Friday, 9 May 2014


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

It was the last-ever collaboration between STAN LEE & JACK KIRBY for MARVEL COMICS, and was published in 1978 - the year Jack's Marvel contract ended and he entered the TV animation industry, drawing storyboards for cartoons and pitching concepts for new shows.  He'd been back at the company he helped build for only three years, but was not a happy chappie and was eager to move on.  First though, he had to fulfill his contractual obligations before he could wipe the dust of Marvel from his feet forever. 

Isolated from its FANTASTIC FOUR context, the SILVER SURFER graphic novel is a not entirely successful 're-imagining' of GALACTUS' first visitation to Earth with the intention of devouring the planet's energy in order to sustain his existence.  It's clear that Kirby is following his original premise of the Surfer as a created being with no history before Galactus brought him forth, but Lee superimposes his own vision of the character (NORRIN RADD, SHALLA BAL, ZENN-LA, etc.,) onto the story by means of his expository dialogue and captions.  It actually comes across more as a self-contained, illustrated idea for a movie treatment than a 'canonical' fragment of the wider Mighty Marvel tapestry.

As great as MIKE ROYER had been in faithfully reproducing Kirby's pencils in some of his other Marvel mags of the period, it was refreshing to see JOE SINNOTT assume his rightful place as inker on Jack's Surfer pages for what would be the final time.  However, something still doesn't seem quite right in many places throughout the book.  True, there are occasional welcome reminders of past glory, but Jack's figure-work had deteriorated beyond the point of even Sinnott being able to completely disguise, despite his potency with a brush.

However, it's a noble effort, and not quite as bereft of worthiness as I've perhaps made it sound.  Diehard Kirby fans are bound to love it, as are fans of Lee's mastery of the written word.  It's not quite up there with the original 'Galactus Trilogy', but as the last outing of the co-creators of the Marvel Universe, it deserves to be on every true Marvel fan's bookshelf.  Seek out a copy on eBay now!  In the meantime, enjoy this brief glimpse of some of the contents below.

Below is Jack's original cover idea, on which EARL NOREM's
1978 published version was based.  Which one do you prefer?


Rip Jagger said...

I prefer Kirby's original.

I missed this volume when it first hit the stands. It was years later before I snagged a copy. It's weird, decent later Kirby artwork, but nothing mind-shattering alas.

It's a shame it ain't better. But shows that Stan and Jack worked in a wonderful bubble in the 60's which was impossible to recreate.

Rip Off

Kid said...

That's a pretty fair assessment, Rip. However, I don't think that Jack was really interested in re-creating the past, which didn't exactly help the book. I think I'd much rather have seen John Buscema draw it, to be honest.

vwstieber said...

I love Earl Norem's cover, but it should have graced a Buscema-illustrated version of the book. The Kirby Cover is more congruous with with interior and just belongs.

I have a hard time finding fault with the artwork on a technical level, especially from the few pencils, I've seen, but the whole thing still falls flat somehow. The whole book lacks passion and doesn't seem cohesive in melding art and word. Even the story feels cobbled together.

I agree with you both, Rip & Kid.

Kid said...

Good as Earl's cover is, WS, I think I'd prefer to see a JB cover on a JB book. I can understand why Kirby's cover art wasn't used - it was too cartoonish - but Buscema could've delivered the goods.

baab said...

I like painted covers but prefer the Kirby design.
Silver Surfer is an odd character,I cant help but think how silly he really is.
Like the black racer who came after him with his ski's.
But to a child, he is wonderful.
I loved the angst of it all and the origin with Shalla Bal etc. but he leaves me flat nowadays.
I did enjoy John Buscema on the comic.

I think Silver Surfer's popularity is not as high as has been suggested.

Kid said...

The Black Racer was a truly awful idea. Stan Lee would probably have nixed it, as it deserved to be. The Surfer, as we all know, is the Marvel equivalent of DCT's Walter the Softy - always whingin' and cryin', the big girl's blouse!

Britt Reid said...

"I think I'd much rather have seen John Buscema draw it, to be honest."

Wasn't that the first issue of the Surfer's 1968 series?
Basically a Lee/Buscema retelling of the same story...

Kirby's style has changed/evolved over the years.
Look at his 1940s work as opposed to his 1950s-60s style and you'd be hard-pressed to find similarities.

My big problem with the graphic novel was that Lee's dialogue no longer read as "hip" or crisp as it once did...

Marionette said...

It's interesting to see the little differences between the two covers. Note particularly the woman seems less of a helpless victim on the Norem cover.

Kid said...

While that first issue certainly contained a short recap of #48-50, Britt, it didn't quite re-imagine Galactus' first visit to Earth in the way that the '78 book did. When I said I'd have preferred to see Buscema draw the graphic novel, I didn't actually mean the same tale - just the first Surfer graphic novel, but I can see that I was less clear than I should've been.

You're right about Kirby's art evolving over the years, but, unfortunately, I think in his later years it evolved into something not quite as good as his '50s & '60s work.


Marionette, she actually looks quite contemptuous of the Surfer. Must have had something going on with the Big G. and resented ol' Norrin's interference.

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