Silver Surfer #1
Issue(s): Silver Surfer #1
And Stan Lee's claim on the character was actually only part of the behind-the-scenes difficulties behind this series. The idea of a Surfer series was originally teased in Secret Wars II #4 (see also comments, including the link from Michael that provides much of this information), and it's possible that the new Silver Surfer series might have been launched directly from that. That series would have been a 12 issue mini-series taking place entirely on Earth, with art by John Buscema, who drew the Surfer's original solo series. That first issue was eventually printed in Marvel Fanfare #51, but isn't considered to be in continuity. Delays caused Buscema to leave that book and so it was shelved. That limited series was supposed to be followed by a graphic novel by Stan Lee that showed the Surfer escaping earth. That was eventually published in 1991 as Silver Surfer: Enslavers, which is also of questionable canonocity (and if you just look at the art for the first several pages of that book, it does look like the Surfer is attempting to escape the Earth's barrier, crashes back to Earth, is nursed back to health by Mr. Fantastic, has a conversation with Reed that references Galactus banishing him, and subsequently gets happy and then leaves for space).
Englehart subsequently convinced Jim Shooter to allow the Silver Surfer to leave Earth without waiting for the graphic novel. And so we have this series.
Before we get into how the Surfer manages to leave the Earth, though, let's talk about the ozone layer.
If you grew up in the 80s, there's a good chance you had spiked hair. But then one day government bureaucrats came along and told you that you couldn't have the hairspray you used to spike your hair anymore, because the chlorofluorocarbons in the hairspray were punching a hole in the Earth's ozone layer.
Well, it turns out that your hairspray wasn't the cause at all. It turns out that the ozone layer was actually being depleted by the Silver Surfer, who thought that it might help him absorb more ambient energy and therefore punch through Galactus' barrier. He had no idea that it was giving the rest of us skin cancer, and he's totally sorry about that, you guys!
With that settled, suddenly: The Champion.
The Champion has only appeared once before, in the silly story where he arranged boxing matches with Earth's strongest heroes, and only the Thing managed to last the duration, Rocky style. But he was subsequently listed among the Elders of the Universe (see Captain America annual #6 and the 1983 Handbook). The Elders will play a major role in this series; it'll be the first time we see them acting as a group. But for now the Champion is seemingly making a bit of a blunder. He's attacking the Silver Surfer to prevent him from interfering with something going on in space. Galactus' herald Nova has been kidnapped by the Skrulls, who are trying to launch a pre-emptive strike against the Kree now that they've lost their shape-shifting powers, by threatening to kill Nova if Galactus doesn't do what they say. This is only revealed after the Surfer beats Champion in combat...
...something that the Champion says has never been done before (he also says the Thing was previously his "most formidable foe").
And Champion's reasons for him and his "allies" to not want the Surfer to interfere with the Skrulls is not yet made clear.
But the fact that Champion thought that the Silver Surfer might have been able to interfere tips his hand to the fact that it's possible for the Surfer to escape Earth.
Of course, we shouldn't be surprised by this. The Surfer has already escaped Earth a few times, and the reasons why he had to come back have never been satisfying. In addition to the items listed in the References, there was the time that the Surfer got around the barrier by traveling in time in Silver Surfer #6, and it seems to me he could have done that again, traveling into the past or the future, leaving Earth, and then traveling back to the present. Or there's the fact that Al Harper had come up with some sort of device that would have let the Surfer leave Earth; you'd think knowing that, Reed Richards would at least see that it was possible and do the necessary research to find out what it was. Or the time the Surfer left the Earth by absorbing the gamma radiation from Bruce Banner, which would have been a real win-win - curing the Hulk and freeing the Surfer - if only the Hulk hadn't hung onto his board. If not the Hulk, there are also other gamma-creatures around that the Surfer might have tried absorbing; no one would miss the Abomination (except me!).
