Forgotten All-Star: A Biography Of Gardner Fox by Jennifer DeRoss (book review).

December 16, 2019 | By | 1 Reply More

When I saw an advert in TwoMorrows’ ‘Alter-Ego’ for this book, ‘Forgotten All-Star: A Biography Of Gardner Fox’ by Jennifer DeRoss, I contacted her publisher, PulpHeroPress, for the possibility of a review copy and they were happy to oblige. One of the first DC Comics I bought was Detective Comics # 347 where it was pronounced that Batman had died and Robin swearing vengeance.

Of course it didn’t happen that way as writer Garner Fox popped up at end and gave an alternative story was my first introduction to a comicbook writer by name from DC Comics. I came away and later though it was a bit of a cheat but it was my first introduction to him and found that he did that a lot. In many respects, his alternatives did allow him to go against the DC line of not really shaking up their timeline, however it was played at the time.

Even so, when you consider he wrote in excess of 4000 comicbook stories and 160 books under various pseudonyms you have to agree that he was very prolific. Gardner Fox (1919-1986) was also a prolific reader when young but actually was a lawyer with a touch of journalism and sword fencing at university. He broke into comicbooks and his step into history when elementary school pal and now editor Vincent Sullivan remembered Fox’s love of writing and got him involved. Initially, Fox did both jobs before realising he loved writing more and wasn’t as good a lawyer because he was too nice.

Gardner Fox was also there at the advent of a certain Superman, having a Zatara story in Action Comics # 1. He also contributed heavily to Batman and created the batplane, utility belt and its contents and was friendly with Bill Finger, another major contributor to the mythos. The list of co-creations with his editors is more staggering and bear in mind these are now considered the original Earth-2 characters including the Flash, Hawkman, Sandman, Starman and Doctor Fate, as well as their supporting cast.

There is also a clarification here of why Wonder Woman performed as a secretary in his team book, the ‘Justice Society Of America’. Her creator William Marston insisted on re-writing her and it was easier to give her a lesser role than that. Batman and Superman might have been the mainstays at what would become DC Comics, many of the other characters had his hand writing them. Also, any of the characters who had one or more titles of their own were given honorary token status so as not to swamp the other characters with their presence.

He also wrote some 160 novels, helped along as super-heroes faded into the distance after World War 2. DC Comics weren’t hit so much by Fredric Wertham but it did pinch as all comicbooks were put in the same category. These novels moved towards fantasy in the form of characters such as ‘Kothar: Barbarian Swordsman’ and ‘Kyrik: Warlock Warrior’ and were influential on the later ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ with its creator being a big fan.

In the 1960s, Gardner Fox also created Batgirl in co-operation with 20th Century Fox who wanted a new character for their TV series. Barbara Gordon being a librarian is based on his sister, Kay, did who became a name in that profession. Fox also created Zatanna as the daughter of his original character and the Justice League Of America and the first living planet.

Totting up his character, Gardner Fox was prolific and not forgotten. Guy Gardner got his name as a tribute to the writer. He got ousted when new blood was brought in as new publisher Carmen Infantino looked at the age of his creators.

It’s rare odd but probably true point that writer Jennifer DeRoss points out that few of the current generation have heard of Gardner Fox. Even more so as he and Julius Schwartz were generous to Dr. Jerry Bails and Roy Thomas in helping to jumpstart American fandom. Hopefully, this book should make that difference. I certainly came away from this book better informed.

GF Willmetts

December 2019

(pub: PulpHeroPress, 2019. 220 page small enlarged paperback. Price: $27.34 (US), £23.04 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-68390-200-3)

check out website: www.PulpHero Press

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Category: Books, Superheroes

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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