One of the greatest and most prolific comic book writers of all time, Gardner Fox is best known for his work at DC Comics. To this day, his characters, stories, and concepts (all of which appeared during the Golden Age and Silver Age) continue to reverberate throughout the DC Universe.
From Brooklyn, New York, Fox began his comic career in 1937 writing some of the earliest issues of Detective Comics. After Bob Kane and Bill Finger introduced Batman, he became the first writer to assist the two with creating stories for the Dark Knight. Some of the earliest developments in Batman’s mythos, many of which endure to the present day, were introduced by Fox. Both the Caped Crusader’s utility belt and Batarang were Fox’s ideas. Additionally, he created some of the most enduring characters from the Golden Age of Comics, including the Flash, Dr. Fate, Starman, Johnny Thunder and his genie-like Thunderbolt, the Sandman, and both Hawkman and Hawkgirl.
Perhaps his most important, and lasting, contribution was his work on The Justice Society of America. The very first team of superheroes to appear in comics debuted in All-Star Comics #3 in the winter of 1940/1941. Originally an anthology where the members would meet together to swap stories of their solo adventures, the book quickly dropped this format in favor of the members joining together to face a common menace. In their first appearance together, Fox’s own creations, The Flash, Hawkman, Sandman, and Dr. Fate joined with Hour-Man, the Spectre, Green Lantern and the Atom. Fox wrote the opening story, The First Meeting of the Justice Society of America, as well as the solo stories for Hawkman, Starman, Dr. Fate, and Green Lantern as well as the conclusion of the book. From DC’s own Silver Age version of the group (the Justice League of America) to Marvel’s Avengers and every superhero team in-between, the JSA laid the groundwork that all other super teams would follow.
While his contributions during the Golden Age alone would be enough to cement the importance of Fox’s legacy to the comics genre, his work during the Silver Age is no less impressive. Fox not only created Adam Strange but also revived and updated Golden Age superheroes for a new generation of readers. He also revived the concept of the JSA team-book itself in the form of the Justice League of America, which first appeared in the Brave and the Bold #28 released in 1960. The JLA would go on to become an integral part of many of DC’s major story lines as well as one of the companies most popular titles. Perhaps his most important contribution to the Silver Age, however, was his idea to use the plot device of having the Golden Age heroes live in a parallel universe (on Earth-2). The story appeared in the now-classic Flash of Two Worlds published in The Flash #123 in 1961. It was the first time a Golden Age character met a Silver Age character and Fox not only wrote this adventure of the two Flash’s, Jay Garrick and Barry Allen, but would also go on to pen many JSA and JLA team-ups. These stories laid the groundwork for what burgeoned into DC’s Multiverse. From the acclaimed Crisis on Infinite Earths, to the death and return of Barry Allen, and to Infinite Crisis and beyond, Fox’s work laid much of the foundation that the DC Universe is built upon.
In all, Fox wrote over 4,000 comics during the course of his nearly 50-year career, including stories for Timely, EC, Marvel, Eclipse and the Pulps as well as writing over 100 novels. But it is for his contributions to DC Comics that Fox is not only regarded as one of the most innovative comic creators of all time but is also most fondly remembered by fans. As Fox himself noted at a 1971 New York comic convention, one of the biggest rewards from writing “is that you fans say you enjoy this, you remember that.” And of Fox’s career, of his contributions to so many fondly remembered stories and to their undeniable and continued impact on modern comics, there is indeed much to be enjoyed and remembered.