The Religious Affiliation of
Professor Adolphus Runyan

Religion: idiosyncratic CBR Scale: S

Name: Professor Adolphus Runyan

Other Names: Professor Runyan

Classification: supporting character supporting character   scientist scientist  

Publisher(s): DC

First Appearance: Superman (vol. 1) #2 (Fall 1939): "Superman Champions Universal Peace!"

Creators: Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster

Number of Appearances: 1

Enemy of: Ambrose, Bartow

Occupation: scientist

Gender: male

Note: invented poison gas that penetrates any gas-mask

Professor Adolphus Runyan was described by Clark Kent's editor as a "scientific genius" who has "set the scientific world on its ears with his amazing inventions." Kent was assigned to interview Professor Runyan about a new discovery he was announcing.

When Clark Kent visited Professor Runyan in his lab, he found that the scientist wanted to announce a new super-deadly poisonous gas that could penetrate any gas mask.

Professor Runyan may have been an decent guy over all. After all, he was strongly opposed to seeing the poison gas he invented used as an offensive weapon. He refused to turn the formula over to gangsters who he knew would sell it to "armament profiteers." Professor Runyan told Clark Kent, "I'll turn it over to our War Department -- but only in the case of a defensive war!" So he really did have strong ideals.

In fact, Runyan died for his ideals. He was so adamant about not turning his formula over to the wrong hands, he ended up being murdered by the "international racketeers" who wanted it so desperately. If Runyan had been a purely self-serving person without religious or ideological ideals, he would simply have sold his formula to the highest bidder. Even if he was simply concerned primarily for his own safety, he might have turned the formula over to the men who threatened him.

We know for certain that Runyan never willingly turned his formula over to anyone. After Bartow murdered Runyan, one of Bartow's henchmen asked him why he killed the scientist before the 24 hours was up. Bartow he arrived at Runyan's lab just as Runyan was about to flee, so he killed Runyan and stole the formula.

On the other hand, Runyan wasn't really a pacifist, pe se. After all, he did invent what he himself called "the most deadly weapon modern warfare has ever seen." After demonstrating his gas to reporter Clark Kent, Runyan said, "Now do you believe me when I say that the world has never seen a discovery of such vast military import?" And many people would probably quibble with the whole idea of a super-deadly poisonous gas as a "defensive" weapon. It isn't entirely clear how Professor Runyan's ideals should be classified, but he certainly had them.

However Runyan should be categorized, one thing is clear: He was not a proponent of animal rights. To demonstrate his gas, Runyan showed Clark Kent a delightfully cute little money named Ambrose. Runyan put a gas mask on the monkey, put the monkey in a glass jar, and then gassed it with ordinary gas to show that the gas mask protected it. Then Runyan gassed little Ambrose with his special supe-penetrating gas mask. Within seconds, the monkey was dead. Professor seemed positively gleeful during all of this. So enamored was he with his invention that he was completely oblivious to any moral aspects relating to killing a monkey purely for demonstration purposes.

Some of Professor Runyan's behavior, including his pride and moral obliviousness relative to his own scientific invention as well as the inherent irrationalities in what he was doing, smack of Scientism. But other aspects of the character are not representative of Scientism. All of this makes Runyan's religious affiliation or ideological position difficult to categorize, but he clearly can not be categorized as non-religious.

This character is in the following story which has been indexed by this website:
Superman (vol. 1) #2 (Fall 1939): "Superman Champions Universal Peace!"

Suggested links for further research about this character and the character's religious affiliation: