Throughout history, some of humanity’s greatest heroes and villains have used the argument of “The Greater Good” as a way of justifying morally questionable acts. It’s an idea that many of the Marvel Universe’s heroes and villains are intimately familiar with as well, even the alien ones like the Silver Surfer. As a herald of the planet devouring entity known as Galactus, the Surfer, AKA Norrin Radd of the planet Zenn-La, must seek out worlds for his master to consume or the universe will pay a deadly price. The Surfer’s work may be necessary, but it often wears away at his psyche leaving him with sense of disconnection from the rest of the sentient universe. In the opening chapter of the current five issue “Silver Surfer” miniseries, writer Greg Pak and artist Stephen Segovia showed readers how the Surfer’s feelings solitude lead him to Earth and a violent encounter with humanity; an encounter that left him powerless and bleeding to death. CBR News spoke with Pak about the issue and what comes next for the series.
“Silver Surfer” #1 opened with the title character flying away from Earth, where the final, climactic battle of the recently concluded “Chaos War” miniseries took place. The Surfer’s immediate goal was to find a place where Galactus could replenish the energies he lost during his part in the epic fight, and during his flight, the cosmic loner reflected on what it means to be Galactus’s herald and what it has cost him.
“My interpretation of the Silver Surfer is that he’s cosmically aware. Through this gift/curse from Galactus, he understands how the crazy world of the Marvel cosmos works. He understands that in order for the universe to endure, Galactus has to consume. It’s a truth that no normal flesh and blood person could ever come to grips with or accept because it’s literally an inhuman thought. It doesn’t care about morality, ethics or humanity itself. In order to wrap your head around it, you have to achieve a state of cosmic removal. You have to look at things from the level of these almost god-like cosmic entities. So from time to time, you see the Surfer in that mode,” Pak told CBR News. ” Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning depicted that kind of Surfer beautifully in their recent ‘Nova’ series. A couple years back, they had Nova encounter the Surfer while he was helping Galactus consume a planet. It was totally chilling to see the Surfer in that mode.
“That’s one of the things that’s so compelling about the Surfer,” Pak continued. “He has this terrible mission, and somewhere inside of him is the man who would look on that in horror, but he has to fulfill these cosmic responsibilities that can seem utterly terrifying and incomprehensible to us puny humans. So what we’re getting a glimpse of early on in this issue is what the Surfer’s internal dialogue might be like during these moments. We’re seeing the removed way in which he’s looking at the world. What I like about it is, he may know, remember, and rationally understand normal human emotion — he just doesn’t feel it the same way, anymore.”
“Silver Surfer” #1 also showed that while Norrin Radd understands his role is one that is immensely necessary, he also misses the emotional side of himself he had to give up in order to fulfill his responsibilities to Galactus. “That sense of longing has always been a big part of the Surfer almost since the beginning. He’s this person who’s so impossibly free. He’s insanely powerful and gets to tear his way across the cosmos,” Pak said. “So he’s able to do things no other mortal has ever done, but at the same time he’s got this aching longing for this life he had before.”
Early on in “Silver Surfer” #1, Norrin Radd drops his drained and dying master off in the heart of a star to save his life. Because it will take Galactus a while to replenish his energies the Surfer decides to wander a little bit and inadvertently ends up taking a path back to Earth. When he returns, he flies across the planet and bears witness to some of the Marvel Universe’s current events, from Spider-Man’s battle with the Scorpion, to the Hulk’s encounter with the king of the Olympian gods Zeus, to the turmoil caused by the trial of Captain America. “This is a book that takes place right smack dab in the middle of the Marvel Universe. I love those cosmic stories that take place on the other side of the Marvel U. I wrote ‘Planet Hulk!’ But sometimes it’s a blast to take these cosmic characters and put them right in the middle of puny humansville,” Pak said. “So this is a book that takes place right in the middle of the Marvel Universe. There will be some major Marvel players in the book in upcoming issues, so you definitely won’t want to miss that. Issue #4 is a huge issue to look out for in terms of guest stars.”
