Gladiator (novel)

Gladiator is a science fiction novel by American author Philip Wylie, first published in 1930. The story concerns a scientist who invents an "alkaline free-radical" serum to "improve" humankind by granting the proportionate strength of an ant and the leaping ability of the grasshopper. The scientist injects his pregnant wife with the serum and his son Hugo Danner is born with superhuman strength, speed, and bulletproof skin. Hugo spends much of the novel hiding his powers, rarely getting a chance to openly use them.

The novel is widely assumed to have been an inspiration for Superman due to similarities between Danner and the earliest versions of Superman who debuted in 1938,[1] though no confirmation exists that Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were influenced by Wylie's work.[2]

Gladiator (novel)
Dust jacket of the first edition
AuthorPhilip Wylie
GenreSpeculative fiction
PublisherAlfred A. Knopf
Publication date
Media typePrint


The story begins at the turn of the 20th century. Professor Abednego Danner lives in a small, rural Colorado town, and has a somewhat unhappy marriage to a conservative religious woman. Obsessed with unlocking genetic potential, Danner experiments with a tadpole (which breaks through the bowl he's keeping it in), and a pregnant cat, whose kitten displays incredible strength and speed, managing to maul larger animals. Fearing the cat may be uncontrollable, Danner poisons it. When his wife becomes pregnant with their first child, Danner duplicates his experiment on his unknowing wife.

Their child Hugo almost immediately displays incredible strength, and Danner’s wife realizes what her husband has done. Though she hates him, she does not leave him, and they instead raise their son to be respectful of his incredible gift and sternly instruct him never to fight, or otherwise reveal his gifts, lest he be the target of a witch-hunt. Hugo grows up being bullied at school, unwilling to fight back. However, he finds release when he discovers the freedom the wilderness around his hometown provides, unleashing his great strength on trees as a manner of playing.

Hugo finds success in his teenage years, becoming a star football player, and receives a college scholarship. He spends summers and free time trying to find uses for his strength, becoming a professional fighter and strongman at a boardwalk. After killing another player during a football game, Hugo quits school.

Danner then journeys to France and joins the French Foreign Legion fighting in World War I, where his bulletproof skin comes in handy. Upon returning home, he gets a job at a bank, and when a person gets locked inside the vault, Hugo volunteers to get him out if everyone will leave the room. Alone, Hugo rips open the vault door, freeing the man. The banker's response is not gratitude but suspicion. Hugo is deemed an inventive safecracker who was otherwise waiting for an opportunity to rob the vault. Not only is he fired and threatened with arrest for the destruction of the vault, but he is taken away and (ineffectually) tortured. He withstands all attempts at getting him to tell how he opened the vault, escapes, and lifts a car into the air.

Next, he attempts to have an influence in politics, but becomes infuriated with the state of affairs and the bureaucracy of Washington. Still seeking a goal for his life and a purpose for his powers, he joins an archeological expedition headed for Mayan ruins. Finally finding a friend in the scientist heading the expedition, Hugo reveals his gifts and origin to him. The wise archeologist sympathizes with Danner and suggests some courses of action for him to take. That night, during a thunderstorm, Danner wanders to the top of a mountain, debating what to do. He asks God for advice, and is struck dead by a bolt of lightning.



The novel was made into a comedy movie in 1938 starring Joe E. Brown and released only two months after Superman first appeared on newsstands.[3]


The story was adapted for Marvel Comics in Marvel Preview #9 (published in winter of 1976) by Roy Thomas and Tony DeZuniga, roughly following the storyline of the first half of the novel. (It is unknown if a continuation was planned.) It is billed "from the blockbusting novel 'Gladiator' by Philip Wylie" on the cover, with the story titled "Man God" inside. Thomas later created a character named Arn "Iron" Munro in the DC comic book Young All-Stars, as an homage to Gladiator. Iron Munroe is the son of Hugo Danner, who had faked his death and later returned to Colorado and became a parent.[4]

The novel was adapted into a four issue prestige style comic book by acclaimed writer Howard Chaykin with art by Russ Heath. The series was published by Wildstorm, a division of DC Comics, in 2005. The story was retitled "Legend", although the covers of the first two issues include a large blurb saying "Inspired by Philip Wylie's Gladiator". The setting of the story was moved forward to the second half of the century, and the Vietnam War replaced World War I, but the story remained largely intact.


Season 2 Episode 2 of the television show Fringe, entitled "Night of Desirable Objects", may have been inspired by the novel Gladiator. It involves a scientist who genetically altered his unborn child to enable his survival, and after birth, it developed into a "superbaby".

