Who is Mr. Fox?

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Talking about the Fox: Entry #1

I keep learning more and more about Mr. Gardner Francis Cooper Fox (1911 – 1986) as I keep working for The Gardner Francis Fox Library.

As an Artist, I have been working with his material since late 2015. I first collected his three original Crom the Barbarian stories he did with John Giunta in 1950.

The above portrait of Mr. Fox is one of my first attempts at scratchboard.

The first and foremost thing I have learned about Mr. Fox is that he was a Wordsmith. That is, he wrote for a living. I don’t know if he ever wrote for pleasure, but he supported a wife and two kids on what he produced for the thriving paperback industry.

He seems to have lived in the right time to be a Wordsmith. From 1953 to 1986 he wrote 160 paperback novels for many of the publishers that were popping up to capture a portion of the growing market. From the mid-fifties, the paperback market was easing it’s way from pulp magazines to more long-form stories. The stories produced were looked down upon by the literary elite, but entertained every someone that needed a quick exciting fix to escape the everyday ins and outs of life.

Mr. Fox was good at giving people what they wanted. He started writing for comic books in 1937 when his degree in law wasn’t helping him pay the bills. He is best known for creating many of the comic book characters for the Golden and Silver Age. He is believed to have written more than 4,000 comic book stories.

Mr. Fox received a law degree from St. John’s College and passed the New York bar in 1935. He practiced for around two years, but as the Great Depression continued he needed to find something more steady to support himself and his new family. He would start out writing for Vincent Sullivan at DC Comics in 1937. His first story was for the character Steve Mallone, District Attorney. Notable works of his from the Golden Age are Doctor Fate, Flash, Hawkman, Justice Society of America, and Sandman. In the Silver Age, he worked on and co-created: Atom, Batgirl, Hawkman, Justice League of America, and Zatanna.

During July 1939, just two issues after the debut of the character Batman by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger, Fox wrote the first of his several tales for that character. Mr. Fox’s significant contribution to the Batman character was inventing his utility belt.

During the mid-1950s, after Fredric Wertham’s publication of Seduction of the Innocent, the content of comics was changed and became subjected to the Comics Code Authority. DC editor Julius Schwartz began to renovate many of the companies characters, and Mr. Fox was one of the first writers called in to help.

Fox stopped working for DC during 1968 when the comics industry refused to give health insurance and other benefits to its older creators. Fox, who had written many novels during the mid-1950s, began to produce books full time, using his name and several pseudonyms. He produced stories for genres such as science fiction, espionage, crime, fantasy, romance, western, and historical fiction.

More about his comic book career

   Some of the notable story-arches he created were, two sword and sorcery characters and two sexy covert lady-spies. For Tower Books, he produced five Kothar the Barbarian Swordsman novels and four Kyrik: Warlock Warrior. He also created twenty-five “Lady from L.U.S.T. (League of Undercover Spies and Terrorists)” novels between 1968 and 1975 using the name Rod Gray. With Rochelle Larkin and Leonard Levinson, Fox collaborated under the pen-name Glen Chase to write the Cherry Delight, Redheaded Sexecutioner series.

He wrote many other books under other Pseudonyms. Some of them were: Jefferson Cooper, Bart Somers, James Kendricks, Troy Conway, Kevin Matthews, John Medford Morgan, Simon Majors, Louise MacKendrick, Jeffrey K. Gardner, Margaret Maitland, Paul Dean, Ray Gardner, Lynna Cooper, Larry Dean, Robert Starr, Don and Ed Warner and Michael Blake.

Mr. Fox typically wrote three novels per year but in 1974 he started to produce upwards of twelve stories per year.

Two heavy-hitting influencers on his writing were Harold Lamb and Talbot Mundy. Lamb and Mundy were steady writers themselves. Each making a huge contribution in their careers to the pulp and paperback industries.

During 1967, Fox’s literary agent, August Lenniger, suggested that Fox donates his notes, correspondence, and samples of his work to the University of Oregon as a tax deduction. Fox gave over fourteen boxes of published and unpublished manuscripts dating back to the 1940s. The Gardner Francis Fox Library is in close communication with the Archives and will seek to publish unpublished manuscripts after the original 160 books are back in reprint.

My wish for this site is to revive the literary career of Mr. Fox and the massive amount of words he produced for the paperback industry.

This is only a brief overview of his career and I will be adding more as I discover it.

   – Kurt Brugel – April 4th, 2019

self portrait of kurt brugel scratchboard illustrator