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The softer side of Galactus – The Silver Surfer #48

April 30, 2010

In my youth the times when I was into buying comics came and went.  I’m sure I wasn’t unique in that – we all go through phases where different things have appeal for us.  There was a period when I was spending all my lawn-mowing money on baseball cards, another when I was buying those Star Trek paperbacks that seemed to be published every single week.  And, of course, comics wove their way in and out of my life.

One of my comics phases was heavily focused on The Silver Surfer.  That was something about the title in the early 90’s that I just dug.  Maybe it was the cosmic storyline, or maybe it was Ron Lim’s wonderful rendition of the Surfer’s shiny metallic skin.  I’m not sure, but it was most definitely one of the titles – if not the title – that I couldn’t wait to lay my hands on each and every month.  There was a wonderful run around the time of The Infinity Gauntlet miniseries when a reborn Adam Warlock was bumming around the book – his original stay in the Marvel Universe was a bit before my time, so my introduction to the whole Jim Starlin Thanos/Warlock/Captain Marvel subsection of the MU came from these stories.

Ahhhh.  Jim Starlin doing those cosmic storylines – back when they were still pretty fresh.  Those are some good memories.

The story in the above book is one of my favorites from this era.  Written by Starlin and pencilled by Lim, it marked the beginning of Thanos having possession of the Infinity Gems, but the real character beats come between the Surfer and Galactus.  The Surfer finds out that when he was made Galactus’ herald the big guy tinkered with his soul.  This makes the Sentinel of the Spaceways quite peeved, and he demands that his soul be put right.  Galactus obliges, but it then becomes clear why the tinkering was done in the first place – the Surfer is immediately overwhelmed by guilt for the deaths that he caused in setting the table for the world-devourer all those years.  He hallucinates that he’s drowning in blood until Galactus snaps him out of it, but the Surfer refuses to have the mental shield put back in place.  There’s a good deal of nice dialogue between the two characters throughout all this – a lot of barbs, but underneath that you can tell there’s some mutual respect.

This mind alteration of course made Norrin Radd a more efficient servant (as Galactus notes), but a part of me likes to think that a little piece of Galactus wanted to spare him the psychic pain that his deeds would bring – images of the Grinch and his heart growing three sizes larger are popping into my head as I write this.  That’s probably me putting too much into what’s on the pages, but a boy can dream, can’t he?  Can’t Galactus have a heart?

The coda of the story is wonderfully ominous, with Thanos appearing before Galactus and warning him to stay out of his way.  I like it when other villains threaten Galactus – the big fella’s “Who the *&#$ do you think you are?” reaction is always priceless, no matter who’s writing the script or who’s pencilling the panels.  Thanos uses his new and infinite power to make the planet that is about to be Galactus’ dinner disappear.  Ta-daaaa!  The Devourer of Worlds is left with only his pride to swallow and moves on.

This whole ish plays into the reasons why I’ve always enjoyed Galactus as a character, and why I’ve found his portrayal over the years to be interesting.  He’s a villain who’s not really evil.  He’s just hungry.  Really hungry.  He’d just as soon feed off an uninhabited planet, but sometimes he just can’t find a suitable one.  Sometimes he does things that may be interpreted as a good deeds, as in his shielding of the Surfer’s psyche.  And now and again he finds himself allied with our usual heroes, as in the aforementioned Infinity Gauntlet series when he joined an army of heroes, villains and deities in challenging the by then all-powerful Thanos – maybe partly to get revenge for the vanishing repast.  Galactus Gotta Eat!

Good stuff.  And a cool character.

And one last note.  I like the cover of this issue, but I’m always distracted by the fact that the Surfer’s board was colored the same as Galactus’ hand.  I realize that this may have been a conscious choice to highlight the isolation and the pain of the Surfer, but it always comes across, at least to me, as an error and an oversight.  Whatever.  At least the story inside is well done.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. bobmitchellinthe21stcentury permalink
    May 3, 2010 9:02 am

    Y’know, I’ve never noticed that about the board before. Always thought it a shame that Ron Lim never became a superstar, he seemed to come out of nowhere and to follow Rogers on the Surfer was not easy, but his work was amazing.

    • May 3, 2010 12:04 pm

      I remember being a little underwhelmed by Lim’s work on some of the less “cosmic” titles at around that time. There was something about his art that fit quite nicely with the Surfer and the outer space settings that he frequented. Maybe the highest compliment I can give him is that, when he replaced George Perez midway through “The Infinity Gauntlet,” I thought of it as an upgrade.

  2. July 2, 2010 2:59 am

    Looks like we’re both Surfer fans, specifically Ron Lim Surfer fans! I do think Ron was the definitive Marvel cosmic artist, and it’s very odd that in the Silver Surfer title, he could, say, have Surfer go to earth and draw humans fine, but then when he moved over to pencil some issues of Spider-Man or Venom, it ended up looking awkward. His work on X-Men 2099 was just really stiff and stilted, but then you look at his stuff on Silver Surfer, and it’s some of the finest storytelling you’ll ever see. How odd.

    • July 3, 2010 11:15 am

      Couldn’t agree more. I seem to recall an issue of Captain America that he pencilled where characters were stiff as boards. Still doesn’t diminish my love of the Surfer stuff.

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