Monday, June 24, 2013

More Authors of the Golden Age of Science Fiction-Gardner F. Fox

Gardner F. Fox
Lawyer, Author, Comic Book Script Writer
Born May 20, 1911, Brooklyn, New York
Died December 24, 1986, Jamesburg, New Jersey

I have written about comic books and science fiction over the last few entries. Despite the fact that the two subjects are closely allied, few artists and writers have bridged the gap between them. In fact, if what my friend says is true, there are a lot of science fiction people who look down their noses at comics. I'm not sure how you can be interested in one without being interested in the other. Besides, how can science fiction fans, who have suffered from ridicule, derision, hostility, and just plain indifference from a wider world, begin to treat another likeminded group of fans the same way? Anyway, I would like to write about Gardner F. Fox, a rare author who was successful in both comic books and pulp fiction.

Any account of the career of Gardner F. Fox reads like a book of wonders. In a career spanning half a century, Fox wrote at least 160 books and 4,000 or more comic book stories, as well as short stories for Weird Tales, Planet Stories, Amazing Stories, sports pulps, Western pulps, and hybrid Western-romance pulps. According to one source, Fox wrote at least one novel per year between 1944 and 1982 (except for three years). He typically wrote three novels per year and in 1974 published an astonishing twelve novels. Fox created, co-created, or helped develop or revive The Flash, Hawkman, Sandman, The Atom, Adam Strange, the Justice Society of America, and Batman's utility belt, Batarang, and Batgyro. (One of my favorite Fox characters is Cave Girl.) During the 1960s boom in heroic fantasy, Gardner Fox penned several novels each of the characters Kothar and Kyrik. He also wrote stories of "the Lady from L.U.S.T." In fact, there seems to be little that Gardner F. Fox did not do as a writer. (1)

Gardner Francis Fox was born on May 20, 1911, in Brooklyn, New York. On his eleventh birthday, Fox received two of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars books. Like so many writers of his generation, reading those books changed his life. He became an avid reader and devoted fan of fantasy. More practically, he studied law at St. John's University and was admitted to the bar in his native New York in 1935. Although the worst part of the Great Depression had passed, a double dip was on the horizon. Luckily for Fox, comic books were entering their golden age and they needed writers. Fox began writing for DC comics in 1937. Over the next four decades, his stories appeared not only in DC (his main employer), but also in Marvel Comics, Warren Publications, and Eclipse Comics, the last in 1985. Fox held vast knowledge of the most arcane subjects. His reference library of books and files has become legendary.

Gardner F. Fox died on Christmas Eve in 1986 in Jamesburg, New Jersey, at the age of seventy-five. I'm happy to report, though, that people still read his works and probably will for as long as there are fans of science fiction and comic books.

For Weird Tales
"The Weirds of the Woodcarver" (Sept. 1944)
"Rain, Rain, Go Away!" (May 1946)
"The Rainbow Jade" (Sept. 1949)

Notes
(1) My sources are the online Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, the Speculative Fiction Database, and Wikipedia.

You could create a blog of its own with images related to the work of Gardner F. Fox. Instead I'll offer an image for each of four series he wrote during the 1960s and '70s. Chronologically, Kyrik, subject of four novels published in 1975-1976, came last. I'll put him first for no reason at all. Note the blurb, "In the Tradition of Conan." Between the mid-sixties and the mid-seventies, everything was in the tradition of Conan (or the Lord of the Rings). You've got to hand it to Fox and cover artist Ken Barr: Howard and Frazetta never depicted a rhinoceros drawing a chariot in their works.
Americans weren't alone in their tastes for sword-wielding barbarians. Here's an Italian edition from 1990 featuring Gardner Fox's Kothar, another spawn of Conan. Kothar appeared in five novels in 1969-1970. Note not one but two Frazetta swipes. 
Speaking of Frazetta, here's his cover for Warrior of Llarn, an Ace edition from 1964. It looks like Frazetta was still in his watercolor period when he created this illustration. The colors and the execution are dazzling. Alan Morgan of Llarn appeared in two books by Gardner Fox in 1964 and 1966. 
Finally, Gardner Fox writing as Rod Gray in one of four novels he wrote in the Lady from L.U.S.T. series. James Bond started it with SMERSH and SPECTRE. It's no wonder that CONTROL, KAOS, U.N.C.L.E., T.E.R.R.A., and L.U.S.T. followed. Gardner Fox wrote four books in the Lady from L.U.S.T. series in 1969-1970, all under the house name Rod Gray. The Copulation Explosion was his last. Fox must have known from his experience in comic books that gorilla covers sell books. Why not a gorilla photo cover for a soft-porn novel? Is that Bob Burns or is he just played by Bob Burns? Or maybe it's another Bob--Bob Heironimus.
Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

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