On The Silver Surfer – Herald of Galactus
I was always a fan of Marvel Comics and voraciously read everything from Spiderman, The X- Men, Thor, Dr. Strange and of course The Fantastic Four (F4). It was then, in F4 #48 (march 1966), as part of the Galactus Trilogy, that I first discovered The Silver Surfer, one of the most interesting characters in comic book history.
Created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby, it tells the story of Norrin Radd, an astronomer on the planet Zenn-La. Faced with the choice of saving his planet from being destroyed by the parasitic entity known as Galactus, he offered to serve as his herald. Once the deal was made, Galactus, who is of the same race as The Watcher, imparted some of his omnipotent powers on Norrin, transforming him into The Silver Surfer who would roam the galaxy on a surfboard for eternity, in his now impervious appearance, to find planets for Galactus to consume, until he encountered Earth and The Fantastic Four.
The F4 initially battled The Silver Surfer but, in that struggle, helped him rediscover his original noble self that enabled Norrin to join forces with them in their attempt to deceive Galactus and save Earth. When his deception was discovered, The Silver Surfer was punished by being bound for all time to the planet that motivated his disloyalty.
This is a poignant story of sacrifice, betrayal and redemption for someone who sold himself to the devil, even for justifiable reasons. It made me think of how I would have handled a similar situation and whether I could live with the consequences of my choices. It also led me to re-consider the idea of betrayal (which has negative connotations for the betrayer, regardless of who the betrayed is, or the reasons) and whether the act itself is as clear-cut wrong as presented in the bible.
We are taught that once we make a contract, we are responsible and committed to it, often for the life of the contract – in this case, eternity. Evaluating such a contract from its individual context, rather than judging, is a better way to characterize it. In this situation, betraying Galactus was the only way that Norrin could find redemption, as well as accepting that any transformation resulting from atonement still entails a price that must be payed.
The Silver Surfer, as with other characters in Marvel’s reality, is so much more identifiably human and flawed, wrought with insecurities, burdens, guilt and a deep sadness for who he has become. He struggles with internal conflicts, and loneliness, wearing his “mutant-ness” well, while simultaneously wondering if his powers will help or hinder him from finding the atonement he yearns for. The inner battles of morality and judgment we all face is at the heart of most Marvel’s heroes and makes them so identifiable and important.