Real Name: Hugo Danner
Identity/Class: Human mutant
Occupation: College Football star, carnival strongman, soldier
Affiliations: French Foreign Legion, Thomas Shayne
Known Relatives: Abednego Danner (father), Mathilda Danner (mother), Arnold "Iron" Munro (son, see comments)
Aliases: None (though the novel is called Gladiator and the Marvel adaption uses the title "Man-God", Hugo used neither within the actual story)
Base of Operations: Mobile across the world
First Appearance: Gladiator (Alfred A. Knopf, 1930)
Powers/Abilities: Hugo's bones and flesh are many times denser and more efficient than a normal humans; as he describes it, he is made of steel where others are made of meat. He is strong enough to lift a car, throw boulders as if they were baseballs, or bend steel with his bare hands. Able to run faster than a train, he can also leap more than forty feet straight up. His body is durable enough to resist anything short of mortar shells with ease. He can hold his breath for hours at a time.
History: "What would you do if you were the strongest man in the world, the strongest thing in the world, mightier than the machine?" He made himself guess answers for that rhetorical inquiry. "I would run the universe single-handed. I would scorn the universe and turn it to my own ends. I would be a criminal. I would rip open banks and gut them. I would kill and destroy. I would be a secret, invisible blight. I would set out to stamp crime off the earth."
The son of Professor Abednego Danner, Hugo Danner was born with superhuman powers after Abednego deliberately gave his pregnant wife a chemical formula he had created, experimenting on the baby without her knowledge. The Professor had wanted to enhance mankind and create a perfect physical specimen; he succeeded. Even as an infant Hugo was so strong his playpen had to be made out of steel. He had a lonely childhood, and as he grew up, his great strength made him feel isolated from the rest of humanity. He became desperate for acceptance, a feeling that would accompany him throughout his life. After an incident with a bully, his parents were careful to teach him to downplay his true strength level, lest he scare people into trying to destroy him.
When he went to Webster College, New York, Hugo soon became a star football player; during spring break he paid his way working at Coney Island as a strong man. His sporting career was cut short when he lost his temper during a match and killed one of the opposing team. Hugo set off to travel the world, trying to figure out what to do with his life. When war broke out in Europe, Hugo became a soldier in the French Foreign Legion, gaining a formidable reputation with both sides, as he finally allowed himself to cut loose. Though Hugo found he couldn't be hurt by the enemies' weapons, he soon realised the same was not true of his friends serving with him, and by the end of the war he had grown sickened by the conflict and loss of life. After the war ended, he returned home to the States, where he tried a variety of jobs. He tried working in a steel mill, but was swiftly fired because the foreman felt he made the other workers look bad. He found employment working in a bank, but when a man became trapped in the vault, Hugo ripped the doors off to free the victim, only to become a fugitive as a result.
On his father's deathbed, Hugo swore to try and use his powers for good, to become "an invisible agent of right", a "super-reporter" who would expose corruption in Washington, D.C.. He swiftly found this to be akin to trying to hold back the sea; no matter how many criminals he dealt with, many more remained. No matter how powerful he was, he was only one man. Uncovering his father's formula, Hugo went to South America to get away and find time to think. He briefly considered making use of the formula to create a new race of people like himself, "the Sons of the New Dawn", and lead them in cleaning up the world. Musing things over on a mountaintop, Hugo lost his temper and yelled for God to give him a sign, at which point he was struck by lightning and killed.
Comments: Created by Philip Wylie. Hugo Danner is widely believed to be one of the inspirations for Superman, whose original powers were almost identical. He also probably inspired Doc Savage, another superstrong man created by his father's (somewhat more moral and less radical) experimenting, and possibly Captain America too (given a formula which makes him a perfect physical specimen). Even Spider-Man may have been influenced by Danner's story - early in their careers both have similar experiences in a sporting match (boxing for Danner, wrestling for Spider-Man) which they enter as a way of using their great powers to make money.
DC Comics made use of the character, establishing that Danner survived being struck by lightning, faked his death, and then did go about creating the Sons of the New Dawn, with a view to conquering the world and ushering in a new golden age. His illegitimate son, "Iron" Munro, who had similar powers to Hugo, discovered this, and led his allies in the All-Star Squadron in thwarting this scheme.
Marvel Comics also used the character, adapting the first half of the novel into a strip which was printed in Marvel Preview #9. Since then his story was adapted as Legend for Wildstorm, and he's now being used in Moonstone's Pulp Universe.
Any Additions/Corrections? Please let me know.
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