Forgotten All-Star Shines Brightly: Gardner Fox’s Biography Reviewed

by Andrew Edwards

Comics history seems pretty much written in stone these days. The broad sweeps of the golden, silver and modern ages of comics are punctuated by the stories that fans and the wider public all seem to know. From Siegel and Shuster to Frderick Wertham, we can move to Lee, Kirby and Ditko to Miller, Moore and Maus, before we break into the 21st century with the graphic novel explosion and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

While the casual observer can gain a swift understanding of the broad historical strokes, and the dedicated fan, enthusiast or scholar can further satisfy their appetites with any number of laudable works on comics, it can seem that there is increasingly little room for genuinely new ground to be broken. However, Jennifer DeRoss achieves this successfully with her new biography of Gardner Fox.

Fox isn’t as widely know as figure as Stan Lee, nor Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko to the general public, but he is known to scholars and fans of the medium and his influence on comic books is profound. Drawing on primary source material and archives, DeRoss has written a detailed account of Fox’s life and work that covers the range of his highly prolific output, including comic books and fantasy novels. We also learn about Fox the man, whose passion for justice led him to retire from his legal career in favour of writing the inspirational heroes of the comics books. He is also responsible for creating the first super-hero team – the Justice Society of America (JSA), among other achievement. He is indeed the ‘forgotten all-star’ of DeRoss’s title.

DeRoss leads us through an atypical creator’s story. Unlike many of his peers, who came from disadvantaged backgrounds, Fox came from a privileged background. Unlike many of his peers who wrote stereotypical female characters, Fox developed the truly innovative Hawkgirl, and she also corrects the misconceptions surrounding the use of Wonder Woman as the JSA’s secretary. This, and much more, is revealed and explored in this highly recommended biography, which is a must-read publication for those interested in comics history.

Andrew Edwards

Dr Andrew Edwards has been writing about comics since 2007, completing reviews, encyclopedia entries and articles for a number of publishers including Sequart, ABC-Clio/Greenwood and Comicon.com. With a background in teaching and librarianship, Andrew has also undertaken scholarly research into intertextuality and gender in the work of Alan Moore, for which he received his PhD in 2018. He is currently writing his first book on the Moore-Bissette-Totleben-Veitch issues of Swamp Thing for Sequart.

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