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Silver Surfer

Marvel Legends
by yo go re

In space, no one can hear you wax quasi-Psych 101 philosophic to yourself for hours on end.

Desperate to deliver his home world from certain destruction, Norrin Radd struck a deal with the fundamental force of nature known as Galactus. As the world-devourer's herald, he would search the galaxy for his master's sustenance. Eventually breaking his bonds, the Silver Surfer now soars the cosmic waves unshackled as the Lone Sentinel of the Spaceways!

The Silver Surfer is one of the dozens of characters created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. Now, usually those names would be listed in the other order, but chromey here was dreamt up entirely by Jack. Marvel comics, back in the day, were pretty much all a product of Stan Lee's imagination: in order to handle all those titles, Stan developed the "Mighty Marvel Style," which basically meant that he gave the artist a basic outline and let him loose on the story. When the pages came back, Stan would go over them and write dialogue to fit whatever had been drawn. This lent speed to the process, but also created some surprises.

It was Kirby who decided that someone as hugely powerful as Galactus would have underlings to do a lot of the menial tasks for him, and so created the Surfer whole cloth. Stan, surprised to find a brand new character in his story, picked up on Norrin Radd right away and made him a sympathetic, philosophical mouthpiece. Lee and Kirby had different concepts for the character, but since Stan was the editor, well, you can imagine what happened.

Like most of the Marvel Legends figures, the Silver Surfer's had his share of action figures before, but none as detailed as this. And none have had the flat, inhuman, Jack Kirby-inspired face. The toy was sculpted by Phil Ramirez, who also put some strong Kirby influence into the hands: that gesture on the right hand, with the thumb and pointer finger extended, the middle finger bent slightly, and the ring and pinkie fingers curled up, is not a way any human has ever naturally held their hand, and yet it's exactly the kind of thing Jack would draw to keep his art from being boring. The left hand just has a general "holding" pose, but on this figure it feels purposeful.

The Surfer stands slightly under 6" tall, and has the same general body as the new Spider-Man Classic Daredevil: I like that ToyBiz now has several generic bodies in its arsenal, so that we still get a nice variety of toys in each line. The figure moves at the toes, ankles, shins, knees, hips, waist, abs, neck, upper biceps, elbows, forearms, wrists and mid-hand.

Capturing the look of this sentinel of the spaceways has always been a delicate issue for figures - flat silver doesn't look right, while vac-metalized chrome wears off too easily. For this figure, ToyBiz has done a multi-layered paint app, with a gray base, silver above and light blue highlights. It's easily the best presentation we've ever seen for this character.

Without his board, the Silver Surfer would just be "The Silver," which doesn't sound nearly as cool. The board here doubles as the usual Marvel Legends base: an articulated black stand supports the board, connecting it to a 1" tall bit of pockmarked asteroid. The base is wall-mountable, and the stand has a big joint in the center that allows the board to remain horizontal.

In a clever bit of invention, the Surfer does not connect to his board via pegs or straps; instead, he has magnets in his feet, and there's a metal strip down the center of the board. The magnets are surprisingly strong, allowing you to get some pretty dynamic poses out of the toy.

The figure comes with a reproduction of issue 11 of his eponymous comic. It's an okay issue, that hints at the Surfer's origins Howard the Duck and powers without ever really showing much of either, but it does serve as an advertisement for Vol. 2 of the Marvel Masterworks Silver Surfer collection. There are much better Surfer stories out there, particularly from Jim Starlin and Ron Lim's run.

In a first for the Marvel Legends series, the Silver Surfer includes a "sidekick" figure - a smaller character that would never warrant a figure on their own, but makes for a fine accessory. In this case, when you buy the Silver Surfer, you get a 3" Howard the Duck, an inexplicably popular Donald Duck rip-off who has been the star of much legal contention in his ill-conceived life, as well as one mega-flop film from George Lucas. Howard's wearing his blue jacket and hat, white gloves and red tie, and moves at the Springfield Four. Sadly, he does not come with a cigar to chomp on. He and Nick Fury can be nicotine-withdrawl buddies.

There have rumors that Howard will only be available with a limited run of Silver Surfers, or that the Surfer will be re-released later without the pack-in. As far as we can tell, this is not true: every Marvel Legends Series 5 Silver Surfer comes with a Howard the Duck, so you don't have to worry about purchasing one blindly.

-- 12/21/03

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