Monday, April 30, 2018

Man And Superman!


Philip Wylie's novel Gladiator is cited as the source of inspiration for both Street and Smith's Doc Savage as well as DC's Superman. We have here a man named Hugo Danner, made "super" by dint of his father's immoral experiments and who must then live his apart from other humans with whom he has relatively little in common. The absolute cruelty of the father in the story is downright shocking at times as he runs roughshod over the norms of his  scientific era by experimenting on his own progeny and the brutal way in which he treats his own wife as merely a vessel in his experiments. There's strange lip service about being subject to her desires and wishes, but it's poppycock.


Hugo Danner grows up to be a weird young man who has a strange interaction with a world in which he is nearly impervious to harm and filled with vast strength, but is not gifted necessarily with special insights into humanity itself. He's a freak of sorts, an outsider who tries to find inroads into the larger society, but who fails and not always because of his unique physical nature. His first romance, one which seems headed for marriage is waylaid after sexual contact proves oddly inadequate though pleasurable. Women become something seemingly that Danner dispenses with early in his life, and Wylie's tale suggests that has much to do with the cold relationship of his parents.

(Gladiator was adapted to comic book form by Marvel in ninth issue of Marvel Preview under the title of "Man-God".)

Hugo Danner becomes a man who doesn't fit into society, his strength a boon to many, but the oddity of his nature making him an outsider. He seems to want to be a good guy, but the idea really feels alien in a story which seems to not fully understand the signficant element of compassion in the make up of a hero. Either the writer Wylie does not want Danner to be a "hero" or he doesn't feel that aspect of humanity is valid. The ending of the story is a bit of a surprise, but weirdly not a letdown.

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7 comments:

  1. The concept of a superior child being raised in isolation with experimental science was also picked up by Simon and Kirby for Private Strong, the Shield. Perhaps Lancelot Strong was related to Alan Moore's Tom Strong, who had a similar upbringing.

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    1. It's an idea with legs for sure. Doc Savage has some of this in his background.

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  2. It's interesting that Earth-born Hugo Danner is, in many ways, more alien than the Kryptonian Kal-El.
    Personally, i blame Hugo's grandparents for naming his father Abednego. That's got to mess a kid up.

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  3. BTW - Thanks!
    I had completely forgotten that the comic adaptation existed, even though it's hiding in the back of the cave. Going to go dig it out now.

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