About “The Man Who Couldn’t Die” & writer Gardner F. Fox: A Guest Post by Kurt Brugel

Editor’s Note: ATOMIC WEREWOLVES AND MAN-EATING PLANTS, the latest book in the Men’s Adventure Library series I co-edit with Wyatt Doyle.

As shown in the preview I recently posted on this blog, it’s a curated, lushly illustrated collection of vintage men’s adventure magazine stories about werewolves, vampires, ghosts, aliens, and robots.

One of the tales included in it was penned by the prolific short story writer and novelist Gardner F. Fox (1911-1986). Titled “The Man Who Couldn’t Die,” it’s a terrific science fiction story originally published in the August 1961 issue of ADVENTURE magazine.

That caught the attention of Kurt Brugel, the Custodian and Illustrator for The Gardner Francis Fox Library, which features dozens of stories and novels by Fox that you can read online, download as ebooks or listen to as audiobooks. I highly recommend that you visit that site if you like pulp fiction. It’s a real treasure trove. I also recommend checking out Kurt’s personal “Kurt Inker Brugel” website. He’s an amazingly talented artist who, in addition to creating cool illustrations for Gardner Fox books and stories, writes and illustrates indie comics. Kurt is especially adept at doing black-and-white scratchboard art, as you can see from the examples shown below.

I asked Kurt if he’d be interested in writing a guest post about the story and Fox. He said yes, and here it is…

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About “The Man Who Couldn’t Die” and writer Gardner F. Fox

By Kurt Brugel

Portrait of Gardner F. Fox by Kurt Brugel

Ah, the age-old tale of a man turned robot seeking revenge. Because, let’s face it, being a regular human seeking revenge is just too overdone. “The Man Who Couldn’t Die” by Gardner F. Fox gives us a peek into what happens when you mix a criminal’s brain, a robot’s body, and a sprinkle of good ol’ fashioned 1961 male ego. Spoiler alert: It’s as chaotic as it sounds.

Meet Clarr Morson, our not-so-heroic protagonist. Once a criminal, always a criminal, right? Wrong. The genius minds of the future thought, “Hey, why not take this guy’s brain and put it into a robot?” Because that’s the logical next step. Forget prison or rehabilitation; let’s make him a Starobot! And so, Clarr’s brain gets a shiny new metallic home, and he’s sent off to explore the universe. Because, you know, that’s the best job for a former criminal.

“Clarr said, ‘I am—was, rather—a criminal avatar. I was apprehended for my crimes against the state on Dawn 7, 3289, and sentenced to the psychopathic ward for observation and possible hypnotic cure. During my interment, the World Science Council offered pardon to any criminal who would consent to make the first trip to a star system.'”

As Clarr roams the universe in his spaceship, he stumbles upon an alien species called the Trann. These guys are the jocks of the universe—advanced, warlike, and probably with a penchant for protein shakes. They see Clarr and initially think, “This guy’s different. Let’s be friends!” And just like that, bromance blossoms between Clarr and Stol Tay, the Overlord of Trann.

Stol Tay tells Clarr the Trann want to invade and take over the planet he comes from, which they call “Sol Three.” Clarr’s still got that bad boy streak in him and resents the world that took away his human body. So, he says he’ll help plan the invasion and be Stol’s second-in-command in return for a share of the power and profits.

But there’s a complication that Clarr and the Trann are unaware of, and it leads to an unexpected twist at the end of the story that makes it a classic.

Self portrait by Kurt Brugel

Fox’s “The Man Who Couldn’t Die” is a rollercoaster of testosterone-fueled decisions, intergalactic bromances, and the kind of plot twists that make you go, “Wait, what?” It’s a reminder that no matter how advanced we get, men will be men, whether they’re made of flesh or metal. So, if you’ve ever wondered what happens when you mix a criminal’s brain, a dash of revenge, and a whole lot of metal, this story’s got you covered.

Ah, Gardner Francis Fox, the man with more pseudonyms than a spy in a James Bond movie. Born in the bustling streets of Brooklyn in 1911, Gardner was destined for greatness—or at least for a lot of writing under a lot of different names in addition to his own, including Glen Chase, Troy Conway, Jefferson Cooper, Lynna Cooper, Jeffrey Gardner, Rod Gray, James Kendricks, Simon Majors, Kevin Matthews, Kevin Mathews, Bart Sommers and others).

Most people remember Gardner for his contributions to DC Comics and, boy, did he contribute! Among other things, he was co-creator of the DC characters Flash, Hawkman, Doctor Fate, Zatanna and the original Sandman. He was the first writer to put DC superheroes together as the Justice Society of America and later as the Justice League of America. He also introduced the DC Multiverse concept in the 1961 story “Flash of Two Worlds!” In total, he is credited with 1,500 stories published in DC Comics.

