frail, but possessed a powerful intellect. An unnamed opponent—he claimed not to know his true identity—he developed his super-intelligence and mental powers through experimentation upon himself. His experiments also had an additional effect on his mind—his altered brain was now capable of surviving for extended periods outside of a body and, in addition, he was able to have his brain transplanted into different hosts. Seeking to conquer the world, his actions brought him into contact with Superman, and their battle lasted several issues before his initial body perished. However, following his death, his henchmen recovered his brain and transplanted into the body of actress Delores Winters, who was abducted and murdered to facilitate the event. The newly female Ultra-Humanite made two additional appearances in the Golden Age, but would soon be forgotten when another bald scientist with world domination on his mind debuted in Action Comics #23 (April 1940)—Lex Luthor.
Initially possessing a full head of red hair, an artist for the daily Superman comic strip got them mixed up, and drew Luthor a bald head. The creative team decided that they liked Luthor that way, but realized that they had a situation, as they didn’t need two bald, world-conquering mad scientists who hated Superman. In the end, the Ultra-Humanite was dropped in favor of Luthor, and he fell by the wayside.
Ultra-Humanite disappeared for forty-three years until 1980, where he returned
in the pages of Superman Family #201 (May / June 1980), in which he
traded Winter’s body for that of a giant ant and, later, a dinosaur.
Apparently capturing the imagination of the DC writers of the time, the
Ultra-Humanite (who existed on Earth-2, with the Golden Age versions of DC’s
heroes) began making frequent appearances in books such as the All-Star
Squadron, Infinity. Inc., and the Justice League of
With the multiple Earths merged into one, the Ultra-Humanite was forgotten once again, as his presence was used largely to fill in DC Comics’ back history. Making only two noteworthy appearances in the 1990s, he would largely be a footnote in DC history until writer Geoff Johns took the character and utilized him for JSA. In the storyline “Stealing Thunder” (JSA #32-37; March-August 2002), the Ultra-Humanite transplanted his mind into the now-elderly body of hero Johnny Thunder and, through him, gained access to the power of the Thunderbolt. With the magic of a fifth-dimensional imp at his command, the Ultra-Humanite took over the world and enslaved its superhuman population. During this storyline, where a handful of JSA members fought his influence, the Ultra-Humanite made the discovery that, contrary to his belief, he was never human to begin with, as his existence was owed to a laboratory accident that allowed his artificial consciousness to literally rewrite over the brain of the original unnamed mad scientist. The storyline ended with his death at the hands of the new Crimson Avenger, but it is currently unknown if this death will be a permanent one, as he has escaped it before.
In adapting the Ultra-Humanite for Justice League, the creative team went back to the classic albino ape body with the pronounced cranium—the one best known to comics fans—and updated it for modern audiences. Redesigned by James Tucker and Bruce Timm, this body not only maintains the fantastic elements of the character, it accentuates them, as the enlarged brain actually looks like a brain, rather than an advanced case of male pattern baldness, and this version of the character is treated as more ape-like, capable of acts requiring great dexterity. As a result, it would also appear that the creative team looked to two Marvel Comics characters for inspiration—the Beast (from X-Men; seen here as he appeared on X-Men: Evolution) and the Leader (an adversary of the Hulk)—as this version of the Ultra-Humanite could be interpreted as, essentially, the more athletic Beast body with the Leader’s “jiffy-pop” cranium grafted on top.
Another way that the Ultra-Humanite draws influence from the Beast is through the character’s demeanor. Treated as another run-of-the-mill world conqueror in the comic books, this version of the character is treated as more cultured, more sophisticated, than he has been in past incarnations. Possessing a great love of classical literature, philosophy, and art—as well as a keen scientific mind—this Ultra-Humanite also enjoys a quick wit and a wicked sense of humor…all attributes that can be traced back to his Marvel Comics counterpart (it's ironic that James Tucker referred to him as "Kelsey Grammer in a gorilla suit," as actor Kelsey Grammer has recently signed on to play the Beast in the next X-Men film). However, unlike the Beast, the Ultra-Humanite considers himself to be above common humans, which presumably fuels his criminal activity; he does what he pleases, and if he hurts someone along the way, that’s fine—everyone else is beneath him. Still, just because he’s indifferent to them doesn’t mean that he doesn’t care what they think of him; his costume doubles as a truss, keeping that big gorilla belly in check (compare the Ultra-Humanite's body type to fellow Justice League villain and criminal mastermind Gorilla Grodd, seen here).
In the end, the Ultra-Humanite as he exists on Justice League is a joke—he's an educated, learned villain with a highly polished aesthetic who nonetheless transplanted his brain into something as retro-kitsch as an albino gorilla—but there exists a deeper level of irony that can be found and appreciated. According to the Flash in “Comfort and Joy,” the Ultra-Humanite considers himself to be the personification of human advancement but, according to Johns’ retooling of the character for JSA, he was never a human being to begin with. As a result, one can infer that this character is either unaware of his true origins or in a case of deep-seated denial about them; using scholarship and art and appreciation of finer things to cover up the truth about himself because, in the end, he isn’t really human. He’s humanite.
Images courtesy of Toon Zone, Warner Bros. Online UK, Who's Whose in the DC Universe?, The Comics Archives, the Grand Comic Book Database, DC Comics, [website name removed], and Leader's Lair. Beast and the Leader courtesy of Marvel Comics. Additional information courtesy of The Comics Archives, Wikipedia, and The Annotated Justice Society Checklist!
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