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Gardner Francis Cooper Fox (May 20, 1911, Brooklynmarker, New Yorkmarker – December 24, 1986) was an Americanmarker writer best known for creating numerous comic book characters for DC Comics. Comic-book historians estimate that he wrote over 4,000 comics stories.

Early life and career

Gardner F. Fox was born in Brooklynmarker, New Yorkmarker on the 20th of May, 1911. Fox recalled being inspired at an early age by the great fantasy fiction writers. On or about his eleventh birthday, he "had gotten The Gods of Mars and The Warlord of Mars" by Edgar Rice Burroughs, which books "opened up a complete new world for me." In a time before comics existed, he "read all of Burroughs, Harold Lamb, Talbot Mundy," maintaining copies "at home in my library" some 50 years later.

Fox received a law degree from St. John's Collegemarker and was admitted to the New Yorkmarker bar in 1935. He practiced for about two years, but as the Great Depression dragged on he began writing for DC Comics editor Vin Sullivan. Debuting as a writer in the pages of Detective Comics, Fox "intermittently contributed tales to nearly every book in the DC lineup during the Golden Age." He was also a frequent contributor of prose stories to the pulp science fiction magazines of the 1930s and 1940s.

A polymath, Fox sprinkled his strips with numerous real-world historical, scientific, and mythological references, once saying, "Knowledge is kind of a hobby with me." For instance, in the span of a year's worth of Atom stories, Fox tackled the 1956 Hungarian revolution, the space race, 18th-century England, miniature card painting, Norse mythology, and numismatics. He revealed in letters to fan Jerry Bails that he kept large troves of reference material, mentioning in 1971 that:

Books

During his career writing for (DC) comics, Fox also wrote novels and short stories under a variety of male and female pseudonyms for a number of publishers, including Ace, Gold Metal, Tower, Belmont, Dodd Mead, Hillman, Pocket Library, Pyramid Books and Signet Books.

During the mid-to-late 1940s, and into the 1950s, Fox wrote a number of short stories and text pieces for Weird Tales and Planet Stories, and was also published in Amazing Stories and Marvel Science Stories. He wrote for a diverse range of pulp magazines, including Baseball Stories, Big Book Football Western, Fighting Western, Football Stories, Lariat Stories, Ace Sports, SuperScience, Northwest Romances, Thrilling Western, and Ranch Romances for a number of publishing companies.

Between 1944 and 1982, he wrote at least novel a year (except 1950, 1951, and 1971), typically producing three per year - and published twelve in 1974 alone.

Comics

Golden Age

Fox's earliest stories for DC Comics featured Speed Saunders (with art by Creig Flessel and, later, Fred Guardineer) beginning at least with Detective Comics #4. (Speed Saunders was initially credited to "E.C. Stoner," which many believe to be a Fox pseudonym.) As the 1930s progressed, Fox added writing credits on Steve Malone and Bruce Nelson for Detective Comics to his workload (Malone would also appear in issues of Adventure Comics), as well as Zatara for early issues of Action Comics.

During World War II, Fox took over a variety of characters and books of several of his colleagues who had been drafted. He worked for numerous companies including Marvel Comics' 1940s predecessor, Timely Comics; Vin Sullivan's Magazine Enterprises, where he created Skyman; and at EC, where he served a brief stint as head writer. With the waning popularity of superheroes, Fox contributed western, science fiction, humor, romance, and funny animal stories.

Sandman

In 1939, Fox co-created (with artist Bert Christman) the character of the Sandman, a gasmask-wearing costumed crime-fighter whose first appearance in Adventure Comics #40 (July 1939) was pre-empted by an appearance in New York World's Fair Comics (for which Fox also wrote a Zatara story).

Batman

In July, 1939, just two issues after the characters' debut by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger, Fox wrote the first of his several tales of the Batman, introducing an early villain in "The Batman Meets Doctor Death." Alongside Kane and Finger, Fox contributed to the evolution of the character, including the character's first use of his utility belt, which "contain[ed] choking gas capsules," as well as writing the first usages of both the Batarang and the Batgyro (an early Batplane) two issues later.

Fox returned to the Dark Knight in the mid-1960s. (See below)

The Flash

Launching in January, 1940, Fox is credited with writing the first three (of six) stories in the inaugural issue of Flash Comics, including the launch of the titular character, the Golden Age Flash. Described as a "modern-day Mercury," the title feature saw college student Jay Garrick imbued with superhuman speed after inhaling hard water vapors.

