Silver Surfer In Animation - A Retrospective
Part One -
In their attempt to get pretty much all of their major and even not so major players their own cartoons, The Silver Surfer was given his own show in 1999 which went further into his back story and examined his character much further than any prior animated appearance. Herein lies the problem – The Silver Surfer works much better as a guest spot than he does as a central character.
It’s not sure it’s a rushed production like the abysmal Spider-Man: Unlimited was, but after having just watched every episode of the show to create a site all I can say is thank Christ I didn’t have to review it. The show’s pacing is terrible – everything seems to move at a snail like pace. The writers obviously didn’t realise that characters in cartoons are supposed to make their point quickly and developer their characters from there – all too often in The Silver Surfer did I feel that the characters weren’t really up to much until five minutes after they’d appear.
Allow me to use Spider-Man: The Animated Series as an example. We’ll use Mysterio, because everyone loves Mysterio. Here we go, his first appearance – The Menace Of Mysterio. The first time we see him, he announces that he plans to rid the city of Spider-Man. He does a few fancy tricks with his fishbowl and insists the media be there to record his great victory over the abhorrent arachnid. We get his point almost instantly – he hates Spider-Man with a passion and is out to make a name for himself by killing him. As the rest of the episode rolls, we learn that he hates Spidey because he previously apprehended him on an incident at The Brooklyn Bridge and swore revenge. Every scene he was in enhanced his character – he was a very, very bitter man who decided to take out the frustrations on his life on Spider-Man. Mysterio, in this case is the patient suffering from anger and the disappointments of his own life often place the blame on an external tormenter – in this case, Spider-Man.
None of this was to be found in The Silver Surfer – the villains were all too busy talking in biblical dialogue to have any real motivations or interests.
None of the characters, even the central lead is remotely relatable. They did try with Surfer by having him express his eternal disappointment of not being able to find his beloved Shalla Bal. Who hasn’t felt the disappointment of wanting someone you can’t have? They just did a pretty poor job. I’ve always struggled to put my exact opinion on this show into print, but I’m pretty much in full agreement with Arsenal and his reviews on the site – there was a lot wrong with The Silver Surfer show and the majority comes from the sole fact that The Surfer is a terrible leading character. Or at least he is in this show.
Visually, the show tried to capture the look of Jack Kirby exquisite pencils. It failed. Kirby doesn’t translate too well to animation – Kirby inspired stuff usually looks great, just look at the various Apokolips episode from Superman: The Animated Series for proof. Doing it directly? Doesn’t work – the animators simply aren’t up to the task. I’ll let Tom Tataranowicz explain.
For the look of the characters themselves, much discussion was initially held about working in the Jack Kirby style. I was not for that, however much I personally liked and admired Kirby's work. I felt that the strength of Kirby's own unique talent carried the look of his designs to such an extent that trying to execute it in animation would require animators to try and capture that and would surely disappoint. I believe that this was borne out a few years later with the "Silver Surfer" show, which had tried to mimic the Kirby look in a mass production animation series and which I personally consider pretty much of an artistic failure.
He sums up my opinion perfectly. That was a good interview, wasn’t it? Cheers Tom!
The model for The Surfer actually looks pretty good in some shots, but a lot of the alien designs don’t really translate well to animation. The show has pretty jarring colouring and the heavy inking doesn’t really do anyone any favours. Looking at a mere handful of episodes of X-Men would’ve proved this but alas, they clearly didn’t learn from prior mistakes.
The show ended on a cliffhanger. The synopsis for season two are apparently online, I’ve simply never cared to look for them.
Since then, things have been rather quite for The Surfer. He recently made his debut on the big screen and they did a stellar job with him. I originally dreaded seeing how the creative team behind the Fantastic Four movies would butcher The Silver Surfer like they did just about every character in the first movie, but to my surprise the film is actually very good and The Surfer is a big reason why! He looked spectacular on the big screen and was an interesting character to boot. There’s a spin off planned which probably would’ve excited me until I learned JMS was penning the screen play. Having ruined Spider-Man with his far fetched, illogical attempts at 'revamping' the character, there a few things you could do to lose my interest more than saying JMS is involved.
Cartoon wise, nothing has been mentioned. He appears to be in some sort of embargo for Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes, which is a shame – the cartoon has whoop ass guest appearances and I think The Silver Surfer could be amazing as a guest spot. Bring him on in season two!