That said, the Thing stumbles upon the real problem here: it turns out that it's not the Surfer himself who is stuck on Earth. It's just his surfboard.
So the Fantastic Four are able to fly the Surfer out into space without his board, and then the Surfer is able to convert his board into energy, have it pass through the barrier, and then transform it back into his board.
This is a little too silly for me. Galactus isn't really the type to be so clever or ironic. You'd think he'd just utter a simple decree that the Silver Surfer shall not leave Earth, and so be it, a barrier is formed. It's also too literal an explanation for why the barrier also affected Dr. Doom when he had absorbed the Surfer's powers.
Nonetheless, it gets the job done, and as mentioned above if it wasn't this it could easily have been something else.
So the Surfer says his thank yous and goodbyes to the FF and then sails the cosmos once more.
He makes a beeline for Galactus, his eyes picking out his former master's form a million miles away. And while Galactus' initial reaction is to disintegrate him for breaking through the barrier, he stops when the Surfer tells him he's here to help Nova. The Surfer even senses that Galactus is in love with Nova, "as a man cares for a woman".
It turns out the problem is Galactus is "too huge" to properly get to the prison that Nova is being kept at, and it's also protected with vibranium walls that are triggered to explode if they are damaged in any way.
But the Surfer is designed to be much faster than Galactus, so that he may "search many worlds for those without life in the time it took him to respond to the need to consume one of them".
Marshall Rogers does a nice job over the next few pages of illustrating that speed, which has the Surfer zipping through the planet before the Skrulls know what's going on.
Actually, the "Skrulls" don't look very Skrull-like, but they could be non-Skrull members of the empire or Skrulls stuck in whatever form they were using when they lost their shape-shifting powers.
Another interesting bit at the end. Galactus is ready to go wreak havoc on the Skrulls for their effrontery, but the Surfer, serving as his conscience, reminds Galactus that he's supposed to be a cosmic force of nature that is above that sort of thing. We've certainly seen Galactus act out of spite before (hiding Galador from the Spaceknights in ROM #27 comes to mind), but he agrees with the Surfer's words.
The Surfer himself is also pardoned for his past "crimes", so he is able to return to Earth now without having to do any shenanigans with the board.
We are off to a nice start here for the first truly cosmic series. Steve Englehart's often stilted dialogue is not too bad here while writing the Fantastic Four, and it's actually a positive when writing Silver Surfer and Galactus. And Rodgers' Surfer and Galactus are properly majestic. Rodgers is also coloring the series, and i remember his lighter palette being something of a barrier for me when i looked at this series in realtime, but so far i don't have a problem with it.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: For the FF, this takes place while the Human Torch and "Alicia" are on their honeymoon, so after FF #300. Johnny and Alicia actually don't return until FF #304 and so based on that this could take place any time between #300-304. I have it between #300-301, following the MCP.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (13): show
The good - getting the Surfer back into space. Englehardt was right that an earthbound Surfer was too limiting for an ongoing series.
The bad - Ridiculous way of defeating Galactus' barrier.
The ugly - In order to for the Surfer to be a superhero, he needs to be dramatically less powerful since he is more a plot device than a character. Very few things should challenge the Surfer as originally written, but that's not Englehardt's fault.
Like a lot of Englehardt's writing, he has some great concepts and ideas, but is all over the place in terms of quality of execution.
Posted by: Chris | March 3, 2014 8:40 PM
Galactus has come up with ironic punishments before- he forced the Sphinx to relive his life over and over and repaid Rom for tricking him in a "turnabout is fair play" way.
