Who is “silsurf”?
With the recently released Fantastic Four 2 ad campaign emblazoned everywhere in Los Angeles with just the word “Rise” and an ominous comin’ at ya image of the glorious Silver Surfer, I thought it was about time I did some talkin’. You see, the Silver Surfer has been my alter ego, namesake, my guy in the closet, etc, since I first laid eyes on his gleaming exterior about 35 years ago.
And after going out to see said movie: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer flick, alone, mid-week, at a matinÃ©e, and realizing that though the movie is pretty bad (atrocious), the long awaited big screen appearance of the Silver Surfer was handled quite well and I collectively breath a sigh of relief over the cosmos.
There has been talk of a Silver Surfer movie since about 1971. As the story goes, Paramount Pictures started a project at the time and due to the inability to create a believable Silver humanoid riding on a surfboard at near the speed of light who embodies the power cosmic, it was shelved, fell into turn around and all but forgotten.
There was a resurgence of interest around the time that T2 came out and the whole “liquid-metal” CGI came into being, I even saw a USC short at Sundance in 1994 (below courtesy of YouTube) that used that technology solely for the purpose of giving the Silver Surfer a few minutes of screen time. Again, nothing happened.
Even little old me had a brain storm and started a folder on my Mac SE, of optioning the title from Paramount and making a Silver Surfer animated feature. My concept was: Artwork in the style of the original Kirby comics, Widescreen animated feature 1.235:1 aspect ratio, Music by REM and starring the voices of Jeff Goldblum as the Surfer and Geena Davis as his inamorata Shalla Bal. (They were a couple at the time)
I shall digress…
I grew up in Brooklyn Heights, a small town in the middle of New York City. I remember so well walking to the Hotel St. George (where they shot the scene from The Godfather where they guy puts the knife through the other guys hand at the bar) and checking the newsstand to see if there were any new Silver Surfer comics available. On a recent trip to NY I was passing through that same old St. George Hotel and noticed that the news racks are still there, still beautiful floor to ceiling oak book racks, and I remembered exactly where those Surfers once lay.
As a child I bought and collected other marvel comics, some Spider-Man, Sub Mariner and Thor were my faves, (all weirdos) but from the very start the Surfer attracted me like no other, in retrospect it seems as plain as day.The Silver Surfer was one of the shortest lived Marvel comics series that I know of. Lasting only 18 precious issues somewhere in the 1968 zone. Given that I was only seven years old at the time, it is hard to know why I was drawn to the Surfer, but to this day he remains with me as my alter ego, my id, my lost self.
I was recently re-reading all the surfers, in the conveniently readable Marvel Masterworks series and I realized how little I remember and how much I had changed my conception of the Surfer to suit my own existential seven year old needs.
You see, the Surfer is a real mixed bag, on the one hand he is a tormented soul, forever lost and basking in the ignorance of mankind for whom he is forever beholden. On the other hand he is a short tempered egomaniac, with little belief there exists any beauty or love or compassion on this feeble planet earth.
The Surfer was this guy named Norrin Rad (you will constantly see surfing references while reading the comics. whether they were all intended or not. “rad, dude”) who lived on a fully developed peaceful plant called Zenn-La. There everything was hunky dory, no war or strife or hatred, etc, jut the good stuff. But one day this cosmic ogre named Galactus came storming over to Zenn-La with the sole purpose of sucking the planet’s live force and consequently leaving everything and everyone deader than a door nail. That is what Galactus did, that is how he stayed afloat, just cruising the cosmos sucking down planet juice. Norrin Radd would have none of it and he struck a deal with Galactus. He said if I become your herald I will search out planets that have all the energy you need, but contain no living organisms and you can suck down all you want.
And thus a deal was made.
Of course to be the herald of Galactus he had to undergo a physical transformation in order to withstand the harsh atmosphere of the cosmos, so Galactus enveloped him in an impermeable silvery skin. He also needed a tremendously fast vehicle in order to stay well ahead of the insatiable Galactus, thus the Silver Surfer’s board was born. And that pretty much sums up “The Big Premiere Issue #1”
Everything went on hunky dory between the big guy and his herald until one day Galactus got sick of waiting for the Silver Surfer to find a lifeless hunk of planet because he wanted some planet juice NOW! As luck would have it, there happened to be a very juicy, conveniently placed planet, three planets from the the nearest star. Ooops, that earth!
When the Surfer saw exactly how much life his boss was bout to ingest he could not stand it on moral grounds and made a stand with the old man, they battled over the life of every being on the planet earth. Needless to say, it was quite a battle.
