The Silver Surfer. Artist: Jack Kirby.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1966
Creator: Jack Kirby
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Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, who together created most of Marvel Comics' greatest characters of the 1960s, had, by the middle of that decade, worked out a …

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… very efficient method of collaboration. Lee and Kirby would discuss the basic story outline, Kirby would go home and draw it, and finally, Lee would write the dialog. Sometimes Kirby would surprise Lee by including story elements Lee hadn't asked for. Perhaps the biggest surprise was The Silver Surfer, who, from Lee's point of view, just sort of "turned up" in a Fantastic Four story.

The storyline concerned the ultimate predator, Galactus, who ate entire planets. Kirby, figuring a guy that heavy probably didn't work alone, added a "herald" for Galactus, a scout who ran ahead of the big guy, seeking out worlds suitable for consumption. Since this gleaming, metallic herald, who travelled on a cosmic-powered board-like object, looked just like a surfing trophy, he was dubbed "The Silver Surfer".

Tho he hadn't planned for The Silver Surfer to be there, Lee picked right up on the character, and a conflict between Galactus and The Surfer became a pivotal point in the story's resolution. In the end, it was The Silver Surfer, and not The Fantastic Four, who saved Earth — but he paid a devastating price for his rebellion. Accustomed to the freedom of the entire universe, The Surfer was confined to our single planet.

Readers responsed enthusiastically, and The Surfer became a frequently-recurring supporting character. When, in 1968, Marvel launched a major expansion of its line, he got a comic of his own. Unfortunately, Lee's concept of the character conflicted with Kirby's, and Lee was the editor. When Kirby first heard the comic was being planned, John Buscema had already been tapped to draw it. This exacerbated a growing rift between Kirby and Lee, a rift that eventually led to Kirby's leaving Marvel in 1970.

The Kirbyless Surfer, as revealed in the first issue, had led an ordinary life on a distant planet before joining Galactus; whereas Kirby had envisioned him as a being of pure energy whom Galactus had created. Whether it was this altered perception of the character or simply the fact that he wasn't quite working in the lead position, The Surfer's book didn't catch on as well as anticipated. Some of Lee's best writing went into The Silver Surfer's monologues, but they worked better when played against other superheroes, than when the character was alone in the panel. The comic was well enough liked to have become a prime collectible during the intervening years, but it lasted only 18 issues.

The Surfer went back to being a supporting character. One thing preventing him from getting his own feature again was the fact that Lee had formed a special attachment to him, and didn't want other writers to handle him. Over the next few years, the closest he came to stardom was a brief association with The Defenders in the early 1970s, and the lead position in a 1978 graphic novel in which Lee and Kirby re-told the first Galactus story, but without The Fantastic Four.

Eventually, The Surfer was freed from his imprisonment on Earth, and that opened up new story possibilities — to say nothing of cutting down on monologues that had become hard to distinguish from common, ordinary whining. Perhaps as important, Lee eased up on his exclusive claim to the character. He got his own comic again in 1987, and has been surfing the spaceways ever since.


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