Monday, April 27, 2020

Marvel Immersion Project: Silver Surfer #1-4 and Fantastic Four #59-60

Silver Surfer - Wikipedia
via Wikipedia

Even though I've just begun the series, I can already tell I'm going to have a lot to say about Silver Surfer.  As observer and self-appointed Earth protector, the character is well-positioned to express much of the social commentary that was prevalent in the late 1960s.  Stan Lee and his team were clearly not fans of United States foreign policy at the time, injecting the story with the typical anti-Vietnam rhetoric: battling for nameless causes, imposing values on other cultures, resorting to violence as the answer to all problems, etc.  The Surfer is frustrated by humankind's more barbaric tendencies and tries to help, though usually is perceived as the source of the very threats he's trying to combat.

As I wrote a couple weeks ago (read here), I see similarities between the messaging of the Silver Surfer story and that of Star Trek: a greater openness in confronting the other, a need for moral maturity across society, etc.  While the links may be coincidental, I did wonder about the connections between the two.  Interestingly, DC published a crossover comic with both at one point - I found a cover but no publication date.  Doug Jones, who played both the Silver Surfer in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and Saru in Star Trek: Discovery sees important parallels between the two characters.  Read here.

For me, the Surfer is a more appealing hero than the Fantastic Four or even Spider-Man.  He wants to help but also to learn.  His powers exceed that of 99% of Marvel superheroes yet he doesn't have the Reed Richards arrogance of always best understanding how to use them for the greater good.  Godlike though he is, his back story is quite humanizing.

I'm looking forward to a fun ride.

My Recent Reads

Fantastic Four #59
Originally Published February 1, 1967
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
  • The Inhumans finally break free, not just of the negative zone but of the entire barrier between them and the human world.  It took Black Bolt's voice to do the job.  He is usually silent, you see.  Never mind that he destroyed the entire city in the process.
  • After the Silver Surfer, Black Bolt may be my favorite new character from this stretch.
  • The original band of six we met at the outset has been sent off by the Council of Elders to enter the world of the humans - an unexplained narrative contrivance, though I suppose you've gotta move the story forward somehow.
  • Meanwhile, Dr. Doom continues to flaunt his Silver Surfer powers, wreaking havoc and terror around the globe.  This story is a cautionary tale about what could happen when the wrong person is granted far too much power.  If only we ever heeded such warnings...

Fantastic Four #60
March 1, 1967
  • The finale of the Dr. Doom Steals Silver Surfer's Powers story.
  • Doom is defeated on the last page, foiled by measures set in place by Galactus to keep the Silver Surfer from ever leaving Earth.  It's not an especially satisfying ending - a little too quick, frankly.  Also, in my heart, I wanted Silver Surfer himself to be the one to save the day.  Alas, it's not his series.
  • The Inhumans make their first contact with humans.  It doesn't go well.
  • It's time to move on from Fantastic Four.   As I've written before, I doubt I'll return to this particular quartet of heroes.  However, I'll definitely be back for the Inhumans!  Meanwhile, we move on to Silver Surfer.

Silver Surfer #1
August 1, 1968
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Gene Colan
  • The Silver Surfer Origin Story
    • Name: Norrin Radd
    • Home World: Zenn-La (a mash-up of Zen and Shangri-la?)
    • True Love: Shalla Bal, for whom he is doomed to pine
Shalla-Bal (Earth-616) | Marvel Database | Fandom
via Marvel Database
    • How he became Silver Surfer: When Galactus attacked the peaceful and prosperous Zenn-La, the already restless Norrin Radd offered himself up to be the invader's herald in exchange for sparing the planet.

Silver Surfer #2
October 1, 1968 (note: bi-monthly series; makes sense with double-length issues)
  • Nemesis: The Brotherhood of Badoon
Badoon - Wikipedia
via Wikipedia
  • Noticing greater diversity in races and hairstyles among Earth's citizenry. 

Silver Surfer #3
December 1, 1968
Writer: Lee
Artist: John Buscema

Mephisto (Marvel) | Villains Wiki | Fandom
via Villains Wiki
  • Nemesis: Mephisto, based on Mephistopheles
  • Not for the last time, a baddie uses the Surfer's love for Shalla Bal to manipulate him.
  • Important question raised: How would you use the power of a god to save the world from itself?

Silver Surfer #4
February 1, 1969
  • Thor crossover.  The Surfer travels to Asgard.
  • Nemesis: Loki, who has the power to override Galactus's barrier against the Surfer leaving Earth
Loki Laufeyson (Marvel Comics) | Heroes Wiki | Fandom
via Heroes Wiki
  • Loki tricks the Surfer into thinking Thor is an evil tyrant and enlists his help to defeat him.
Thor (Marvel Comics) | Deadliest Fiction Wiki | Fandom
via Deadliest Fiction Wiki
  • We get to see an extensive cast of Asgardians: Volstagg, Fandral, Hogun, Sif, Heimdall, Balder and Odin.
  • This story had a lot of promise.  I'd love to see the series return to it but I don't know if it does.  I'm certainly up for more Asgard adventures anyway.


  1. That is something that my sister in law would love!

  2. Interesting. I have never really spent much time with such comic books. As a kid, I only read funny ones (Dennis the Menace, Archie, Sad Sack, and then later, Mad Magazine. I never realized they made political statements, but I should have since much science fiction seems to address such ideas.

    1. This is a relatively new world for me, too. I grew up on Star Wars. Trek came a little later. As for Marvel (and to a lesser extent, DC) comics, it's really only been the past 10 years that I've explored much at all.

      Mad Magazine, on the other hand... I actually had a subscription!

  3. We need super heroes in this day and age with so much going on. Spiderman and Silversurfer hmm I wonder who's faster?

    1. We do have superheroes, just not the capes and cowls variety.

      The Surfer wins that one. Surfer v. Flash: that would be an interesting race!

  4. How would you use the power of a god to save the world from itself?

    Depends on whether humans actually have free will. Been watching Westworld on HBO and there is a phrase that has stuck with me.

    The character of Delores, I believe, makes a comment that everyone has to break out of their loops. Delores meant programming, even for organic humans. Maybe a "god" could alter our programming to more rational behavior.

    1. Sure.

      Even if you take a "higher power" out of the equation, how much of an individual's life is determined by factors beyond his/her control? We are all responsible for our choices but some of us have been granted a far wider range of options than others. I count myself lucky in that regard.

  5. We definitely need super heroes now.

    1. We've got 'em. Amazing people are doing amazing work right now.

  6. There are some runs in the FF where the writing is really good. One of my favorite single issues ever is an issue of FF.
    But, yeah, they are not my favorite quartet.

    I don't know if I've ever read and of the original Surfer series.

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