Hawkman

Describing the origins of Hawkman, Fox recalled:

Debuting as the third story in Flash Comics #1 (Jan, 1940) -- the second story, by Fox with art by Sheldon Moldoff, featured Cliff Cornwall -- "Fox's imagination [transformed] that bird [into] the soaring, mysterious Hawkman." With art by Dennis Neville, the origin of the 'Winged Wonder' saw archaeologist and collector Carter Hall reliving his past life as Prince Khufu in ancient Egypt, creating a costume (powered by Nth metal), confronting the reincarnation of Hath-Set, his former nemesis, and meeting his reincarnated love, Shiera Saunders. Shiera Saunders would later be revealed as the first-cousin of Speed Saunders, Fox's first DC credit.

The Justice Society of America

Regularly writing more than six stories in five titles per month, every month throughout the early 1940s, Fox also continued to create new features. In May 1940, with artist Howard Sherman, he created the character of Doctor Fate, in the person of Kent Nelson, the son of an archaeologist, trained after the death of his father by the Lord of Order Nabu.

At the time, DC Comics consisted two discrete sub-companies, Max Gaines' All-American Publications and Harry Donenfeld & Jack Liebowitz's National Periodical Publications. Though he continued to script for National/Detective Comics, Inc., Fox became the head writer for All-American. While Fox's Dr. Fate (and other titles) was published by National; Sandman, Hawkman and the Flash were released by All-American. In Winter 1940, the third issue of All-American's All-Star Comics debuted the Justice Society of America, the first superhero team in comics. Fox had worked on the Hawkman, Flash and Sandman features in All-Star for its first two issues (Summer and Autumn, 1940), but from issue #3 (Winter), he assumed full writing duties for the issue, with all features (by different artists) working within the framing device wherein the characters were described as part of a "Justice Society."

In the pages of All-Star Comics #3, under the direction of editor Sheldon Mayer and with artists including E. E. Hibbard, Fox created the first superhero team, the Justice Society of America. Each character - Fate, Sandman, Flash and Hawkman were joined by Dr. Mid-Nite, Hour-Man, the Spectre, the Atom and Green Lantern - was introduced by themself (or Johnny Thunder), and related a solo adventure, before being charged at the title's end with remaining a loose team by the Director of the FBImarker. In April, 1941, Fox created the character of Starman with artist Jack Burnley in the pages of Adventure Comics #61, and the character would also later join the JSA.

Non-DC work

Between 1940 and 1941, Fox wrote for the Columbia Comic Corporation, penning stories featuring characters including "Face," "Marvelo," "Rocky Ryan," "Spyman," and "Spymaster." For approximately three years (1947-50), Fox wrote for EC Comics, including scripts and text pieces which appeared in the famous The Crypt of Terror, The Vault of Horror and Weird Fantasy titles, as well as in the lesser-known Gunfighter, Happy Houlihans, Saddle Justice and the new trend title Valor, among others.

Towards the end of the decade, and the start of the 1950s, he worked for Magazine Enterprises on features including "The Durango Kid," the first Ghost Rider, "Red Hawk," "Straight Arrow" and "Tim Holt," in whose comic the Ghost Rider appeared. Fox also wrote some of the required text pieces for Magazine Enterprises, which were required by the Post Office to qualify magazines and comics for cheaper postal rates.

Throughout the 1950s, Fox also wrote stories for Avon Comics, most notably tales of "Crom the Barbarian", and of "Kenton of the Star Patrol."

Silver Age

In the early 1950s, Fox wrote Vigilante in Action Comics, as well as Western stories in the pages of Western Comics and sci-fi stories for DC's Mystery in Space and Strange Adventures. In 1953, he entered into correspondance with fan Jerry Bails, which initially focused on Bails' fondness for the Justice Society and All-Star Comics, but ultimately became a friendship that not only informed and influenced the dawning of comics' Silver Age, but also comics fandom, in which Bails played a key role.

In the mid-1950s, in the wake of the crackdown on comics which followed Fredric Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent and the United States Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency hearings on the dangers of comic books, the content of comics faced radical overhauls and the imposition of the censoring Comics Code Authority body. In partial response to this shift, DC editor Julius Schwartz began a widespread reinvention/revival of many Golden Age heroes, and "Fox was one of the first writers... Schwartz called in to help." The Silver Age of heroes began in the pages of Showcase #4 (Oct, 1956) with a radically overhauled Flash character by writers Robert Kanigher and John Broome with penciler Carmine Infantino.

Under the "creative guidance" of Fox and Schwartz, "Hawkman and the Atom were given new costumes, new identities," and drew an audience of fans old and new. Fox also penned the reinvention of the new Atom, who debuted in Showcase #34 (Sep-Oct, 1961) with art by Gil Kane three years after his creation of sci-fi hero Adam Strange, who debuted in #17 (Nov, 1958) with art by Mike Sekowsky.

