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Great Characters: Silver Surfer

There are many iconic characters in the comic book world. Many who deserve their recognition for their complexity and ability to hit upon human nature. However, I believe there are many characters who have been buried under the colossal bulk of comic book history, characters who need some time in the sun. So every now and again, I'll bring you Great Characters, an article outlining underplayed characters and what I think makes them so great.

On a lot of top ten comic book character lists, rarely do you see Silver Surfer. I can guess why this might be at first, but in reality I think the character is still critically underrated. Indeed, he appeared in a movie (although not as good as a movie as one would like) and there does seem to be a cult following, I think he can be so much more. There is so much potential in his mythos, so much already done, that I can't believe he hasn't risen above a C-list character.

But first, lets go through what I believe is holding everyone back...

Mobeus Surfer

Goofy Beginnings, Goofy Concept

A lot of the early Surfer stuff, while well done, has the sour taste of goofy 70s science fiction. And that's because it was. Silver Surfer -- a silver man on a surf board, mind you -- zoomed around the universe spouting free love philosophy before laser blasting an alien named GROOK and his robotic gladiators into oblivion. It was fit for time.

But I think Silver Surfer is still stuck in that mindset, like a Beta Ray Bill or Ego. He's arguably more popular than those two, but he's still reversed as a strange oddity in Marvel's Cosmic Area. One of the many Silver Age creations made by smushing a bunch of okay sounding ideas together. 

Faaaaar OutFar out

As a Nigh Unstoppable Demigod, He's Too Unrelatable

I'm not sure that this is a completely valid complaint, but mostly I think it misses the point of the character. I'll get to that later.

Indeed, Silver Surfer doesn't have the emotional impact of Spider-Man, the personal charm of Iron Man, or even the badass devil-may-care attitude of Wolverine. His silver skin and ability to withstand almost everything makes him seem just a little bit less human.

Silvy the Vampire Slayer
Dude even lasers Dracula for christsakes

Nothing About His Story is Interesting

I've heard this from people before, and I think that it just stems from a lack of knowledge on the character. Which itself comes from his lack of popularity. Which is because of a lack of knowledge. IT'S A SNAKE EATING ITS OWN TAIL! OROBUROS! MADNESS!

From a cursory glance, I can see why this would be. He was once a villain, got talked out of it, broke free of his master, then flew off into the universe. It seems like his story is over. After that he's what? What's his deal? What are his stakes? His drive? Who is the Silver Surfer?

Galactus on the Moon

So I believe those are the biggest things keeping Silver Surfer back. But HOLD ON! Let me show you what makes him a Great Character.

Surf's up

He's a Tragic Character

To have an affective tragic character, they have to be relatable. So what makes Silver Silver relatable? Two reasons. One: he can never go home, he can never get back what he had. How many people feel that they can never go back to when things were simpler? That they can never really go back home? Worse yet, Silver Surfer left his home with noble intentions and it destroyed him. It turned him into a monster. Second: he has incalculable guilt. He is the cause of not just genocides, but numerous extinctions. The blood of billions is on his hands.

Now the Surfer has the The Power Cosmic. It basically means he can do almost anything. He can crack a planet and withstand a supernova. He can, and has, exchanged blows with the Hulk. So he nobly sets out to be a force of good. He can never redeem himself, but he can try. And yet, time and time again, he finds that he can't. He can stop a space slaver, but he can't make a planet stop waging war. He can't laser greed, corruption, and sadism in the face, not matter the laser.

People asks why Superman mostly sticks to Metropolis and not the whole planet. Well Silver Surfer's domain is the entire universe and, much like Superman, must deal with the fact that he cannot save everyone. Unlike Superman, the Surfer has to combat mountains of guilt.

Silver Surfer Defeats ArmadaHowever, blowing up fleets of ships goes a long way

As an Outsider He Can Throw Down Some Wicked Philosophy

Silver Surfer's silver skin is the perfect mirror to turn on society. What better way to comment on the human condition than a godlike being who wants only the best for the world. Like The Doctor or Dr. Manhattan or (non doctor) Dream, our human problems seem so small. It's in that shrunken down view that we can explore big problems. Silver Surfer can look at war as a fight over imaginary lines in the sand or pollution as insanity that threatens the only thing keeping us alive.

It's in this mindset that we get some of the Surfer's greatest writing.

Some Silver Truth

Hey speaking of Silver Surfer: Requiem...

Silver Surfer: Parable and Requiem Sets an Awesome Storytelling Precedent

Silver Surfer: Parable is a standalone that features a story about Galactus landing in LA and declaring himself god. As god, he declares that there are no more laws and simply waits for the city (and the world I think?) to tear itself apart. Silver Surfer: Requiem is a collection of beautiful stories featuring various Marvel characters. It's amazing. They both are.

Something Marvel is sorely missing that DC has is a Vertigo-like take on characters. Where are the deep, almost literary, stories? Silver Surfer can be a Swamp Thing or Constantine. Who better to examine large complex ideas than the Surfer? He's literally tailor built for it.

Galatus StandsIt's really a fantastic book

So there you have it. That's why I think Silver Surfer is a great character. Agree? Disagree? Leave some comments below. Regardless, I hope we see more of the Sentinel of the Spaceways in the future.


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