The Silver Surfer is a Marvel Comics superhero created by Jack Kirby. The character first appears in Fantastic Four #48 (March 1966), the first of a three-issue arc fans and historians call "The Galactus Trilogy".
Originally a young astronomer of the planet Zenn-La, Norrin Radd made a bargain with a being, pledging himself to serve as his herald in order to save his home-world from destruction by the fearsome cosmic entity known as Galactus. Imbued in return with a tiny portion of Galactus' Power Cosmic, Radd acquired great powers and a new version of his original appearance. Galactus also created for Radd a surfboard-like craft — modeled after a childhood fantasy of his — on which he would travel at speeds beyond that of light. Known from then on as the Silver Surfer, Radd began to roam the cosmos searching for new planets for Galactus to consume. When his travels finally took him to Earth, the Surfer came face-to-face with the Fantastic Four, a team of powerful superheroes that helped him to rediscover his nobility of spirit. Betraying Galactus, the Surfer saved Earth but was punished in return by being exiled there.
Following the Surfer's debut, Lee and Kirby brought him back as a recurring guest in Fantastic Four #55-61, 72, 74-77 (ranging Oct. 1966 - Aug. 1968), and the character his solo debut in the backup story of Fantastic Four Annual #5 (Nov. 1967).
The following year, Lee launched the solo title The Silver Surfer. John Buscema was penciller for the first 17 issues of the series, with Kirby returning for the 18th and final issue. The first seven issues, which included anthological "Tales of the Watcher" backup stories, were 72-page (with advertising), 25-cent "giants", as opposed to the typical 36-page, 12-cent comics of the time. Thematically, the stories dealt with the Surfer's exile on Earth and the inhumanity of man as observed by this noble yet fallen hero. Though short-lived, the series became known as one of Lee's most thoughtful and introspective works.
Following his series' cancellation, the Surfer made sporadic appearances as a guest star or antagonist in such comic books as Thor, The Defenders, and Fantastic Four. Lee remained partial to the Surfer, and with Kirby collaborated on a seminal 1978 graphic novel starring the character.
The Silver Surfer: Parable, scripted by Lee and drawn by Moebius, was serialized in two parts in 1988 and 1989. Because of inconsistencies with other stories, it has been argued that these stories actually feature an alternate Silver Surfer from a parallel Earth. The graphic novel by Lee/Moebius won the Eisner Award for best finite/limited series in 1989.
In 2007, the Silver Surfer starred in a four-issue miniseries Silver Surfer: Requiem by writer J. Michael Straczynski and artist Esad Ribic. The first issue was released May 30, 2007 to coincide with the character's first movie appearance. Published under the Marvel Knights imprint, Silver Surfer: Requiem portrays the character upon learning he has a terminal illness.
The Silver Surfer was born Norrin Radd on the idyllic planet Zenn-La (in the Deneb System in the Milky Way galaxy). His father is Jartan Radd, his mother Elmar Radd, and his half-brother Fennan Radd. All four are part of an ancient and significantly advanced civilization that has lost the will to strive or explore, leaving the young scholar Norrin Radd restless and yearning for something more than the idle pleasure pursued by his fellows. Faced suddenly with the total destruction of his world by planet-consuming Galactus, Radd strikes a deal with the seemingly omnipotent space-god. In return for the safety of Zenn-La and his lover, Shalla-Bal, Radd pledges himself to serve as Galactus' herald and to seek out other planets for the world devourer to feed on. In striking this bargain, Radd also satisfies his long-held desire to adventure beyond the limiting world of his home. Accepting the young mortal's sacrifice, Galactus imbues him with a portion of the Power Cosmic, transforming him into the Silver Surfer. Radd proceeds to serve Galactus for an unspecified amount of time, unable to return to Zenn-La and Shalla-Bal. During this time, the Surfer tries to seek out uninhabited planets for the world-eater's attention, but as they became harder to find, Galactus tampers with the Surfer's conscience and removes this self-imposed restraint. Eventually, the Surfer arrives on Earth and, after deciding that the planet is ripe for Galactus' nourishment, summons his master.