Multiverse

Fox's script for "Flash of Two Worlds!", from The Flash #123 (Sept. 1961), introduced the concept that the Golden Age heroes existed on a parallel earth named Earth-Two. This event heralded more generally the concept of the DC Comics Multiverse, a decades-long recurring theme of the DC Comics universe, allowing old and new heroes to co-exist and crossover.

The Justice League of America

Another of Fox's key Silver Age achievements saw him revive and revitalise the concept of the Justice Society as the Justice League of America, debuting in Brave & the Bold #28 (Feb/Mar 1960). Swiftly spun off into their own title in Oct/Nov 1960, the Justice League would become the backbone of the DC Universe, and thanks to the concept of the multiverse, regularly engage in annual "team-up"s with their 1940s counter-parts, the Justice Society in tales written by Fox.

Silver Age Batman

Fox returned to writing Batman stories in 1964, some 17 years after his last tales. Following the Silver Age trends, he reintroduced characters including The Riddler and The Scarecrow. Fox's "Remarkable Ruse of the Riddler" (with art by Sheldon Moldoff) in Batman #171 (May, 1965) not only updated and refreshed the character launched in 1948, but officially relocated the villain to the newly identified Earth-1 after his (now retroactively-labelled) Earth-2 debut. Eighteen issues later, Fox and Moldoff similarly resucitated and relocated Professor Jonathan Crane, launching the Earth-1 Scarecrow in "Fright of the Scarecrow," Batman #189 (Feb 1967). Golden Age appearances of these two villains number just two each. The Riddler had been unseen since December 1948 (a bare two months after his debut) and the Scarecrow had been unseen since 1943. The revised and relaunched Earth-1 incarnations, however, would see both characters become two of the Caped Crusader's most famous foes.

Leaving DC

Fox stopped receiving work from DC in 1968, when the comics company refused to give health insurance and other benefits to its older creators. Fox, who had written a number of historical adventures, mystery and science fiction novels in the 1940s and the 1950s, began to produce novels full time, both under his own name and several pseudonyms. He produced a small number of comics during this period, but predominantly focused on novels, writing over 100 in genres such as science fiction, sword and sorcery,espionage, crime, fantasy, romance, western, and historical fiction.

Among his output was the modern novelisation of the Irwin Allen production of Jules Verne's Five Weeks in a Balloon, two books in the "Llarn" series; five volumes dealing with the adventures of "Kothar" (beginning with the 1969 novel Barbarian Swordsman) and four books detailling the adventures of "Kyrik," starting with Warlock Warrior (1975).

For Tower Books, he produced between thirteen and twenty-five "Lady from L.U.S.T." (League of Undercover Spies and Terrorists) novels between 1968 and 1975 under the name Rod Gray. With Rochelle Larkin and Leonard Levinson, Fox used the pen-name "Glen Chase" to write entries in the "Cherry Delight, The Sexecutioner" series.

His personal pen-names have included Jefferson Cooper, Bart Sommers, Simon Majors, Paul Dean, Ray Gardner, and Lynna Cooper.

Later comics work

In the early 1970s, Fox briefly worked for DC's rival publisher, Marvel Comics, writing scripts for features such as Dr. Strange, Dracula and Red Wolf. In 1971, Skywald Publications reprinted some of his earlier work on titles such as Demona, Nightmare, Red Mask and Zanagar, and Fox also found work for Warren Publications on Creepy and Eerie during the same period.

Towards the end of his life, in 1985, he worked briefly for Eclipse Comics including on the science fiction anthology Alien Encounters.

Hobbies and achievements

During the course of his career, Fox can be definitely credited with around 1500 stories for DC Comics, making him the second most prolific DC creator (after Robert Kanigher) by a considerable margin over his nearest rival. In July, 1971, Fox estimated he had written "[f]ifty million words" over the course of his career to date.

He was a member of a number of literary and genre organisations, including the Academy of Comic Book Arts and both the Authors Guild, the Authors League of America and the Science Fiction Writers of America. As a lawyer, he was also a member of the prestigious legal fraternity Phi Delta Phi.

A sports fan, he liked both "the Mets and the Jets," and (in 1971) had "season tickets to the St. John's games." A voracious reader, he stated that:

Awards

Fox won two 1962 Alley Awards — for Best Script Writer and for Best Book-Length Story ("The Planet that Came to a Standstill" in Mystery in Space #75), with penciler Carmine Infantino) — as well as a 1963 Alley, for Favorite Novel ("Crisis on Earths 1 and 2" in Justice League of America #21-22, with penciler Mike Sekowsky), and the 1965 Alley for Best Novel ("Solomon Grundy Goes on a Rampage" in Showcase #55) with penciler Murphy Anderson).

