Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sky-Rider Of The Microverse


In terms of the full-page portraits of the various characters artist Jack Kirby has drawn, the Silver Surfer had unfortunately been put at a disadvantage. Before he got his own series in 1968, the Surfer had been only an occasional guest-star in Fantastic Four--and Kirby's more frequent use of full-page artwork was just getting revved up by the time the Surfer shifted his appearances to his new title. And since Kirby wasn't assigned to pencil the Surfer's mag, there was no opportunity for the artist to churn out the full-page renderings of the Surfer that he otherwise might have. That only left The Silver Surfer graphic novel, before Kirby and Marvel parted ways for the final time.

As a result, there are only a few full-page Surfer displays that were published--though if viewed in the context of Kirby's great body of work as a whole, you might say we're fortunate to have these few samples.

I can start you off with what I consider one of the most striking images of the Surfer I can think of:



Everything in this page clicks for me. The scale of the Surfer soaring over the city beneath him; the resolute expression; his alien nature; the variety of the building detail; there's so much here to absorb. If I had to pick a close second of the definitive Surfer, it would probably be these images from an earlier appearance:




Another Surfer/city shot was done in the later graphic novel:



It's the same general idea, but of course under different circumstances. In the first, the Surfer has come to a grim decision to begin a series of attacks in a misguided attempt to unite the human race; in the second, he's soaring over the skies of Earth for the first time in his quest to locate a suitable world to sustain Galactus. Both drawings give ample opportunity to explore the Surfer's musings on the problem at hand.

The next portrait is something of an anticlimax, given the circumstances:



The Surfer has shrunk himself to the "microverse," in the hope of escaping detection by the approaching Galactus. The gambit works--yet because of his vastly decreased size, the Surfer deludes himself into thinking that he has the freedom of another "universe" to explore, unhindered by the barrier which exists around Earth to contain him. And his "freedom" may indeed be the case, as far as it goes. Picture having a lifetime to explore California on foot, with all the time in the world and nothing but new vistas and experiences awaiting you, and you see what a let-down this image is for those readers who see the Surfer's "freedom" here as bittersweet. The microverse may be a godsend for the Surfer, to whom one planet to spend your existence on may have still felt like a prison in comparison to the limitless universe he called home--but this new universe will never have a Zenn-La for him to return to, and has in essence contained him on a slide under a microscope. It's an image of the Surfer that seeks to have an impact under all the wrong conditions.

Since we've now run out of the full-page issue portraits featuring the Surfer, I thought I'd throw in the nice poster of the Surfer (and Galactus) which Kirby drew along with a series of other posters for Marvelmania:



It naturally doesn't fit into any story elements that the others are a part of, so there's a certain loss of spontaneity--and the only elements we can really read into this image are strictly promotional in nature. Though it does make you wonder how the others would come across if you removed their dialog and slapped the Surfer's logo onto the art in its place:


(Let's just hope Galactus doesn't end up feeling excluded.)


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