This is likely bound to be long-winded, so please sit tight, kiddies, whilst your wierd Uncle Everywordmeans drags your ear to his keyboard.
This started about a month ago, thanks to pop culture. I saw an ad for the new Fantastic Four movie coming out soon, in which the Silver Surfer is the soup du jour feature of the sequel.
I have no interest in seeing the movie, because whatever depth of story it may possess is likely to be buttered over completely by farcical and crowd-rousing action scenes (oh how the masses love thier opium!), not to mention the requisite sex goddess scantily clad cameo scenes. Plus, I don't have a girlfriend to take to the movies with me to actually forgive these shortcomings for mindless entertainment/date purposes.
But instead, I borrowed "The Essential Silver Surfer Vol. I" annual comic compilation from my local library (of which my LJ friend malpractice is a librarian of. Go say hi to her! :)
But I digress.
The book opens with the origin of the character, so for the first part of this essay, it's needful that I fill you in on a summation of the genesis of the hero, and the basic outline of his story:
Norin Radd, our protagonist hero, starts out on an earthlike planet called Zenn-La. It's located light-years away from earth. Norin is a character full of ennui and pathos because he lives in an advanced culture that has basically become a sterile utopia (I believe the correct word for that is "dystopia"). He hungers for adventure and meaning to his existence.
His girlfriend is the (typically drawn comic book character) bosomy: Shalla Bal. All goes well until one fateful day when a threat arrives in the planet's hemisphere. It's Galactus! -a collosal juggernaut of a being who travels the universe eating planets for sustenance!
He apparently eats whatever planet he pleases that consists of energy for him to make a meal of. His origin is unknown to me as of this writing (if indeed he was ever GIVEN one by Marvel comics -I'd like to know...), but; it's pointed out that Galactus is neither good nor evil, but simply a consumptive being who needs planets for his food.
Norin Radd is in the midst of a panicking Zenn-La. Because of thier advanced and peaceful nature, they as a whole have long since lost the ability or the wherewithal to deal with this unheard of threat to thier existence.
Regardless of the citizenry, Galactus threatens attack, and it's Norin Radd who finds his calling: stepping up to confront Galactus on behalf of Zenn-La's people. Galactus listens to Norin Radd's appeal, and although his hunger is great and he's come a long way off, he acquiesces to Radd on the condition that he join Galactus as a sentinel, to search out other planets for him to devour in exchange for Zenn-La.
Backed into a corner to save his people, Norin agrees, and Galactus transforms him, equipping him with "cosmic power", making his skin silver, and dubbing him "Silver Surfer", also giving him that hip surfboard to fly around the universe on!
Now, that just about catches us up to speed, except that after a while, Galactus finds Earth, and threatens to devour it. The Fantastic Four arrive to defend along with the Silver Surfer, who cannot bear to let the earth people be consumed unecessarily, and he confronts Galactus, who grows extremely wroth and of course there's a slamtastic action scene (as there is in almost every comicbook story...) and Galactus is persuaded to leave Earth, but as a result, punishes the Silver Surfer to forevermore be trapped on Earth with the people he so valiantly fought for (he's ensnared via an impenetrable cosmic shield which Galactus surrounds the Earth with to prevent S.S. from escaping).
The Silver Surfer is therefore enprisoned, and to make matters worse, he longs and aches for his Shalla Bal, who he has no contact with, and she lingers on the homeplanet hoping one day for his return, not knowing when or even if he will ever see her again.
Pretty tragic and heady schtuff, eh?
I kinda think so.
It borrows liberally from Odysseus in the last bit, with the Silver Surfer as a re-told wanderer, (Sentinel of the spaceways! -the blurb always says) hoping someday to return to his erstwhile Penelope.
The Surfer also has a lotta trouble blending to the city life, what with that silver skin of his. The people of earth are constantly afraid of him and react usually by attacking him on account of his bizarre alien appearance.
A common theme of Stan Lee's apparently -that of the 'hero as outsider'.
Now on to the main reason why I wanted to write this essay (told you this would be a longwinded rant)...
Ok so basically, I've had the Silver Surfer stories in my mind lately, and they've been bobbin around, bouncin up against other mythic themes.
