Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Where Stumbles The Simple Surfer!

Given the Silver Surfer's grandiose gestures that bordered on posing, and his legendary tendency to theatrically brood and bemoan his sorry state while trapped on the planet Earth (with respective thanks to artist John Buscema and writer Stan Lee), the character's origin story in his first solo series was ripe for artist Marie Severin's caricature treatment in the pages of Not Brand Echh, the short-lived bi-monthly series from 1967-69 that often took humorous swipes at Marvel's portrayal of its own characters as well as those of its Distinguished Competition, in addition to real-life personalities and celebrities of the time. With its final issue in May of '69, the book introduces its own unique take on Silver Surfer #1 (also a bi-monthly title in its first year of publication). And rather than soaring over the breathtaking landscapes of Earth while he sorts out his thoughts, in this warped version of the story the Surfer will have to be content with the equally breathtaking squalor of the Bronx.

Scripter Roy Thomas expertly channels Stan Lee's yak-it-up style that he adapted so well to these humor mags, with every panel filled to the brim with wit and, as was typically the case in such stories, sarcasm and insults, which were all in good fun; while Severin's work speaks for itself, mimicking Buscema's style so well yet practically reinventing this story while, needless to say with an eight-page limit, condensing it greatly from its original length (helped in part by Severin's much smaller panels).

In addition, there's a wealth of clever minutiae to scrutinize in Severin's depictions. For instance, in the dramatic moment where "Galacticus" (who appears to be Jack Kirby under that helmet) reveals himself to "Borin' Kadd," who would have thought to make him into a traveling salesman, with even the individual aspects of his outfit tagged and priced to sell?

Severin covers the few bases there are to be covered from the original tale--the choice the Surfer makes to leave the woman he loves, as well as his involvement with the Fantastic Four when his master had targeted Earth for consumption. (Though we can probably agree that his departure from the side of "Shallo-Gal" was more cause for celebration than grief.) Yet unlike Lee's story, Severin and Thomas see to it that the Surfer is provided with a much happier ending.

(Check out the homage to Gidget/The Flying Nun!)

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