Ultraman was originally created by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky, redone by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely and redone again by the writing and art teams of the 52 maxi-series. The New 52 version was created by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis.
Original Continuity: Earth-Three
Ultraman originally hailed from Earth-Three, a universe with a partially reversed history in which Europe was discovered by Native Americans, the British Isles broke away from the United States, and President John Wilkes Booth was assassinated by Abraham Lincoln. Born on a Krypton that didn't explode, the infant was rocketed to Earth. When exposed to kryptonite as he grew up, the young kryptonian was not weakened like Superman, but instead gained a new "ultra-power" each time he was exposed. Adopting the name Ultraman, he decided to use his powers for evil, and set out to conquer his adopted home-planet.
Along the way, Ultraman encountered four other powerful beings; Owlman , Superwoman, Johnny Quick and Power Ring who banded together to better dominate their world as Crime Syndicate of America. Of all his Syndicate compatriots, Ultraman seemed to have a close relationship with Power Ring, and often the two would fight alongside each other when the group would split up.
Ultraman's costume consisted of a blue torso piece with a red "U" on the chest that was not affixed to an shield emblem like Superman. It also had epaulets attached to it and was separate from the arms and legs of his costume. His arm sleeves were blue and had red cuffs at the wrists while his legs were blue with red boots. He wore a red cape attached to the torso piece by two golden buttons.
After the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the multiverse no longer existed. Many of the Earths had been merged together to form one continuity with heroes from various dimensions now fighting alongside one another. In Justice League Quarterly #8, Hal Jordan briefly mentioned a version of Ultraman from Qward in the Antimatter universe, who wore an identical costume to the Silver-Age Ultraman, but had the physical features of a Qwardian being. Together with four other Qwardians, they called themselves the Crime Syndicate. Jordan also mentioned that it took the combined might of both the J.L.A. and the J.S.A. to defeat them, and that they would later fight Captain Comet. This version of the Syndicate would never be seen or heard from again.
Modern Age: Earth-2
In Grant Morrison's JLA: Earth-2, the Crime Syndicate (now from "Amerika") was now said to exist in the antimatter universe of Qward. This Ultraman was a human astronaut named Lt. Clark Kent. After his shuttle exploded while on an exploration mission, an alien race (implied to be the Antimatter universe's Kryptonians) reconstructed his body, and in the process gave him powers similar to Superman, though he needs to be near a substance called "Anti-Kryptonite" in order to sustain them. The reconstruction is also believed to have warped his mind.
Ultraman was seen to have a far more treacherous relationship with the Syndicate compared to the Pre-Crisis version, and often voiced and showed his contempt for his teammates. He forced Superwoman to wed him and physically threatened Owlman (who was having an overt affair with Superwoman) numerous times, only sparing his life because of undisclosed blackmail held by Owlman over him. Due to the malleability of the antimatter universe this Ultraman has been killed more than once but has always come back to life, having something of an awareness of his previous deaths.
In this version, Ultraman's costume was an all-blue, one-piece outfit with gloves and a red cape. The "U" on his chest was now located on an upside-down shield emblem, similar to Superman. He also wore plastic, egg-shaped containers on his outfit that housed anti-kryptonite for recharging and maintaining his powers. His civilian disguise consisted solely of a thin black moustache.
Post-Infinite Crisis: Earth-3
On the new Earth-3, another Ultraman appeared, who was leader of the Crime Society of America. The Society was recruited by Monarch to join his army, and though Ultraman often thought he should be second-in-command of the army, Lord Havok pointed out that it was he who had the brains and experience to lead, not Ultraman. Ultraman sometimes questioned Havok's decisions but followed his orders nonetheless. During the battle on Earth-51, Ultraman spotted the Challengers From Beyond and drove his fist through the back of the Earth-51 Batman's head, killing him instantly. Kyle Rayner used his power ring to toss Ultraman away from the area. When Monarch's suit was ripped open during his battle with Superman-Prime, an enormous blast went off and blew up the Earth-51 universe. Ultraman and the Crime Society were presumed killed.
