the tao of jaklumen

the path of the sage must become the path of the hero


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Surfer descends into The Abyss: Enter Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet

Quick confession: I only read through the main Infinity Gauntlet storyline just recently– a few days ago, actually.  I don’t think I missed too much.  The overall storyarc isn’t too deep: it was basically a way for Marvel to showcase their characters of cosmic importance.  After all, the main story begins with the Silver Surfer crashing into Dr. Stephen Strange‘s abode to warn him that Thanos has assembled the Infinity Gauntlet– and is using its infinite power to destroy life in the universe to court Death herself.

To be fair, it’s also a way for Marvel to get readers to read all of their titles, since each of them had individual stories of how their experiences were impacted by Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet.

First, however, I’ll share this video by WatchMojo.com that sums up quickly the origin and history of Thanos:


It’s been said that the Infinity Gauntlet is essentially about the Silver Surfer, and I agree.  Moreover, the crossovers into the main Silver Surfer title reveal a rather intellectual battle between Thanos and Surfer.  He is another example of Man As Temptor.

Using the power of the Mind Gem (one of six comprising the power of the Gauntlet), Thanos learns of a dark secret when the Surfer was still Norrin Radd.  Not only had Jartran Radd been accused of intellectual theft, a heinous crime in Zenn-La, he had committed suicide when Norrin refused to grant him forgiveness.

Thanos confronts Surfer with this secret, and more, before allowing him to resume his mad dash to Earth, to warn Dr. Strange.

Thanos was dead, and hasn’t fully resurrected yet. Here he is in a stone husk form, and merely a head at this point.

I guess it’s the last panel, in part, that leads reviewer Mark Ginocchio to call the brutal accusations of Thanos mental and emotional rape.

Mephisto was never this brutal.

It is here that readers learn for the first time not only about Norrin Radd’s parents, but the decadence and hedonism that had brought about a decline in Zenn-Latvian society.  Thanos is relentless in his accusations, and eventually, it breaks the Surfer down psychologically and physically, leading to dark emotions of vengeance and doubt.

Artist Ron Lim gives the Silver Surfer a wicked grin as his board smashes the stone husk form of Thanos into a plethora of pieces.

[Images via Comic Book Resources: Gimmick or Good? – Silver Surfer #50]

No wonder the Surfer is in really bad shape by the time he reaches the abode of Dr. Strange.

 photo InfinityGauntlet1p36.jpg

Surfer’s struggles with Thanos are elaborated in the main Silver Surfer title.  Two issues I am familiar with (thanks to a friend) are #55 and #56

Where Surfer failed against Thanos…

…and Surfer is forced to chronicle perpetual death in the universe. Note that Lady Death is finally a doting companion to Thanos.

We learn at the end of #56 that this is just a horrid imagination of the Surfer.

Oh, so it was just my imagination?

Oh, so it was just my imagination?

Now Surfer is REALLY off to play his part.

Now Surfer is REALLY off to play his part.

(These images are scanned in from my copy of #56. They first appeared way back in 2009, at VOX, under the post title Apocryphal.)

I know that this is an incomplete note to end on, dear readers, but I am out of material again.  The tale of the Silver Surfer, especially as Stan Lee tells it, goes through many of stages of the Monomyth, but as far as I am aware, the main continuity of the Marvel universe does not allow Norrin Radd to go through some of the most important stages, like Apotheosis, Master of Two Worlds, and Freedom to Live.  Perhaps there is material to be found in “Parable”, written by Stan Lee and illustrated by Jean Giraud, a.k.a. Moebius.

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Magic Flight: Surfer Escapes His Prison On Earth

Joseph Campbell describes the Magic Flight thus:

If the hero in his triumph wins the blessing of the goddess or the god and is then explicitly commissioned to return to the world with some elixir for the restoration of society, the final stage of his adventure is supported by all the powers of his supernatural patron. On the other hand, if the trophy has been attained against the opposition of its guardian, or if the hero’s wish to return to the world has been resented by the gods or demons, then the last stage of the mythological round becomes a lively, often comical, pursuit. This flight may be complicated by marvels of magical obstruction and evasion.

(American Anthropologist, 92:4/December 1990, p. 1104, via Wikipedia.  Emphasis mine)

How witty the phrase “comical” is applied here, and how ironic, since there is little humor to the Surfer’s story.  Moreover, those of you dear readers that follow comic books may say that “lively” and “complicated” puts the circumstances lightly.  Rarely, if ever, do superhero comic books follow simple plots.

The Surfer made numerous attempts to escape Earth, including traveling back in time, but the most significant one involved an entanglement with the Hell-Lord Mephisto.

The writers and artists at Marvel obviously modeled Mephisto after the Christian concept of the devil, which may in turn be another part of the associations of the Silver Surfer with Jesus Christ.

To sum up, Mephisto played a game of cat-and-mouse of sorts with Surfer.  He allowed him to cross the barrier Galactus had imposed, only for the Surfer to find Mephisto had kidnapped Shalla-Bal, the love of his life.  As the Surfer returned to Earth to find her, he was trapped once more.

