In 1940, on this day the originator of the super-hero concept, Philip Wylie sued the creators of Superman Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster for plagiariasm. Wylie's own Man God was known as "The Gladiator" and had been published a decade before in 1930.
The GladiatorThe plot similiarities were of course blatantly undeniable; a father who creates a son that can jump buildings, herculean strength, growing up in a small farming town, tendency to lift up automobiles, an artic fortress and most tellingly of all, a meek attitude for their public personae.
The result of the protracted legal battle with Siegel and Shuster would have tremendous implications for the whole mileau, in a very real sense the plagiarism case became a battle for the soul of the comic book. The cheap pulp trash of superman would be forced to give way to the metaphysical reflection which was the essence of Wylie's genius. The only remaining copy of the withdrawn superman comic would appear on Hollis Mason's shelf in one panel of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' "Watchmen", perhaps suggesting that the Watchmen Universe was set in a timelime where Wylie did not pursue legal action.
Richard Donner's 1978 movie would feature Christopher Reeve as "The Gladiator" possessing incredible gifts but simply unable to find his place in the world. In the tragic climax, the superhero is struck by lightning whilst asking questions of God, echoeing Wylie's own religious doubts.