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How Long Was the Silver Surfer's Initial Stint as Galactus' Herald?

Comic Book Questions Answered – where I answer whatever questions you folks might have about comic books (feel free to e-mail questions to me at brianc@cbr.com).

After reading my recent article about an old Silver Surfer comic book story, reader Danny J. wrote in to ask exactly how long did the Silver Surfer serve as Galactus' herald before breaking free from his master and getting banished to Earth as a punishment?

When the Silver Surfer debuted in Fantastic Four #48 (by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and Joe Sinnott), they did not say how long that the Surfer had been working as Galactus' herald...

However, it is important to note on the next page, when the Skrulls talk about him, they talk about him in the context of "cosmic history"...

That certainly suggests that the Surfer has been doing this for quite a while, right?

In the next issue, after the Surfer is injured and ends up in the home of Alicia Masters, she teaches him that humanity is worth saving and once again, we get the implication that the Surfer has been working for Galactus for a very long time...

And in the next issue, when the Surfer takes Galactus on himself, it sure sounds like they've been partners for quite a long time...

With cosmic beings, though, it is so difficult to tell how long it has actually been. I mean, Galactus specifically notes in the storyline that he has been eating planets for eons. That's a really long time. The Surfer, meanwhile, for all we know, is not even a humanoid! He could be thousands of years old.

We got the answer finally in Silver Surfer #1 in 1968 (by Stan Lee, John Buscema and Joe Sinnott). However, even in the telling of the Silver Surfer's origins, Lee is noticeably silent on exactly how long ago that his origin began...

However, it is fair to note that after we learned about how Norrin Radd sacrificed his life on Zenn-La (and the love of his girlfriend, Shalla-Bal) to save his people, it is heavily implied that quite a lot of time then passed before the Surfer finally came across Earth...

But HOW long? When the Surfer next visited Zenn-La in the 1982 Silver Surfer one-shot (by John Byrne, Stan Lee and Tom Palmer), they were once again silent on how long it had been since the Surfer left his people. The problem is that we don't know how long people of Zenn-La live. Shalla-Bal's dad is still alive, so that would certainly suggest that it couldn't be TOO long, but that would only work if the people of Zenn-La has lifespans similar to humans. That seems to be unlikely, since Shalla-Bal, when she has shown up in various Silver Surfer comics over the years, doesn't look a day older than when Norrin Radd left her to become the Silver Surfer. So clearly, the people of Zenn-La age slowly, so that doesn't tell us anything.

Oddly enough, it wouldn't be until the 1990s that we actually got any sort of approximate time that the Surfer was with Galactus...

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