“Silver Surfer” touches on the current events of the Marvel Universe, but it does so in a way that doesn’t require readers to be familiar with them, a gameplan Pak deliberately set up for the series to be new reader friendly. The Surfer’s experiences with the characters and concepts of the Marvel Universe will be seen from his perspective, an unfamiliar vantage point as the Surfer has been in outer space and has not had an involvement with the main events of Marvel’s Earth for some time now. “Somebody who hasn’t read any Marvel Comics for years can pick this series up,” Pak explained. “If you thought the Surfer was cool (and who doesn’t?) and are looking for a crazy sci-fi adventure with big cosmic action, star crossed romance and mind blowing ideas and imagery, this is a great place just to pick up and run. You don’t have to have read ‘Chaos War’ or anything. If you’re a regular Marvel reader, you get those extra Easter Eggs of seeing how all these things fit together, but a totally new reader can come on board.”
After surveying various events across the Earth the Surfer chose to land in the Rio Grande Valley and relax among nature. His respite was soon interrupted when he witnessed a corrupt Mexican military unit gun down a young couple, an action which enraged the Surfer and caused him to attack the soldiers. Because of the vast power and energies at the Surfer’s command, his attack didn’t go unnoticed. The Organization of American States detected the outburst and sent its resident sci-operative for that part of the world, Suzie Endo, AKA Cybermancer, to investigate and communicate with the Surfer.
“I spent a lot of time with Suzie in my 2009 ‘War Machine’ book. I think she’s an interesting figure who has this experience not just dealing with super heroes, but cosmically powered individuals as well; ridiculously over-powered entities like the Ultimo robot and even War Machine himself in that series. She has experience in dealing with folks who don’t think like normal human beings. I felt she would be a great figure to play off of the Silver Surfer,” Pak said. “I cast Suzie in this role as sci-op for the OAS because a few months back, I read this amazing story about how the UN has a person assigned to be the first contact if aliens ever show up on Earth. If I recall, she’s a physicist and her name is Maslan Othman. She’s the person who’s been assigned to establish first contact if aliens ever come to Earth. I thought it was awesome that there was actually somebody like that in reality. Suzie’s kind of the Marvel Universe version of that for the Southern Hemisphere. She’s working as a general sci-ops agent and uses her incredible technological skills to help deal with crises. She’s also this first contact figure., which makes sense given her recent experiences in ‘War Machine’ where she was talking down Ultimo.”
Pak also felt Suize Endo would be a useful ally against the antagonist of the “Silver Surfer” series, the High Evolutionary. When the Evolutionary appeared at the end of the first issue, he attacked the Surfer with a strange device. During that attack, however, he’s extremely polite — and even a bit remorseful. “I saw Alan Rickman introduce ‘Die Hard’ here in New York at the BAM center the other night. There was a special screening where he came and introduced the film and spoke a little bit. He was joking about the fact that his character is so very polite and, of course, deadly,” Pak said. “In some ways, that’s a very fun thing to play with; to have a villain who seems on the surface to be very nice and very polite. It gives a nice contrast to what’s going on.
“I think it’s also true that the High Evolutionary is not your typical, mustache twirling super villain, and he’s not existentially devoted to the destruction of life, as is, say, the Chaos King or someone like that,” Pak continued. “The High Evolutionary was a normal human being who elevated himself through science and has become the world’s foremost expert on genetics. He’s pursued this sense of perfection. He has his own set of goals which are not necessarily ‘conquer the world’ style super villain goals. Exactly what those goals are will be revealed as we move along. He’s a little bit more of a complicated villain. That’s good, because as we’ll see, the Surfer if fairly complicated himself. It will make for an interesting clash.”
The exact nature of the device the Evolutionary attacked the Surfer with is still unclear, but it appeared to rob him of all of his vast powers — including his metallic skin. “There’s an argument to be made that when you strip away a character’s powers, you get to the essential core of who that character really is. Then you can build him up from there. In a lot of ways, that’s what we did in ‘Planet Hulk.’ When the Hulk first arrives on this alien planet, he’s vulnerable. He can be cut, wounded and maybe even killed. That put him in a different position and forced him to develop relationships and grow in some very interesting ways that really made for a great story,” Pak explained. “Similarly with the Surfer, I’ll go ahead and say it; he’s the most powerful mortal in the Marvel Universe. If you look at all the different things he can do, it’s unbelievable how powerful he is. Removing that power from him puts him in a position where you can tell certain kinds of stories that would be hard to tell if her were fully amped up.”
