So why the Silver Surfer?

12 Jun

Here is little Simone contemplating the nature of existence through the contours of a plastic figurine. Why are we here? Does life have any inherent meaning? Are we really born just to die? And who is the coolest super hero?

Luckily, I can answer the last one.

The Silver Surfer is the coolest character in the history of American comics. Here’s why:

1. He wields the power cosmic.

2. His name is Norrin Radd. At one point he was engaged to a woman named Shalla Bal.

3. He’s coated in superhard silver skin, beneath which, he’s naked.

4. He flies. On a surf board. Faster than the speed of light.

5. He’s symbolic of our own existential woes when confronted by the size, weight and emptiness of the cosmos.

He’s one of the silliest and kookiest characters in the Marvel Universe—their answer to DC’s Green Lantern—but also one of the most realistic and humane. Spiderman, Daredevil and Batman all have better motivations, true, but the Silver Surfer represents human vulnerability awe and wonder in the face of the capricious divine. Radd was this selfish science type on the planet of Zenn-La. When a god-like being named Galactus (a picture of him here) appears to gobble the whole place up, Radd offers his eternal service in exchange for his planet. Galactus coats him in “a life-preserving silvery substance of my own creation!” and then sets him loose to locate his meals. Eventually he discovers Earth, and must betray his creator to save the flimsy humans. Galactus punishes him with permanent exile. His plight—able to soar through the heavens but trapped on earth—is a tidy metaphor for the human imagination. Abandoned by God, trapped on earth and targeted by the devil, the Silver Surfer is equal parts Camus, Sartre, Sagan, Nietzsche and Ingmar Bergman cocooned in an impenetrable silver shell. And he can blast rocks and things with his power cosmic.

Stan Lee and John Buscema had the best run, talky but also cool. (Screen shot of his artwork here.) Jim Starlin and Ron Marz also had memorable runs. The character has been in limbo of late, with an absurdly complex continuity.

I think three is a good age to introduce Simone to our lonely star surfing hero. It’s a good age to broach the subjects of the meaning of life, why we die, and are we alone in the universe. She already digs the figurine.


One Response to “So why the Silver Surfer?”


  1. The boy with a thorn in his side, part 1: Saint Simulacra. | simoneandthesilversurfer - October 18, 2014

    […] The inherent contradiction of an omnipotent god in a flawed universe never went away. Nor did the problem of suffering, evil. Or of black holes, red shift of stars, parallel universes, those goddamn birds on Galapagos. All of these problems, strangely, brought to the fore by the Silver Surfer. […]

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