Residence: Usually mobile
Occupation: Professional Criminal, formerly carnival worker and store clerk
First Appearance (Golden Age): Green Lantern vol. 1 #12 (Summer 1944)
First Appearance (Silver Age): Justice League of America #123 (July 1975)
Walking home that night, Steven saw a young child about in the headlights of an oncoming armored car. Determined to save the child, he ran into the street and scooped up the child, causing the car to swerve into a tree, injuring the driver. When he reached the other side of the road, he realized that he had only "rescued" a doll and the driver had been injured for no good reason. Sharpe cursed fate that all of his good intentions amounted to naught and deciding that only cheaters ever win, stole the contents of the wrecked car and fled into the night.
When he emerged again, he had adopted a new identity after his riverboat gambling grandfather: The Gambler. As the Gambler, he earned early fame by pulling off a small town bank robbery against heavy odds. At some point, Sharpe spent time with a carnival, learning a variety of knife throws and make-up techniques to complete his disguises. So effective were his disguises that Sharpe himself claims to have forgotten his original appearance and his age to this day remains unknown. Initially, Sharpe remained in the Mississippi Delta, robbing trains, small town banks and the like. One of the first true costumed criminals, he rapidly became one of the most successful criminals and developed a cult of personality reminiscent of the gangsters of the previous decade.
By 1944, the Gambler's ego was not satisfied with his Midwestern successes and took his operations to the larger cities of the East. He took the brazen task of hanging out in post offices next to his own "Wanted" poster to provoke passers-by, two of which were Alan Scott and Doiby Dickles. Realizing that the famous criminal was in Gotham City, Scott assumed his identity as Green Lantern and pursued the criminal. He caught up with the Gambler twice, only to be thwarted by the special derringer that the Gambler kept hidden in his sleeve, one which fired ammonia or blackout gas. Finally, at a horse race, the Gambler decided to shift the odds in his favor by provoking the horses to stampede into the crowds to cover his escape. Green Lantern rounded up the beasts, however, and after the capture of his henchmen, the Gambler himself was apprehended and sent to Gotham State Penitentiary as #131313 (Green Lantern vol. 1 #12).
In 1946, while serving time, Sharpe's solitary cell was intruded upon by a cell-mate convicted of petty larceny. The man's derby and suspenders inspired Sharpe to write a note to Green Lantern, in care of Doiby Dickles. In the note, the Gambler claimed that he would break jail at dawn and dared Green Lantern to stop him. Arriving with his sidekick, Green Lantern and Dickles split up to search cell by cell. Reaching the Gambler's cell, Dickles was surprised to see himself. Sharpe had taken his cell-mate's clothes and used his own mastery of disguise to pass himself off as Dickles. When Green Lantern arrived, the ensuing confusion allowed the Gambler to release the other prisoners and escape.
Making his way to Gotham Harbor, the Gambler boarded the Pleasure Queen, a gambling boat. In short order, the Gambler won the entire ship's bank and then bet his winnings against the ship itself. By the time Green Lantern arrived, the Gambler was the new owner of the Pleasure Queen. When the mystery-man confronted his longtime foe, the Gambler produced Doiby Dickles's derby and pledged that the older man would not be harmed if Green Lantern departed. It was a safe bet, since the Gambler wasn't holding Dickles, only his hat. When Green Lantern realized he had been tricked, he raced back aboard, by which point the Gambler has made his getaway. After searching the city, Green Lantern realized that the Gambler had returned to the Pleasure Queen and made off with his boat.
Weeks later, the Gambler returned with the Pleasure Queen armed to the hilt. He invited numerous innocent bystanders to gamble on board and then challenged Green Lantern to bet his life against Sharpe's freedom. Using his power-ring, Green Lantern "rigged" his bet and engaged the Gambler and his men in a brawl. Ultimately, the Green Lantern used his power ring to take the Gambler, his men, and his entire ship back to Gotham penitentiary as a expansion for the crowded Gotham jail. Unbowed, the Gambler vowed to be free in a month (Green Lantern vol. 1 #20).
True to his word, the Gambler was on the loose by the early part of the next year. Condemned to death for the murder of gangster "Rocks" Morton, Sharpe was scheduled to die in the electric chair. Dutifully, the warden, Green Lantern and Doiby Dickles arrived as witnesses. As the switch was thrown, the electricity coursed not through the chair but through the floor beneath the observers. As the crowd collapsed, the Gambler, who had bribed the executioner, made his getaway. Thinking his arch-foe dead, the Gambler launched a crime spree. Using his supposed death to give him the element of surpise, Green Lantern ambushed the master criminal and sent the Gambler back to jail. The Gambler's luck held up, however, when "Rocks" Morton turned up alive, and the sentence of death was commuted (Green Lantern vol. 1 #27).