Similar to the antimatter Ultraman, this costume was a one-piece blue outfit, but with red gloves, boots and a cape. His "U" logo was slightly altered, and the shield emblem to which it was affixed was no longer upside-down.
Brave and the Bold: Antimatter Universe
In The Brave and the Bold #11 a new Ultraman was shown, teaming up with Superman of New Earth and Mr. Mixyezpitelik of the Antimatter Universe to combat Megistus . In this version, Ultraman had a similar costume to Ultraman from Earth-3, but had the background of the previous Ultraman from the Antimatter Universe. He became stronger when exposed to Kryptonite (similar to the Pre-Crisis version), but the longer he stayed in Superman's universe the more he became like Superman. (He started to become weak against Kryptonite, etc.) This version was also shown to have a visible fear of Mixyezpitelik and would often warn the amused Superman not to disobey or provoke him. Ultraman was teleported back to his home universe at the end of The Brave and the Bold #12 .
Editor's note: While this Ultraman could be a completely new and original version of the character, it is equally possible that the writers became confused with his history, and fused two separate versions of him together.
Major Story Arcs
Original Continuity: Earth-Three
"The Most Dangerous Earth of All"
One day, Ultraman developed the ability to see into other universes due his exposure to a piece of Kryptonite. Having largely conquered his own world, he wanted to test his might against the beings of Earth-One and Earth-Two. Though initially stronger than Earth-One's Superman, the combined cunning and resolve of both the Justice League and the Justice Society was too much for Ultraman and the Crime Syndicate and they were imprisoned in an impenetrable prison between universes by Green Lantern Hal Jordan, who also put up warning signs to prevent anyone from releasing them.
They would escape their imprisonment a number of times over the years and seek their revenge. In one such time (DC Comics Presents Annual #1), Ultraman broke free and released Lex Luthor of Earth-One and Alexei Luthor of Earth-Two from prison in order for all three of them to take over Earth-Three. The Supermen of Earth-One and Earth-Two then teamed up with Earth-Three's first (and only) superhero, armored scientist Alexander Luthor, to defeat the evil trio, who were all promptly sent back to their respective prisons.
Crisis on Infinite Earths and Other Appearances
Earth-Three was one of the first Earths attacked by the Anti-Monitor, and the Syndicate found themselves fighting to protect the very Earth they sought to plunder. Distraught at the fact that his superpowers were useless at the one time he actually needed them, he flew straight into the antimatter wave that was destroying Earth-Three. Power Ring, shocked by what he was witnessing, cried out to Ultraman, asking him what he was doing, to which Ultraman stoically replied: "What I have done all my life. I fight... to the very end!".
After his death, the Pre-Crisis Ultraman showed up in the pages of Animal Man. In issues 23-24 ("A Second Crisis"), he learned that he was seemingly a comic book character himself, who existed solely for the entertainment of others, though he initially refused the notion that he was something of a minor character compared to others. He also fought Overman, another Pre-Crisis alternate universe version of Superman who had been infected by a sexually transmitted disease, became insane and killed, seemingly for the sake of killing. Ultraman's personality was also noticeably changed. Rather than the selfish, power hungry being he was before his death, Ultraman was notably concerned with stopping Overman and preventing disaster from occurring once more. He later disappeared back into the mask of the Psycho-Pirate, who, for a time, was the only one who remembered the multiverse that existed before the Crisis.
The Justice League received a call for help from a desperate Alexander Luthor, the only hero in a dark world dominated by the Syndicate and the megalomaniacal Ultraman. This Ultraman married Superwoman in their human guises of Clark Kent and Lois Lane, who still had an affair with Owlman despite the risk of incurring Ultraman's wrath. (Ultraman is aware of the affair, but is held in check by some undisclosed photographic blackmail Owlman holds over him.) Ultraman would occasionally warn the lovers with his heat vision, however.
When the Justice League arrived on the Antimatter Earth, the Crime Syndicate switched places with them, and ended up in the League's universe. Both teams found that they could not succeed in the other universe. Ultraman learned this the hard way when he fought the Martian Manhunter who had remained behind with Aquaman.
Ultraman was discovered in the bottle city of Kandor by Power Girl and Supergirl. He was brought there by Saturn Queen to imitate Superman. Though there are references to both the Pre-Crisis and antimatter Ultramen, he is most likely from the Antimatter Universe, which was supposedly destroyed during the Infinite Crisis by Alexander Luthor Jr. Saturn Queen found him in the Phantom Zone , where she placed him under mind control to make him believe that she was his mother. They ruled harshly, especially against the city's alien population. He was going to be married to Supergirl (who was also under mind control), but she broke free and nearly beat Ultraman to death, only saved by Saturn Queen begging Supergirl not to kill him. He eventually broke free of the Saturn Queen's control and left Kandor, though this was never shown.
Ultraman was shown (reluctantly) assisting Superman and Monitor Zillo Valla in trying to get to Comic Book Limbo. Later, he read the Infinite Book and turned against them, claiming evil wins in the end. Ultraman tried desperately to fight his counterpart, who vanished into Limbo to stop Darkseid. Miserable and completely distraught that he had once again been unable to beat Superman, Ultraman accepted an offer from Mandrakk who turned him into a vampire to serve his needs. He was finally killed by the entire Green Lantern Corps who together formed an enormous stake that impaled Mandrakk, killing them both.
Ultraman (resurrected after the events of Final Crisis) and the antimatter Crime Syndicate return in Justice League of America #50, where they have agreed to work for Dr. Impossible by keeping the League distracted while he finished the touches on the so-called "Resurrection Machine". They planned to revive Alexander Luthor and force him to fix the damage caused on their Earth; however, Ultraman, like the rest of the Syndicate, had come to realize the malleability of their universe after Johnny Quick and Power Ring (for the second time) were replaced, this time by their predecessors (mirroring the events of The Flash: Rebirth and Green Lantern: Rebirth). This, coupled with Ultraman's dreams of his past deaths, led him to argue with Owlman over whether they should even go back to their own universe. Ultraman ended up fighting Supergirl over the skies of Washington D.C., while the rest of the fighting took place in the Hall of Justice, where a being called the "Omega Man" emerged after a malfunction occured in the Resurrection Machine, which killed Power Ring.
They traded blows until Batman (Dick Grayson) called Supergirl back to help out against the Omega Man, who used his own energy to corrupt Supergirl, bringing back her dark half (which appeared in her solo series). She and Ultraman sided with the Omega Man in the later half of the conflict, when Ultraman finally declared to his teammates that he has always tolerated their behavior towards him, and, if he really wanted to, could destroy all of them at any time. He exerted his power, demanding that Superwoman and Donna Troy fight to the death for his amusement. Supergirl then revealed that even in her dark state, she'd been following a plan whispered to her by Batman when she "kissed" him, and joined the League to carry out the rest of the plan. It was a success, with the Tangent Universe Green Lantern bringing Luthor back to life, who in turn instructed the League on how to repair the machine he invented, and in the process destroyed the Omega Man, reversed the damage he originally caused, and sent the Syndicate (now down to the four remaining members and Power Ring's ring,) back into the Antimatter Universe.
The New 52
Ultraman's origin is fundamentally similar to Superman's in that he is from Krypton unlike his Pre-Flashpoint self. However, on this Krypton the civilians are selfish, willing to kill each other to allow their babies to escape the soon to be destroyed planet. While in the Prime Universe, Kal-el's parent's looked at him with love, Kal-il's parents looked at him with contempt and disappointment due to how weak he looked despite him only being a baby. While in his escape pod, Kal listened to voice recordings of his father hammering a mantra of how he should lead his life into him.
