For years, the Silver Surfer was a lone sentinel of the spaceways of the Marvel Universe. Using the Power Cosmic, the Surfer has spent years attempting to make up for the destruction and misery he caused as a Herald of the world-devouring entity known as Galactus. But in writer Dan Slott and artist Mike Allred’s new “Silver Surfer” series, he has found himself with an unexpected, though not unwelcome, companion: An Earth girl named Dawn Greenwood.
Norrin Radd and Dawn’s initial adventures in the series’ established their bond of friendship, and now the two of them are set to explore regions of space that even the Surfer has never seen before. We spoke with Slott about what the spacefaring duo will encounter, how the adventures of another world famous alien traveller influenced the series, and the real world inspirations behind Dawn Greenwood and her family.
CBR News: It’s clear from these initial issues that you’re having a lot of fun with “Silver Surfer.” Part of that I’m sure is your love for the title character, but it also feels like this book gives you the chance to play with a lot of elements of another thing you’re known for being a fan of, the television series “Doctor Who.” How much influence did “Doctor Who” have on your “Silver Surfer” series?
Dan Slott: Tons! Mainly in that when Tom Brevoort and I first talked about doing the Surfer book, we both approached it from the same angle. We both said, “Wouldn’t it be neat if you did a soft reboot the same way Russell T Davies did a soft reboot of ‘Doctor Who?'”
â€¨All the past continuity stands, but here’s a nice new way to look at it. The basic element we wanted to “borrow” — STEAL! [Laughs] was giving the Surfer a human companion; someone that grounded him, because for the most part. you look at Surfer and he’s this Shakespearean-spouting guy from the top of a bowling trophy. It’s hard to literally get under his silver skin. Giving him a human companion though, a character who’s eye-level to the reader, grounds him. As much as this book is about exploring the universe, it’s also about exploring the Surfer’s humanity.
Having a character like Dawn there to sub for the reader means he has to interact with this very human character, and it makes him less “alien.” That said, one of the things we did when we were working on the first issue was we send a copy to Russell T Davies to ask him what he thought and if he was cool with it. He wrote this lovely note back. He was very supportive, said that Dawn was “glorious,” and he gave us his blessing and tons of encouragement. That was great!
When I was a kid growing up, my favorite kind of sci-fi was British sci-fi. I lived my teen years in London, so I was very hooked on “Doctor Who” and the live action “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” I was also into stuff like “Blake’s 7” and even old school British sci-fi like “Sapphire & Steel.” So you’re going to see elements of all of that creep in, not just “Doctor Who” stuff. You’re probably going to see things with a “Red Dwarf” vibe too, because I love all of this stuff.
The great thing about the Marvel cosmos is that it’s really, really big and there’s a lot of room for everybody to go in there and have their take. One guy can be writing a “Star Wars” like book, another guy can be writing a very “Star Trek” like book or a new-style “Battlestar Galactica” like book. And there’s plenty of space over here for me and Mike Allred to do this pop art/Brit sci-fi weirdness. We’re having a blast doing it and at the same time we’re staying true to who Norrin Radd is, where he came from, and what he’s all about.
In the first five issues of this series, we really got to know Dawn and her family. What inspired the creation her family’s background of running and living at a bed and breakfast in Massachusetts?
The fictitious township of Anchor Bay is an analog of the place where I spent all my summers as a kid. My folks still live there, so it’s a place I constantly go back to. It’s kind of a write-what-you-know situation. And when it comes to Dawn and her twin sister, Eve, well — I have two older sisters who are identical twins. [Laughs] So take from that what you will.
Dawn isn’t the only character traveling with the Surfer. In these initial issues we discovered that his board, who he’s been traveling with all along and who Dawn dubbed “Toomie,” is a character in its own right. What made you want to give the board some form of sentience? And just how sentient is Toomie?
Toomie is about as sentient as Carpet is from Disney’s “Aladdin.” One of the things we wanted to do with “Silver Surfer” was explore and go to all new sections of the Marvel Universe, but at the same time, you want to have a supporting cast, and having anyone else on the board besides Dawn would feel weird. [Laughs] As much as we want to keep hitting the “Doctor Who” beat, this isn’t the Tardis. It’s a board, and squeezing two people on it is enough.
â€¨So the question is, where do you get any other supporting cast? Do they fly along side in a spaceship, two feet over? No, that’s silly — but what if the board were a character? There’s something fun in that, and in the past Surfer’s talked to the board. He’s given it instructions. The most famous of all those is when he says, “To me my board!” So there’s got to be some kind of sentience in there, because he orders it around and treats it like this thing.
