Public Domain Super Heroes
Gladiator (novel)

Real Name

Hugo Danner

First Appearance

Gladiator (1930)

Original Publisher

Alfred A. Knopf

Created by

Philip Gordon Wylie


Hugo Danner is a fictional character, the protagonist of the 1930 American novel Gladiator, by Philip Gordon Wylie. Born in the late 19th century with superhuman abilities via prenatal chemical experimentation, Danner tries to use his powers for good, making him a precursor of the superhero. However, Danner grows disillusioned with his inability to find a permanent outlet for his great strength, and dies frustrated.


  • While no confirmation exists that Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel was influenced by Gladiator, Siegel did read the novel in 1932 and reviewed the book in his Science Fiction fanzine. The first Superman character (Bill Dunn) created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster was not a hero, but rather a villain. Their short story "The Reign of the Super-Man" concerned a bald-headed villain, somewhat reminiscent of Flash Gordon's Ming the Merciless, bent on dominating the world. The story did not sell, forcing the two to reposition their character on the right side of the law. In 1933, their Superman story was again rejected by newspaper syndicates wanting to avoid lawsuits, who recognized the character as being a slightly altered Hugo Danner, the lead character from Philip Wylie's 1930 novel. Siegel and Schuster created a new Superman in next year.

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