By some fortuitous event, a copy of The Essential Silver Surfer Vol. 1 came into my hands a couple of days ago. The thick book compiles the 18 issues of the first run of the Silver Surfer comic by Stan Lee and John Buscema.
Written between 1968 and 1970, the stories look and sound a bit dated. It shows in the campiness of the plot devices and the language. Nevertheless, it has a charm all its own.
For an old comic, Silver Surfer was actually difficult to get into. Stan Lee used it as a vehicle for his philosophical musings. Prejudice, rejection, and man's inhumanity to his fellow man form a common theme through all the stories. True, this is staple fare for Stan Lee ca. mid-1960's, but nowhere is this more fully distilled than in Silver Surfer.
After a while, though, the character grows on you. Silver Surfer is a noble soul who indentured himself to Galactus, a world-eating entity, in order to save his planet. Arriving on Earth, he turned against his master to prevent its destruction. As punishment, Galactus bound him to the planet, never to return to his home world.
In between the physical struggles with madmen, dictators, superheroes, prejudiced everymen, and the devil, Silver Surfer also struggles morally with loneliness and the search for acceptance. Along the way, he comments on the human condition, wondering why men must ever be in conflict with each other. Despite the amazing cosmic powers that he wields, Silver Surfer is helpless against these forces. Seen from innocent alien eyes, the observation achieves a certain poignancy.
What's valuable about the comic is the insight that it gives into pop culture and the prevalent philosophical themes of the 1960s. It was a period of great uncertainty and brewing global conflict, heightened by paranoia and prejudice. The Silver Surfer served as a vehicle to question the direction that humanity was taking.
Sad to say, those problems haven't been resolved yet. So the Silver Surfer must ever wander on.
On Technorati: comics.