Surfer didn’t really win, but he pissed off his boss enough so that Galactus said sina-nara, but before I go I am placing an impenetrable barrier around this planet you love so much so you can stay here for eternity bitching and moaning about those earth creatures you fought so gallantly to save. So there you have it. The Silver Surfer is trapped inside an invisible barrier tethered to the planet earth for eternity, (oh yeah, Galactus also had to make his herald live forever) His board and the power cosmic his only companions. Oh, did I forget to explain the power cosmic? I am not sure why the Surfer got the power cosmic to begin with, but without it the series would have been pretty drab. The power cosmic is very hard to explain and to understand, I am not sure if the Surfer ever really understood the unlimited power that the power cosmic contained. It seems the power cosmic enabled him to will almost limitless energy into a physical reality. His power cosmic successfully beat every conceivable enemies power, and there were some doozies. One of the charms of the surfers legacy is the complete inability to define the power cosmic. No one understood what it was or how it worked, yet everyone (bad guys) coveted it. Here starts a long list of parallels one can draw between the surfer and existential beliefs. He had a power so great it could solve every problem, so powerful that it was god like, yet so mysterious that it defied interpretation. All I know is that ROCKED!
So, there lies the surfer, forever chained to the confines of the planet earth, forever separated form his one and only love (a broad he was going to marry on Zenn-La named Shalla-Bal) and his only duty is to monitor a race of animals called humans that never understand what he is trying to do. This is how the rest of the original series goes. The surfer seeing some horrible atrocity against humanity about to unfold and in his efforts to stop the impending attack, he is mistakenly taken as the very source of evil that is gonna do away with all the kin folk on planet earth. As the stories go on the Surfer becomes more and more impatient with humankind’s lack of compassion and on more than one occasion he gives up and says, forget it, let them all die, only at the very last moment he cannot deal with the crushing reality (re: guilt) and swoops in with the power cosmic to save the day.
It is one heck of a lonely life the Surfer is committed to, spending most of his time (eternity is very long) floating around in his bubble of space, a purgatory, waxing hilariously on the foibles of humankind and how useless it all is. Oh, and much endless anecdotes of love for Shalla-Bal.
Re-reading these episodes it is amazing how much less connection I feel for the Surfer in his plight to save humanity. This time around he only seems to become more and more internalized, resentful, angry and depressed as time goes on. Sure, I am not saying I blame him, but the truth be told, he is not the most likable a super hero and in 1968 it is no wonder Marvel pulled the plug.
But on the other hand it is very interesting for me to look at why I was drawn to the Surfer in the first place. I mean I have made him my nom de plume ever since. When I first signed on to the internet it was sometime around 198-something. The internet was still text based and AOL (which wasn’t even a bad word yet) was at verion 1.7, the modems ran at 9600 baud which meant that you had to WAIT just for text to load. I signed onto AOL at that time and believe it or not Silver Surfer was taken (like minds were out there on the fringe of interactivity at that time) and I decided to settle for my own contraction, silsurf.
From that moment on, I became silsurf, that was my username, and it still is. I have had dozens of emails accounts over the years, all starting with the prefix silsurf. I have registered at hundreds of forums, logins, anywhere else that desires a username on the internet, silsurf is always me. I have so concerned the market of silsurf that I have never once been refused it as a username on a website.
Yes, I felt a kinship to him, his outcast nature, his inability to see the goodness outside himself, his distrusting arrogance. All elements of myself that I can see as part of my past and that I am glad I have some perspective over now. The surfer was one heck of a lonely cat. Pissed off, lugubriousness that would rival the ranks of Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov.
So, perhaps I am not the “silsurf” I once was, and we can all be thankful for that, but will I remain “silsurf” just for the sake of it?
I just don’t know.
Just a major freakin’ note.
I was at one of my favorite places, the United States Post Office, when after I asked to see the selection of 41 cent stamps, my jaw hit the floor when she slapped this sheet down in front of me. I spent 82 dollars on Silver Surfer stamps and it might be the best purchase I have made in a lifetime.
The reverse of the sheet has little info blocks on the characters, let’s see what the United States Government has to say about silsurf:
Desperate to save his home planet from destruction, Norrin Radd struck a deal with the force known as Galactus: As the world devourers herald he would search the galaxy for his master’s sustenance. The Silver Surfer now rides the cosmic waves unshackled!
For more technical data on the Surfer, visit Marvel comics Silver Surfer page