What these stories have in common is being the equivalent of superhero or supervillain stories, but simply not following it to that conclusion. (Minor spoilers, but nothing I didn’t know prior to starting each book.)
The Gladiator is widely reported as a predecessor to Superman, and it’s not hard to see the connections. It’s the story of Hugo Danner, who was given superpowers in utero and was super strong, super fast, and all of that. Like young Clark Kent, he was told to keep his powers incognito. For a superhero origin, it’s pretty modern in its sensibilities. Which is to say, it’s grim and depressing. He is utterly alone in the world and has enormous difficulty relating to other people. When he graduates high school, he immediately leaves Colorado for like in New York. Tragedy strikes while he’s there and he accidentally kills someone. This is where the superhero part would start… except it doesn’t. He saves a few people, but mostly just looks to find his place in a world where he just doesn’t fit, and just doesn’t have a place for him. The closest thing he finds is the battlefield in World War I. But short of a costume and S-symbol, what can you even do with superpowers?
The Count of Monte Cristo is closer to a supervillain story, albeit a somewhat sympathetic one. Edmund Dante is wrongly convicted for treason and ends up in prison. While there he makes the acquaintance of someone else, who gives him a good liberal arts education and upon his exit tells him where he can find lots of money. Upon release, his mission is to settle scores. Reward those who helped him, and seek revenge on those who wronged him. It’s a whopping 50-hours long (once completed, this will be the second longest audiobook I’ve consumed, after Atlas Shrugged) and I’m only about 10-hours into it. Dante is already mixed in with the criminal underworld, and really just has scheming villain written all over him. Except that he wears no supervillain armor. Also, he is the protagonist.
So what are you watching/reading/etc?