The Silver Surfer's been through a lot in recent years. Captured on the savage alien world of Sakaar during the events of Planet Hulk, sworn again to Galactus' service during Annihilation, teaming up with his fellow cosmic heroes to repel the intrusion of the Cancerverse in The Thanos Imperative, and most recently opposing the nihilistic plans of the evil deity Mikaboshi during the Chaos War. Now Greg Pak, one of the architects of that event, brings the Surfer back in a new miniseries which spins directly out of Chaos War. Greg has been providing regular updates on the project via his website, gregpak.com, and on Twitter at twitter.com/gregpak. I spoke with Greg to get more details on this new series, and how it fits into the scope of the Surfer's place in the Marvel Universe.
Greg Pak: The Chaos War miniseries leaves the Surfer and Galactus in an interesting place that was the perfect set up for the story we're telling in the Silver Surfer miniseries. The moment was too good to miss, so editor Mark Paniccia, assistant editor John Denning and I pulled out all the stops to get our ducks in line to make it happen.
MA: What's the Surfer's status as this series opens?
GP: Alas, I can't say too much for fear of spoiling the end to Chaos War. I'll just say that the climactic events of Chaos War put both the Surfer and Galactus in a new place that becomes the perfect set up for the Silver Surfer miniseries.
MA: Is Galactus a major player in this series, or is he sort of in the background?
GP: 1. Yes. 2. Yes and then no, in a big way.
GP: We're all part of the shared Marvel Universe, so absolutely Dan and Andy's awesome work has had a big impact on me. That being said, we're telling stories that are taking place at slightly different times in the Surfer's life — dancing between the raindrops, as Joss Whedon used to say regarding the Astonishing X-Men book. So you may see the Surfer appearing in different books in different circumstances in the same months, but in the end, you'll be able to piece together the continuity and see how the big arc worked.
MA: What do you see as motivating the High Evolutionary? Does he ultimately want to be God?
GP: He's striving to manufacture human perfection here in the real world. Depending on your theology, that might be more the work of the devil than God. But what makes him interesting is that he's pursuing something he sees as an objective good. As the cliche goes, he's the best kind of villain, because he's the hero of his own story.
MA: With all the trials the Surfer will be going through here, will he find any happiness?
GP: That would be telling, wouldn't it? But I will say that star-crossed romance will play a big role in this story.
MA: What do you think of what you've seen of Stephen Segovia's work so far? Has any scene he's drawn in particular really blown you away?
GP: His opening two pages are mind-bendingly cosmic in all the right ways. And a few pages later, he draws a kiss that's wrought with gentle, intimate naturalism. A great combination of the two different kinds of energy that are driving this book.
MA: You've hinted that this series may have a connection to the Surfer and the High Evolutionary's encounter in the Evolutionary War storyline; were there any other stories you drew inspiration from for this tale?
GP: I'm a huge fan of the 1968 Silver Surfer series. There's something glorious, revealing, and enormously fun about the cosmically powered Surfer interacting with everyday people as he so often did in those stories. I'm not saying that's exactly what we're doing in this storyline, but I'm definitely interested in finding the human core in these massive cosmic tales.
MA: Whose interpretation of the character would you say you're most influenced by?
GP: As I've hinted above, I'm probably most in love with those early Surfer stories, although there's a level of high melodrama and philosophizing in those tales that I wouldn't presume to try to pull off the same way today. I absolutely love all that stuff, the same way I love the fast, stylized dialogue in old Howard Hawks movies, but reproducing it now would feel more like pastiche or even parody and work against the emotional truth we're striving for in the story.
I'm also hugely compelled by those stories that depict the Surfer when he's in his emotionally detached, cosmically aware phases — when he's fulfilling his enormous, terrible responsibilities in ways that we puny humans can't hope to comprehend. Abnett and Lanning told one of the best recent stories with the Surfer in this mode in their Nova book a couple of years back. The Surfer was absolutely chilling — and deeply compelling.
It's interesting — I'm realizing that I'm compelled by these two almost contradictory versions of the Surfer — when he's cold and emotionless and when he wears his emotions on his sleeve… wonder where that might take us?
MA: The Surfer has at times had difficulty in supporting his own series; what do you think is the key to making the character appeal to a wide audience?
GP: First and foremost, we're just trying to tell a story with a real emotional core that's compelling on a human level. I think that's the key to making supremely powerful, cosmic characters work for both old and new audiences — find the human contrast that makes the characters relatable and the emotional conflicts and drama that make them compelling.
At the same time, we love supremely powerful, cosmic characters because of the visceral thrill of seeing them in action and the mind-bending leaps these huge sci fi stories can take. It's like writing a Hulk story: let's face it — we want to see the Hulk smash. And in a Surfer story, we want to have our minds blown with some crazy cosmic madness. That's a huge part of the fun and thrill of the genre, and we're absolutely embracing that.
MA: How do you manage the balance between introducing the character to those who aren't already fans, and satisfying those who are?
GP: Longtime readers who have committed to a character for years like to know that the writer understands the character's past. And a character's continuity is solid gold for us writers — those years of amazing backstory that can provide great context and subtext for current tales. The trick is to incorporate those elements of backstory seamlessly without overcomplicating the story at hand or bogging new readers down in exposition. It's a constant challenge for anyone writing superhero comics with legacy characters; I'm always trying to get better at it. I probably managed it best with Planet Hulk, telling a story that fit right into current Marvel continuity but that anyone off the street could plunge into without ever having read a Marvel comic before. That's the sweet spot we're aiming for with the Surfer book.
MA: What else do you have on your plate at the moment?
GP: The final issue of Vision Machine, my creator owned sci fi miniseries, comes out next week — check out http://visionmachine.net for more!
And the Incredible Hulks book is kicking into high gear in the wake of Chaos War. The green goliath is about to take his gripes to the gods themselves in issue #621 and #622. And then it's off to the Savage Land for a showdown with Miek the Unhived, whom we haven't seen since the grim climax of World War Hulk. All of these stories are building our ongoing theme of family to a massive climax later this year — dontcha dare miss a single issue!
Matt Adler would need cosmically-powered silver skin to chance surfing in this weather.