When Galactus threatened to devour the utopian world of Zenn-La, Norrin Radd -- the only Zenn-Lavian who was worth a damn, apparently -- offered himself as Galactus' herald in exchange for Galactus sparing his homeworld. Galactus agreed, turning Radd into a silver-skinned being (whose hairless, muscular body was clad only in silver shorts, and whose eyes were solid white) who could survive indefinitely in space and who possessed a measure of Galactus' cosmic power. His means of transport was a flying silver board, shaped much like a surfboard. Radd, now the Silver Surfer, bid a tearful farewell to his true love Shalla-Bal and left his world forever.

As the herald of Galactus, the Surfer scouted for uninhabited worlds that possessed the life-energy Galactus needed to survive. However, this became increasingly difficult. Galactus, who did not share his herald's qualms about the destruction of inhabited worlds, erased the Surfer's memory of his past. Shortly after this the Surfer discovered Earth and came into conflict with The Watcher and the Fantastic Four.

It was the courage of Alicia Masters that finally convinced the Surfer to turn against his master and save the Earth. Faced with both his renegade herald and the ultimate nullifier, which had been obtained by the Human Torch, Galactus decided to back off. Before doing so he created an energy barrier that would prevent the Surfer from leaving the Earth again. The former herald gradually regained his memories of his former life and spent much of his time battling evil, brooding in Earth's remote places, and pining for his lost love Shalla-Bal.

Eventually the barrier was removed and the Surfer was once again free to roam the spaceways.

Marvel Comics character. First appeared in Fantastic Four #48 in 1966. This was followed by his own comic book series in 1968, which died of natural causes after 18 issues. The Surfer (aka Sentinel of the Spaceways, Skyrider of the Spaceways, and (to his closest friends) Silverado) reappeared in 1982 in a one-issue "series" in which he returns briefly to his homeworld, Zenn-La, discovers that it has been ravaged, apparently by Galactus, imparts some of his power cosmic to his estranged love, Shalla-Bal, then must return to Earth.

In 1987, a new Silver Surfer series began, and the Surfer managed to end his exile on Earth (punishment from Galactus for disobedience).He returned home, only to find that things were not as he had dreamed. He sets off upon a solitary quest for meaning. This came to a close with issue #146 in 1998, where his solitary quest turns into something of a team effort, as he effectively retires to Earth and takes up residence with his new girlfriend, Alicia Masters, who sure does seem to get around (I'm still mad at her for dumping Ben Grimm).

There was a two-issue miniseries in 1988 entitled "Parable," which seems to have gotten mixed reviews from Surfer fans. This makes no sense to me since it was clearly the most philosophically inclined and aesthetically pleasing comic of its day. I cherish my copies. Note the reference to this series in the Denzel Washington movie "Crimson Tide."

He made numerous "guest" appearances in other Marvel series, and as I recall he was attached to the Defenders at some point.

In my book, there is no comic character who is more clearly meant to resemble Christ, in His manifestation as the suffering servant of man. The Surfer's continual struggle to find peace and meaning in a universe apparently bereft of both is both touching and inspiring.

The Silver Surfer is many things, and stands as testament to how far the genius of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby could span: from the real life, "realistic" adventures of Spider-Man trying to make his rent, to the cosmic, philosophical tales of the Silver Surfer. The Silver Surfer existed on a cosmic level that was unknown in Marvel comics at that time, and not really touched even in DC comics. Despite his great power, he wasn't interested in fisticuffs, and fought even the greatest menaces with reluctance. He was, as suggested above, something of a Christ figure.

All of which has been commented on before, but I think an equally important issue to raise, that has not been addressed enough, is why the Silver Surfer doesn't wear any clothing. Any at all! He goes around totally naked, and no one ever acts very weird about it, or anything. I suppose that could be because often, when the Silver Surfer interacts with other super heroes, it means that something big is going down, and when Thanos is threatening to destroy the universe again, you can't worry about whether one of your important allies is, or is not, wearing shorts. Although, since Thanos threatens to destroy the universe with clockwork regularity, perhaps the curiosity of the Surfer's pantslessness would come to the fore. Although, for those not familiar with the appearance of the Silver Surfer, it should be pointed out that he exhibits no external genitalia, with the area being a smooth, gently rounded silver expanse.

More seriously, the Surfer's state of undress is interesting given the strictness of the Comics Code at the time when he first appeared. And although it was weakened throughout the coming decades and finally disposed of early in this decade, a nude character is still a rarity in comics. And yet, the external response to the Surfer's nudity seems to be as muted as the internal response. Perhaps that is because no serious comic book critic, if such a thing exists, would want to admit that they were not pondering the important cosmic and moral issues raised therein, but instead were staring at the Silver Surfer's crotch area, trying to figure out whether the line around his waist was the waistband of his shorts, some strange quirk of Zenn-Lavian anatomy, or purposely kept ambiguous. It should also be pointed out that artists have chosen to not go to lengths to either hide nor conceal the vital area of his anatomy. Artists don't usually go to great lengths to hide his groin behind shadows and body contortions, but neither does the Silver Surfer go around with his codpiece sticking proudly out. And, as I said before, the Silver Surfer exhibits no external genitalia, with the area being a smooth, gently rounded silver expanse.

I think that the Silver Surfer's nudity is not just an accident, but is tightly tied in to his character. He is, by all appearances, a neuter being, and his conduct is somewhat neutered. Despite having powers that outstrip any other hero on earth, the Surfer chooses not to use them. His metaphorical phallus is just as oblique as his physical one. His naked physique and lack of obvious gender identity set him apart from the other characters he interacts with, he is somewhat angelic in nature. If the Silver Surfer is indeed, a Christ figure, it would not do for him to have a flamboyantly coy codpiece. (Such an interpretation brings up other issues, such as whether a Christ figure would have a smooth, gently rounded silver expanse in the genital region, and whether the surfboard is a cross of some sort.) There are of course exceptions to this theory as Silver Surfer as divine eunuch: he has had at least three girlfriends, and despite his generally gentle temperament, he is not averse to occasionally displaying unfettered male fury. Also, cosmic stature does not usually go along with being unclothed in the Marvel Universe: even such abstract entities as Eternity and Death follow some social conventions about dress. And Eternity isn't even humanoid, instead being a field of stars that still remembers to put on his cape. Whether this departure from code is an example of nuance and diversity in portrayal amongst Marvel's writing and editorial staff, or just an example of sloppy and inconsistent writing, is left as an exercise for the reader.

So, after reading this, the reader is left either more enlightened, or left with the prospect of never being able to read another Silver Surfer comic without scoping out the Surfer's lack of external genitalia. I hope that the second result does not ruin too much comic reading pleasure.

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