A fiendish "mad scientist" (Act No. 17, Oct 1939), hopelessly paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair, whose "great goal" is the "domination of the Earth" (Act No. 14, Jul 1939; and others). Portrayed as nearly bald in two texts (Act No. 13, Jun 1939; Act No. 19, Dec 1939), and as completely bald in two others (Act No. 14, Jul 1939; Act No. 17, Oct 1939), he is a "mental giant" -- the "head of a vast ring of evil enterprises" -- whose "fiery eyes burn with terrible hatred and sinister intelligence."
His real name is never stated in the chronicles, but he has been known as the Ultra-Humanite -- Ultra, for short -- ever since "a scientific experiment resulted in [his] possessing the most agile and learned brain on Earth!" "--Unfortunately for mankind," proclaims the villain in June 1939, "I prefer to use this great intellect for crime. My goal? DOMINATION OF THE WORLD!!" (Act No. 13)
In June 1939 Superman sets out to smash the so-called Cab Protective League, an underworld organization, headed by a racketeer named Reynolds, which is attempting to seize control of the city's lucrative taxi trade by launching a reign of terror against the independent cab companies, murdering their drivers and demolishing their taxicabs in an effort to coerce the independents into joining the League.
Finally defeated and apprehended by Superman, Reynolds is convicted of his crimes and sentenced to a term in the Sing Sing penitentiary. However, while en route to the prison by automobile, under police guard, Reynolds asks for, and receives, permission to smoke a cigarette, and within moments, he has knocked his police escort unconscious by exhaling smoke from a specially prepared cigarette containing "a mysterious gas," hurled from the unconscious policemen from the speeding car, and made good his escape.
Superman finally corners Reynolds at his secluded cabin hideout and is about to take him into custody when his attention is called to a second figure in the cabin, a "paralysed cripple" whose "fiery eyes...burn with a terrible hatred and sinister intelligence." "So we meet at last, eh?" smiles the sinister paralytic. "It was inevitable that we should clash!" "Who are you?" asks Superman. "The head of a vast ring of evil enterprises," replies the paralytic, "--men like Reynolds are but my henchmen. You have interfered frequently with my plans, and it is time for you to be removed!" "If what you say is true," retorts Superman, "the thanks for giving me the opportunity to capture you!" "You may not find that task as simple as it appears on the surface," remarks the paralytic confidently. "You may possess unbelievable strength--but you are pitting yourself against a mental giant! I am known as 'the Ultra-Humanite.'"
As Superman lunges forward to grab him, the villian unleashes a barrage of electricity sufficient "to kill five-hundred men," and Superman, trapped "amidst a sheet of flame" produced by the high-voltage current running through the electrified floor, lapses into unconsciousness. With Superman now helpless, Reynolds and the Ultra-Humanite attempt to annihilate him with a buzz saw, but as "the mighty saw" makes contact with Superman's invulnerable skin, there is "a great rasping--the sound of cracking metal--and the saw explodes into a thousand fragments-!"
"Reynolds dies a horrible death," notes the text, "as one of the steely fragments pierces his throat---!" Leaving Superman behind to perish in the blazing cabin, the villian's henchmen carry their crippled leader outside to a waiting aircraft, but Superman regains consciousness in the nick of time and leaps upward into the sky "out of reach of the hungry blaze." "I'll bet that strange ship belongs to 'the Ultra-Humanite'!" cries Superman as he spies the weird aircraft carrying the villian and his henchmen. "--His fiendish deviltry is going to end RIGHT NOW!" "Deliberately," observes the textual narrative, "Superman crashes into the planes propellor---down toward the distant Earth hurtle both doomed plane and Man of Steel---'the Ultra-Humanite's' vessel crumples sickeningly as it strikes the ground with a thunderous crash---" but Superman remains unharmed. "Strange," muses Superman grimly, as he searches painstakingly through the wreckage of the aircraft, "I can't find any trace of 'the Ultra-Humanite'! Well that finishes his plan to control the Earth---or does it?" (Act No. 13, Jun 1939).
In July 1939, after scores of subway riders have been injured in the collapse of a subway tunnel, Superman discovers that Star, Inc., the firm that built the tunnel, defrauded the city by charging the city for expensive materials and then using substandard materials on the actual project. Before long, Superman has cornered Mr. Lyons, the head of Star, Inc., and forced him to sign a full confession of his crimes, but but as he races after the speeding automobile in which Lyons's two henchmen are attempting to escape, one of the henchmen presses a button inside the car and the vehicle instantly becomes invisible. "Those men wouldn't have the ingenuity to make that car invisible," muses Superman, "-there's something sinister behind this!" Although the automobile has become invisible, however, it still leaves tire tracks, and Superman's pursuit of the vehicle soon leads him to a boarded-up shed in the countryside where the Ultra-Humanite is lying in wait for him.
