With advances in CGI technology, Marvel Comics characters have been exploding onto the silver screen more frequently of late. Fictional characters such as Spiderman, the X-Men, the Fantastic four and more recently, The Silver Surfer, are now able to be accurately portrayed on screen in the same way as their stories appealed to the imaginations of children reading comic books in the 1960s.
The Silver Surfer was created in 1966 by an artist named Jack Kirby who was working as an assistant for Stan Lee, the creator of Marvel Comics. The character was designed to play a part in an existing plot line featuring a huge deity named Galactus. Jack suggested to Stan that Galactus, the consumer of worlds, should have a herald who flies before him.
Stan Lee fell in love with the character so much so that for years after his creation nobody else was allowed to write the dialogue for the Silver Surfer other than Lee. Eventually Lee in conjunction with fellow artist John Buscema created a back story for the Silver Surfer in which he was originally an inhabitant of the utopian planet Zenn- La, with the name Norrin Radd. He made sacrifices and his selflessness was rewarded with freedom to soar the stars at will.
His character appears to be an angelic type of alien creature who flies through the universe on a silver surf board. His first appearance was in Fantastic Four 48 and featured in various stories time and time again until he was eventually given his own comic book series; he also featured in the Avengers series on numerous occasions. His powers include incredible strength, the ability to reconstruct matter at a subatomic level and being impervious to extreme temperatures; he can also travel at many times the speed of light using his famous cosmic surfboard.
The story goes that when he became herald for Galactus, he had to leave behind everything he loved including his beloved sweetheart Shalla Bal. Galactus endowed his body with a silvery substance which made him impervious to the rigours of deep space; his surf board was also composed of the same substance and was also given to him by Galactus as a means of travel through space. The memory of his previous life was erased, however he still retained his emotions. He began searching for uninhabited planets for Galactus to devour.
When he arrived on earth he defeated the Fantastic Four, however he was convinced to turn against his master and overthrew Galactus. But, before Galactus left he erected a cosmic barrier around the earth imprisoning the Silver Surfer on the planet. Soonafter, his powers where stolen by Dr Doom who caused untold chaos on earth until Galactus restored the Silver Surfer’s abilities. With the help of Reed Richards the Silver Surfer broke through the barrier surrounding earth to return home to Zenn-La. Unfortunately, when he arrived he discovered that Galactus had devastated the planet as a punishment for his betrayal.
Galactus is a strange character: rather than simplistic notions of evil men with aspirations to conquer and rule over the planet, Galactus was a supernatural force of gigantic proportions with godlike powers designed to destroy worlds entirely, leaving them baron of any life whatsoever. He is one of the ultimate villains within the world of comic book culture. Galactus is not necessarily evil, although is capable of evil acts; he is seen as more of a natural phenomenon such as an earthquake or a tsunami. He is supposed to be older than the universe itself, and the only survivor of the universe that came before ours. His fate is bound to the entire cosmos and at times has been a force for good as well as evil. However, more often than not brings doom and destruction by consuming entire worlds with an insatiable hunger for energy, without which he will cease to exist. If Galactus ever ceases to exist then the entire cosmos goes with him.
The Silver Surfer character is one of the most defined characters within the Marvel universe: his creation was Marvel’s attempt to elevate the super hero genre from basic notions of good and evil to a higher level of thinking. He represents the higher aspirations of spirit, of selflessness, contemplation and noble behaviour, to sacrifice oneself for the greater good of the species.
His character is an acquired taste, along the same lines as Dr. Strange in the comic book stories: in general his fans are usually older, and more sophisticated than the average Marvel reader. Containing mystical and metaphysical notions, the Silver Surfer series took notions of fantasy to new levels, where the laws of time and space could be bent.
The Silver Surfer’s powers are more incredible than those of characters such as the X-Men or Spiderman. Aside from superhuman strength and a virtually indestructible invulnerability to almost anything, the Surfer possesses a wide range of cosmic powers including the ability to tap into and absorb universal cosmic energy and transmute those energies positively or destructively, the ability to channel beams of energy through his hands with enough force to destroy a planet, the ability to pass through physical objects at will, in much the same manor as a ghost would. He is able to restructure the molecules of DNA. He can also accelerate the evolution of life forms; he has the ability to view the past and travel through time and can also grant cosmic powers to other beings.
The Silver Surfer has a massive following all over the world and is popular for a number of reasons. Older fans tend to like his character due to the fact that they grew up reading his stories, younger fans like him for broadly the same reason yet they latched on to the story years after its original conception in the early 60s.
He has regained some of his lost popularity due to the film Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer which was released in 2007. The movie featured some alterations to the storyline, mainly due to time restraints, however retained most of the original plot.
The stories of the Silver Surfer represent the ultimate levels of thinking within the super hero universe and contain metaphysical ideas of which few comic fans generally contemplate. The latest Fantastic 4 movie was vastly more entertaining than the first, and this is largely due to the appearance of the Surfer. Hopefully we will see more of the Silver Surfer story adapted to the big screen.
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