|able to leap over tall buildings|
|1949 Avon edition|
I've seen it suggested that Gladiator was a possible source of inspiration for the comic book idea of a "man of steel". In Philip Wylie's 1930 story, the titular "gladiator" is a man (Hugo Danner) who was given super-human physiology by his father. Abednego Danner worked as a biology professor at a small college and in his spare time he experimented in his home laboratory. One day he discovers how to magically endow animals with great strength and epidermal toughness. By injecting his pregnant wife with a magic potion, Abednego transforms his son into a superman who can jump over buildings and whose skin deflects bullets.
|cover art by Frank Paul|
|cover by David Bergen|
|cover art by Howard Brown|
Asimov apparently read every 1930s science fiction story that was published in the pulp magazines. "Cosmic Quest" by Edmond Hamilton provides an example of the kind of science fiction story available to the young Asimov, and it is an example of a story that had its roots in physical science.
Now, after 80 years, here in 2016, science fact is starting to catch up with Hamilton's imagination.
|pulp magazine ad|
Gernsback made use of the available talent, but writers from Gernsback's generation, such as David Keller, were trapped in the past. A new generation of writers was needed.
|The Time Projector|
|Hugo Gernsback and David Lasser|
|cover art by Ralph McQuarrie|
What were writers such as H. G. Wells and Philip Wylie thinking when they imagined a science of biology that could control and re-shape the human body?
I can't really imagine a place for Gladiator in the science fiction genre. Wells and Wylie were more interested in politics than science. What kind of retro-configuring would be required to bring Wylie's tale into the realm of science fiction?
|Openly adapted as a comic book story|
after Wylie's death
I'll always be grateful that a few scientifically-literate authors such as Asimov were able to give us a some thoughtful stories about robotic men of steel. That is a rare gift to hold on to; something other than the absurd and endlessly rehashed pop culture super-heroes.
Next: the scientific novel
|Philip Wylie's Gladiator re-imagined with the Vietnam War taking the place of World War I.|