Like that of the Ouroboros, the snake eating it's tail, which was revered as an ancient symbol of "the eternal round", or to put it more plainly, the consumptive (killing), but also life creating (sustaining) force which pervades the very nature of existence and sentience.
I defy you to find me any creature, even on the microscopic level that does not kill in order to feed and remain alive.
Joseph Cambell, in his excellent works on comparitive mythology, once suggested (and most likely correctly) that religion was borne of man's feelings of guilt regarding the incontrovertible fact that animals must kill in order to live, and that guilt necessitated expiation or release through the creation of a belief system to assuage the "crime".
I put "crime" in quotation marks there, because it's probably more apt to have said the word 'sin' there, as no one who eats a McDonald's cheeseburger is thought of as commiting a crime. In our modern culture, we've grown so repressed of this sin that we pre-package and microwave our food without ever having to be reminded that it was once a living breathing creature of some kind. Our denial is so total of this fact, that I would wager most of the time people don't even think about it at all anymore.
That's not to say it's right or wrong, I'm just trying to point out a simple fact. In order to live, you're a killer.
Some conjecture that our religious edict (of Adam in the Garden of Eden) to be head honcho and have dominion of all manner of beasts and plants (not to mention the rest of the world, which we are destroying idiotically because of this edict!)is just a fanciful mythos created to respond and alleviate this basic problem.
What's all this intellectual pigshit got to do with comic books, I hear you asking? Well...
Galactus is that Oroboros archetype. He represents the original innocence of our being, in a pre-aware state before the burgeoning of our collective conscience. The Silver Surfer, on the other hand, symbolizes our conscience. Like Jiminy Cricket, I suppose, but whereas Disney's conscience is Minnesota, The Silver Surfer is definitely more California!
And if I may extrapolate further on that absurd metaphoric comparison, I'd say that Pinocchio was more a mythic representation of the old world values before the industrial revolution, whereas Marvel's representation here is more like an anguished post-modern antecedent, and not nearly as cutesy or heartwarming. The Surfer is beset on all sides by the insanity of earth people, who use fear and hatred, missiles and guns and brute force, and it's a common refrain throughout the writing that our Silver Surfer bemoans the madness of our infantile behaviour and corrupted cultural existence. He's often written in as very "martyr-iffic", and in some panels, I think they even mimic the crucifixion visually with him a bit, just to be "blasphem-tastic" in their artwork!
(Sorry for all the slangy created words, I couldn't resist!)
The Silver Surfer is a hero trapped in a circumstance much like the existential philosopher Albert Camus wrote of his version of the Greek myth Sisyphus;
in which Sisyphus (by the hands of the Gods at Olympus) is doomed for all eternity to roll a rock up a mountain, only to have the rock roll down again, and the trial begin anew. The Surfer is repeatedly (almost to the point of absurdity) shown speeding out on his surfboard, up into the earth's atmosphere and throwing himself mercilessly time and again against the cosmic barrier shield which Galactus created to keep him on earth (-to no avail, like poor Sisyphus).
Regarding Camus' Sisyphus: The yawning abyss of meaninglessness is constantly nipping at his heels, and at the end of a long and sustained flourish of extrapolation regarding Sisyphus's fate, Camus simply wrote:
"One must imagine Sisyphus happy."
-Meaning that, regardless of the anxiety that our culture breeds into us, and regardless of the seeming endlessness of man's search for meaning in this world, and regardless of the travails and trials that we all must endure in this thing we call reality, one must imagine oneself happy, or imbue meaning into one's existence. That's our fate in a nutshell, I suppose.
I think that although the existentialist philosophers are a dreary and somewhat depressing read, at least Camus ended that bit on less than a completely dour note, eh?
At least there's hope that within us we can create the meaning in a world that's devoid of it by external means or signs. At least at the end of the day, we can rest our necks on a pillow and casually and delightfully read through a Marvel Comics Silver Surfer book and know that we're not alone. Not really.
I think that just about sums it up for what I wanted to spiel here.
Even if you have nothing to say regarding my little piquant rant here, would ya at least gimme a little happy face reply or something to let me know you read this?
That'd be swell. After all, I don't wanna be alone in this world, ya know?
Also, here's a link to a great fairy tale story I recently authored.
Preview is available on-site for you to read it.