Silver Surfer #8-9
Issue(s): Silver Surfer #8, Silver Surfer #9
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Fantasy Masterpieces #8, Fantasy Masterpieces #9
The Ghost--or a ghost of the Ghost, or a Space Phantom disguised as him--fights the Vision during one of Steve Englehart's Kang stories, but I don't think he's called "The Ghost" then.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 9, 2011 5:16 PM
With the Surfer series, I think it's obvious who was the idea man in the Lee-Kirby team. Lee knows his craft, is an excellent dialoguer, and is good at characterization, but he clearly has no idea what to do.
What would have happened had Kirby been allowed to be the lead on the Surfer book? It would have been awesome. Besides, Kirby's concept of the Surfer as an energy being created ex nihilo by Galactus certainly was a lot less clunky (and has more potential) than Lee's "Zenn-La" angle.
Posted by: Chris | August 10, 2012 9:22 PM
It's not so much that Kirby was the idea man, though that's true, as that the Surfer was the Kirby creation who played least to Stan's skills. The Surfer was cosmic, whereas Stan was best with the real-world ensemble of Spider-Man or the family dynamics of FF. Stan could humanize the Surfer by making him a man from another world rather than a force personified -- and in fact, Stan's Surfer origin is quite classic -- but a loner hero would be hard for Stan in any setting, let alone one that cried out for cosmic sweep.
Despite that, the Al Harper story and the Dutchman are both quite emotionally powerful, I find, and the Overlord story is dark and gritty in a way that's quite ahead of its time. Some of this is, for my money, among Stan's best work, and Buscema is dazzling, but the isolation of the hero and scale of his power deprive Stan of the human contexts that could make his work elsewhere more reliably solid.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | December 17, 2012 1:24 AM
Stan clearly had an idea for how he'd differentiate the Surfer from all the other heroes: the Surfer is the pure expression of Stan's own midcentuy humanistic liberalism. And in that light, the series characteristic failures are interesting. It shows how thin midcentuy liberalism was, with its lack of multiculturalism (hence the Surfer is always shocked at human barbarism; he expects humans to be just like him) and lack of feminism (Stan typically can't write women, and Shalla-Bal is one of his worst). Mephisto and the Overlord are Enlightenment liberal antitypes: they're evil just for the sake of being evil, yet they still seem to be having more fun than our mopey idealistic hero. Finally, the only times the Surfer seems to have a definite opinion and personality are when he's cynical or angry about everyone's illiberalism -- basically when he turns reactionary. And that's the note on which the series ends, when the Surfer's liberalism so curdled he's decided to become a villain.
It's notable that the only other time the Surfer had a personality was under Engelhart, whose liberalism was much in the mold of Stan's, albeit with a failed early '70s patronizing pseudo-feminism tacked on -- Mantis is as awful as Shalla-Bal is, in her own way.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | December 23, 2012 4:23 PM
I'm not sure I'd describe Mantis as "patronizing pseudo-feminism". I'm not sure how I'd describe her. Making one of the first Asian heroines a hooker is just as bad as anything Stan pulled. Englehart definitely had as many problems writing women as Stan.
Posted by: Michael | December 23, 2012 4:52 PM
I think the way Engelhart wrote Mantis was the way he thought a liberated woman should/would behave -- she was his idea of a feminist, and his idea was pretty patronizing. Making her a hooker was probably meant to be progressive, even though it was as bad as the June Cleaver-ness of Shalla-Bal and most of Stan's women.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | December 24, 2012 12:09 AM
Uh...yeah. Leaving aside "Walt's" reactionary gruntings, above, I'd just like to say that the Ghost is indeed called "the Ghost" when Kang calls him out of time in Avengers #132, and he certainly thinks he's the Ghost, later "they wuz all Space Phantoms" retcons aside. His bitterness at spending centuries endlessly voyaging comes out in his fight with the Vision, whom he absolutely wrecks, by the way, leaving Ol' Vizh dying in a sobbing Mantis's arms as the cliffhanger for #133.
Posted by: Dan Spector | July 9, 2014 2:49 AM
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