In the Marvel Universe, salvation rides a surfboard, but so does destruction. Both qualities are embodied in the form of one man – Norrin Radd, AKA the Silver Surfer. The Surfer made his debut in 1968 in the now legendary “Fantastic Four” #48 by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby, where he served as the Herald of the world devouring entity known as Galactus. The issue was part of a three part story where the FF persuaded the Surfer to turn against his master and help protect the Earth. After rebelling against Galactus, the Surfer became a gleaning sentinel of the spaceways, using his vast powers to battle planetary and intergalactic injustice. In 2005, the first Annihilation War broke out, and in order to protect the very fabric of the Marvel Universe, the Surfer had to protect his old master Galactus by once again becoming his Herald. In their upcoming five issue “Silver Surfer” miniseries, writer Greg Pak and artist Stephen Segovia examine the dual nature of their title character. CBR News spoke with Pak about the project, which kicks off in February.
Fans of Pak’s writing already know the creator has an affinity for the Silver Surfer. The character made an appearance in the writer’s “Planet Hulk” saga in “Incredible Hulk,” Pak’s follow up series “Skaar: Son of Hulk” and is currently appearing in the “Chaos War” miniseries co-written by Pak and Fred Van Lente. Those appearances, the writer assures CBR readers, weren’t just coincidences.
“I’ve always had my eye on the Surfer. I remember being blown away by him as a kid. It’s the kind of character design no one had ever seen before and no one could have ever seen coming. It’s one of those things that just shouldn’t work, but it works so incredibly well. It’s immediately iconic, evocative, powerful and fun in that big, crazy comics way,” Pak told CBR News. ” As a kid, I think I was also really fascinated by the Surfer because of this sense of sacrifice and nobility; this sacrificial heroism you get from the character. Also, there’s this kind of longing about the Surfer that I think is really powerful.”
Pak’s fascination with the Silver Surfer stuck with him into adulthood. “I remember seeing the Richard Gere remake of ‘Breathless’ where he talks about the Surfer. There’s all these interesting ways in which the Surfer has percolated into the mainstream consciousness. There was that scene in ‘Crimson Tide’ where the Surfer is discussed, and he was on the cover to the Joe Satriani album “Surfing with the Alien.’ A lot people seem to know about the Surfer without having delved into him very much,” Pak said. “We all have that impression of that sense of longing and that sense of heroic sacrifice, but everybody doesn’t necessarily know what those stories are about. That feeling is so powerful in the imagery, though. It’s really remarkable. Over the years, I’ve really been in love with the character and I’ve had a lot of fun writing him as a supporting character, but I was always hungry for the opportunity to tell a story where he’s the protagonist.”
Pak finds both the Surfer’s heroic side and his grim alien side, which he most often shows as Galactus’ servant, to be equally interesting. He also feels that these seemingly incompatible aspects of the character’s personality stem from the same quality. “I think instinctively the Surfer has a heart of a hero. Look at his origin story. His planet is under siege. Galactus has come to eat it, and out of everybody on the planet, the Surfer is the one guy who’s willing to fly up there and confront Galactus in space. He’s the person who gives up everything he’s ever known to save his world. So there is that kind of heroism to him; a willingness to give up everything for everybody else,” the writer remarked. “That quality has been essential to the character from the beginning, but what makes him really compelling is the idea that once he’s accepted this job to be Galactus’ Herald, the Surfer is made privy to the secrets of the cosmos and he learns that if Galactus does not consume planets, then the whole balance of the universe is threatened and everything could be destroyed or thrown into upheaval. That’s some terrible knowledge to carry with you. You’re looking at some horrible consequences for those beings that are facing their planet’s destruction. That has always been something that the Surfer has had to grapple with. Also, at many points in his life, he’s come face to face with cosmic truths that no person should ever have to face. In a lot of ways, the fact that you have that kind of knowledge separates you from everybody else in a way that can give you the appearance of being cold or alien. ”
Despite featuring a character both from and at home amongst the stars, some of the action in Pak’s “Silver Surfer” series takes place on Earth, though much of it revolves around the perks and the price of cosmic responsibility. “I don’t want to give too much away, but there is something glorious about the Silver Surfer and his experiences that we humans can only barely comprehend,” Pak said. “Norrin Radd himself is still astonished that he’s become more than the astronomer he was on Zenn-La many years ago. That glory is something we’re absolutely going to be exploring during the course of this series; the glory as well as the burden.