With the assistance of Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four), Surfer escaped Earth once more, and looked to Zenn-La to find Shalla-Bal.  But he found to his chagrin that not only had Galactus destroyed his homeworld and consumed its energies as further punishment for his betrayal, that the surviving residents blamed the Surfer.  Worse yet, Mephisto had taken Shalla-Bal prisoner once again, and was using her as a bargaining chip to destroy the SHIELD agency.  After the ensuing battle, Mephisto was finally defeated and again sent Shalla-Bal to Zenn-La, but not before the Surfer endowed her with a portion of the Power Cosmic, which she used to rebuild the planet, and then assume ruling duties as Empress.

The Silver Surfer escaped one last time from Earth, but conflict with Galactus (who took on new heralds) was finally put to rest when he managed to save his latest herald Nova (Frankie Raye) from the Skrulls.  Galactus then declared his long exile ended.

And so…

…the Surfer was once again free to roam the stars.


NEXT POST IN THE SERIES: Surfer descends into The Abyss: Enter Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet

 

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Stranded on Earth: The Surfer’s Belly of the Whale

To summarize from the last post, the Surfer was stripped of his heraldic duty and imprisoned on Earth by Galactus:

The Surfer is trapped on Earth

Although outwardly it is a punishment for foiling the desires of Galactus to consume Earth, I believe the barrier was created to stop the Surfer from returning to Zenn-La, which will be expounded later in the story.

According to a synopsis by Wikipedia, The Belly of the Whale  is defined as a representation of the final separation between the hero’s known world, and the self.  In this case, it is literal as well as figurative.  Although I connected Norrin Radd’s sacrifices upon the Inner Crossing of the Threshhold to the Ordeal, this Belly of the Whale connects to an outer Ordeal, or Road of Trials.  While the previous difficulties are revealed Unknowns (and serve as Temptations & Challenges later), this is very much within the Known World again.

Of course, a lot of Earthlings don’t understand him at all.

In fact, for many years, Stan Lee used the Surfer to make commentary on social issues of the late ’60s.  For the time that the Surfer was bound to Earth, he would give the outsider’s view of humanity on earth, while reflecting on his own.

Although he’s an alien, he cares.

NEXT POST IN THE SERIES: Magic Flight: Surfer Escapes His Prison On Earth

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Galactus is Defeated: Return With Elixir

And so The Silver Surfer regained his humanity, began to remember who he was, and rebelled against Galactus.

The human being Galactus refers to is Alicia Masters, who although blind, can see who the Surfer truly is: a hero.

But even this hero cannot overcome the one who imbued him with the ambient energies of the universe: the Power Cosmic. It will take a higher source, although, again, someone familiar.

The Watcher gives the Fantastic Four the means to defeat Galactus: an artifact from his home world called the Ultimate Nullifier.

Also known as "Return With Elixir"

Also known as “Return With Elixir”

Although Earth is saved, once again, our hero must pay the cost, and the Silver Surfer is pushed all the way back to the Ordeal.

How dare you, Surfer.

What?

NEXT POST IN THE SERIES: Stranded on Earth: The Surfer’s Belly of the Whale

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The Surfer Regains Humanity: Return to the Outer Journey

Since I’m still waiting to see about a permanent stimulator implant and I’m not sure how much wrestling I’ll do with pain until then, I’ll be reworking and reposting some series I’ve done earlier. This week I am reposting, reworking, and continuing the Silver Surfer and the Hero’s Journey series.

I am glossing over some details a little bit.  Going back to the comic book cover of “The Coming of Galactus!” I will quickly note that another character called The Watcher fulfills the role of Supernatural Aid in the outer sphere of the Journey, as far as Earth and the Fantastic Four are concerned.

Uatu “The Watcher” warned Earth of the coming of Galactus

I had said in The FF4 meet the Silver Surfer: The Outer Call to Adventure that the Silver Surfer was an unknown to them.  But since I wished to focus on the Silver Surfer as The Hero, I focused on his origin story as an inner component, with the previous posts.

Although Galactus had taken the memories of Norrin Radd and had compelled his service (in this case, overriding his desire to scout out uninhabited worlds), the Silver Surfer still yearned to understand his place in the universe.  He sorrowed at the hostility he found, even on Earth.  A woman called Alicia Masters, a blind sculptor and romantic partner to Thing (of the FF4), appealed to him.

Alicia Masters is able to intuitively sense the inner Norrin Radd and his compassion, despite the exterior of the Surfer. The fact that she is blind further emphasizes this intuition

She is a Known bridging the Unknown.  I find it difficult to call this an Atonement; the closest thing to a Father is Galactus, or maybe The Watcher.  It is clear, though, that Alicia Masters, and then the Fantastic Four, unlock the humanity within the Surfer.  Apparently, Norrin Radd is not completely dead.

Perhaps it is a folding back on the Ordeal, because the inner suffering and goodness of the Surfer is revealed.  After this, the Surfer decides to spare Earth and rebel against Galactus.