During his career writing for DC Comics, Fox wrote novels and short stories using a variety of male and female pseudonyms for a number of publishers. He wrote for a diverse range of pulp magazines, including WEIRD TALES, PLANET STORIES, AMAZING STORIES, and MARVEL SCIENCE STORIES. His first novel, a historical romance entitled THE BORGIA BLADE, was published by Belmont Books in 1953. In his homage to E. R. Burroughs, Fox penned a duo of sword and planet novels: WARRIOR OF LLARN (1964) and THIEF OF LLARN (1966).”

However, it’s Gardner’s science fiction and fantasy tales that really tickle my fantasy bone. I mean, who needs another superhero when you can have sun-gods and warlocks?

Gardner was inspired by the greats. On his eleventh birthday, he got his hands on THE GODS OF MARS and THE WARLORD OF MARS by Edgar Rice Burroughs. And just like that, a legend was born. Or at least, a very prolific writer with a penchant for the fantastical.

As a young man, Fox earned a law degree from St. John’s College. He practiced as a lawyer in New York for about two years. Then in 1937, he began writing for DC Comics and soon became a full time writer.

From lawyer to legendary writer, Gardner’s career trajectory was unique, to say the least. But hey, when life gives you a Great Depression, you write about sun-gods and warlocks, right?

Let’s dive into the literary world of Gardner. Sure, he had his hands full with comics, but that wasn’t enough for our ambitious author. He ventured into realms where barbarians roamed and swords clashed. Speaking of barbarians, have you met Kothar? With epic titles under his belt like KOTHAR: BARBARIAN SWORDSMAN and KOTHAR AND THE WIZARD SLAYER, it’s clear Gardner was on a quest to out-barbarian the barbarians. Because, you know, why settle for a regular barbarian when you can throw in a wizard slayer for good measure?

But wait, there’s more! Gardner also wrote about another barbarian, Kyrik, with titles like KYRIK: WARLOCK WARRIOR and KYRIK AND THE LOST QUEEN. Who stops at just one barbarian series? Not Gardner! Then there are spicy fare like his THE LADY FROM L.U.S.T. series (written under the pseudonym Rod Gray), the COXEMAN series (written as Tory Conway), and many more.

In conclusion, Gardner Francis Fox was a man of many talents, many pseudonyms, and many, many stories. From sun-gods to barbarians, from DC Comics to pulp science fiction magazines, Gardner did it all. And while he may have left us in 1986, his legacy lives on, one pseudonym at a time. So here’s to you, Gardner. May your stories continue to inspire, entertain, and confuse us for generations to come. Cheers!

Diving deep into the expansive universe of Gardner Francis Fox, from his renowned comics to his equally enthralling novels, I’ve come to appreciate the vast influence of this man. Every great legacy needs someone to carry the torch forward, and I’ve taken it upon myself to be that person for Fox.

I’m not just another fan; I’m on a quest. Discovering Fox’s paperback novels felt like unearthing a treasure chest. While many remember Fox for his comic book contributions, I saw the richness of his work beyond the panels. My initial mission was straightforward: find a Sword and Sorcery character in the public domain. This journey introduced me to Crom the Barbarian in 2014. But I didn’t want to just revive the character; I wanted to retain Fox’s distinctive voice. This commitment led me to The Warlock of Sharrador”, a 1952 PLANET STORIES classic. By 2015, I had reimagined this tale as “Crom and the Warlock of Sharrador,” accompanied by 15 of my original black and white illustrations.

But that was just the beginning. Delving further into Fox’s works, I was astounded to find over 150+ paperback novels he had written from the 1950s to the early 1980s. To many, this might seem like an insurmountable task. But for me, it was a challenge I eagerly accepted. With the support of the Oregon Archives and the Fox family, I set out to resurrect these forgotten tales. By digitally transcribing these old paperbacks and publishing them on Amazon, I aimed to introduce a new generation to Fox’s captivating stories.

In 2018, my dedication bore fruit with the launch of The Official Gardner Francis Fox Library website. This wasn’t just a digital collection; it was a tribute to Fox’s lasting legacy and my relentless drive to safeguard it. My mission was crystal clear: digitally transcribe all 150+ paperbacks, ensuring Fox’s voice remains alive and vibrant for readers everywhere. I also took pride in providing scratchboard illustrated cover art for most of the reprints.

A few of the scores of books available via the The Gardner Francis Fox Library

To sum it up, while Gardner Francis Fox blessed us with a galaxy of tales, I’ve made it my mission to ensure this galaxy keeps shining. Through The Official Gardner Francis Fox Library, longtime fans can take a trip down memory lane, and newcomers can embark on new adventures. It’s a harmonious blend of the past and present, a testament to the timeless allure of storytelling, and a nod to the dedication that ensures even the most overlooked stories get their moment in the spotlight.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks and kudos to Kurt Brugel for this excellent guest article—and for his monumental efforts to keep the legacy of Gardner F. Fox alive. By the way. in addition to being available on Amazon worldwide, you can get copies of the paperback and hardcover editions of ATOMIC WEREWOLVES AND MAN-EATING PLANTS directly from me via my bookstore. Click this link the image below to go to my listings for it.