The Parasite is a fictional character and supervillain who appears in Superman stories published by DC Comics. The Parasite first appeared in Action Comics #340 (August 1966).
Originally a janitor, the Parasite's alter ego has been identified with two different people. In the original Silver Age comics, his alter ego was Maxwell Jensen; after the 1986 Superman origin revamp, his alter ego became Rudy Jones.
In either version, the Parasite possesses the power to temporarily absorb the energy and knowledge of whoever he touches, usually leaving his victims in a weakened state. Given this ability, the Parasite often desires to absorb the Man of Steel's powers for himself.
Maxwell Jensen was lowlife who got a job as a plant worker for a research center. Believing that the company payrolls were hidden in storage containers, he opened one and was bombarded with energies from biohazard materials. His entire being was transformed, because the biohazard material wasn't just toxic, it was waste collected by Superman, when he travelled into outer space!
Transformed into a purple skinned, parasitic entity, Jensen became the Parasite; any time he touched someone, he could absorb their physical and mental properties. Touching Superman would instantly absorb a sizeable fraction of his superhuman powers (it was established early on that he is not capable of acquiring the whole of his powers).
Despite these abilities, the Parasite became depressed due to the fact that he could no longer embrace his wife and children.
The Parasite made a number of reappearances before the Crisis, and was one of the main characters in the second Marvel/DC crossover between Spider-Man and Superman (Marvel Treasury Edition #28).
Originally a menial slacker, Rudy Jones was transformed into the Parasite while working as a janitor at a Pittsburgh S.T.A.R. Labs facility. Unknown to anyone at the scene, the Lord of Apokolips, Darkseid, had memories of the pre-crisis Parasite and manipulated Jones to become the modern version. He made Rudy think that a waste container might have held something valuable. He opened it and was exposed to strange radiation that changed his body into the bald, green-skinned villain (Parasite 1.0). Jones now had the ability to absorb the life energy of other people, leaving smoldering skeletons. This power was necessary for his survival as his own body is in a constant state of hunger for energy that it can't sustain on its own.
After a small number of appearances, he was brought to Belle Reve Prison where doctors attempted to make him human again. Despite their intentions, the doctors only managed to change his skin color to the more familiar purple and also inadvertantly increased his absorption power, enabling him to feed on other forms of energy, such as electricity and heat (Parasite 1.5). After a number of years, the Parasite became involved in the plot to save Superman from overloading on solar energy. Rudy and Superman battled on the moon where Superman uncontrollably unleashed an immense blast of heatvision that the Parasite absorbed, causing him to mutate even further into a huge, hulking monster with teeth resembling a leech's. This mutation (Parasite 2.0) again increased Rudy's draining abilities, allowing him to absorb fast-moving objects' inertia as well as making him impervious to telepathic attack to an unknown extent since he could now drain energy through a mental link as he displayed when Dubbilex telepathically attacked him. His extra size and power did have a downside, however; he needed to absorb more energy more frequently in order to stay alive.
Unfortunately for a scientist that was tending Rudy during one of his terms in imprisonment, he was tricked and somehow absorbed into the Parasite. This joining was different than Rudy's others, he actually retained the scientist, Dr. Torval Freeman, as a part of his own mind. This combined intelligence made the Parasite even more menacing.
Because the Parasite can absorb Superman's energy, he is a formidable foe. The Parasite was recruited by Morgan Edge to be part of the second Superman Revenge Squad. Failure followed every one of his encounters with the Man of Steel. After Superman's powers were converted into electrical based ones, the Parasite returned to see what he could absorb from the Man of Steel. However, at this point in time, Superman was not in full control of what was happening with his powers and nearly killed the Parasite (as seen in Adventures of Superman #552). Later, Parasite returned once again, looking to make trouble for Superman but finding himself facing off against Supergirl instead.
At one point, Rudy was contracted to help drain off a being named Strange Visitor's excess electromagnetic energy as she could not fully control it. This exposure to Strange Visitor's power caused the Parasite to mutate again, giving him the ability to fully and permanently retain the intellects of all of his victims and also allowed him to maintain any stolen energy for up to twenty-four hours. Like Torval Freeman, Rudy also absorbed an unknown shapeshifter into his biology, granting him the permanent power to mimic the exact genetic makeup and appearance of his victims.