Kal-iI's pod was found by the Kent's just like with Kal-El, however, while his Kent's were kind farmers, the Martha Kent of the Earth-3 universe was addicted to drugs while Jonathan was a domestic abuser. The Kent's found Kal eating a chunk of Kryptonite who then used his heat-vision to completely burn off Jonathan's hand and commanded them to raise him. However, when he was 7, they tried to escape the farm and he killed them and buried them in the cornfield. He went on to kill President Lee Oswald and with the aid of the Crime Syndicate ruled over their world until an still unknown threat came and devastated the planet. This eventually led to them coming to the Prime Earth.
Following the DC Multiverse's restructure during Flashpoint, Ultraman and the Crime Syndicate have had their entire history rewritten. No longer do they hail from the Antimatter Universe; instead, they are once again native to Earth 3, a universe where villains, not heroes, are the dominant force. It was revealed in Justice League #23 that the Crime Syndicate of America has been behind the Secret Society of Super Villains' plot, and have been preparing since Darkseid's invasion to take Earth Prime for themselves. Following the success of their plan, Ultraman and his compatriots cross the barrier between the universes and step foot on Earth Prime and attack the heroes of the three different Justice Leagues.
The Crime Syndicate of America defeat the Justice Leagues and take their weapons and accessories as trophies that they later give to their villains after claiming to have killed the Justice Leagues. It was recently revealed that while they did indeed defeat the Justice League, they didn't kill them and instead put them in a prison.
Before this, Ultraman went to Lexcorp to steal some Kryptonite and grind it into dust to snort it as he is now empowered by Kryptonite. After meeting all of the Earth's Super-Villains and revealing Nightwing's identity to the public as Dick Grayson, Ultraman moved the moon out of it orbit to cause an eclipse as he is hurt by the Sun.
While in the remains of the Watchtower, Ultraman debated with Owlman, the merits of killing the unknown person they brought over with them from Earth-3. It was later revealed that the child he thought he was having with Superwoman actually belonged to Owlman.
On his way to Kahndaq Ultraman makes a stop at the Daily Planet, specifically to see Jimmy Olsen, revealing to him that in his universe that Jimmy used to take pictures of Lois Lane in exchange for favours and proceeded to break his hand. As he is about to kill Lois Lane for trying to protect Jimmy and his pent up anger at the Lois Lane of his universe, Jimmy's signal watch, which he normally uses to call to Superman for help, allows Black Adam to know of Ultraman's location. Before he could strike a killing blow,Ultraman is attacked and flown out of the the Daily Planet by Black Adam. Ultraman then proceeds to allow Black Adam to vent his frustration on Ultraman and fly him to the docks and attempt to tear him limb from limb. When this didn't work, Ultraman finally retaliated and back handed Black Adam.
Ultraman and the rest of the Crime Syndicate attempt to battle Batman, Lex Luthor, and the rest of the Injustice League when they attempt to infiltrate the fallen watchtower. Black Adam demands a rematch with Ultraman having lost the previous battle to him and having his jaw broken. When Black Manta and Captain Cold unleash the mysterious masked prisoner the Crime Syndicate was holding, it was revealed that it was Alexander Luthor, the Earth-3 version of Lex Luthor. Alexander has the power of Mazahs (a reverse spelling of Shazam) and appears to have the ability to steal powers. He murders Johnny Quick, steals his powers, and quickly sets his sights on Ultraman. Although Ultraman states that he has defeated Alexander before and is the stronger being, Alexander says that he is the one that that is stronger after stealing more powers of fallen Crime Syndicate members and proceeds to knock out Ultraman. It is also revealed the baby that Superwoman has been carrying is not Owlman or Ultraman's, it is Alexander Luthor's child and Superwoman had been collaborating with him and the one who pushed to keep Alexander Luthor alive. After Lex Luthor manages to kill Alexander Luthor, Ultraman wakes up sets his eyes Lex, applauding him for killing Alexander before he states that he will kill him too. It is then revealed that the Justice League's have been freed from the Firestorm matrix and they proceed to push the moon out of the way of the sun, thus weakening Ultraman and removing his powers. Lex gloats over his victory over Ultraman and even though Ultraman begs to be killed, Lex refuses to do so in order to torture Ultraman knowing that he is weak. Ultraman is then kept in a prison.