Here the Surfer meets the Fantastic Four, and Alicia Masters. Touched by their nobility, he chooses to rebel against Galactus and battled him in an attempt to prevent his master from consuming the planet. Galactus is eventually driven off, but as punishment for this rebellion he confines the Surfer to the planet with an invisible barrier that affects only him.
During his exile, the Surfer fights numerous villains, including but not limited to Doctor Doom and Mephisto. Doom is obsessed with stealing the Surfer's Power Cosmic and finally does so, using it to defeat the Fantastic Four, only to lose it by colliding with Galactus' barrier. Angry at the general disregard shown by humans, the Surfer attempts to bring about world peace by giving mankind a common enemy in himself, going so far as to declare war on humanity. He battles the Fantastic Four, but the U.S. military strikes him down with an experimental power-draining "Sonic Shark" missile and forces him to resume his wanderings. The Surfer enters a "micro-world", pursued by the Fantastic Four, and locates a planet for Galactus to consume instead of Earth; he then resumes his exile. The demonic Mephisto is persistent in trying to acquire the Surfer's soul by breaking his spirit, but Surfer's innate nobility thwarts him each time. The Surfer also does battle with Thor during his first encounter with Mephisto. The Surfer's only ally during these trials is a physicist by the name of Al B. Harper, who eventually sacrifices himself to save the world from the Stranger.
Banding together with Hulk and Namor the Sub-Mariner during these wanderings, the Surfer forms the "Titans Three," a group dedicated to battling evil on Earth. Soon, Doctor Strange joins the group and it becomes "the Defenders." Surfer stays with them for a while, but his overwhelming desire to be free of Earth and his frequent collisions with Galactus' energy-draining barrier eventually drives him to leave the group. He has other encounters at this time, including being duped by Doctor Doom into turning against the Fantastic Four, and encounters Dracula.
During this time in exile, the Surfer is reunited with Shalla-Bal on several occasions, but almost every time she appears as an unwilling pawn of his enemies, and he is invariably forced to let her go to save the planet. During an Avengers-Defenders clash orchestrated by alien menaces Nebulon and Supernalia, the Surfer finally pierces Galactus' barrier with the aid of Reed Richards and temporarily escapes Earth. He discovers, though, that his home-world has been ravaged by Galactus and Shalla-Bal has been abducted by Mephisto and taken to Earth. Even though it means trapping himself once more, the Surfer returns to Earth to battle and defeat Mephisto. Before being vanquished, Mephisto sends Shalla-Bal back to Zenn-La, but the Surfer manages to endow her with a portion of his Power Cosmic, which she uses to revitalize the plant life of their ravaged home-world.
Alongside the Defenders once more, the Surfer journeys to the parallel Earth of the Squadron Supreme]], where he battles Null, the Living Darkness and the Over-Mind. The Surfer then aids the Fantastic Four against Galactus' latest herald, Terrax. The Surfer also helps the Molecule Man restore the damage done to Earth by the Beyonder.
Embroiled in fresh hostilities between the interstellar Kree and Skrull empires, the Surfer also intervenes in a series of plots by the Elders of the Universe, who plan to become supremely powerful by destroying Galactus and the universe with him. The Surfer thwarts this plot with the aid of his new love interest, Mantis, the Earth-born cosmic heroine also known as the "Celestial Madonna". She seems to die in the process, and although she eventually returns, she never fully renews their romances. After this loss, a grief-stricken Surfer turns to Nova and romantic feelings begin to develop between them. The Surfer's influence gradually leads Nova to question the morality of her role as herald to Galactus. Eventually replaced by the far more ruthless Morg, Nova dies in a conflict between the new herald and the Surfer and the other ex-heralds.
The Surfer, during this period, first encounters Thanos, a death-worshipping mutant of the race the Eternals, and first meets Adam Warlock. The Surfer repeatedly battles other space-born menaces, the chief of whom is Thanos, who wipes out half the life in the universe using the omnipotent Infinity Gauntlet. The Surfer also finds interstellar allies in Adam Warlock's Infinity Watch, forms the short-lived "Star Masters" team, and begins attending occasional Defenders reunions. During his travels, the Surfer also meets his long-lost half-brother, Fennan Radd, to whom Shalla-Bal has become married.
