I think I’m going to have to find a copy and read this:
On the shelf of Hollis Mason — the original Nite Owl, turned car mechanic — are three books: his memoirs, Under the Hood; Automobile Maintenance; and Philip Wylie’s 1930 novel, Gladiator, which many argue is the original inspiration for Superman.
Reading Gladiator now, as someone who takes Superman for granted, is an almost disorienting experience; it’s almost as if Siegel and Shuster took Wylie’s work and surgically removed, even inverted, all of its dark, lost generation irony.
t…he tone of Wylie’s novel couldn’t be further from a four-color comic book. When Danner joins the French Foreign Legion at the start of the Great War — which certainly sounds romantic, doesn’t it? — he ends up killing German soldiers. Many, many German soldiers. When his friend dies in an artillery barrage that he survives, he goes into a berserk rage and tears apart his enemies with his bare hands. It feels like digging his hands into warm cow manure.