Monday, May 4, 2020

Marvel Immersion Project: Silver Surfer #5-11

Norrin Radd (Earth-616) | Marvel Database | Fandom
via Marvel Database
The Silver Surfer was conceived as a different kind of superhero, or at least quite different from the sort who usually appeared in Marvel comic books.  He was out to save the world, and not merely one supervillain at a time.  He saw humankind as a threat to itself: war, prejudice, crime, etc.  He was trapped on Earth but rather than lashing out in resentment, he took the opportunity to learn more and appointed himself world protector, albeit a misunderstood and under-appreciated one.

The character's creators never intended him as a Christ figure per se.  However, there is no mistaking the more spiritual aspects of the Surfer saga, including some Biblical parallels whether intentional or otherwise.  According to the origin story, the Silver Surfer attained his powers through an act of self-sacrifice in protecting his own home world.  The Surfer battles Mephisto, clearly a Satan character, to defend the world and also his own soul.  Twice in this week's stretch, an "enemy" is not merely defeated but redeemed.

My Recent Reads

Silver Surfer #5
Originally Published April 1, 1969
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Howard Purcell

Stranger (Cosmic Being) (Earth-616) | Marvel Database | Fandom
via Marvel Database
  • Villain: The Stranger, who first appeared in X-Men #11.
  • Ill-fated new friend, only appearance: Al B. Harper

Silver Surfer #6
June 1, 1966
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Syd Shores
  • A time travel narrative.  The Surfer goes to the future where Earth, Zenn-La, indeed the known universe stands in ruins, all having fallen to a monstrous tyrant known as The Overlord.

Silver Surfer #7
August 1, 1969
  • A descendant of Frankenstein is up to the family's usual tricks, trying to generate life.
  • He creates a double of the Surfer, then commands him to battle the original.
  • Important recurring theme: drawing strength from compassion.  Frankenstein's assistant, Borgo, turns against the mad scientist and kills him.

Silver Surfer #8
September 1, 1969 (note the switch to monthly issues)
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: John Buscema

Joost van Straaten (Earth-616) | Marvel Database | Fandom
Flying Dutchman via Marvel Database
  • Mephisto enlists the ghost of the Flying Dutchman to help him capture the Surfer's soul
  • Part 1 of 2.  There's a note at the end of the issue indicating the switch to monthly release came rather abruptly.  As such, the transition from the first half to the second isn't the smoothest.

Silver Surfer #9
October 1, 1969
  • Part 2 of 2.
  • Not surprisingly, the Surfer's soul remains his own by story's end.  More surprising is the fact that the Dutchman gets a measure of redemption, too, courtesy of a "tear of forgiveness" shed by the Surfer.

Silver Surfer #10
November 1, 1969
  • Yarro Gort, a powerful man on Zenn-La, attempts to win over Shalla-Bal by taking her to Earth and showing her the Surfer has taken up with someone else.
  • Seeking to learn more about humankind, the Surfer goes to a war-torn, unnamed South American country where he quickly gets caught up in the drama on the streets.
  • He is helped by a woman named Donna Maria Perez.  He later saves her life and she kisses him in gratitude, giving Shalla-Bal the wrong idea.

Silver Surfer #11
December 1, 1969
  • The Yarro Gort/Donna Maria Perez story concludes.
  • Gort dies and Shalla-Bal is wounded.  The Surfer must send her back to Zenn-La, alone, in order to save her.


  1. It's unlikely that I'm ever going to go back and do any more real comic reading, but I wouldn't mind reading these.
    Though I've never really seen the Christ metaphor in the Surfer, not more than in any other super hero who has offered the same kind of sacrifice.

    1. Right. But it goes beyond self-sacrifice.

      I don't want to go too far down this path. I'll be out of my depths pretty fast. But the character marked a big change, perhaps reflecting the dramatic changes in the broader American culture of the time. In fact, it's over-simplifying to mark it down to religion. But they were playing around with a different sort of morality with the Surfer. It's fun. Refreshing.

    2. Oh, yeah, I get that, but reducing it to a Christ metaphor has always been... I don't know. Like the idea of offering yourself up as a sacrifice for the many was invented by "christians" or something so, when anything like that comes up, it's always reduced to being a Christ-metaphor.
      It's distasteful to me.

    3. I hear you. It is, of course, also worth noting that both Stan and Jack were Jewish, in as much as they were religious at all. Jesus was Jewish, too, I realize. That's a discussion for another day - and probably a different blog.

  2. WOW !
    Enjoy reading all of your comix posts. We had a friend who was in the early gaming and they put out a Silver Surfer game. Older son got to play it and tell them how he like it. This was so long ago I can't remember the year.

    1. My best friend from high school is a game designer. He gets to do lots of beta-testing. For me, that would be the best part of the job!

  3. Wow, you sure have an awesome list of comics read recently.