The Marvel Universe is a very mysterious place, its outer reaches home to vast interstellar empires and ancient, enigmatic cosmic beings. These forces repeatedly involve themselves in the affairs of other worlds and cultures — especially Earth. Even without alien involvement, though, Earth would still be a strange, secret-filled place. Indeed, for thousands of years, various powers and organizations, both public and clandestine, have been wrestling for control of it.
When your job is protecting the universe, you want make sure you and your allies have a wealth of knowledge to call on, because what you don’t know can literally kill you. This December, a new incarnation of the super team known as the Defenders comes together for a new ongoing series by writer Matt Fraction and artist Terry Dodson. In today’s penultimate installment of DEFENSIVE MEASURES, our week-long look at “Defenders,” Matt Fraction joins us for a chat about two of the team’s experts: super spy Nick Fury and the Sentinel of the Spaceways, the Silver Surfer
Nick Fury began fighting the forces of tyranny in the Second World War and has been battling them ever since thanks a mysterious, life-prolonging compound known as the Infinity Formula. After WWII, Fury’s war went from hot to cold as he became one of the U.S. government’s top spies. Eventually, he became the director of the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D. In recent years, Fury has been an independent operator conducting a private war against the terrorist group H.Y.D.R.A. That war, however, came to an end earlier this year in the final issue of Jonathan Hickman’s “Secret Warriors” series.
“Now that ‘Secret Warriors’ has wrapped, Nick is the last, best ghost of the 20th century — and he has no more houses to haunt,” Fraction told CBR News. “He’s an agent of nothing, now. He’s the Marvel Universe equivalent of a Cold War-era loose nuke. He knows names and he knows where the bodies are buried. The world has moved on, but he’s still haunted by it all. He still has all this knowledge. He’s the last one who knows the real history of many things.”
When “Defenders” begins, Nick Fury is literally an old soldier in search of a new war. “I think every member of the Defenders is dragged into this situation reluctantly, but when we first see Nick, he’s particularly haunted and lonely,” Fraction said. “In the wake of ‘Secret Warriors,’ the world has finally moved on without him. I can’t imagine a worse fate for Nick Fury than to be bored and alone. I don’t think he knows how to not be a soldier. So whether he admits it or not, he’s happy to suddenly be of use again.”
Nick Fury may be a career soldier, but over the course of his lifetime, he’s often found himself in positions of leadership. As such, Fury has grown more accustomed to giving orders than following them, something that will cause some conflict in his initial outings with the Defenders.
“He’s a military guy and I think there’s naturally going to be some sparks that fly between him and Doctor Strange as they both try to take the alpha role,” Fraction explained. “Nick is really here because of the depth and the breadth of the uniqueness and the singularity of his knowledge. There are things in the Marvel Universe that only he knows.”
That knowledgeable is filtered through a perspective, one that’s used to telling the truth regardless of how uncomfortable or awkward it may make someone feel. “Nick is the guy who can stand in the room with these people and say, ‘You guys are freaks. You know that right? You’re weirdoes. You’re a team of super powered gonzos.’ He’s the ‘real dude’ and he can be brutally frank, sometimes. Guys like that can be very useful, though, especially on a team like the Defenders.”
In order to save his planet Zenn-La, scientist Norrin Radd agreed to be transformed into the herald of the planet-devouring entity known as Galactus. As the Silver Surfer, Radd wielded god-like power, using it to find new planets for Galactus to consume. Radd was also guided by a strong sense of justice, however, leading him to eventually rebel against his master and become a wandering force for good. Several years ago he resumed his position with Galactus in order to avert a cosmic catastrophe, but he recently realized that working with the world-devourer is turning him into a cold and unfeeling monster. In a recent arc of Fraction’s “Mighty Thor” series the Surfer decided to do something about that.
“At the end of the ‘Galactus Seed’ arc in ‘Mighty Thor,’ the Surfer orchestrated a stalemate between Galactus and Asgard that is predicated in him remaining on Earth. He did that because he discovered that he became sort of disconnected from his humanity, for lack of a better word, and was ready to go to war with Asgard in Galactus’ name. That horrified him,” Fraction remarked. “We’re starting from there. When we encounter him here, he’s trying to remember what it’s like to be alive and not simply be a silver speck on Galactus’ shoulder. Diving into this grand mystery with the Defenders is a great chance for him. That swooning humanity gives him purpose.”
Since the Surfer is once again back on Earth and attempting to reconnect with his emotions, Fraction is looking to the original “Silver Surfer” comics from the ’70s for inspiration, a point when the character was trapped on Earth and fascinated by humanity. “We also saw some of those elements in Greg Pak’s recent ‘Silver Surfer’ series, which was fantastic,” Fraction said. “That ‘restless searcher’ quality is a great part of the Surfer. He’s a guy who looks for life, whether it’s something for Galactus to consume or for his own soul. In ‘Defenders,’ the Surfer is looking to reclaim his soul.”
A member of one of the earliest incarnations of the Defenders, the Surfer knows characters like Doctor Strange, Namor and the Hulk pretty well. Like the rest of the team, he doesn’t plan on becoming a Defender again, but once the story starts rolling, he’ll find that he enjoys spending time with his old teammates.
“I think the Surfer is happy to be part of the team, in his own strange, little way. He’s like Spock from ‘Star Trek’ in that he can be cold when it comes to certain things,” Fraction said. “He has a disconnect that the rest of them does not. He somehow makes Danny look grounded, and that’s really saying something.”
The Surfer’s teammates on the Defenders will be more than happy to tolerate his strangeness because of the raw power he brings to the team. Indeed, as the wielder of the Power Cosmic, the Silver Surfer is one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe.
“He’s a little bit like Marvel’s own Doctor Manhattan, but his brain doesn’t work in such a way that he can be utilized like that. The challenge with the Surfer is to always remember how potent, powerful and massive his abilities are, but to never lose that tender, childlike humanity at the center that is sort of terrified and awestruck by everything and is observing all of it,” Fraction explained. “The only reason Surfer doesn’t wave his hand and end world hunger is because starving people suffer, and he needs to know what that’s like. He’s still a scientist at heart. He needs to watch and learn things, to understand the entirety of the equation. He could be a god, but he wants to be a man.”
Join us tomorrow for our final installment of DEFENSIVE MEASURES where Fraction provides a look at Namor, the Sub-Mariner and the Astonishing Ant-Man.