Silver Surfer Escapes to the Future, Only to Return to His Trapped Past

This is the Great Comic Book Detectives, where readers send in requests for the names of comic books that they remembered reading years ago and I try to find them for them! Send any future requests to brianc@cbr.com!

Reader Gary Z. wrote in to ask:

I am also looking for a Silver Surfer comic--not sure if it was a Silver Surfer title or some other comic just featuring the Surfer--that involved a tyrannical being with a withered arm who ruled the entire universe, and the surfer believes the motive to conquer the universe lay in the tyrant's psychology being warped by the trauma of having the withered arm, so the Surfer travels back in time to prevent the accident that caused the withered arm, and in so doing creates a new future with no universal tyrant. Can you help me with this?

Sure thing, Gary.

Interestingly enough, that issue is one of the earliest issues of the Silver Surfer's solo comic book series, and what's funny about it is that it is also probably one of the first non-classic issue of the series (as otherwise, the first five issues have, in order, the Surfer's origin, the introduction of the Badoon, the introduction of Mephisto, the Surfer/Thor fight and the classic Al Harper sacrifice issue), as it is a good deal less well-known than the other stories, which is likely why you, well, you know, don't remember it.

The Silver Surfer was an interesting series because every issue was over-sized. Stan Lee clearly wanted to do some epic stuff with this series, which meant a lot to him at the time. When we talk about Stan Lee and his liberal views on the world, this series is probably the one example where he really got the chance to spread a lot of his personal views on things. Lee was clearly obsessed with the notion of Silver Surfer as a Christ-like figure brought to Earth to save humanity and once he was trapped here by his former master, Galactus, Surfer could not fit in with the normal parts of humanity, as he was still, you know, an alien guy covered in silver. When people, like Al Harper, reached out to the Surfer to lend him a hand, it was a powerful statement about people being willing to olverlook their prejudices.

In any event, the sixth issue of the series (by Stan Lee, John Buscema and Sal Buscema) opened with what was kind of a recurring bit with those early Surfer issues, showing the Surfer moping about how bad his life is...

How amazing are those poses that the Buscemas have the Surfer contort himself into making? Dude is like a super-emotive stage actor trying to make sure that the back row knew just HOW much pain that he was currently experiencing. Woo is the Silver Surfer! WOOO!!!!!

Okay, so the Surfer then visits the lab of the scientist, Al Harper, who helped Surfer in the previous issue and sadly lost his own life in the process. The Surfer sees some of his notes and realizes that the barrier that Galactus placed on Earth to keep Surfer from flying into outer space might be circumvented if Surfer travels through time! So he flies beyond the speed of light and finds himself able to travel into the future...

While, uh oh, this dude named the Overlord has taken over the entire universe in the future!

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