By Jim Beard
To say that the Sentinel of the Spaceways, the Silver Surfer, has a rich history with the First Family of Superheroes, the Fantastic Four, would be an understatement. Their lives have intertwined in myriad ways, bringing them together through life, love, hate, danger and drama for decades. And in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, their first meeting will be told in a fresh new way in the ultimate big screen adventure.
The Fantastic Four are, of course, Marvel's premiere super-team and a force for good that has never been excelled. Four individuals transformed by cosmic rays, the FF have selflessly thrown themselves into danger time and time again to explore the unknown and challenge evil where it may lie. They have nearly seen it all. Their allies are many, and their enemies are legion.
But to this very day, the Fantastic Four have never met another being the caliber of the Silver Surfer.
After the world-devouring Galactus transformed Norrin Radd of the far-flung planet Zenn-La into the Silver Surfer, he was sent out into the cosmos to scout out planets for his energy-leeching master to consume. Once he discovered our Earth, the Surfer's destiny was forever bound to its protectors, the Fantastic Four. In 1966's monumental FANTASTIC FOUR #48-#50, Galactus' herald was exposed to all of the human emotions his transformation had buried, and he quickly fell from grace. The Fantastic Four's passion for life was too much for the Surfer to deny and he aided them in resisting the mighty Galactus, ultimately preventing him from destroying the planet. For his treachery, Galactus condemned his space-faring herald to be confined to Earth forever more.
In the years that followed, the Silver Surfer would again and again encounter Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Girl, the Thing and the Human Torch, sometimes as enemies, sometimes as friends. FANTASTIC FOUR #55 would plant an important seed in the Surfer's psyche, wherein he met the lovely blind sculptress Alicia Masters, girlfriend of the Thing. This seed would grow and blossom in the years to come, and define the strange relationship between he and the Four. But while in that formative time on Earth, he would also learn what treachery against himself felt like, as Fantastic Four arch-villain Dr. Doom befriended the Surfer and then callously stole his power cosmic for himself, in FANTASTIC FOUR #57-#60. Once his powers were returned, the former Zenn-Lavian struck out on his own, to contemplate his lonely existence.
Galactus would insert himself into the Surfer's life many times as the years passed. Perhaps one of the most thrilling yet chilling encounters was in FANTASTIC FOUR #74-#77, as the world devourer returned to Earth to once again ensnare the silvery being as his herald. The Surfer fled into the miniature world of Sub-Atomica, but was pursued by the Fantastic Four in an effort to stem the tide of Galactus' eagerness to consume the planet. The powerful alien parasite was rebuffed successfully, but the Surfer was still chained to the Earth and its atmosphere.
When Galactus attempted yet another assault on Earth, in FANTASTIC FOUR #121-#123, the Fantastic Four and the Silver Surfer would band together as a team, and not only defeat Galactus' new herald Gabriel the Air-walker, but also trap Galactus in the forbidding other-dimensional Negative Zone. The heroes would also get another assembled crack at Dr. Doom in FANTASTIC FOUR #155-#157, when the Latverian monarch tricked the Surfer into creating a devilish Doomsman android.
Over the years, the FF have remained close to the Surfer, meeting not only as a team, but also as individuals. Ben Grimm's outlook on the silver-skinned alien has often been a prickly one, as he for the most part mistrusts the Surfer. Reed Richards sees Norrin Radd as someone to be studied and quantified, while Sue Richards would look on him as misunderstood, and youthful Johnny Storm eyed that incredible cosmic surfboard with envy.
Galactus' barrier around the Earth would eventually be breached by the Surfer, and more than once with the help of the Fantastic Four. In fact, Mr. Fantastic and the Thing were both instrumental in devising plans for the barrier to be pierced, and in SILVER SURFER Vol. 3, #1, the Surfer returned to space, feeling as a free as he had ever been. Zooming to Zenn-La, his native world, he would find it obliterated by his former master, Galactus. Through an incredible series of events, Zenn-La would be revived, yet Norrin Radd's existence as a wandering loner would continue.
At a particularly dire time in the Surfer's life he was robbed of his emotions and found his way once again to Earth. As revealed in SILVER SURFER #123, he was reunited with Alicia Masters, the human girl who had once touched his buried soul with her strong outpouring of feeling. Though at one time the paramour of Ben Grimm, the Fantastic Four's Thing, Alicia agreed to travel with the Surfer, and helped him regain his emotions. The two became lovers and though they eventually parted, the romance created yet another strong, unbreakable tie between the Sentinel of the Spaceways and Earth's original champions, the Fantastic Four.
One of the most unique looks into the relationship between the Silver Surfer and the cosmic ray-endowed Fantastic Four would come courtesy of the "Heroes Reborn" storyline. In FANTASTIC FOUR Vol. 2, #5 an alternate universe shows us a new version of the famous team and a new meeting with the fabled Silver Surfer. Dr. Doom rears his ugly head again and Galactus looms over the proceedings as the heroes face their final, fatal hour to stop the galactic menace.
Back in the prime Marvel Universe, the Silver Surfer and Fantastic Four continue on with their lives and adventures. Their paths are once again intersecting, as we are currently witnessing in the newest issues of FANTASTIC FOUR. In #544, the team (with Black Panther and Storm replacing a vacationing Reed and Sue) travel into space to unravel a new mystery. The living planet Epoch is somehow connected with the resurrection of a young Earth hero, and the Fantastic Four want to know why. Toss the Silver Surfer--now back as Galactus' No. 1 herald--and a very, very hungry Galactus into the mix and you have an incredibly volatile cocktail. The Thing turns to his time-honored tradition of punching first and asking questions later, and in FF #545 he and the Surfer get their fight on. This new adventure promises to be healthily enriched by all of the great action and fireworks we expect when these titans lock horns.
New audiences will soon thrill to the interaction of these powerful characters on the silver screen, and long-time fans of Marvel will have the chance to renew old acquaintances. The filmmakers have endowed the cinematic Silver Surfer with quality and care and the exciting previews now making their rounds in theatres and online are a testament to this. Actor Doug Jones (Abe Sapien in Hellboy and Hellboy 2) is lending his particular talent for expression and emotion to the Surfer's unique motion capture effects, while Laurence Fishburne (Morpheus in the Matrix trilogy) will endow Norrin Radd with his baritone voice.
The film previews also hint at many things that comic fans will find familiar: the disruption of the FF's lives by the Surfer, immediate conflict with him, the Surfer's aesthetic grace and poise combined with overwhelming power, and the inevitable appeal to the humanity buried deep inside him. All this in tandem with the creative effects and the talented performers behind him, is sure to deliver a Silver Surfer like never before.
The Fantastic Four and the Silver Surfer are elemental forces that are forever hurtling towards each other, yet no matter the situation, be it friendly or adversarial, their summits will always be fascinating to witness.
For more FF: RotSS news, videos and images, visit Marvel.com's Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer site