Silver Surfer: Parable, written by Stan Lee and drawn by Moebius is easily one of the best stories to come out of Marvel’s eighties era that has gone largely unnoticed and under appreciated by today’s Marvel comics fandom. Much like the Silver Surfer himself. Parable is often referred to as one of the first Marvel tales that may take place in an alternate universe. With an alternate Silver Surfer and an alternate Earth. The events in Parable don’t seem to fit in with any predominant Marvel storylines.
Parable was released in Marvel’s Epic Comics in a two issue set in 1988 and 1989 and even won the Eisner Award for Best Finite/Limited series. But has had little to no lasting impact in the Marvel Universe since then. It is also one of the few comics I have read that showcase Galactus in a more detailed and hands on light than any that the powerful multi dimension being has been a part of in the Fantastic Four and Avengers tales. Here he serves as what he has always been. A petulant and hungry God. A Devourer of worlds and cultures. The end all of all that exists. The ultimate in global terror.
Parable seems to take place somewhere in the near future or even the present time as Galactus comes to Earth. Annoyed that he had given an oath to his once Herald, the Silver Surfer, that he would not harm and devour the Earth; the great being has come up with an alternate plan to destroy the Earth. He has landed his spacecraft upon the Earth and decreed that all war, poverty, and crime shall cease and instead he will bring mankind a new era of peace. All countries end their wars in fear of Galactus and his power. Instantly there is a Utopian era brought to the Earth as long as mankind bows to Galactus.
“…I am come to set you free, free from guilt! Free from worthless man-made laws! If you would be saved, do what you will! Take what you will! There is no wrong! There is no sin! Pleasure is all! So speak Galactus…”
Overnight a new religion springs forth and Galactus is worshiped as a God. If any question this new religion they are set upon by the blind followers of the new God and are beaten and even killed. But there is one on the Earth who knows that Galactus is no benevolent being and he is the once and former Herald; the Silver Surfer. The Surfer tries to convince humanity that Galactus is evil and that by giving them everything they want, he is actually destroying them. But they will not listen and attack the Surfer.
“…The force-field of my power cosmic will protect me. But how to protect them from their own insanity? Will there never be an end to their insane fanaticism? Why do they turn to violence in the name of the one they worship…?”
The Silver Surfer engages Galactus in a fight and in his petulant anger to destroy the Silver Surfer, Galactus destroys the city and the lives of innocent people. In seeing this, the populance turns against him and refuse to worship him any longer. His plan has failed and Galactus leaves Earth. In their joy and victory, humanity decrees that the Silver Surfer is now their God and demand that he guide them. Seeing that they are only replacing him with the void left by Galactus, the Surfer pretends to make demands even harsher than Galactus, causing the people to reject him. It is his belief that by denying them a God he is perhaps enabling mankind to think for themselves. He leaves the Earth, not a God, not a Hero; but what he always has been. Alone. A wanderer, destined to ride his board throughout the cosmos. Alone.
The Silver Surfer is one of those awesome comic book characters that everyone says they love but really don’t get. He has not received the celebrity status that an Iron Man has but then that probably has a lot to do with the crappy Fantastic Four movie he was in. I mean really, a powerful metallic being who glides through the cosmos on a surfboard? Forever trying to protect the innocent from the more powerful because of his own guilt ridden soul. Longing for a lost love and the person he once was? Having to sacrifice his soul to Galactus and serve him in order to save his own world. Honestly, Marvel, how could you not turn this guy into a mega cosmic star!
Parable is written by Stan Lee and is a very heavy handed commentary on religious fanaticism. The Surfer as a Herald of Galactus is perhaps one of the few characters who is able to comment on the reality of deities and their impact on civilizations. He has witnessed entire civilizations destroyed by cosmic beings who rule and kill with impunity. The Surfer is also not without his own guilt to bear. For it was he for so many times who led Galactus to these worlds to feed upon. The story itself is very much a stand alone tale and I can see why so many see this as an alternate universe story. Galactus lands in a major US city and there is no super hero presence at all. No Avengers. No Fantastic Four. Not even a Spider-Man to be found. The Silver Surfer, in despair and disillusioned by his existence (but isn’t he always, this may be why he never caught on; nobody loves a chrome plated Debbie Downer)lives int he city as a homeless person. When Galactus appears, the Surfer knows he must act. Another point of contention here is that Galactus arrives in his huge spaceship that is nothing more than an intergalactic dildo. Seriously, am I the only one who sees this? The ensuing battle is largely an intellectual one. Ideas and morals are debated and Galactus’ plan on destroying mankind by giving them what they want, no sin, no morality, just take what you want…its genius. The Surfer on the other hand knows that happiness and contentment, the two things that have always eluded him, are to earned.
Parable is a social commentary, not only on religion but on humanity as a whole. On the views and ideas that divide us. Religion, race, politics. To know that this was written two decades ago and that the very same issues are with us today is in itself a sad commentary on who we are.
Pick it up and be amazed. That it was actually written and that Stan Lee actually wrote it! Or at least that is what we are suppose to believe.