In 1966’s “Fantastic Four” #48, which kicked off the now legendary “The Galactus Trilogy” arc, readers were introduced to a strange but cool character that sprang from the mind of the book’s artist, the late, great Jack Kirby. That character was the Silver Surfer, a cosmically powerful, gleaming metal humanoid who roamed the space ways in search of planets for his master, the world-devouring entity known as Galactus, to consume. In that first story the Surfer’s innate sense of decency was reawakened by the FF’s associate, Alicia Masters, and he rebelled against his master.
Over the years the Surfer’s sleek visual appearance, his ability to venture anywhere and his nobility have made him one of the most iconic and beloved of Jack Kirby’s creations. His travels across the Marvel Universe have been documented in several self titled miniseries and ongoings, and this March the Gleaming Sentinel of the Space Ways will once again shoot through the cosmos in a new ongoing series by writer Dan Slott and artist Mike Allred. CBR News spoke with both creators about their new series, which pairs their title character with a human traveling companion and was announced by Marvel yesterday at their “Inhumanity & All-New Marvel Now” panel at New York Comic Con.
CBR News: Dan, the twice per month “Superior Spider-Man” schedule keeps you very busy…
Dan Slott: YES! [Laughs]
What made you want to accept another ongoing assignment? What was it about the chance to chronicle the Silver Surfer’s monthly adventures that made it an assignment you couldn’t turn down?
Slott: That’s a very good question and it comes down to a couple of things. The Surfer is the first Marvel super hero I ever read about. When I was little, before I bought my first comic, I read my cousin Myer’s comics. So whenever I visited my cousin’s house he’d let me read from his collection. I thought that’s where comics came from — his house. I had no idea. I was very young. I was 21 at the time — No! [Laughs] I was more like six or seven.
He didn’t follow super hero comics. The only comics he had were war comics and horror comics, and he really liked Kirby’s “Howling Commandoes.” So since he liked that, the one super hero book he was following was “Fantastic Four.”
So he thought I’d like the super hero stuff and the first comics he ever let me read were “The Galactus Trilogy.” So that was my introduction to the Marvel Universe and I’ve always had this love for the Surfer. He’s really the first Marvel character I was introduced to.
Years later when I was in college I wrote and drew my own super hero strip for the school paper. It was “The Adventures of the Nuke Surfer,” who lived in a post-apocalyptic world and surfed off the after blasts of nuclear explosions. It was so clear to anybody though that what I was really drawing and writing about was the Silver Surfer in a radiation suit [Laughs]. It was clear from all the poses and shots.
Then, one of the things we do at Marvel when we have our creative summits is that we look at what the big event of the year is and one of the things that’s always on the agenda is what new titles can be spun out of the event? This year’s event is “Infinity,” which is a very cosmic sci-fi Marvel Universe story. So they were looking at what kind of cosmic books they could spin out of it and at the top of their agenda was the Silver Surfer. They thought it would be a good time to do a “Silver Surfer” book.
So with Spidey coming out twice a month, whenever we have that part of the meeting where they ask if anybody has any ideas for how we would do a particular series I shut up [Laughs]. Because I know how much I can handle. I don’t want to throw my name into any hats. It was killing me though as I was listening to people pitch Surfer ideas. I really wanted to pitch for the Surfer but I was thinking, “No. don’t say anything. Just smile and nod.”
Nothing that anyone was pitching for Surfer was really sticking and the day after the retreat I was talking with [Marvel executive editor] Tom Brevoort about stuff that happened there. I asked him what he thought about the Surfer pitches and we started talking about them. Then he asked me, “How would you do it?” I was just talking with Tom. I wasn’t pitching the book. So I said, “If I was doing it I would do it like this.” Then Tom went, “I talked to someone during one of the breaks and told them they should pitch the book just like the way you said.”
I went, “No way.” And he was like, “Yeah.” Then we just started talking and chewing the fat about this hypothetical book, just the way fans would. Then before we realized it we had talked for hours about the Surfer and how we would do a book with him. A couple hours into that conversation there was a pause on the phone and Tom was like, “write it up.” And I replied, “What do you mean write it up?” He then said, “Write it up. I want to edit that book.” [Laughs] I said, “But I’m doing Spidey two times a month.” Tom replied, “We’ll find a way to make it work.” So that’s how the book happened. I kind of fell into it by talking about what my dream Silver Surfer book would be. [Laughs]
Mike, based on what I’ve seen of your work it seems like the “Silver Surfer” would be right up your alley. What was your reaction when Marvel offered you the book? What made it an especially appealing assignment for you?
Mike Allred: It was a combination of insane giddiness and skepticism, like maybe it was a prank. When Tom Brevoort first asked me if I’d be interested it was like he found his way into the center of my brain and tickled it while poking it with a sharp stick. Sincerely, if I was told that I could pick any character in the Marvel Universe to launch a new series with, it would absolutely, without any hesitation, be the Silver Surfer!
And then when I got with Dan Slott to talk about his approach it became very real and something to get crazy excited about! His enthusiasm is infectious! And his imagination is on the same frequency as mine. If you needed to sum up my feelings about this project I would only need two words: “PURE JOY!”
Which aspects of the Silver Surfer do you find most interesting? And which of his traits are you especially interested in exploring in this series?
Slott: The thing I find most interesting about the Surfer, beyond the awesome visual hook of soaring through space on a surf board, is that he’s a character that represents freedom. He’s the guy that was the slave. He was chained and now he’s free to do whatever he wants.
Initially with Silver Surfer stories there was that limitation that he couldn’t leave Earth because Galactus had trapped him there. So here he was a former slave, but he was now imprisoned, and the second you break through that barrier you’ve got the most cosmic hero of all. He’s the guy who can go anywhere and everywhere. The whole universe is open to him and there’s something very liberating about that. We’ve all had that feeling in our lives. It’s like when you first get the car or when you leave home and now you’re your own person and you can do your own thing. There’s something very exciting about that. Then to do that on the scale of the universe is pretty compelling.
Mike, which aspects of the Surfer do you find most interesting?
Allred: His loneliness or isolation. He has the Universe for the taking, yet it’s nothing without a connection. Someone to share it with. Sometimes you can feel the most lonely in a crowded room.
Which of his character traits do you really want to capture and bring forward in your art?
Allred: His soul. Since childhood, there is a dignity in the Surfer that I’ve always admired, but I want to tap into the euphoric fun side of Norrin Radd that I’ve always wanted to see more of.
The Surfer has had ongoing series before, but he’s always been a lone wanderer of the space ways. I understand you’re changing things up by giving him a traveling companion. Dan, what made you want to take this angle? Was it inspired by another science fiction series that you’re known for being a fan of, “Doctor Who?”
Slott: [Laughs] Yes! It’s very much that. There’s something about the Surfer that’s very alien and different from us. So when you pair him up with a set of human eyes it allows him to see the world through those eyes too and it humanizes him.
Whenever you think of any visual of the Surfer he’s alone on that board. So, as Mike said, there’s a sadness and loneliness to him. Then when you suddenly add this element we all relate to it. There’s so much I don’t want to tell you! [Laughs] Because I want you to experience it in the book.
That’s understandable. Can you tell us anything about this traveling companion? A name, their background…
Allred: She represents the reader. She is us. She’s kind of an Everyman, or “Everygirl.”
Slott: Her name is Dawn Greenwood and she’s an all-new character. We’ve never seen her in the Marvel Universe before this, and she’s never come into contact with anything as strange or wonderful as the Surfer.
How old is Dawn?
Slott: She’s in her early 20s.
You mentioned she’s never come into contact with anything as strange or wonderful as the Surfer. Does that mean Dawn is not from New York?
Slott: Right, she is not from New York. It almost feels like if you’re a New Yorker and you’re on your way to work and Spider-Man swings by overhead and the Baxter Building is in your skyline that you would almost not notice it. It’s almost like to the people who would look up and go, “Wow!”, you’d say, “Tourists!”
We didn’t want Dawn to have that. We didn’t want to have someone who is that used to super heroes flying around.
Mike, who is Dawn to you from an artistic perspective?
Allred: For me, she is the realization of that childhood daydream of hanging out with your favorite super hero. Or, in this case,”hang ten” with with your favorite super hero. She’s also eye candy. I love drawing cute girls, and Dawn is my best effort to draw the sexy, cute girl next door.
Let’s talk about the initial story in “Silver Surfer.” Is this where the Surfer and Dawn meet? Or are they already on their adventures when the series begins?
Slott:There will be a “Marvel Point One”-style special just like there was during the first wave of Marvel NOW! It’s a collection of all new stories, and in that anthology we actually jump ahead to where they’re together and off having adventures in space. That story will really give you a taste of what the book is going to be like. You’ll get the flavor and the set up. So that Point One adventure is very much your Baskin-Robbins pink spoon of what the Surfer book is going to be about. Then the first three issues are one big adventure. If you think of it like a TV show, it’s our pilot.
Space can be a dangerous place, and the Surfer’s sense of justice and decency means that he and Dawn are bound to get into some scrapes. Can you talk about some of the foes they might run afoul of? And the Surfer wields the Power Cosmic. So he’s very powerful, but Dawn is just a normal human. Will she have her own ways to defend herself?
Slott: The Surfer and Dawn aren’t looking for trouble. They’re going to all-new sections of the Marvel Universe. They’re going to see things that even the Surfer hasn’t seen before.
In the movie “The Truman Show” there’s a moment where you see young Truman in school telling his teacher he wants to be an explorer. The teacher then pulls down a map of the world and goes, “You’re too late Truman. Everything has already been discovered. We don’t need any explorers anymore.”
When you think about the time we humans have spent reading these adventures in the Marvel Universe though we’ve only really been reading them for 50 years. 75 if you count Timely Comics. So imagine living in a world where you only knew of it for about 50-75 years and someone told you that you understood the way everything works [Laughs]. There seems to be this idea that we already know all the players of the greater Marvel Universe.
We think, “Here’s Galactus and he does that. There’s the In-Betweener. The whole universe resides in an entity called Eternity, and here’s the boundaries of everything.” Space is infinite and always expanding though, even if you’re the Silver Surfer. The Marvel Universe still has many mysteries to explore for years and years to come.
So in “Silver Surfer” you’re going to see new sections of the Marvel Universe, you’ll learn new secret about how it works, and encounter new alien species and ideas. We’ll still clearly be in the Marvel U. Marvel characters will show up and things will happen that affect all of us, but it’s time to be surprised again by the Marvel Universe.
When you look at the sci-fi section of the Marvel U you’ve got what Brian [Bendis] is doing with “Guardians of the Galaxy” and what Jeph [Loeb], Zeb [Wells] and Gerry [Duggan] have done and are doing with “Nova.” Those books are science fiction, but there’s a level to it that grounds it. They’re akin to modern day “Battlestar Galactica” or the J.J. Abrams “Star Trek.” There’s very much a modern day, hard core, sci-fi feel to what these guys are doing.
Mike and I are going to be off in the section of the Marvel Universe where it’s “Hey look, there’s a giant planet with a face on it called Ego! Or here’s all these weird, giant, Kirby things that are new.” We’ll see sections of the universe that are more like “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” “Red Dwarf,” or “Doctor Who.”
Mike, what can you tell us about the overall look of “Silver Surfer?” How does it compare to your recent work on “FF,” another Kirby inspired book.
Allred: I would call it a natural progression. It’s the Marvel Universe Daddy-O! With “FF” I’ve been enjoying this wonderful limitless playground, and Laura [Allred] has been experimenting with progressive coloring techniques that will go hand in hand with the cosmic elements that the Silver Surfer will offer. It’s important to me that the look of the book has an energy that sucks the readers right into the pages and leaves ’em with a big smile on their face. We’re gonna set the bar high and see just how close we can get to it.
Dan, Mike talked about what it was like when he first started working with you. How did it feel when you found out Mike was going to be the artist on “Silver Surfer?”
Slott: I am so lucky we got Mike because Tom and I came up with our vision of what this book was going to be before Mike was involved and we’d be talking about it all the time; spitballing ideas and talking about where it should go and all the things we could do. It was really exciting. At one point we stopped and asked, “Wow! Who could draw this?”
â€¨So we’re shooting out names to each other and at one point Tom goes, “I know who would be perfect for this book, Mike Allred.” The minute he said Mike Allred I could totally picture it because we had this great Kirby character, the Surfer, and we were dealing with all-new crazy concepts. We also had a lovable Earth girl. The minute we see Dawn we need to love her.
â€¨So I was wondering who could do all that and the minute Tom said Mike’s name I thought, “Oh my god! She’s an Allred girl!” and “Him doing the Surfer would be so Kirby cool.” I could see him doing all the stuff we were talking about and suddenly I couldn’t think of anybody, but Mike Allred.
Then Brevoort was like, “I shouldn’t have mentioned it. We can’t get him because he’s working on ‘FF'” I was like, “NO!” From the second Brevoort said his name everything I could visualize about the book was always drawn by Mike Allred. I started writing up the Point One story in my head as if Mike Allred was drawing it. I just kind of knew any name Tom was going to give for our artist was going to pale in comparison and I was going to be upset.
Then a creative change up happened with “FF” and Brevoort calls me up and goes, “We got him.” I asked, “We got who?” I didn’t know what he was talking about. He replied, “Mike Allred is going to do the Surfer,” and I was like the happiest person on the planet. It was like “YAYYYYY! MIKE ALLRED!”
â€¨Then when Mike and I were talking about the Point One plot I had sent him he asked, “Did you write this for me?” And I was like “YES! YES I DID!” So when I sit down to write this it’s not, “Let’s do Surfer.” It’s, “Let’s do Mike Allred’s Surfer!” It’s going to be a blast.
Allred: I’m living the dream! I’ll attempt to put into words how thrilling this is for me and how very much I want to share that excitement: Dan Slott and I are hosting a Cosmic Marvel Party and everyone is invited! Laura is providing the snacks and they are tasty! If the fun we’re having gets on the page then I can promise a great time for anyone who shows up to the party and picks up the book.
Stay tuned to CBR News for more on “Silver Surfer” and other news from New York Comic Con.