One of my recent vacation finds, Silver Surfer: The Ultimate Cosmic Experience happened to have come out in the year I left off: 1978. I won’t rehash the details of its discovery, but this find is still worthy of inclusion in the blog. Why? This book is Marvel’s first original graphic novel. It is also the last book that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby collaborated together on.
As part of the Fireside Books run of reprinted Marvel material it stands apart from the rest because it is the only book that printed original material. This told the story of The Silver Surfer’s origin. Or at least AN origin. It differs greatly from the origin Stan and Jack told in Fantastic Four 48-50.
The basics are the same. Norrin Radd, in an act to save his homeworld, agrees to become Galactus’ herald: The Silver Surfer. Gifted with “The Power Cosmic” and riding his signature surfboard, he travels the space ways on a never ending grocery run for Galactus, he finds planets for the planet eater to devour. At least that’s the deal. Until he comes to earth. That’s when things change.
In the original story The Fantastic Four, The Watcher and Alicia Masters and instrumental in changing Mr. Radd’s mind and turning him against Galactus. And in the original story at the end of everything Galactus agrees to leave the earth alone. In this story The Silver Surfer discovers the potential for humanities capabilities all his own and turns against his master. Which pisses Galactus right off. They battle and leave Man of Steel sized destruction in their wake. Silver Surfer is able to hold off Galactus, so the big purple dude erases everyone and then takes off to scheme some more.
Big G decides to creates a beautiful companion to seduce The Silver Surfer into returning to Galactus. Ardina is her name, but she looks more like Frankie Raye’s identity of Nova. Though he feels the attraction The Surfer does not want to return to his former master’s side. She also falls in love, but is unable to break away from the will of Galactus. After several attempts at negotiation, Galactus gets fed up and offs Ardina. In the end, believing this is his only chance to save the earth (even though earlier he insisted on staying to protect them) Silver Surfer concedes to Galactus’ demands and returns to his employment.
Dear Silver Surfer,
WHAT THE HELL, MAN????? HAD YOU JUST GONE WITH ARDINA WHEN GALACTUS ASKED YOU COULD HAVE SAVED HER AND SAVED YOURSELF A WHOLE LOT OF HEARTACHE!!!!
As much as I love Stan and Jack, and really enjoyed reading this book, I thought the ending was terrible. I really connected with the struggle of not wanting to return to Galactus to stay and save the hero-less version of earth. Then it was all thrown away in the end and he returned. That made no sense to me. Maybe Stan and Jack are actually the heralds of Galactus and this book was just meant to show that no one messes with Galactus when he actually comes to eat the planet. Who knows.
I enjoyed this book for the most part. It didn’t hit all the highs of the original story, or the usual highs of a Lee-Kirby team up, but it was still an enjoyable book. And it was a great look at what the Silver Surfer could be like in another universe. It even could go as far as to show us how important the other characters such as Alicia were to that original storyline.
I do recommend buying this book if you every do see it for both its historical significance but also because it just has that Stan Lee fun that I love about his writing. And Kirby kills the artwork. He always does, but this book, being a graphic novel, has the luxury of pulling out the larger panels and beautiful full and double page spreads that a 22 pager can’t pull off.
Thanks for reading!
Images from: http://img1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20090831012236/marveldatabase/images/1/1f/Silver_Surfer_Ultimate_Cosmic_Experience_Vol_1_1.jpg, http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-LGT1TxUMluM/U6i0jicTq6I/AAAAAAAAEIg/HLMlCH9X5Ko/s1600/surfer.jpg, and http://img3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20130227150904/marveldatabase/images/thumb/5/56/Silver_Surfer_Ultimate_Cosmic_Experience_Vol_1_1_001.jpg/500px-Silver_Surfer_Ultimate_Cosmic_Experience_Vol_1_1_001.jpg