After he later escaped from S.T.A.R. Labs in the early 2000s, the Parasite began to form a plan to get back at Superman. He began stalking Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen in an attempt to get to those closest to Superman. The Parasite had taken the form of one of his previous victims, an old man, and was run down in the pandemonium that evening when Lois came to his aide. Not realizing that she was actually in contact with the Parasite, the simple touch was all Rudy needed to get the lowdown on Superman. Rudy was surprised to learn from Lois Superman's secret identity. A new plan formed when he realized how close Superman actually was to Lois; the Parasite decided to take her place and tear him down emotionally by pretending to be a scorned Lois Lane.
Parasite's ruse would probably have worked if he had not had enough of Clark's constant apologies and attempts to get to the bottom of his and Lois' relationship problems. In a fit of rage uncharacteristic of Lois Lane, Rudy punched Clark out of their apartment and into the streets of Metropolis. Shortly after this display, Superman got the Parasite to reveal himself in the guise of Lois Lane. Rudy couldn't handle the fact that anyone other than himself as the Parasite took down the Man of Steel. Just as the Parasite was about to lay the final blow to an exausted Superman, Rudy drops, completely crippled by kryptonite poisoning he had drained from Superman, unbeknownst to either Rudy or Clark. Superman finally realized the reason he has felt so weakened recently was because he was being constantly drained by the Parasite and also the victim of the mysterious kryptonite poisoning.
When he asked Rudy how long he had pretended to be Lois, the Parasite related his story to the Man of Steel. In his final moments he tells Superman that he still needed to have contact with Lois once every twenty-four hours to maintain his charade, confirming that she is still alive. He also told him that Lois loves him more deeply than he could ever know. The Parasite died before he could tell Superman where Lois was imprisoned. Lois was soon found alive by Superman and Batman inside a cave the Parasite had used as a hideout.
Alex and Alexandria
After the villain Ruin (who was secretly Professor Hamilton) performed some experiments, two new Parasites debuted, one purple, the other green. The two new Parasites were teenagers named Alex and Alexandra, who wanted to seek vengeance on the people who made their lives difficult; they were soon subdued by Superman after a battle. After attempting to escape from a meta-human prison, the male parasite, Alex, was killed by an OMAC. His sister Alexandra, the female parasite, escaped and joined the Secret Society of Supervillains under Lex Luthor.
The Parasite appeared in the 1990s television series Superman: The Animated Series, where he was voiced by the late Brion James, The origin for the animated Parasite is fairly consistent with his modern origin. Rudy Jones, janitor at S.T.A.R. Labs, was caught mid-robbery with a crook named Lebeau. They were trying to steal a chemical stored in barrels with unknown properties. When Lebeau and Rudy made their getaway in a pickup truck, Lebeau's anger at Rudy led him to make Rudy ride in the back with the ill-closed barrels. The barrels soon opened, spilling their contents all over Rudy, transforming him into the Parasite; Rudy soon used his new powers to go after Superman. The Parasite discovered Superman's true identity a couple of times, but on each occurrence, Superman managed to harm Rudy enough to damage his memory (having him suck the "power" out of some kryptonite, having Rudy doused by a shower system while the Parasite possessed Livewire's electrical powers, etc.) so that he forgets the knowledge.
This version of the Parasite, although sharing the name 'Rudy Jones' with his modern comic book counterpart, has powers that are more akin to the pre-crisis incarnation named 'Max Jensen', along with the same facial features, or lack thereof.
Parasite later made subsequent appearances in the 2000s series Justice League where he was voiced by Brian George. Gorilla Grodd recruited him into the Secret Society to defeat the Justice League. In Justice League Unlimited, he defeated Elongated Man and Metamorpho before being taken down by the appearance of Captain Marvel. He was later seen as a member of Gorilla Grodd's Legion of Doom. A future version of Parasite was one of the enemies of the future Justice League. It is unsure it is the same Parasite as the previous series because of his new, more grotesque appearance. The Future Parasite was played by Marc Worden.
In the graphic novel Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, Parasite battled Magog and his Justice Battalion over Kansas. Parasite ripped open Captain Atom, releasing a nuclear blast that destroyed much of the American Midwest.
He also appears as a boss in Superman: Shadow of Apokolips video game for GameCube and PlayStation 2.