Action Comics vol.1 #21 - Cover date February 1940
It is the final adventure of the Ultra-Humanite in the pages of Action Comics - or, in fact, in any comic for several decades - putting a seemingly final end to Superman’s first and most deadly nemesis.
In this adventure, scientist Terry Curtis brings the facade of an apartment building down on Clark Kent (and a few pedestrians saved by the disguised Superman’s quick and timely throwing arm) in the middle of the atom-splitting experiments he’s unwisely chosen to conduct in the heart of busy Metropolis. Shaking off a little negligent manslaughter between bros, Clark gets the story about Curtis’ ground-breaking work on the ultimate weapon of mass destruction, the Atomic Disintegrator.
Kent’s article catches the attention of Ultra - still occupying the body of screen siren Dolores Winter - who uses his newly acquired feminine wiles to ultimately abduct the scientist and his terrible weapon.
From there, the brakes are off and the story moves at breakneck pace - booby-traps threaten Metropolis’ doom, Superman is coerced into fighting both the entire metropolitan police force and the National Guard, then there are death-traps for the Man of Steel in a glass city hidden within a volcano and the threat of atomic armageddon looming forever overhead.
Ultra ends the episode by willfully plunging his stolen body into the merciless magma of the rumbling volcano, and Superman sees to it that the secret of the Atomic Disinitegrator follows thereafter. A humbled Curtis is urged to forget the whole thing, and subsequently vanishes.
(At least until 1983, that is - this story is one of a handful retro-engineered by comics scribe Roy Thomas to act as launching points for stories in his Golden Age comics paean, All-Star Squadron. Ultra and Curtis - now the villain Cyclotron - return with only a year having passed, as far as the story was concerned.
It may be worth mentioning that Ultra, in the body of Dolores Winters, had made his re-appearance three years earlier and had become a regular if not consistent face in an assortment of Earth-2-related titles, some of which contradict Thomas’ explanation of how Ultra survived his volcanic plunge)
Ultra’s resemblance to Lois Lane - another brunette with flashing eyes - is worth mentioning, possibly as an additional reason that the villain would soon disappear from the Superman titles despite the fact that the number of super-stories were multiplying rapidly and villains would soon be needed by the bucketful.
It’s also well-accounted for in Jerry Siegel’s own words that not only Lois Lane’s look but her ingenuity and fearlessness were based on the model hired to pose as Lois for artist Joe Shuster - then Jolan Kovacs, later Joanne Siegel. With that in mind, then, was there also a woman of Siegel and Shuster’s acquaintance who inspired the callous, cruel spirit within the beautiful form of Dolores Winters?
It’ll be impossible to say, particularly as here we say goodbye to Ultra in the pages of Action, whoever’s face he chooses to wear.
Beginning in the very next issue of Action, there will be something of a So You Think You Can Arch-Enemy roll call of short-lived thug tacticians, would-be fascist bully-boys and super-scientists appearing before Superman, not the least of which being Ultra’s spiritual successor, the insidious genius and the Man of Steel’s greatest nemesis, Lex Luthor …