Ultraman's creator was Eiji Tsuburaya from Tsuburaya Productions, a pioneer in special effects. The show's predecessor was a series called Ultra-Q, a black and white 28-episode series very much like today's The X-Files or The Twilight Zone. The gist of the first series goes like this; Science Patrol (Kagaku Tokusou Tai) member Hayata Shin was flying his plane when a red sphere of light crashes into his VTOL. The sphere turns out to be a giant red-and-silver giant called Ultraman, and feeling remorse for killing the human, he merges his essence with Hayata to revive him. In return, Hayata serves as the human form for this being, and when danger threatens, he raises the Beta capsule and transforms to Ultraman to save the day.
Ultraman ran from July 1966-April 1967 and was followed by many, many other series. Some of the more famous ones include UltraSeven (1967), Return of Ultraman (1971), Ultraman Ace (1972), Ultraman Taro (1973), Ultraman Great @ Ultraman Towards the Future (Australian production), Ultraman Tiga (1996), Ultraman Dyna (1997), Ultraman Gaia (1998) and the most recent incarnation, Ultraman Cosmos (2001). Foreign productions include the 1987 Hanna-Barbera co-production Ultraman: The Adventure Begins, an animated movie; Ultraman: Towards The Future, an Australian 1990 production and Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero, produced in the United States in 1994.
At present, close to 40 Ultraman/women exist, not counting the few animated efforts from Tsuburaya Productions.