In one of his adventures, the Surfer discovers the way in which Galactus tampered with his mind and soul during his time as herald. Further aspects of his past life are also revealed, including the fact that he saw his mother's dead body after she slit her own wrists and that his father, a prominent scientist, was accused of having plagiarized and shot himself in response to Norrin's disappointment. During the Infinity Gauntlet saga, the Surfer eventually confronts these memories and comes to forgive himself.
The Surfer eventually returns home to Zenn-La to find that the planet has vanished, and learns it was actually destroyed in the 1940s (Earth time) by the entity known as the Other. Zenn-La and its people which the Surfer repeatedly encountered since leaving Galactus' service were actually reproductions, created by Galactus so that the Surfer would have a home to return to. Losing his capacity for emotion again, the Surfer returns to Earth. He later regains his personality during a time-travel adventure and sharing a romance with Alicia Masters. The two ultimately part as friends after many adventures together.
After the Fantastic Four were resurrected in the aftermath of the Onslaught crisis and their return from the Heroes Reborn universe, the Surfer came to Earth to welcome them home, but ended up joining Spider-Man in his latest battle against Carnage. During this fight, the Carnage symbiote briefly managed to take over the Surfer, but the Surfer was able to expel the symbiote, trapping Carnage in an unbreakable prison where he would be forced to reflect upon his sins for all eternity (although he later escaped under as-yet-undisclosed circumstances). When a Gaea-powered curse from a dying Yandroth mystically forces Surfer, Namor, Hulk, and Strange to assemble in response to any and all threats to the Earth, the ongoing stress coupled with the curse's subtle emotional influence gradually drive the four senior Defenders mad, and they attempt to conquer the world as "the Order" in the belief that this is the most efficient way to protect the planet. Their fellow Defenders Hellcat, Nighthawk, Valkyrie, and Clea team up with other heroes – including Ardina, a cosmic-powered woman they mystically create from a portion of the Surfer's own energy – to oppose the Order and return them to their senses, just in time to prevent the curse from rendering a resurrected Yandroth all-powerful.
In the 2003 Silver Surfer series, the Surfer works with the alien Annunaki race to gather and protect some of Earth's most extraordinarily gifted children. In the end, one of these children, Ellie Waters, saves Earth from the godlike Marduk entity, preventing the apocalypse and reordering reality as if the Marduk crisis had never happened (though Ellie alone apparently retains her memories of these events). The Surfer then resumes his interstellar wanderings, but promises to be ready to aid his adopted home-world should Earth ever need him.
The Silver Surfer wields the Power Cosmic of Galactus, which caused a physical transformation, giving him superhuman strength and stamina and making him virtually indestructible for practical purposes; he can still be injured or even killed by beings who equal or exceed his own power-level, such as Morg or Thanos. The Power Cosmic absorbs and allows him to manipulate the universe's cosmic energy for a variety of effects. He can navigate through interstellar space, dimensional barriers, and hyperspace, which he can enter to exceed the speed of light when flying on his board. He has even proven to be capable of time travel on several occasions. The Surfer, who sustains himself by converting matter into energy, does not require food, water, air, or sleep. He is immune to extreme temperatures and radiation, and he can survive in vacuum environments such as outer space and hyperspace; he has even proven capable of withstanding the extreme forces encountered within black holes and stars. He can analyze and manipulate matter and energy, and molecularly restructure or animate matter at will, even transmuting elements or creating objects. He can also project energy in various forms for offensive and defensive use, including bolts of comic force and erection of force shields. The Surfer's power is such that he can create energy projections strong enough to destroy entire planetoids and planets. He can utilize the Power Cosmic to augment his already superhuman strength to indeterminate levels. The Surfer can heal living organisms, though he cannot raise the dead,and he has proven capable of revitalizing and evolving organic life on a planet-wide scale. He can alter the size of himself or of other matter, cast illusions, and phase through solid matter. Furthermore the Silver Surfer can project himself onto the astral plane using the power cosmic, where he is apparently invulnerable or possesses some degree thereof..
