A History of the Marvel Universe – Silver Surfer

The plan for these columns has changed a bit since the Fantastic Four chapter went up. For starters, instead of a five column limit, I’ll be writing columns that relate to all titles I can write them for. As the columns are primarily meant to help those wishing to learn more about the characters, driven by an impetus sparked by a recent and enjoyable movie, release dates will be timed with the movies. (The Spider-Man column should be published just before Spider-Man 3 hits home video later this month, for instance.) Also, the arbitrary “10 issue” limit has been lifted.

A General Overview of the Silver Surfer

The Silver Surfer’s first outing to the silver screen happened earlier this year. As Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer will be hitting home video on Tuesday, this seemed like an appropriate time to post another “History of the Marvel Universe” column, highlighting the important points in the history of the sentinel of the spaceways. As the character has not had a lengthy publishing history in his solo titles, his column will be shorter than many which came before.

The Choices

  1. Fantastic Four #48-50, March – May 1966 – “The Coming of Galactus” story arc introduced the Silver Surfer to the Marvel Universe for the first time. This is one of the two stories that so clearly inspired the movie this year, and is the first story that really introduced the world to the character Stan Lee referred to as his “magnum opus.”

  2. Fantastic Four #57-60, December, 1966 – March, 1967 – This story, in which Doom first interacts with the Silver Surfer, is also a clear influence on the movie (and on the “Marvel: Ultimate Alliance” video game.)

  3. Silver Surfer vol. 1 #1, August, 1968 – The first issue of his first solo title retold the origin of the Silver Surfer in the greatest detail yet.
  4. Silver Surfer vol. 2 #1, June, 1982 – The Silver Surfer’s first return to Zenn-La reintroduces Shalla-Bal as an active character in this one shot by John Byrne.
  5. Silver Surfer vol. 3 #1, July, 1987 – The field that has kept the Surfer trapped on Earth since he first turned against Galactus is finally removed as an obstacle, allowing the Surfer to roam free through the spaceways once again, kicking off his third (and longest) solo series.
  6. Silver Surfer Annual #1, 1988 – Set between issues 14 (August, 1988) and 15 (September, 1988) of the third volume of his solo series, this was the first issue to feature Ron Lim on pencils. Lim picked up as the monthly artist with issue 15, and continued in that capacity for years, with occasional fill in issues by other artists until his final work almost with Annual #7 in 1994, following issue 92 of the monthly title. This makes him the penciller with the longest run on the title, which means I’m probably not alone in the opinion that he was also the best penciller ever to work on the character.
  7. Silver Surfer vol. 3 #25-31, July through November, 1989 – After months of building tension, the Surfer becomes embroiled in the second Kree-Skrull war.
  8. Silver Surfer vol. 3 , January, 1990 – My favourite single issue of the ongoing series, the Silver Surfer encounters the Impossible Man, demonstrating not only that the Impossible Man can actually work in a story, but that the Silver Surfer makes a fantastic straight man in a comedy routine. Highly recommended if you’re looking for a laugh.
  9. Silver Surfer vol. 3 #130, August, 1997 – The Silver Surfer returns to his homeworld Zenn-La, only to find that it has been destroyed.
  10. Annihilation: Silver Surfer, 2006-2007 – (My copy of this four issue miniseries is in hardcover, so I don’t have the exact cover dates available.) In the face of a Galactic-scale threat, the Silver Surfer re-enlists his services with Galactus, Devourer of Worlds, his current status quo.
  11. Silver Surfer: Requiem #1-4, July through October, 2007 – This four issue miniseries is so good that it’s the reason I included the “ongoing” qualifier when describing issue 33 of volume 3. It may be out of continuity, but it encapsulates the purest essence of the character more effectively than anything else I’ve read.

In short, if you’re looking for a single purchase to try the comic character out, start with the hardcover collection of Silver Surfer: Requiem due in December (and reviewed here). The second choice should be the GIT Corp DVD-ROM collecting all issues of all ongoing series and the John Byrne one shot, as well as every issue of the Fantastic Four ever published.