- The History of Comic Books  

Gardner Fox

Gardner Fox was born on May 20th, 1911 in Brooklyn, New York. His first career was as a lawyer. He got a law degree at St. John's College and was admitted to the New York bar in 1935. Gardner practiced law for about 2 years when he was asked to write comics by an earlier DC editor Vincent Sullivan. The great depression was hard on Fox and his legal practice, so he took the work. His first story was for Steve Mallone, District Attorney. Gardner later wrote scripts for Fred Guardineer's Zatara, the Magician and Batman.

Gardner first started working on Batman with another writer named Bill Finger. The 5 stories that ran from Detective Comics #29 to #32 introduced two of Batmans first big name villains for that time. They were Doctor Death and The Monk. He also introduced some of Batman's famous tools such as "The Batarang" and "The Batplane". Fox then started to co-create comic characters with several artists. Among these characters were The Sandman with Craig Flessel (who was based on the pulp hero called the Gray Seal), Starman with Jack Burnley (who is considered to be one of the first super powered heroes, because he had "gravity rod" that could make him fly), and Dr. Fate who was totally created by Fox (costume and all), but was drawn by Howard Sherman. Dr. Fate was inspired by H.P. Lovecraft. Fox continued to be a regular writer for these strips and later expanded to do stories and characters for other companies.

Fox's friend Vincent Sullivan left DC for Columbia, Fox created for them the characters Skyman and The Face. Fox then continued to work only for DC on his regular characters and for a new DC related company called All-American Comics. The new All American line of comics was started up by DC co-publisher Max Gaines and his assistant cartoonist, Sheldon Mayer. They decided to start up a line of mainly superhero stories. Mayer selected Gardner to be the head writer and for the first time, Gardner Fox got a byline on Flash Comics #1. In there was a light hearted hero known as The Flash, which Fox created with artist Harry Lampert. The Flash's costume had a red shirt with a yellow lighting on it, and his powers were super speed. It's a good thing too because his comic narrowly beat out another comic of the same name. That comic also had a super hero with a similar costume but had the name Captain Thunder. They changed that comic to Thrill Comics and later to Whiz Comics. The name of the character was changed to Captain Marvel (or Shazam).

Along with The Flash, Fox created Hawkman (with artist Dennis Neville), and a non-super powered pilot named Cliff Cornwall (with artist Sheldon Moldoff). Flash Comics took off like a rocket. The Flash later got his own comic book and the same almost happened to Hawkman. Sheldon Mayer also used Fox's stories for a new comic called All Star Comics. This comic was to feature some of the most successful characters from both DC and All American comics. In All Star Comics #3 Mayer decided to add 8 popular heroes together in one comic. Because Gardner Fox created 4 (The Flash, Hawkman, Dr. Fate, and Sandman) of them, he was a natural choice to write the story. Thus born was the first super hero team called the Justice Society of America (or JSA). The super hero team would later get their own title and it became very successful, and Gardner Fox would become a prestigious man in the comic industry.

Gardner Fox also had a reputation for writing other peoples characters. This served him well during World War II because many writers were drafted into the army. Fox written stories for characters such as The Spectre and The Green Lantern. He also did work at other companies like Timely (later known as Marvel) and EC (created my Max Gaines after he sold his All American Comics line to DC). Max Gaines picked Fox to become his head writer during EC's early years, he did diverse stories for Moon Girl, Happy Houlihans, and Blackstone, the Magician Detective that fights Crime. Fox also had to diversify his work at DC when superheroes were no longer popular. During the late 40's and early 50's he stopped doing the Justice Society title to write Westerns, Science Fiction stories, and funny Animal stories like J. Rufus Lion and The Dodo and the Frog.

Fox continued to do science fiction comics for DC until the 60's. Of the many series he worked on, Adam Strange was the most popular. This comic was about a archaeologist who regularly teleported to another planet called Alpha Centuri to help fight off Alien Invasions. While the stories were often similar, the art and plotting by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson were very intelligent. This comic remained a fan favorite until Gardner Fox left it in 1964. At this time Fox was working under editor Julius Schwartz, this was nothing new because Fox worked under Schwartz when he came to DC in 1944 to edit All American Comics and All Star Comics. But it was Schwartz that edited the revival many of the past heroes during the 50s. Most of these writing assignments went to post war writers like Robert Knight and John Broome, but when it came to reviving a superhero team (like the Justice Society of America) the job went to Gardner Fox. The Justice League of America became an instant success under Fox, and he was later able to revive Hawkman and a new version of The Atom. Both of these characters did well under Fox, and by 1964 (thanks to Schwartz getting the job to edit the titles) Fox was given the opportunity to write regularly on the new Flash, Green Lantern, and Batman comics.

For Batman, it was the first time since 1939 that Fox was able to write the character. Fox's Batman stories sold well, and during his time there he revived a couple of forgotten villains from the 1940s called The Riddler and the Scarecrow. Thanks to the 1966 Batman TV show (who's first show was a direct adaptation from a Gardner Fox story), The Riddler became one of Batmans most famous enemies. Gardner Fox also brought back the original Flash in a 1961 story, it was the first time a Silver Age and a Golden Age version of the same character were together in the same comic. Doing this started off a trend in the comics that Schwartz was editing. In those titles, writers were bringing Golden and Silver Age characters into the same comic. These revivals included Fox's Justice Society of America, who re-appeared in Justice League of America. Several other Golden Age team ups and solo stories were done by Fox and artist Murphy Anderson. These appeared in Showcase Comics and The Brave and The Bold. One of the Golden Age JSA heroes, The Spectre, got his own new title because of the revivals.

Sadly Fox along with other long time writers stopped receiving work and were replaced by other writers on their comics. This happened in 1968 when Gardner Fox, Bill Finger, Otto Binder, and Arnold Drake went to DC and asked for health insurance and other benefits. DC's editor Julius Schwartz claims they stopped giving them work because in his view their scripts were declining in quality. Fans didn't agree, some of them say the characters have yet to achieve the same quality that Fox brought. Fox was already writing science fiction novels since the 1940s, and decided to take this up again after 1968. He used his own name and also several pseudonyms to write more science fiction, western, romance, and other types of novels. Among his characters were Kothar a barbarian adventurer and Eve Drum. Fox continued to do well until is retirement in the late 70s. There are at least 3 characters in the DC universe that carry Gardners name. There are the Atomic Knight, Gardner Gayle, once alternate Green Lantern Guy Gardner, and Nelson Gardner AKA: Captain Metropolis from the Watchman limited series.

Other comic titles Gardner worked on were: Dr. Strange, The Tomb of Dracula, The Face, Eerie, Creepie, and Alien Encounters. He wrote short stories for pulp magazines such as: Amazing, Zane Grey Western, Ranch Romances, Planet, and Big Book Football Western. He also wrote over 100 novels going into genres such as sci-fi, sword and sorcery, spy, crime, romance, fantasy, western, and historical. These novels were published by: Tower, Simon and Schuster, and Fawcett. He has several different pen names for these novels, they include: Jefferson Cooper, Bart Sommers, Paul Dean, Ray Gardner, and Lynette Cooper and his own name. Overall Gardner Fox wrote over 4,000 comic book stories. He spent the last 6 years of his life in Jamesburg, NJ. Gardner died suddenly from pneumonia on December 24th 1986 at the Princeton Medical Center. He is survived by his wife Lynda, his son Jeffrey, his daughter Lynda, and four grandchildren.