His senses enable him to detect objects and concentrations of energy light years away and to perceive matter and energy in subatomic detail, including life energies of living beings. The Surfer can even see through time, and with concentration he can achieve limited perception of past and future events in his general vicinity. He has demonstrated telepathic ability, including mind-reading on occasion, and has proven to be able to influence human emotion and sensation.
The Surfer's board is composed of a nearly impervious, cosmically powered silvery material that is similar to his own skin. The board is mentally linked to the Surfer and moves in response to his mental commands even when he is not in physical contact with it. The board has a high degree of indestructibility, but on those rare occasions when it is damaged or destroyed, the Surfer is able to repair or even re-create it. The Surfer can attack opponents remotely by directing the board against them, and the board is capable of absorbing and imprisoning other beings, at least temporarily.
When Galactus exiled the Surfer to Earth, his means of imprisonment was linked to the board. When Surfer and the Fantastic Four realized this, Surfer put it to the test by leaving the board planet-side and entering space in the Four's spacecraft. Once he was free of Earth, the Surfer remotely converted the board to energy, recalled it to him, and reformed it in space.
Norrin Radd also possesses some knowledge of the advanced alien technology of the planet Zenn-La.
Warren Ellis's Ultimate Galactus Trilogy originally suggested that The Ultimates' ally the Vision was the herald of Galactus, a robotic probe that travels through space warning civilizations of the impending arrival of Gah Lak Tus. In the final mini-series of the trilogy, Ultimate Extinction, silvery humanoids began to appear, sent to trigger mass suicides in order to reduce the population's resistance. Suicide cults founded by the creatures began to appear all across the globe as Gah Lak Tus drew near. These silvery beings had the ability to grow wings, morph into an ovoid, form spikes like the T-1000 or take an intermediary form, gliding on an oval surface. They also demonstrated the ability to manipulate large quantities of energy. All these traits are reminiscent of the Surfer, but their official name is the Silver Men or Silver Wings.
In Ultimate Fantastic Four #42, another Ultimate incarnation of the Silver Surfer appears, called the Silver Searcher. He is teleported to Earth after Reed mistakes him for a star that he is trying to harness. His appearance triggers planet-wide chaos and natural calamities. In #43, Reed comments that Gah Lak Tus seems to have modeled its drones on this surfer, and he gives his name as Norin Radd. The Searcher states that he will summon his "master", who will make the population of the Earth happier than they have ever been.
In #44, the Surfer's master is revealed to be Zenn-La's ruler, Revka Temerlune Edifex Scyros III, "the king without enemies", who uses mind-control to make the population of Earth worship him (before it takes effect on the Fantastic Four, the Human Torch calls him "Psycho-Man"). It is revealed that the Surfer has been exiled from Zenn-La for destroying the control that Psycho-Man had over Zenn-la, but because of finding Earth for his master to "save" he may return. After Psycho-Man gains domain over Earth, the Silver Surfer, temporarily imprisoned in his own 'memorial' statue, rescues Mr. Fantastic, tells him his story, and asks him to save Earth. The Surfer then helps the Fantastic Four defeat other Surfer-like assassins of Psycho-Man. With the Surfers beaten and the insane Psycho-Man reprogrammed to experience the unthinking happiness he had imposed on others, Silver Surfer wanders the space ways.
In a recent Ultimate X-Men issue, Jean Grey as Phoenix travels through space and is stopped by what is named as "A Silver Surfer", which implies that there is more than one Silver Surfer, and rather a colony or species of them like the 'Watcher' hive colonies.
In a What If? storyline, the symbiote remained bonded to the Surfer, forcing Spider-Man and the Avengers to battle him until Firestar was able to use her powers to disrupt the symbiote's control over the Surfer. After his powers were used to destroy dozens of New York City blocks and realizing that there was only one way to stop the symbiote, the Silver Surfer flew himself into the sun, destroying both himself and the creature..
He also made several appearances in the 1994 version of the animated series (that was part of The Marvel Action Hour) voiced by Robin Sachs in the first season, then Edward Albert in the last episode of the second. This series also adhered closely to the original comic book story, recounting Surfer and Galactus' coming to Earth in a two-part episode as well as Doctor Doom's theft of Surfer's powers.
