Silver Surfer #6
Issue(s): Silver Surfer #6
He travels back into the past to prevent the Overlord from taking over.
I guess i'll just say,"Holy crap, the Silver Surfer can time travel? Just by flying really fast?"
The implications of that ability are not fully explored, and he winds up returning to the present to think about things. Which is a bit of a cop out.
Here's some of the other weirdos living in the future.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Fantasy Masterpieces #6
This issue is a very smart, effective deconstruction of the superhero genre, and I think it's deliberate.
First there's the subversion of the idea that radiation gives you wonderful powers. Here it makes your child a deformed freak, evenifs he does gain powers. Then there's the subversion of the assumption that guys who get such power will do good with it -- with great power comes a great sense of responsibility. But the Overlord has no conscience, he's power personified at its most brutal. He's what the FF or the Hulk or even Spider-Man would be "in real life," if superpowers could exist.
There's also a play on the trope of the master villain who rather than killing the captive hero takes the time to rant, which gives the hero the chance to escape. The Overlord seems to play to type, but really he isn't, because unlike every othervsupervillain, his confidence is justified. And it's pretty clear, and psychologically realistic, that he wants to keep the Surfer alive awhile because the Surfer amuses him as few things can in a world utterly conquered. That's another ironic/realistic subversion: this is one of the first times we see a villain win and achieve his world-conquering plans: until now, it's been a given that Dr. Doom won't achieve much with the power cosmic and the Red Skull will swiftly lose the Cosmic Cube. There are no "real world" consequences of their operatic schemes. But the Overlord takes the basic idea and extends it to its logical conclusion: this is what a "real" Skull or Doom would do. (Note some of the disturbing sci-fi touches, such as the people turned into living batteries, as in "The Matrix" thirty years later.)
Buscema's art is perfect for this, conveying barbarity and raw power in an idiom that's not primarily that of superheroes. (Big John's preference for non-cape genres is well known.) I should say that this series as a whole actually benefits from B&W Essential treatment, where the Overlord's soldiers aren't decked out in lime, lemon, and cherry.
The trouble is that this story could play out with almost any hero, the Surfer doesn't do much, and we've come to see time-reversal endings as a cop out, which they were even at this time. But even as a cop-out, it's set up well within the premises of the series: the Surfer has a reason for attempting time travel, and his power is set up at the start, it's not a sudden dues ex machine to get him out of the jam. Overall, this is an enjoyable issue but also one that has more going on than one may normally expect from Stan Lee.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | December 23, 2012 2:01 PM
(It pains me to see what iPad autocorrect does to "deus ex machina." Sigh,)
Posted by: Walter Lawson | December 23, 2012 2:05 PM
The humans as batteries for machines trope dates back even further.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | December 11, 2013 12:06 AM
The Marvel Handbooks will later decide that the Overlord is a Dakkamite, like Wundarr the Aquarian and Quantum. Also, Jim Starlin uses the overlord's troops in crowd scenes in his Captain Mar-Vell stories. Perhaps they're just Dakkamite spacesuits or something.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 9, 2015 3:10 PM
I really don't like Sal on inks, as much as I absolutely adore Sal Buscema on every other thing he ever did. Also, that last panel of the Surfer waxing poetic is a great example of how I believe acclaim affected Stan's natural evolution and whatever above-average talents/potential he had as a writer. At this point, all of his writing is superficial. Besides being pressed for time, I get the impression that Stan was now "aware" that he was being expected to write such things, so the flowery pose is just more an arrangement of words and phrases than, you know, actual substance. I don't think this series was very good and I don't think it did anything for the character of the Surfer, who, for a very brief time, was the most interesting and original character in comics.
Posted by: Wis | June 22, 2018 8:42 AM
I've seen Sal ink John's full pencils beautifully. Although the credits don't specify, I'd bet these are less than John's full pencils and it's true. The more Sal there is, the more the overall job suffers and Sal's embellishing doesn't work as well. I'd imagine this is why Sal applied his considerable talents to penciling until the 90's when pencilers did full pencils as a rule. As a strict inker of full pencils, Sal did nonpareil work on virtually any job given to him.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | June 22, 2018 3:09 PM
Brian, you're absolutely right and I should have clarified that in my remarks. There are other examples of Sal doing a great job (and indeed, John specified that Sal was his favorite inker in more than one interview), but this one, it just seems so empty and weightless so we can safely presume John was rushed and doing a lot of other jobs.
Posted by: Wis | June 22, 2018 7:51 PM
Sal's credited as the "embellisher" here, which back then was Marvel shorthand for someone who worked over loose pencils (as opposed to the "inker" credit for working over tight/complete pencils)...so yes, there's a lot of Sal in the result. Different pay rates too, since embellishing required more work/time than inking.
Posted by: Shar | June 22, 2018 9:15 PM
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