NEXT POST IN THE SERIES: Galactus is Defeated: Return With Elixir

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Norrin Radd becomes the Silver Surfer: Death and Rebirth by Transformation

Since I’m still waiting to see about a permanent stimulator implant and I’m not sure how much wrestling I’ll do with pain until then, I’ll be reworking and reposting some series I’ve done earlier. This week I am reposting, reworking, and continuing the Silver Surfer and the Hero’s Journey series.

reborn

Norrin Radd dies…

...and The Silver Surfer is born.

…and The Silver Surfer is born.

HeroesjourneyRebirthTransformationNEXT POST IN THE SERIES: The Surfer Regains Humanity: Return to the Outer Journey

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Sacrifices: Norrin Radd’s Threshhold

Since I’m still waiting to see about a permanent stimulator implant and I’m not sure how much wrestling I’ll do with pain until then, I’ll be reworking and reposting some series I’ve done earlier. This week I am reposting, reworking, and continuing the Silver Surfer and the Hero’s Journey series.

The Call to Adventure is not without sacrifice.

So it was too, with Norrin Radd.

Not only would he say goodbye to his world, but to the love of his life, Shalla-Bal.

Furthermore, as “herald”, it is possible that not all life can be spared, as Galactus declares:

When hunger truly strikes, I will not hesitate to feed.

When hunger truly strikes, I will not hesitate to feed.

HeroesjourneyFullThreshold
This is the crossing of the Inner Threshhold, and also the Ordeal. Such Temptations and Challenges, so to speak, will turn up later again in the story of the Silver Surfer.

NEXT POST IN THE SERIES: Norrin Radd becomes the Silver Surfer: Death and Rebirth by Transformation

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Norrin Radd meets Galactus: The Inner Call to Adventure

The trial period for the spinal cord stimulator is over; the leads have been out for a little while now. Since I’m waiting to see about the permanent implant and I’m not sure how much wrestling I’ll do with pain until then, I’ll be reworking and reposting some series I’ve done earlier. This week I am reposting, reworking, and continuing the Silver Surfer and the Hero’s Journey series.

Who is The Silver Surfer?

We discover later he is Norrin Radd, a citizen of a world called Zenn-La.  Though this world is presented as a utopian ideal, there are hints of a decline.  Although his father had pushed him to pursue self-mastery in study and achievement to response to the hedonism of Zenn-Lavian society at the time, it was not enough for Norrin, who later delved deep into Zenn-La’s ancient and primal past to find challenge and struggle he could not find in his present society.

Enter Galactus, the World Devourer, who threatened to consume Zenn-La to satiate his hunger.  This is where the Inner Call to Adventure begins.  After convincing a Council of Scientists member to provide him with a spaceship, Norrin faced Galactus, and pled with him to spare his world.

Norrin Radd appeals to Galactus to spare Zenn-La

Norrin Radd appeals to Galactus to spare Zenn-La

Galactus imposed a condition, however, to grant Norrin’s request.  Norrin must agree to serve him, and find worlds uninhabited of life; for Galactus had no time to distinguish such worlds while feeding his hunger.  While Norrin quickly agreed, Galactus informs him that such an obligation is not temporary:

This job is eternal, man of Zenn-La.

This job is eternal, man of Zenn-La.

Thus we arrive to the Inner Threshhold as well.
HeroesjourneyKnown

NEXT POST IN THE SERIES: Sacrifices: Norrin Radd’s Threshhold

 

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A Hero’s Journey: Summary of the Silver Surfer

The trial period for the spinal cord stimulator is over; the leads have been out for four days now. Since I’m waiting to see about the permanent implant and I’m not sure how much wrestling I’ll do with pain until then, I’ll be reworking and reposting some series I’ve done earlier. This week I am reposting, reworking, and continuing the Silver Surfer and the Hero’s Journey series.

WatchMojo has a wonderful summary on the origins of the Silver Surfer. Please watch, dear readers, as I think it will make understanding my further commentaries easier.

NEXT POST IN THE SERIES: Norrin Radd meets Galactus: The Inner Call to Adventure

 

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A Hero’s Journey: Norrin Radd, the Silver Surfer

The trial period for the spinal cord stimulator is over; the leads have been out for three days now. Since I’m waiting to see about the permanent implant and I’m not sure how much wrestling I’ll do with pain until then, I’ll be reworking and reposting some series I’ve done earlier. This week I am reposting, reworking, and continuing the Silver Surfer and the Hero’s Journey series.

He is sometimes called “Christ on a surfboard”, but I have yet to see many writings that tie this Jack Kirby comic book character to Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth.

Especially compelling is his origin story, which fairly quickly traces elements of the Hero’s Journey in his transformation from Norrin Radd to the Silver Surfer.

The Silver Surfer gazing on the world he dared to protect

But even in extended stories such as the Infinity Gauntlet (which is said to really be about the Surfer, despite affecting all characters in the Marvel universe at that time), there are still emphases of the Monomyth.

Both ideas will be explored in future posts. Previous articles from this blog will rise to the present again (some have already), to show that the current focus I have taken here has had seeds planted in musings of the distant past. Perhaps eventually I will show you, dear readers, of why I find the Silver Surfer such a personally compelling figure…

NEXT POST IN THE SERIES: A Hero’s Journey: Summary of the Silver Surfer

 

 

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