Friday, 19 November 2010

WHO CREATED THE SURFER? (OR...THE SIMPLY SENSATIONAL SILVER SURFER SOFTLY AND SMOOTHLY SOARS AND SKIMS O'ER THE SUPERBLY SPARKLING STARRY SKYWAYS OF STARTLINGLY STUNNING AND SPECTACULAR SPACE...)



Who created the SILVER SURFER? If you know anything about comics
you'll probably reply "JACK KIRBY" - but you'd be wrong! Well, you'd be
right - but you'd also be wrong. Confused? You soon will be!

Truly it was Jack who originated and introduced the idea of
GALACTUS having a silver-skinned herald on a surfboard who searched
for suitable planets to supply his master's need to feed off their energy - no
argument there. However, a character does not really come to "life" until he
is presented in his fullest and final form to the panting public. In other words,
it's not necessarily the initial, basic idea in someone's mind which defines
a character (or concept) - it's what appears on the printed pages of the
published magazine which establishes how he (or it) is perceived
by the world at large.  


So - who is the Surfer? The Silver Surfer, formerly NORRIN RADD of
the planet ZENN-LA, sacrificed himself to Galactus by swearing to serve
him if he would only spare the Surfer's home planet from destruction. That
was all STAN LEE's idea - even the name "Silver Surfer" is said to have
sprung from Stan's fertile mind. (Apparently Jack had only referred to
the character as "the Surfer" in his margin notes.)

Jack obviously envisaged the Surfer as having had no prior existence
before Galactus created him by means of his "power cosmic". That's why
the Surfer had seemingly never considered the consequences of his actions
on the millions of beings who had perished as a result of him serving "the
big G". It wasn't until his encounter with BEN GRIMM's blind girlfriend,
ALICIA MASTERS, that he developed a sense of empathy for other
living creatures - it was only then that he discovered he had a "soul".
 

Stan, on the other hand, thought that the Surfer would work better as
a noble, tragic figure if he had made some kind of heart-rending sacrifice
on a quasi-religious scale. Norrin Radd had essentially "died" in order to
save every living person on his world - the comparisons to CHRIST are
obvious - and serve to elevate the Surfer to an almost saint-like
status - a "saviour" even.

True, there is an inherent dichotomy in this concept of the Surfer's
origin. Surely someone who cared enough for the inhabitants of his own
planet would not so randomly and recklessly doom countless billions of
other intelligent life-forms to cosmic destruction? We are left to assume
that Galactus has exerted a subtle influence on the mind of his herald,
clouding his conscious mind to the fate he inflicts on hapless planets as
he scours the cosmos. Galactus has caused the Surfer to forget his past,
and in so doing, enables him to act as his official "food-finder" with a
clear and untroubled conscience. Until, of course, Alicia's tenderness
helps reawaken his former and forgotten "humanity".

Well, it's arguable, I suppose, as to what version of the Surfer works
best, but it's Stan's concept of the character which has permeated and
defined the comic-buying public's perception of who the silver-skinned
sky-rider is and how he came to be. So, who created the Silver Surfer?

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby - but not necessarily in that order.

2 comments:

Aaron said...

Heh, love the alliteration!

I haven't read this run but have been loving John Buscema's work on FF recently, he sort of took what Jack did and really ran with it.

Kid said...

I'm lucky enough to have all 18 original issues of the Surfer. (Although Kirby drew the last one.)

The MARVEL OMNIBUS edition is a nice addition to anyone's collection.

Yup, Buscema captured all the best elements of the power of Jack's work - without (shall we say?) the "idiosyncracies".