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Get thee back, foul deceiver! – Fantasy Masterpieces #3 (The Silver Surfer #3)

September 11, 2011

Perhaps no hero is better suited to working himself up into a misunderstood, self-righteous lather than the Silver Surfer. One false step, one wrong move, and this shiny alien either throws down with a fellow good guy (as in his dust-up with the ever-lovin’ Thing, though, to be fair, it was the Thing’s own jealous psychoses that started that one) or threatens to use the Power Cosmic to cow the dull masses. Temper, temper.

That’s how this issue, a Stan Lee-written, John Buscema-drawn, Joe Sinnott-inked reprint from the Surfer’s classic first series, gets its start, with the Sentinel of the Spaceways blocked and attacked while trying to do a good deed and then going through his “angry god” floor routine. To that end, Stan and John deploy the appropriately unsubtle Christ verbiage and imagery:

All this gets the attention of — and is the prelude to the introduction of — one of the great villains in Marvel’s history, the devil who isn’t THE devil, Mephisto. The Mephisto that I remember from the early ’90s Silver Surfer books sort of sucked. No, let me take back the “sort of.” He full on blew. He came across as more of a trickster, a player of pranks, a toady to those temporarily more powerful than he. Not so in this first appearance. He has grandeur. A villain in full, one worthy to be placed alongside mouthy greats like Doctor Doom. Here’s our first angled shot of the shadow-shrouded lord of the nether realm, so typical of wonderfully overdone Silver Age Marvel:

It should also be noted that he was apparently a classmate of Loki’s at the accredited Larry Craig School of Throne Sitting. Hang that diploma high!

What does Mephisto use to try to drag the pure Surfer off the pure path? None other than that raven-haired, big-breasted Zenn-La beauty, Shalla Bal:

A fine choice, Mephisto. A fine choice.

This issue is high on the bombast, as this vile deceiver tries to corrupt the Surfer with offers of his lover, wealth, power, babes, a new pair of briefs, everything. But none of it works. And it gets a bit repetitive, as Stan and John try desperately to fill the extra pages that the Surfer’s mag carried. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy it when Mephisto tried to suck the Surfer’s essence (that sounds perverse) into his own skull and thereby conquer him, only to be overwhelmed by the do-right feedback:

Nobody could write this crap like Mr. Lee. Nobody. I’m fairly certain “did pain me like a canker” is going to enter my everyday phraseology.

I love the Surfer, and I’d love to get my hands on a lot of these old issues. Watching Lee and Buscema go wild with such a spectacular character is like driving with the top down on a crisp sunny day. Buscema’s style was particularly well-tailored to the Surfer’s unique isolation and suffering (as in that first interior scan above). Unfortunately, I don’t see the original books around much in good shape, and they’re pricey as all get out when they are spotted. So, since I like comics in comics form, not trades or collections, its nice to have these Fantasy Masterpieces reprints to tide myself over until I’m either less frugal or much, much wealthier. Probably the former.

Maybe if a certain onerous spinner of lies offered me Silver Surfer back issues…

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 11, 2011 5:37 pm

    You’re too late – “Pain me like a canker” entered my vocabulary back in 1975 when I first saw this tale reprinted in Marvel UK’s The Super-Heroes.

    I only have Fantasy Masterpieces #1, and I noticed that they discreetly edited out a few pages to reduce the page count. Without having the subsequent issues to check, I can’t say for sure whether they did the same thing with the rest of the series, but I suspect they did.

    Never mind, I’ll just have to console myself with my original 18 issues of The Silver Surfer in all their complete glory. I occasionally post the covers on my blog (I think the next one due to be posted is #8) at http://kidr77.blogspot.com – feel free to copy them if you wish.

    • September 13, 2011 1:54 am

      I hope to see #didpainmelikeacanker trending on twitter in the near future.

      You’re absolutely right about the page-trimming, which I should have noted. Even with that, this particular version seemed to go in circles a bit. Good circles, but circles nonetheless.

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