Real name: Gardner Grayle
First appearance: Strange
Adventures #117, June 1960 (historical), DC Comics Presents
#57 (more contemporary)
Occupation: scientist, adventurer
Marital Status: single
Known Relatives: none
Gardner Grayle was a well-regarded army sergeant and a former member
of Platoon 13, who, along with their knight icon, was immortalized
by a tattoo on his shoulder. Regarded as an everyman, he seemed to
be the ideal subject for a S.T.A.R. Labs virtual reality experiment
on the survivability of a nuclear war. Grayle took the assignment at
the request of his superiors but made no secret of his own
anti-nuclear opinions to the project's Doctor Bryndon. Grayle felt
that nuclear and atomic weapons gave war a bad name. There was no
honor or fairness in this type of warfare. It was getting too easy
His opinions notwithstanding, Gardner Grayle found technology thrust
upon him when a crisis initiated by the Injustice League threatened
the planet Rann and, inevitably, Earth. He was recruited by Deadman,
who urged him to borrow a silver-and-gold prototype S.T.A.R.
warsuit. Taking flight, Grayle still had his doubts but vowed that
"if it's valor the world needs, there's still one Shining Knight to
The new Shining Knight became part of a modern-day Seven Soldiers of
Victory and field-tested his armor against Doctor Light. The villain
made quick work of his shield but, joining with Metamorpho, Grayle
found that his energy sword and freeze ray were more than enough to
defeat the Injustice Leaguer. A second clash with the team of rogues
effectively brought Gardner's costumed career to a halt when Chronos
aged the prototype armor into dust. With his armor gone Grayle noted
that although he might have done a lot of good as the Shining Knight
it would seem he was to be no more than a footnote in the history
books. Pecking him on the cheek, the Metal Men's Tina suggested that
maybe there would be some great disaster someday where he might be
At some point, Gardner became a scientist for S.T.A.R. Labs and
discovered that he possessed metahuman powers of premonition. He
eventually sought the expertise of the Outsider's associate, Dr.
Jace, to cure him of this "gift." But before he could begin work
with Jace, Major Disaster, who had been a stowaway on Grayle's
transport, attacked and destroyed the Outsider's headquarters.
The time in sensory deprivation left Gardner Grayle permanently
changed. His mind had expanded and S.T.A.R. hired him on the spot,
anticipating a plethora of scientific breakthroughs. Like Cassandra
in ancient Greece, he also had precognitive flashes that enabled him
to glimpse coming catastrophes ... predictions that no one would
believe. Goaded by the spirit of Cassandra herself, Gardner used his
newfound scientific expertise to recreate the Shining Knight armor
and return as the Atomic Knight.
The Atomic Knight then joined the Forgotten Heroes for the final
conflict of the event known as the Great Crisis.
Following the Crisis, Grayle put super-heroics on the backburner for
several months, focusing all of his attention on his day job. It
paid off with a director's position, complete with a private jet and
a hefty raise in salary. The visions of death and destruction had
not faded away, however, and Gardner sought out renowned scientist
Helga Jace in the hope of finding a cure. Instead, the Atomic Knight
was provided with another reason to go into action, fighting
alongside the Outsiders in a futile attempt to prevent the
destruction of their Los Angeles base at the hands of Major
With a new crisis brewing in Geo-Force's home country of Markovia,
the Atomic Knight offered to accompany them and was alongside the
team when Jace betrayed them to the Manhunters, whom she was working
for as an operative. Jace captured Grayle and the Outsiders and
placed them in stasis. While he was captive, Grayle dreamt a vividly
about a band of Atomic Knights a time after World War III. Even
though he was only in stasis a short time, Gardner remembered every
detail of these dreams as if they had been real. Looker broke the
trance and Jace was killed. Gardner Grayle was central to Jace's
subsequent scheme, which thrust all of the Outsiders into the
reality of the Atomic Knights. It was Gardner's own unspoken
feelings for the young Outsider known as Windfall that finally
enabled the heroes to snap out of their mental prison.
Although their age difference made Gardner reluctant to commit to a
relationship with Windfall, he had no regrets about the closure that
his brief return to the fantasy world had given him. "It was only a
dream, Wendy ... but like many dreams, it held a valuable lesson.
The world is basically a good one, and worth fighting for ... and as
long as people continue to struggle against oppression, the spirit
of the Atomic Knights shall not be lost!"
The Atomic Knight remained at the Outsiders' side for the duration
of the Manhunter conflict but an accumulation of tragedies involving
Metamorpho, Halo and Looker led the team to disband. Over the next
several months, Gardner stayed in touch with his new friends,
becoming particularly close to Brion (Geo-Force) Markov, who was
still mourning the death of his sibling Gregor. Indeed, Brion would
come to regard himself and Gardner as "closer than brothers".
The reunion of the Atomic Knight and the Outsiders was anything but
cordial, however. Learning that the team had been branded as
outlaws, Gardner was skeptical and completed an upgrade on his armor
(now largely gold) to determine the truth. Predictably, a fight
ensued but the new Atomic Knight held his own against Geo-Force.
Trailing the team to Abyssia, Gardner finally discovered proof that
the team had been framed by the vampiric Roderick.
On the eve of Brion's wedding to Denise Howard, the Outsiders were
summoned to the planet Nekrome to help defeat the threat of Eclipso.
Seeking back-up, Denise asked the Atomic Knight to join the team.
Gardner was particularly happy to see Wendy (Windfall) Jones, whom
he greeted with a passionate kiss. There were no longer any
reservations in his feelings. With the Eclipso infestation
extinguished, the team returned to Earth, where a smiling Gardner
and Wendy witnessed the marriage of Brion and Denise.
Copyright Avi Green. All rights reserved.
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