In 1998, the Surfer starred in a solo animated series on the FOX Network, voiced by Paul Essiembre. Blending cel and computer animation, this series was rendered in the style of Surfer creator Jack Kirby but diverged from the comic in various ways. Although it accurately depicted the Surfer's origin on Zenn-La, the method by which he regained his emotions and memories was altered to not involve the Fantastic Four. Further adventures included appearances by many characters from Marvel's "cosmic" stable, including Thanos, the Watcher, Ego the Living Planet, Mentor, Drax the Destroyer, Pip the Troll, Nebula, and the Kree and Skrull empires, their portrayals and roles often differing from their comic book incarnations. Possessed of an unusually serious tone compared to Marvel's other animated projects, with frequent maudlin musings by the Surfer and episode resolutions which were often downbeat. It received good rating, but was canceled after only one season of thirteen episodes due to politics between Toy Biz and Saban Entertainment. The series ending on a cliffhanger. Eight further episodes for the next season were written but never animated.
A Silver Surfer film had been long in development since the 1980s. The Silver Surfer made his film debut in 20th Century Fox's Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, the sequel to the 2005 film Fantastic Four. Doug Jones played the Surfer on set, and a computer simulation enhanced the reflective look of his prosthetics. Laurence Fishburne provided the character's voice. Assured of the film's commercial success, 20th Century Fox hired J. Michael Straczynski to write the screenplay for a spin-off film. Straczynski said his script is a sequel, but will also delve into the Surfer's origins. Recently, he said it may not happen.
In this continuity, the Surfer's origins are highly similar to that of his comic-book incarnation, in that he agreed to become Galactus' herald in return for the safety of his home-world and the woman he loved. The movie incarnation differs from his comics counterpart in that instead of having innate power (the Power Cosmic), his power comes from the surfboard itself, which also serves as a beacon for Galactus. After Doctor Doom renders him unconscious, he steals the board. The Fantastic Four free the Surfer from imprisonment to help them defeat Doom. Doom throws a cosmic spear at the Surfer to kill him, but Sue Storm steps in and saves him. She tries to use her force fields to block the spear, but it passes through the field and impales Sue. The Surfer turns on Galactus after he witnesses Sue dying in Reed's arms. The Surfer brings Sue back to life and then goes off to destroy Galactus, appearing to implode when he does. At the end of the film, Surfer is floating aimlessly through space, with his board in the background. As he drifts off screen, his eyes open and his board flies towards him.
In promotion for the film, the Franklin Mint, a collectibles marketer, altered 40,000 California quarters by putting the Silver Surfer on the reverse. The United States Mint, upon discovering this, informed the studio and the Franklin Mint that it is illegal to turn a coin into advertising media, and violators can face a fine.
He also makes a brief cameo in the original Spider-Man videogame. If the player has Debug mode on during the helicopter chase scene, then there will be a blimp with Spiderman on it to jump to instead of going through the whole level. This leads to a brief bonus level where Spider-Man is standing on the blimp, and must avoid the helicopter's machine guns till the level ends. In the beginning of said level, the Silver Surfer is seen flying by.
Musician Joe Satriani included the character on the cover of his 1987 album, Surfing with the Alien. The following year a planet was named Satriani after him on Silver Surfer vol. 3, #13. In one of his subsequent albums, Flying in a Blue Dream, there is a track titled "Back to Shalla-Bal." Satriani's 2000 album, Engines of Creation, also includes a song called "The Power Cosmic." In the song, "Last of the New Wave Riders," from Utopia's Adventures in Utopia, the final line (bracketed as an aside) is "here comes that Silver Surfer now." Symphonic black metal band Bal-Sagoth featured "The Scourge of the Fourth Celestial Host," a track about the Silver Surfer, on their aptly titled album, The Power Cosmic. On the solo album, Accident of Birth, from Iron Maiden front man Bruce Dickinson, in the song "Darkside of Aquarius", the song ends with the line, 'From the starlite sky, on a silver sea. A lonely Silver Surfer comes to push the wheel for me.'