Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Classics - Silver Surfer #1

   What a thrill when this issue hit the stands!

   I remember picking up the first issue of The Silver Surfer in 1968 and taking it with me on a school trip, reading it over and over again (only letting it go when a friend begged for a chance to read it).

   The character had first appeared two years before in the Fantastic Four's comic, playing the part of a villain! He led Galactus, the world destroyer, to the Earth - but was convinced by Alicia Masters to turn against his master.

   As a result, the Surfer was trapped on Earth. Over the next two years, he made a few guest-appearances in the pages of the FF, and was finally given his own title.

   Marvel must have been convinced that it was going to be a hit - each issue was the size of an annual, selling for a bruising cost of 25 cents each.

   It was written by Stan Lee (who had made no secret about how much he liked the character), but surprisingly, it was drawn by John Buscema, not Jack Kirby, the artist who created the character.

   Of course, as a fan of Buscema's (and Kirby's), I was fine with it - and Buscema seemed inspired, as he turned in some of his best work on the series - lyrical and powerful (issue #4 may be his best work ever).

   The issue finally gave us the long-awaited origin of the Surfer, introducing Norrin Radd (the Surfer's "true identity"), his true love, Shalla Bal, his encounter with Galactus and how Norrin was able to save his world - at the cost of his own humanity.

    The Surfer is a terrific character, but Stan and John made his a pacifist, which made it much more challenging to find ways to put him in the heart of each conflict. When the end of the series was evident, they decided to make some big changes to the character and the concept - so they turned the art chores back over to Jack Kirby - and then they promptly cancelled the series. Kirby left Marvel at that time - so was the loss of the Surfer's title a contributing factor for his move to DC (where he'd create the New Gods).
   The Surfer would return time and again, both as a guest star, as a member of the Defenders, and  in his own title - but this was the high point for the character.

Grade: A



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