Pak also wants to use the Surfer’s powerless condition as a way of exploring who the character is underneath his metallic skin and to look at the parts of his personality that don’t revolve around his responsibilities to Galactus. “The Surfer really is an alien and can be alienating, but if we take some time to explore this hot headed young Zen-Lavian who blasted off to confront Galactus face to face and save his home planet, it leads to some pretty interesting stories,” the writer said. “The other thing is, there’s a huge amount of potential to explore what happens to the Surfer’s head if you strip away his powers, and even more importantly, the cosmic awareness he has. There are all kinds of things the Surfer has done or hasn’t done because of his understanding of how the cosmos works and his responsibilities to Galactus. If he has to look upon all those insane responsibilities, but with the unvarnished mind of a mortal, how will he change? Who will he be? There’s a lot of rich story opportunity there.”
Unfortunately for the Surfer, his power loss came at a highly dangerous time — while he’s still fighting the corrupt Mexican army soldiers. Issue #1 ended with them opening fire on the Silver Surfer and their bullets penetrating his now flesh and blood chest. “Silver Surfer” #2 is in stores March 2 and picks up seconds after the title character’s seemingly fatal injury.
“You’re going to immediately see the ramifications of that big cliffhanger ending. I’m really excited for issue #2 ,” Pak said. “I think things will play out in ways that folks may not expect and allow for some fun, high stakes and emotionally compelling action for Norrin Radd. I’ve got to say I’m really falling in love with this crazy Norrin Radd guy. There are elements of this character that are coming out, which haven’t been able to come out for quite awhile. Those are coming right to the forefront in a pretty crazy way in the next issue.”
The remaining issues of “Silver Surfer” will continue to unfold on Earth and will involve both cosmic and human drama as Norrin Radd tries to discover the nature of the High Evolutionary’s latest scheme and more about about corrupt soldiers who shot him. “I think the main contrast I’m aiming for is this giant, cosmic tableau played out against this world of puny humans. I think the cosmic stuff becomes even more cosmic and powerful, crazy, fun when you are able to see it from a human perspective,” Pak said. “The emotional stakes also sky rocket when you have that human level element going on. Have no fear, the book is packed to the gills with cosmic action as you would expect from a Silver Surfer story, but we’re also trying to tell an emotionally compelling human story. Which will hopefully make that cosmic stuff even more exciting.”
Pak is crafting the story that fuels the “Silver Surfer” but he sees the book as a team effort and is highly enjoying his collaboration with artists Stephen Segovia and Harvey Tolibao, who assists Segovia with the pencils for issue #2. “Stephen has just really embraced this book. We’ve had a blast working on it and traded a lot of e-mails and gotten very excited about stuff. He’s really eating it up. In terms of the look of the Surfer, we talked about the classic John Buscema take. There are some amazing images from the Surfer’s first ongoing book where you saw stuff like the Surfer flying above the Earth on his board with his hands clasped behind his back, pensively gazing across the cosmos while wearing an overcoat,” the writer said, laughing. “It was a combination of very human body language with incredible cosmic action and circumstances. Stephen has brought a lot of that fun. He’s also gone totally nuts when it comes to the big wielding of power scenes and the cosmic hijinks. So it’s been a thrill seeing his pages come in.”
“Also, I’m incredibly pleased that Harvey Tolibao is helping out by penciling issue #2. He’s got a style that’s complimentary to Stephen’s, but also has its own vibe which is perfect for seeing what’s going to happen with Norrin as his flesh and blood form grapples with the responsibilities of the Silver Surfer,” Pak continued. “I think the whole creative team is really doing an amazing job. The Surfer is one of those characters like the Hulk that a lot of artists are just hungry to draw and have a lot of fun with when they get a chance to draw them. There’s a way in which you can kind of cut loose with some of these characters, and these artists are doing exactly that. They’re going nuts in a really fun way.”
Pak has been a fan of the Silver Surfer for a long time, and now that he finally has a chance to tell a story focusing on the character, he plans on making the most of the opportunity and wants his “Silver Surfer” to be a series that takes the character to new and interesting places. “There’s certainly a massive opportunity for some major upheaval in the life of the Surfer. We’ve never really seen this puny human side of his. Will the Surfer have a secret identity from this point on? As the life of the Surfer goes on, how will the experiences of this mini affect that?” the writer asked. “This is a character I’ve had such a blast writing as a guest star in books like ‘Planet Hulk,’ the ‘Skaar’ book that I did and then again in ‘Chaos War.’ And now I’m having a lot of fun telling a solo story. So longtime fans, I’m right there with you. Hopefully the journey we’re going on will open up new possibilities for this character that’s blown our minds for decades.”