Publication history

The hardcover novel was first published by New York City, New York's Alfred A. Knopf in 1930, with book club editions that same year from Book League Monthly.

Gladiator has remained in print through several decades, with editions including hardcovers from Shakespeare House (1951), and Hyperion Press (1974, ISBN 0-88355-124-1, with an introduction by Sam Moskowitz), and paperback editions from Avon Books (1949 and 1957), Lancer Books (1958, 1965, 1967, 1973, and 1985), Manor Books (1976), the University of Nebraska Press imprint Bison Books (2004, with an introduction by Janny Wurts, ISBN 0-8032-9840-4), Disruptive Press (2004), and Blackmask (2004, ISBN 1-59654-013-3, ISBN 978-1-59654-013-2).


  1. ^ Feeley, Gregory (March 2005). "When World-views Collide: Philip Wylie in the Twenty-first Century". Science Fiction Studies. 32 (95). ISSN 0091-7729. Retrieved 2006-12-06.
  2. ^ Jones, Gerard. Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book. New York: Basic Books, 2004 (ISBN 0465036562), pg. 346: Wylie threatened to sue Siegel for plagiarism in 1940, but there is no evidence he carried through with the litigation. Historian Jones writes that, "Siegel flatly denied that Wylie's novel had influenced him in any way."
  3. ^ The Gladiator (1938 movie) on IMDb
  4. ^ Thomas, Roy (2011). Alter Ego: Centennial. TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 39. ISBN 1605490318.

External links

Claudia Christian

Claudia Ann Christian (born Claudia Ann Coghlan; August 10, 1965) is an American actress and singer, known for her role as Commander Susan Ivanova on the science fiction television series Babylon 5. She has also voiced several characters for the Bethesda Softworks video games Skyrim and Fallout 4. Her main charity work is publicizing The Sinclair Method as a cure for alcoholism.


A gladiator (Latin: gladiator, "swordsman", from gladius, "sword") was an armed combatant who entertained audiences in the Roman Republic and Roman Empire in violent confrontations with other gladiators, wild animals, and condemned criminals. Some gladiators were volunteers who risked their lives and their legal and social standing by appearing in the arena. Most were despised as slaves, schooled under harsh conditions, socially marginalized, and segregated even in death.

Irrespective of their origin, gladiators offered spectators an example of Rome's martial ethics and, in fighting or dying well, they could inspire admiration and popular acclaim. They were celebrated in high and low art, and their value as entertainers was commemorated in precious and commonplace objects throughout the Roman world.

The origin of gladiatorial combat is open to debate. There is evidence of it in funeral rites during the Punic Wars of the 3rd century BC, and thereafter it rapidly became an essential feature of politics and social life in the Roman world. Its popularity led to its use in ever more lavish and costly games.

The gladiator games lasted for nearly a thousand years, reaching their peak between the 1st century BC and the 2nd century AD. The games finally declined during the early 5th century after the adoption of Christianity as state church of the Roman Empire in 380, although beast hunts (venationes) continued into the 6th century.

Gladiator (novel series)

Gladiator is a series of historical fiction novels for young adults by Simon Scarrow set in ancient Rome in the years before the fall of the Roman Republic. The books tell the story of Marcus Cornelius Primus, a young gladiator and street fighter caught up in the dramatic events unfolding as Rome descends into civil war.


The gladiatrix (plural gladiatrices) is a modern term for the female equivalent of the gladiator of ancient Rome. Like their male counterparts, female gladiators fought each other, or wild animals, to entertain audiences at various games and festivals. Very little is known about them. They were almost certainly considered an exotic rarity by their audiences. Their existence is known only through a few accounts written by members of Rome's elite, and a very small number of inscriptions.

List of superhero debuts

The following is a list of the first known appearances of various superhero fictional characters and teams.

A superhero (also known as a "super hero" or "super-hero") is a fictional character "of unprecedented physical prowess dedicated to acts of derring-do in the public interest." Since the debut of Superman in 1938 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, stories of superheroes — ranging from brief episodic adventures to continuing years-long sagas — have dominated American comic books and crossed over into other media. A female superhero is sometimes called a "superheroine."

By most definitions, characters need not have actual superhuman powers to be deemed superheroes, although sometimes terms such as "costumed crimefighters" are used to refer to those without such powers who have many other common traits of superheroes.

For a list of comic book supervillain debuts, see List of comic book supervillain debuts.

Wilhelm Walloth

Wilhelm Walloth (1854–1932) was a German writer.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.