â€¨That said, if I ever got to write Thor, I don’t think I’d have Mjolnir be alive. [Laughs] It wouldn’t sit across the table from Thor and play chess with him, nudging pieces with his handle. That’d be absurd. I mean, a living surfboard is one thing, but you have to draw the line.
â€¨There’s something fun, though, about having this board that’s just as adventuresome as the Surfer and wants to soar the celestial skyways too. If you stay on any one planet too long, he’s like a restless puppy. He wants to go. I love the way Mike drew that sequence in issue #4, where the Surfer is asleep and the board comes over to him and starts poking him awake. It’s like, “Come on! Let’s go! We’ve been to Earth! We were on it for like 13 years! Let’s go see something new!”
At the end of issue #5, the bonds of friendship between Toomie, the Surfer, and Dawn were clearly established, but the Surfer has not told Dawn everything about himself. Is he deliberately trying to keep his past as Galactus’ Herald from her?
It’s part of his past that he’s very much ashamed of and wants to atone for. The first time we see him in this new Surfer book, he’s doing a galactic Good Samaritan act. He’s reigniting the sun for a tiny planet so that millions of micro beings can stay alive. There’s part of him that would desperately love to balance the scales, but he’s done so much for Galactus over the years that it really is an impossible goal.
Now, he’s met someone who really doesn’t know what a Herald is, or who Galactus is. For him, there’s something nice about having a person who doesn’t know about his dirty laundry and he can just be himself — in the now — and not have to answer for all terrible things in his past.
We’re wise enough as readers to know though that no good will come of this! It’s like, “Oh Norrin Radd — what are you doing? Tell her!” That’s a hammer that is definitely going to fall.
These first five issues were really about laying the groundwork for where Dawn and Norrin are headed. It feels like, in terms of chronology, we’ve caught back up with the free Infinite Comic story, where Dawn tells the Surfer that she wants to see parts of the universe he’s never seen before. Now, we’re heading out into new uncharted territory of the Marvel Universe. What can you tell us about the people, places, and situations they’ll encounter?
This is where it gets fun! This is why I’m doing this interview with CBR! We’ve done all of the work. The first three issues are our pilot and introduce our characters to each other. The next two issues are their adventure on Earth, and by the end of it, you see why Dawn is going to go into space with the Surfer. Now that all that groundwork has been done, we can go anywhere! We can do anything!
â€¨This is where the whole series kicks into high gear. This is where we live up to the promise of our tagline, “Anywhere and everywhere! Hang on!” We’re hoping to surprise you each and every issue and give you big, fun, space opera adventures. We’re going to see planets of perfect people, robot slavers and an alien orphanage. That’s just within the next three issues — there’s so much more! We’re also going to see the first official in-continuity appearance of characters from long, long ago. Characters that we’ve seen before in Marvel stuff will finally make their first canonical appearance within the next three issues.
Are these characters that appeared in books prior to “Fantastic Four” #1?
No, they’re characters who have never appeared in 616 continuity. I can’t say anymore.
What’s it like to be adding to the cosmic landscape and larger toybox of the Marvel Universe.? I know you’ve written books that had some fun cosmic adventures in the past, but have you done anything on this scale before?
Never. If you think about it Marvel has a 75 year history and a 50 year history if you’re just starting from “FF” #1. There’s a kind of feeling that you get, especially by the time you hit the ’90s, where people feel like — have you ever seen that film “The Truman Show?” When little Truman raises his hand in class and says he wants to be an explorer, and his teacher pulls down a map and goes, “You’re too late Truman. Everything has already been discovered.” On some level, a lot of people treat the Marvel Universe like that.
If someone said you’ve had 50 years of history and you now know everything, you’d laugh at ’em. So have we met all the great cosmic entities? Have we truly seen all the aspects of how the universe works? In our first three issues, we met the Never Queen, who is just as cosmic an entity as Eternity. Eternity is the living embodiment of the entire universe, everything that is, and we just introduced the Never Queen who is the living embodiment of possibility. She is every infinite future, every possibility that could come to pass, and with each moment that reaches the present, from her perspective, billions of futures die because they’re no longer turning points. So she constantly suffers within herself the loss of a billion possibilities, and it gives her the Forever Sorrow. That’s why the Never Queen is always so sad. At the same time though, she equals all of possibility. There’s something exciting in there.
So in just our first three issues you met someone super, mega, cosmic and hopefully you went, “Wow! I never knew a character like that existed.” There will be more entities, more aliens and more concepts that we’ll fit and fold into the Marvel Universe as we chart new territory.
â€¨That said, we’re also coming up soon to our Galactus story. And this might be my one chance to do a Galactus story, so I’m pulling out all the stops and going big. We’re going to go on a level you’ve never seen before. There’s something very exciting about Surfer, the cosmic slave, going up against his old master. I can’t wait for people to see Mike Allred’s Galactus covers. His Galactus is awesome! It’s so Kirby-level majestic! It’s epic!
