Sunday, October 28, 2012

That's Not In My Job Description

The recent post I made on Galactus had me doing some thinking about the Silver Surfer's role as his herald. I suppose there are all sorts of things we can infer from Galactus' use of what he calls a "herald." We know the herald's practical meaning to Galactus, yes--seeking out worlds to assuage his hunger. But a herald is more accurately one who announces that someone or something else is on its way--or, in the Surfer's case, just the sighting of the herald as a sort of harbinger of the destruction to come. And really, if Galactus stands so apart and indifferent as he professes, why would he want to make use of a "herald" in the sense of announcing his coming? He's repeatedly made it clear that he has absolutely no regard for the lives that may perish in his wake--why would he care about having someone to trumpet his approach? The Surfer's landing on Earth seemed to be a matter of routine--find the planet, land, send a homing signal, and then wish the Master bon app├ętit.

So what's to be gained by the Surfer taking to the air and skywriting, "GALACTUS IS COMING"?

In the Surfer's origin story, Galactus expresses the need for a "herald," yet is very specific as to what the job entails:

This exchange between Norrin Radd and Galactus seemes to make clear that what Galactus is needing is a scout, rather than a herald. The two are very distinctive terms--though the former word lacks the formality and literary flourish of "herald," which is perhaps why the latter was used instead.

As a side-note, thank goodness a later issue of Silver Surfer explained how Galactus tampered with the Surfer's soul when he began searching for suitable worlds, in order to remove feelings of guilt that would compromise his mission. It finally reconciled the exchange pictured above with this later scene from the same origin story, where the Surfer decides to lead Galactus to Earth despite the understanding he reached with Galactus about avoiding inhabited worlds:

The Surfer seems to side-step his earlier concerns by telling himself that he's run out of time; though even that rationalization is at odds with the Surfer's total lack of feeling towards the humans' fate when he meets with Alicia Masters.

When you think about it, the Surfer assuming the role of "herald" in the announcing sense seems unnecessary. For those races who are unaware of Galactus' existence, the scenario is going to be much like we saw after the Surfer signaled from Earth. For those races who already know of Galactus, I think we can assume the effect is mostly going to be panic when they detect the Silver Surfer arriving in their space:

If we were to speculate, we might even assume that with the Surfer, Galactus is giving a heads-up to races that have the capability to evacuate their planets; and for those who don't, time to come to terms with their inevitable destruction. I guess only Galactus knows for sure.

In a later issue of Fantastic Four, writer Marv Wolfman seems to want to finally qualify the use of the word "herald" and have Galactus embrace its understood meaning:

It was a scene that took me by surprise, since it attaches to Galactus vanity where none presumably exists. Besides, giving announcing privileges to a bruiser like Terrax? I doubt he'd have the tact of the Surfer--he'd probably cruelly make clear to the doomed planet's population that its hours are numbered, as well as use that axe of his to drive the point home.

The only herald I can remember who really "heralded" the Earth's end was Gabriel, though he was just a tad misleading as to not only his identity but also that of the master he served:

The point being that Gabriel didn't give one whit about warning the populace about what specific threat was on its way--and was just marking time by sadistically toying with the populace until the Surfer appeared to deal with his threat. And why would Gabriel do otherwise? Any "herald" of Galactus would know--as would Galactus himself--that their warning would have made no difference in the outcome, one way or the other.

I think I remember reading that the Surfer is once again back in the service of Galactus, where I can only hope he's fulfilling his original mission as he envisioned it. Whether or not he's announcing his master's approach, I have no idea. Maybe Galactus will one day be content in simply knowing that his reputation precedes him.

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