The Cosmic Genius of Silver Surfer’s Animated Series
Discover the Silver Surfer’s adventures on Disney+!
Ten years before the Marvel Cinematic Universe began on the big screen, Marvel’s Silver Surfer received his own animated series on Fox. In 1998, this was the first attempt to bring the Surfer and his fellow cosmic heroes to life without the addition of the Fantastic Four or more established characters. The result was a Marvel cartoon unlike any other, and it’s now available to stream on Disney+!
Because the FF had their own cartoon in syndication, the Silver Surfer creative team weren’t able to use them in their show. That’s why the Fantastic Four played no role in the Surfer’s origin story. However, the broad strokes of his history remained intact. The Surfer was once Norrin Radd from the planet Zenn-La. To save his homeworld, Norrin agreed to become the herald of Galactus and search the heavens for new planets to be consumed by his master. Surprisingly, it was Thanos and Ego the Living Planet who accidentally restored Norrin’s memories and his humanity while they attempted to steal Galactus’ secrets.
As a punishment for Silver Surfer turning against his master and sparing Earth, Galactus hurled Zenn-La far across the galaxy. Thus the Surfer’s ongoing quest was to find his home and return to the embrace of his beloved Shalla-Bal.
Thanos became the Surfer’s primary enemy throughout the series; although his worship of Death was transferred to a new character, Lady Chaos. But this show was ahead of the curve when it came to Marvel’s cosmic characters. Future Guardians of the Galaxy Drax the Destroyer and Gamora both appeared in the series, albeit in versions that differed from their comic book counterparts. Even Nebula made a guest appearance as a villain, long before anyone suspected how compelling she could become as a potential heroine.
Silver Surfer also introduced Adam Warlock and Pip the Troll, two major cosmic characters that still haven’t had their MCU debut yet. In this incarnation, Warlock was an alien super soldier designed to fight the Kree. Because Warlock had such a limited role, Pip never became his companion on the show. Instead, Pip felt more of a kinship with the Surfer, and together they overthrew a Kree slavery operation.
Nova also played a large role in select episodes of the series as both the new herald of Galactus, and one of the Surfer’s few friends. She was torn between aiding her master and her sympathy for the Surfer’s plight. This mirrored their relationship in the comics, as Nova and the Surfer felt drawn to each other.
Jack Kirby’s artistic influence helped define the aesthetic of the series, which blended traditional animation and computer animation. However, Silver Surfer also remained true to the spirit of the original comics by maintaining serialized stories and by exploring complex themes like pacifism, imperialism, racism, and environmental allegory. That’s pretty heady stuff for a Saturday morning cartoon.
Sadly, the Surfer’s run came to an abrupt end after only 13 episodes. But the series finale, "The End of Eternity,” has one of the most shocking cliffhangers that we’ve ever seen in a Marvel animated series. It’s the final showdown between the Surfer and Thanos with the entire universe at stake. Even without a proper conclusion, it’s going to be essential viewing on Disney+ for the foreseeable future.
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