Within months, the Gambler was again free, this time as a member of the original Injustice Society. With JSA foes like Per Degaton, the Brain Wave, and Vandal Savage, the Gambler laid siege to the nation in a plot to bring about the deaths of the Justice Society and gain control of the United States. For his part, the Gambler was to capture the Atom, which he did. When the Injustice Society was assaulted by the full JSA membership, the Gambler was returned to prison (All-Star Comics #37).
However, the Gambler did not remain there long and had soon escaped again. This time, the Gambler used his connections in the underworld to offer high-stakes gambling opportunities to wealthy compulsive gamblers. Among them were such notables as Gotham socialite John Grange, noted surgeon Alfred Rinemetz, and Olympic swimmer Clare Conway. The Gambler offered luxurious payoffs, but when the players lost, they were compelled to suicide. Disguised as a surgeon, the Gambler attended each of their deaths to insure they complied. When Clare Conway refused to kill herself after a losing bet, the Gambler attempted on several occasions to kill her, drawing the attention of Green Lantern. Tracking him to a hidden lair, Green Lantern was captured by the Gambler, who placed Green Lantern and Conway in a giant pinball machine to kill them. When the hero escaped and cornered Sharpe, the criminal flung himself out a window, seemingly killing himself (Green Lantern vol. 1 #30).
The Gambler, as is often the case, was not dead. When he returned, he offering the Underworld sure-fire crimes by removing potential obstacles to improve the odds. As was the criminal's self-defeating pattern, he overplayed his hand by attempting to remove what he perceived as the biggest obstacle of all, Green Lantern. In due course, he was sent once more to Gotham State Penitentiary (Green Lantern vol. 1 #35).
In the 1970s, Sharpe attempted to revive his criminal career by joining a modern incarnation of the Injustice Society. The group pitted itself against the combined forces of the Justice League and Justice Society and suffered an ignoble defeat (Justice League of America #123-124). The Gambler was again returned to his residence at Gotham State Penitentiary. The Gambler was seen during the chaos of the Villain War of the Crisis on Infinite Earths (Crisis on Infinite Earths #9) but his ultimate fate on Earth-2 is unrevealed.
Prior Earth/Earth-0 = The career of The Golden Age Gambler on the Earth immediate post-Crisis was largely similar to his Earth-2 Counterpart. Additional exploits that may or may not be similar on Earth-2 including an attempt to extort an ice cream company in Keystone City, only to be captured by the Flash and Green Lantern (revealed in Starman vol. 2 #11). In the 1940's, the Gambler headed to Opal City under the employ of art aficionado Albert Mellow. Mellow had run into a series of bad debts and had contracted the Gambler to steal his art so that he could collect the insurance while still keeping the art. Unbeknownst to the Gambler, Mellow had already duplicated the statuary, so that even the theft was of a fake. In the heist, the Gambler and his men killed several guards, the gallery owner, and two bystanders in making their escape. Doing so attracted the attention of Opal City's resident mystery-man, Starman, who pursued the Gambler to New York. Before leaving, Starman contacted the Sandman to arrange a visit, and when Starman did not arrive, the the Sandman tracked him to the Gambler's lair. In the ensuing battle, the fake piece of statuary was destroyed, and the Gambler was captured and sent to prison (Starman vol. 2 #22). He also joined the Icicle and the Fiddler in a raid on Opal City and attempt to kill Starman in mid 1950's (Starman vol. 2 #47). Whether these are common events with other Earths is not known.
On Earth-0, in the mid-1980s, Steven Sharpe was paroled for the final time. Making his way to Las Vegas, he fell in with Seymour Taj's Taj Mahal casino, where he gambled regularly. Unbeknownst to the Gambler, Taj's machines were rigged, and in time, Sharpe's money was taken from him. Faced with this final defeat, Steven Sharpe committed suicide with his original Derringer pistol (revealed in Infinity Inc. #35). Sharpe had married at some point, or at least fathered children. He was quite close to what was presumably his son and his granddaughter Rebecca, as the latter loved him dearly. His death was later avenged on Taj by his granddaughter Rebecca, now the costumed criminal known as Hazard. He also imparted much of his criminal wisdom to his grandson, Steven (revealed in New Titans #68-69), who adopted the code name The Gambler and runs a high tech criminal operation out of a series of casinos. He recently joined forces with his grandfather's accomplices - the Wizard and the Sportsmaster - in the employ of Amos Fortune (Justice League Classified #16).
Earth-22 - The Gambler had a similar criminal career as his Earth-2 counterpart and was in the late 1950's, when he join an open call for costumed adventurers at the behest of Senator Tex Thompson, secretly the Ultra-Humanite. He was glimpsed their briefly in the crowd but whether he engaged in the battle that followed or fled as soon as it started is unknown (The Golden Age LS). His ultimate fate on this world is unknown.