A novel written in 1926 and published in 1930 by Philip Wylie, not to be confused with the 2000 movie of the same name
. Not great literature, but truly genre-making. The story of Hugo Danner, whose professor father experimented on him as a fetus, so that he developed a reasonable degree of Invulnerability
and Super Strength
. The plot is mainly concerned with Danner dealing with his singular condition as he attempts to find a useful place in society, which turns out to be harder than you'd think.
He suffers the guilt of killing another player on the field when he plays football and drops out of college. He gets a job in a bank, but finds he has to save a man who will suffocate inside a safe by ripping the safe open, leading his employers to attempt to find out how he managed it through (ineffectual) torture and ultimately lose his job. He has another job as a manual laborer, but loses that because he's making the other workers look bad. He finds some use for his abilities in World War I
, and is about to attempt to end the war single-handed when it ends of its own accord. He is ultimately appalled by the whole experience. Eventually, while helping on an expedition amongst the Mayan ruins, he takes the expedition leader into his confidence. They discuss the possibility of creating more people like himself, to be used to improve the world. Deeply concerned with the possibility, he stands on a mountain in a storm and asks God to judge. God provides his answer
This work is mainly significant because it may be the first modern depiction of a superhero, and seems to have been a great influence on the story of Superman
and Doc Savage
Contains examples of:
- Does Not Know His Own Strength
- Downer Ending
- Guinea Pig Family
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Instead of being thanked for saving a fellow employee from suffocating in a bank vault, Danner is immediately suspected for planning to rob the bank with his super strength at a later date, and is promptly fired and interrogated.
- Shooting Superman
- These Look Like Jobs For The Superman: Deconstructed because Hugo Danner attempts to find a Mundane Utility to his Invulnerability and Super Strength doomed his life:
- As a child, he tries to be a Bully Hunter and almost kills The Bully, scaring all the other kids who consider him a Enfant Terrible when he really is a Nice Guy.
- As a young man, He tries to go to college as a Scholarship Student, but he Does Not Know His Own Strength and commits an Accidental Murder. He has to drop out college.
- Trapped in World War I, he becomes a Super Soldier killing as many German soldiers as he can for the French Foreign Legion. He decides to become a useful Super Soldier by Instant-Win Condition: hijacking a plane, infiltrating Germany and killing the German Emperor and his generals to force a Decapitated Army. Unfortunately, Reality Ensues and the war ends on his own accord.
- Later He tries to be a bank teller, but he has to rip the safe open to save the life of a man. His boss considers him a peril and tries to torture him into the truth. Hugo has Invulnerability and he cannot convince his boss of his sincerity, so his boss only fires him.
- Later He does a good job in an Steel Mill and as a farm laborer, but he makes the other workers look bad, so he has to quit.
- When he tries to be an Adventurer Archaeologist, he compares the Egiptians and Mayans and tries to explain his own life and realizes that he is The Woobie. That motivates him to Rage Against the Heavens and gets a Bolt of Divine Retribution.
- Unbuilt Trope: For Superman specifically, and super-powered superheroes in general.
- With Great Power