When I talked with Mike, you could tell how much fun he was having working on this book.
This has been one of the best working experiences of my life. The Allreds are so enthusiastic about everything. It’s such a joy whenever Mike turns in pencils or whenever Laura turns in colors. The amount of passion they put into their work is astounding, and they’re the most upbeat people I’ve ever worked with. You can’t help but be infected by their unstoppable enthusiasm. It’s contagious. You become so happy to be part of Team Allred! Heck, I want to change my last name!
Mike is a blast to talk to and pitch ideas past whenever I’m working on a story. I’m trying to keep the story Marvel style, and have sections where Mike gets to express himself and go crazy. If I’m going to introduce the readers to aliens, I want to see what kind of weird, trippy aliens Mike is going to give me. I tell him, “Everyone on this planet is from a whole new race, but what that race is — totally up to you! Knock yourself out.”
On the Impericon, we had a million space tourists and space hostages in cages. I told Mike to do whatever he wanted. Then I got the art and it was like, “Oh my God! This guy has a giant brain for a head! That guy is a space bull! And that guy has big bat wings! I think that guy is part fish! This is awesome!”
So he gets to run wild with his imagination, and then you get to react to that with the dialogue.
Yeah, and it totally changes the way the next plot will be. Because then I go, “Okay cool. That guy has a giant brain for a head, now. So what does he do in the next issue?” You build off of each other and you play off of what the other guy is doing.
Of course, anyone who’s read my Spidey run or “Avengers: The Initiative” knows that if I’m on a book long term, I’m seeding secrets for the future. I’m laying down track for what future things will be. So there are times where I’m talking to Mike and it’s like, “Okay, in this issue we’re going to find out that this character is really that character.” In the first three issues of “Silver Surfer,” we have a character who’s hooded and doing things in secret. I’ve got to let Mike in on who that character is so he can draw him in a way that keeps his identity secret for a reveal that will pay off later.
You and Mike are enjoying the chance to create all sorts of new stuff for “Silver Surfer,” but in the future, the book will still have plenty of familiar Marvel Universe touchstones and characters like Galactus.
â€¨Yes, you’re going to see new sections of the Marvel Universe, but there will always be touchstones that let you know you are in the Marvel U. We’re not going to go off to the lad of Flippity Flop full of Flippity Flobbians while you sit there and go, “Whatever! Where are the Starjammers?”
Any time you get Mike Allred near something that’s Ditko or Kirby, you know you’re in for something good. So it’s great. I get to see how Mike Allred draws the Silver Surfer, Eternity, the Surfer’s friends in the Defenders, and then we had the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie coming out, and I personally am a huge whore for tie-ins. I wanted Mike to draw the Guardians for, like, three pages. [Laughs] No one ever forces us to do that stuff. That’s all just me going, “Wheeeeeee!”
One of the things we’re really doing well with this book, and we’re getting this from everybody, both sexes and all orientations, that this is the magic book you can give to your significant other and break them into comics. If you’re happily reading your comics and your significant other rolls their eyes and goes what are you doing? This is the book that crosses all barriers.
â€¨We’re also hearing from a lot of parents that this is a book they can read with their kids. It’s very much a romp. It’s a book that takes you by the hand and says, “Let’s go on an adventure!” There’s no cynicism, teeth gnashing or gritty darkness in Surfer. This is an unapologetically joyous, fun, adventuresome comic. When you get your stack of books, I recommend reading “Silver Surfer” last so that you’ll have a good day.
You’ll finish the book and go, “That was fun! What am I doing now?” Whereas for example if you’re watching TV and it’s an episode of “Breaking Bad” after the episode you’ll be like, “Oh, God, I’m so high strung! What the hell? How am I supposed to go to sleep now? Walt!”
â€¨Some times comics are like that where you end on a comic and you’re like, “Oh my God – he just had his throat slit! No! ‘Men of Wrath?’ You just scared the crap out of me! I feel uneasy and weird!” [Laughs] With this it’s like, “Yay! I feel good now. I had a rollicking adventure! I had a yarn!” That’s part of the fun of “Surfer.” We’re unabashedly joyous. These are characters who are exploring the universe because they want to. They want to see what that next awesome thing is. Then Mike Allred and I want to crack our knuckles, roll up our sleeves, and show you something spectacular — where the end beat of it is, “That was awesome and fun!”
So if you’ve never read a Silver Surfer comic, or if your friends have never read a comic at all, “Silver Surfer” #6 is going to be a great jumping-on point. Plus, it’s a complete adventure unto itself. Everyone, please check out issue #6!
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