Unofficial Biography ATOMIC KNIGHT [Gardner Grayle]
 Created by John Broome and Murphy Anderson

Atomic Knight

Personal Data

Real Name: Gardner Grayle
Occupation: Scientific Researcher
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: None
Base of Operation: S.T.A.R. Labs, Alexandria, Virginia
Group Affiliation: Outsiders
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 189 lbs.
Eyes: Blue
Hair: Red
First Appearance: Strange Adventures #117 (June 1960)

Profile written by Mikishawm




  A sergeant in the US army, Gardner Grayle was subjected to an experiment in sensory deprivation, his imagination creating a post-nuclear world where he was a knightly crusader. Once released into the real world, Grayle became a sometimes hero, the Atomic Knight, though he was happier working in obscurity at S.T.A.R. Labs.


  Gardner Grayle was a well-regarded army sergeant and a former member of Platoon 13, who, along with their knight icon, was immortalized in 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 to kill.

  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 deliver it!"

  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 [Silver Age: Showcase #1 (2000)]. 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 needed again [Silver Age 80-Page Giant #1 (2000)].

  A few years later, Superman found himself allied with Grayle again, albeit in a virtual reality dream that he had unwittingly tapped into while seeking the source of several computer-originated nuclear mishaps. In the fantasy, Gardner was the leader of a post-World War III band known as the Atomic Knights: Bryndon and siblings Douglas & Marene Herald and Wayne & Hollis Hobard

  When he began to question several illogical aspects of the Knights' world, the Man of Steel was forcibly ejected from the fantasy. Recognizing Grayle's girlfriend as S.T.A.R. psychologist Marene Herald, Superman sought her out and learned of the nuclear VR experiment, one that had been erased from the minds of Herald, Bryndon and the others involved.

  With her memories restored, Herald quickly located the chamber where the real Gardner Grayle was still in suspended animation. She theorized that, with his physical senses dormant, Gardner's mental faculties had been expanded.

  As the devastation of a nuclear holocaust presented in the simulation would be too horrifying for the mind of the average human to cope with, she theorized that Grayle had used these newfound abilities he was able to take over and reprogram the simulation scenario drastically, creating a fantasy world of great adventure. A place where Grayle would emerge as a hero in charge of events rather than a faceless victim of them.

  Realizing that Grayle was unconsciously trying to bring his post-nuclear world into reality, Superman made a desperate attempt to stop a launch of the world's armada of nuclear missiles. With the Man of Steel held at bay by robotic defenders, Marene assisted in the only way she could, tossing the most potent dose of reality into Grayle's fantasy that she could think of: "Douglas Herald isn't my brother ... he's my HUSBAND!"

  The distraction was enough to enable Superman to stop the launch and awaken Grayle. Horrified at what almost happened, Gardner opined that the entire project was misguided from the start as the task before mankind wasn't to survive an atomic war but to make certain such a war could never begin [DC Comics Presents #57].

  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 [Wonder Woman Vol. 1 #322-323 (1984)] and return as the Atomic Knight [Wonder Woman Vol. 1 #325].

  The Atomic Knight then joined the Forgotten Heroes for the final conflict of the event known as the Great Crisis [Crisis on Infinite Earths #11-12 (1985)].

  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 Disaster [Outsiders Vol. 1 #25]

  With a new crisis brewing in Geo-Force's home country of Markovia, the Atomic Knight offered to accompany them [Outsiders Vol. 1 #26] and was alongside the team when Jace betrayed them to the Manhunters. 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!" [Outsiders Vol. 1 #27]

  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 [Outsiders Vol. 1 #28]. 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" [Outsiders Vol. 2 #4].

  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 [Outsiders Vol. 2 #1-#5]. Trailing the team to Abyssia, Gardner finally discovered proof that the team had been framed by the vampiric Roderick [Outsiders Vol. 2 #10-11].

  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 [Outsiders Vol. 2 #23-24 (1995)].

Powers and Weapons

  The battle suit's solar power cells were designed to operate even under the reduced light conditions of nuclear winter and enabled the Knight to imprison his foes in a stasis field as well as firing bursts of heat or cold.

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