He was honored at the New York Comic Art Convention in 1971, and received an Inkpot Award at the San Diego ComiCon in 1978. In 1982, at Skycon II, he was awarded the "Jules Verne Award for Life-time achievement."

In 1998, he was posthumously awarded a Harvey Award and entered into the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame; a year later, he was inducted into the Eisner Award Hall of Fame.

In 2007, Fox was one of the year's two recipients of the Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing, given under the auspices of Comic-Con International.

Legacy

In 1967, Fox's literary agent, August Lenniger, suggested that Fox donate his notes, correspondence, and samples of his work to the University of Oregonmarker as a tax write-off. Fox donated over fourteen boxes of comics, books, scripts, plot ideas, and fan letters dating back to the 1940s. Today, his records comprise the bulk of the university's Fox Collection.

In 1968, Green Lantern debuted a character named after him, Guy Gardner. Another DC character, Atomic Knight Gardner Grayle, was also named after him.

Gardner Fox died on December 24, 1986. He was survived by his wife Lynda, his son Jeffrey, his daughter Lynda, and four grandchildren.

In 2002, the Cartoon Network aired an episode of the animated TV series Justice League titled "Legends", an homage to Fox's Justice Society and his annual Silver Age Justice Society/Justice League crossovers. The episode was dedicated to Fox.

Quotes

Gardner Fox speaking at Phil Seuling's New York Comic Art Convention, 1971:

Footnotes

  1. Mike's Amazing World of DC Comics: "The Mystery of San Jose Island" in Detective Comics #4. Accessed July 31, 2008
  2. Thrilling Detective: Speed Saunders. Accessed July 31, 2008
  3. From issue #8's "The Indian Prince," with art by Fred Guardineer. See Mike's Amazing World of DC Comics. Accessed July 31, 2008
  4. Mike's Amazing World of DC Comics: "Sandman at the World's Fair" in New York World's Fair Comics #1. Accessed July 31, 2008
  5. Mike's Amazing World of DC Comics: "The Batman Meets Doctor Death" in Detective Comics #29. Accessed July 31, 2008
  6. Mike's Amazing World of DC Comics: "Batman vs. the Vampire" in Detective Comics #31. Accessed July 31, 2008
  7. Marx, Barry (ed.) "Gardner Fox: DC's Universe Expands" in Fifty Who Made DC Great (DC Comics, 1985), p. 16
  8. Mike's Amazing World of DC Comics: "(The Disappearing Plane)" in Flash Comics #1. Accessed July 31, 2008
  9. Mike's Amazing World of DC Comics: Gardner F. Fox. Accessed July 31, 2008
  10. The Who's Who of American Comics: Gardner Fox. Accessed July 31, 2008
  11. Mike's Amazing World of DC Comics: "Remarkable Ruse of the Riddler" in Batman #171 (May, 1965). Accessed July 31, 2008
  12. Mike's Amazing World of DC Comics: "Fright of the Scarecrow," Batman #189 (Feb 1967). Accessed July 31, 2008
  13. Mike's Amazing World of DC Comics: Riddler of Earth-2. Accessed July 31, 2008
  14. Mike's Amazing World of DC Comics: Scarecrow of Earth-2. Accessed July 31, 2008
  15. Gardner F. Fox at Fantastic Fiction. Accessed July 1, 2008
  16. Percy Trout, "The Lady from L.U.S.T.," May 20, 2007. Accessed July 31, 2008
  17. "Rod Gray" at Fantastic Fiction. Accessed July 31, 2008
  18. "Glen Chase" at Fantastic Fiction. Accessed July 31, 2008
  19. Mike's Amazing World of DC Comics: "Top 25 DC Creators by Category - Writers". Accessed July 31, 2008
  20. Seuling, Phil (ed.) "Jim Steranko & Gardner Fox at the 1971 Comic Art Convention Luncheon - July, 1971" - Interviews by John Benson and Phil Seuling, (transcribed and edited by Benson) in 1972 Comic Art Convention Programme (Seuling, 1972) pp. 70-78
  21. Evanier, Mark. "This Year's Bill Finger Award," News from Me, June 5, 2007.
  22. Gilbert, Michael. T. "The Fox and the Fans: Letters to Gardner F. Fox From Future Pros, 1959–1965." Alter Ego, vol. 2, no. 1 (Spring 1998), pp. p. 5-9.


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