“There’s an emotional tale to be told here, and it’s going to play out on a very human level, Pak continued. “That’s what makes us care about these cosmic characters, and I think that’s what makes Marvel Comics great. You’ve got these insanely powerful characters, but the things that draw you to them and the things that they are most concerned with are entirely relatable human concerns. That’s what always made Marvel special; the very humanity of these characters. These characters are heroes, not because they’re powerful and not because they always instinctively do the right thing. They’re heroes because they’re struggling every day to be heroes and to reconcile their responsibilities with their desires in a very human way. That kind of flavor is something that works incredibly well with these supremely powerful characters.”
The antagonist role in “Silver Surfer” will be played by a character with whom the Surfer has unfinished business – the High Evolutionary. “Once upon a time, the High Evolutionary tried to collect the Surfer’s DNA for his own nefarious purposes. In this series, we just might find out what that was all about,” Pak hinted. “The High Evolutionary is also an interesting foil for the Surfer because he too was once just a normal person. Through his own work, the High Evolutionary transformed himself. He was the most brilliant geneticist of his day and was obsessed with evolutionary advancements. He’s raised himself to a nearly godlike level of power. There’s a similar arc with the High Evolutionary and the Surfer, only the High Evolutionary has been much more free to create his own mandates for himself than the Surfer has. ”
At this time, Pak has declined to reveal the identity of the series’ other major supporting character. “I don’t think we’re revealing their identity just yet, but there’s a character that played a significant role in one of my recent series, who as far as I know has never met the Silver Surfer before. So this person will play a huge role in the storyline,” Pak said. “There will be some star-crossed romance involved. I’m very excited about this part of the story.”
Pak is also excited about the work of his artistic collaborator on the series, Stephen Segovia. “Stephen is doing an amazing job with these characters. I think you’re going to see a lot of mind-blowing cosmic action as well as deeply affecting naturalistic moments play out, which I think is what these kinds of comics are all about,” the writer remarked. “He’s great at drawing these real visceral action stories in a way that makes you feel every scrape on your knuckles. I think that kind of sensibility, combined with this big cosmic stuff, is something really special. He is absolutely cutting loose with the Surfer, while at the same time bringing the human elements of the story right to the foreground. I think he’s a great match for this story and he’s been a total pleasure to work with.”
The Silver Surfer is a character who’s been riding the spaceways of the Marvel Universe for 42 years, so he does come with a bit of backstory. Keeping that in mind, Pak has designed his series to be something that simultaneously embraces the character and his experiences while remaining new reader friendly. “We’re taking Norrin Rad places he’s never been before in a Marvel Comics story, but it fits right in with all his continuity. It fits right in the character’s history and themes in a way that I think longtime Surfer fans will be on board for – pun intended,” Pak said. “At the same time, I think this series is a great opening for anybody who’s ever thought the Surfer was cool but didn’t know where to start. This is a series I’m going to send to my non-comics reading friends. Hopefully, it will have that kind of accessibility and be a fun story that anybody can pick up.
“On my website I’ve been posting some of my favorite Silver Surfer images under the very creative title of ‘The Surfer is Awesome’. So if you hit my website, gregpak.com, and click on the Silver Surfer link, you can see them,” Pak continued. “A lot of these images really do have a lot of fun with the kind elements I’ve been talking about; the combination of every day human level stuff with this big crazy mighty Marvel cosmic adventure. Some of my favorite images include the Surfer on a surfboard riding a cosmic wave over the Earth. The curve of the planet is beneath him, stars are in the background – and he’s wearing an overcoat and a scarf! It’s just amazing. These images take those very human elements and work them in a way that just makes you smile and makes the characters live in breathe in a really great way. So feel free to check that out for a little pre-game inspiration.”
“Silver Surfer” is just a five issue miniseries, but if fans respond to it, there’s always a possibility for more. “Please buy multiple copies of this series if you’d like to make that happen,” Pak laughed. “And yes, I have a number of stories that have been percolating in my head regarding the Surfer. So if there’s a chance to do more, I’d be all over that.”