Powers & Abilities
Though his powers differ depending on the version, he is for the most part on par with Superman and has the same basic abilities. He is, however, both emotionally and intellectually inferior to Superman, which would normally be his undoing. Pre-Crisis Ultraman was shown to be physically stronger than his rival (in fact, stronger than both Supermen from Earth-One and Earth-Two combined), primarily because being exposed to kryptonite would grant him an additional power. He would usually be defeated with wits by Superman, who would eventually take advantage of his temper and mental instability. Antimatter Ultraman was shown to have the same powers as Superman but only if he had anti-kryptonite on his person, and would lose his abilities and become a normal human again if deprived of it. It was implied that Superman is actually more skilled a fighter than antimatter Ultraman, because Superman fights his foes again and again, forcing him to become better, while Ultraman simply kills them.
The post-Flashpoint version of Ultraman retains the physical prowess of Superman, but with slightly altered strengths and vulnerabilities. Instead of anti-kryptonite, he snorts powdered kryptonite to keep his strength up, and is weakened by sunlight in contrast to how Superman is empowered by it. However, even while weakened by exposure to sunlight, he possessed enough strength to easily push the Moon out of orbit and create a total solar eclipse.
JLA: Another Nail
A version of the Earth-Three Ultraman appears in the 2004 Elseworlds miniseries "JLA: Another Nail", along with the rest of what appeared to be the Pre-Crisis Crime Syndicate.
In Season 10 episode, "Luthor", Clark Kent's evil double, Clark Luthor adopted his super-persona, Ultraman in a parallel universe. In this universe, Clark was raised by the Luthors instead of the Kents. He also killed Lex Luthor and was romantically involved with Tess. He was accidentally misplaced in our universe when Clark Kent activated the kryptonian device. Clark Luthor attempts to destroy the device so that he wouldn't go back to his universe since he hated Lionel who raised him and didn't treat him fairly. During the fight with Oliver/Green Arrow, Tess, and Lois, Clark Luthor was sent back to his own universe when Clark Kent activated the device again.
In the episode, Kent, Clark Luthor finds another mirror device back on Earth-2 and travels to Earth-1 where he exchange places with Clark Kent. Clark Luthor finds Tess and seduces her to tell him the whereabouts of Lionel Luthor. Clark Luthor tells Tess that he wanted to finish off Lionel and take over the Luthor empire. But Tess managed to keep Clark Luthor busy while Lois and Emil Hamilton tries to bring Clark Kent back from Earth-2. When Clark Kent was brought back to Earth-1, he fights off against Clark Luthor and later brought him to the Fortress of Solitude. Clark Kent convinces his evil counterpart to do good things for the people on Earth-2. Later, Clark Luthor was immediately transported to Earth-2's Fortress of Solitude where Jor-El speaks to him.
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
Ultraman is the "Boss of Bosses" in the Crime Syndicate, and voiced by Brian Bloom. This version of Ultraman speaks and behaves in a manner similar to a stereotypical Italian-American mobster, and is weakened by blue Kryptonite instead of green (Ultraman destroyed the last piece of blue Kryptonite on his Earth, but their Lex Luthor had been visiting other Earths). Ultraman is known to be ruthless, and has personally targeted the Presidential family, by slapping President Wilson so hard he started bleeding, killing the First Lady (assassinated in her limo, via heat-vision), and threatening the First Daughter Rose. In the end, Ultraman was arrested by marines led by President Wilson along with the rest of the remaining Crime Syndicate bosses, Power Ring and Superwoman.