As Superman barges headlong into the shed, the villian freezes him inside a block of crystal. "BEHOLD!" gloats the Ultra-Humanite. "My mortal foe imprisoned in crystal....so that I can look upon him and laugh until eternity! "When he destroyed my plane, he thought that I, too, had been eliminated! But unknown to SUPERMAN, I escaped with a parachute! "He alone stood between me and my great goal!...DOMINATION OF THE EARTH! Now I can hasten my plans, unhampered!" However, the villian has not reckoned on the Man of Steel's amazing recuperative powers. "As SUPERMAN revives, he flexes his great muscles and the crystal block explodes!"
Now realizing that capture is imminent unless he somehow escapes, the Ultra-Humanite presses a hidden button and vanishes mysteriously through the center of the floor. A search beneath the floorboards reveals nothing, and when Superman finally races outside, he finds that "the invisible car's gone! He's made good his escape!" Lyons's two henchmen, however, are still inside the shed, and Superman swiftly apprehends them and turns them over to the authorities. "The 'Ultra-Humanite' has got to be stopped before he succeeds in his mad plan to dominate the Earth," muses Clark Kent afterward. "if not, the world will succumb to evil forces!" "Only one obstacle confronts me-Superman!" thinks the villian aloud to himself in the safety and seclusion of some hidden laboratory. "He must be wiped out! It's a terrific task... but my tremendous brain can devise some way to trick him!" (Act No. 14, Jul 1939).
In October 1939, after quelling a raging fire aboard the steamship Clarion, Superman learns that the Clarion is the fourth Deering Lines ship to have recently been "deliberately destroyed" and that a mysterious extortionist has been demanding a payment of $5,000,000 in return for bringing the sabotage to a halt.
To compound the mystery, the Deering Lines' general manager has been receiving telephone calls from the extortionist that do not travel over the telephone company's wires, even though he does receive them on his regular office telephone. "only one person could have accomplished the miraculous scientific feat of telephoning without using the telephone company's lines," thinks Clark Kent to himself, "Ultra,' the mad scientist who seeks domination of the Earth." After trailing the Ultra-Humanite's henchmen to his secret laboratory hideout, Superman finally confronts the villian, who has been attempting to extort money from Derring Lines in order to aquire the funds he needs "to continue my costly subversive activities." Superman hurls himself at the Ultra-Humanite, but his hands only "pass thru [sic] 'Ultra's' figure" as "the scientist's body wavers" and then abruptly vanishes into thin air. "Wh-What?" exclaims Superman, completely bewildered. "--Then it wasn't 'Ultra' who was here, after all--just a projected image of him!" Indeed, the Ultra-Humanite is still at large, but his plot to extort $5,000,000 from the Deering Lines has been thwarted, and his henchmen, apprehended by Superman, will be turned over to the authorities (Act No. 17).
In December 1939 a strange epidemic plagues the population, with strange purple blotches killing the affected. Soon, "the streets are clogged with death [...] Horror grips the city!!" A young scientist, Henry Travers, after reading on old history books of a similar "purple plague" that blighted the middle ages, recognizes that the symptoms are identical, and concocts an antidote. Ultra sees Travers interest in the old book, and after intercepting Traver's call to Clark, kidnap him. Superman rescues the scientist. After receiving news of Superman's interference, swears that "No freak of nature will stop me from achieving my goal!" and then assures that "The human race shall be blotted out so that I can launch a race of my own".
Later, Ultra's henchmen fire an unknown ray and knock out Superman. Ultra tries hypnotizing him, but Superman fakes being controlled, and destroys the "fantastic airship of Ultra's creation" that was spreading its "cargo of Purple Death".
Superman then returns to Ultra's stongholds where the villain tries to blast him, but Superman places the Ultra-Humanite in front of the gun, killing him (Act 19, Dec 1939).
In January 1940 Superman learns that Ultra's assistant revived him "via adrenalin", but as this recovery was only temporary, he orders his henchmen to kidnap Dolores Winters, a movie actress, and then "places his mighty brain in her young vital body." As Dolores, the Ultra-Humanite announces her retirement from acting, and plans a retirement party on her yacht, the Sea-Serpent, where she invites "a gay crowd of leading movie actores, writers, directors, and producers". When the party is in full-swing, she slips away unnoticed and moves the yacht to sea. She then corrals her guests with guns, and shoots one in cold blood. Ultra then announces via the ship's radio that she's holding the celebrities captive and that a sum of five million dollars must be paid to see them again.
The ransom note is delivered to a radio studio manager, and while Superman secretly stands by, the note materializes in front of the studio-head. Seeing that the ransom should be delivered within a buoy near the Centel Lighthouse, Superman follows it into a submerged submarine, and then, to an air-filled cavern. Here Dolores has helmets on the heads of the captives, wired to a control board where she can electrocute them. The Man of Steel throws a huge stalagmite into the switchboard, breaking the electrical connection, and then tries to capture Dolores. She waves a lighted torch in front of the captives, but after seeing Superman blowing it out, she dives into the water and escapes (Act No. 20, Jan 1940).