Posted by: Michael | March 3, 2014 8:51 PM
Engelhart was one of my favourite comic writers of the 1970s. Only Gerber topped him.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | March 3, 2014 9:31 PM
According to Englehart in Amazing Heroes #93, Marvel had an additional reason for delaying this title--they didn't want its release to be swamped by DC's debuts of Byrne's Superman, Miller's Dark Knight, the proposed Englehart/Rogers return to Batman, and Perez's Wonder Woman.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | March 20, 2014 7:36 PM
Steve Englehart's writing is better here than in the West Coast Avengers. This series was good for the first 100 issues. Englehart, Jim Starlin, and Ron Marz all had strong runs. The best part was the return of Thanos to life and the Infinity Gauntlet miniseries that it spawned. After issue #100 things went downhill fast.
Posted by: Steven Printz | March 21, 2014 12:30 PM
This series was long overdue and properly majestic, both because Englehart's writing works for Galactus and the Surfer, and because Rogers is so good on the art (his run on Batman in the late 70's is one of the things I kept when I ditched the bulk of my collection).
I actually really love the idea of how to get the Surfer off the Earth, if for no other reason than that it's Ben who comes up with it while Reed is properly flabbergasted.
The Silver Surfer was always really too powerful to be on Earth - there are any number of big events he should have been called in for over the years but never was, that he could have solved instantly with his powers. He belongs out in space, and Rogers really makes us see how perfect that is.
Him being able to see a million miles is probably nothing to him - look at how fast he gets out of the solar system (it's almost 4.7 billion miles from here to Pluto) and all his other talents. The Surfer is really mind-bogglingly powerful.
Posted by: Erik Beck | July 10, 2015 8:05 AM
Actually, the solution of bypassing the barrier makes perfect sense, if you recall FF #60, when Doom is defeated by the self-same barrier. Considering he wasn't the Surfer, the barrier shouldn't have affected him in any way if it was attuned to the Surfer himself.
I didn't have all of these early issues of Englehart and Rogers' series, but reading your reviews comes very close. Thanks again, brother.
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | July 10, 2015 1:06 PM
Why didn't the Surfer just find someone with a teleporter?
Posted by: ChrisW | March 28, 2016 3:21 PM
It's not fnord's intent but this site is really making me rethink both Englehart and Roy Thomas.
As for Galactus, one would think he was beyond "like a man feels for a woman" emotions- Galactus has truly been diluted from the cosmic, above human comprehension God-like force he was intended as, and is more just like a cosmic giant, albeit with great power, but easily manipulated and prone to his emotions. This makes him less special, in my opinion.
Posted by: Wis | December 24, 2016 5:24 AM
"--Then when Galactus took away his space-time powers, they'd come from the space-time parta the combo".
Posted by: Johan Mattheeuws | April 2, 2017 8:25 PM
The last part of the sentence isn't good English. It's partially the vernacular the Thing is using ("parta" instead of "part of"), and partly because this is actually quite a complex solution and a short explanation misses a lot. A different way of wording the same phrase would be:
"The Surfer's space-time powers is a part of the combined essence of the Surfer and his board."
Posted by: Chris | April 2, 2017 9:07 PM
Thanks for the explanation, but I do not understand how Ben has learned that the Silver Surfer can leave the earth without his surfboard. His reasoning.
Posted by: Johan Mattheeuws | April 7, 2017 10:28 AM
When Galactus trapped the Surfer on Earth in FANTASTIC FOUR #50 he zapped him with eye-beams and said he was removing his space-time powers.
Later stories established that Galactus placed a barrier around Earth the Surfer couldn't pass.
The Thing's reasoning is the Surfer can't fly without his board, so was really the board that had space-time powers. So he suggests Galactus trapped the Surfer on Earth by trapping the board there.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | April 10, 2017 5:14 AM
Sorry, a typo got past me: "so it was really the board".
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | April 10, 2017 5:27 AM
The Silver Surfer's board is an extension of the Silver Surfer himself. He and the board are one.
Posted by: Steven | April 10, 2017 8:26 AM
Be the board.
Posted by: kveto from prague | April 10, 2017 4:02 PM
Thanks for the explanation, Luke and Steven.
Posted by: Johan Mattheeuws | April 30, 2017 7:38 PM
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