The Marvel Cinematic Universe has enjoyed a long and strange construction process. Disney doesn’t always have all the toys it wants to play with. Getting them back has required huge expenditures and months around negotiation tables. They have almost everything they could possibly want now. Introducing the new heroes is a fascinating game of promising and delivering. The Fantastic Four has been their holy grail for some time, but Silver Surfer could’ve been a much easier way in.

It’s becoming harder and harder to predict which Marvel characters will be fan favorites. James Gunn has become the unquestioned champion of turning D-listers into fan favorites. Some characters are beloved in the comics but don’t translate as well as intended. A strange cosmic figure like the Silver Surfer could be too weird for some audiences, but Marvel has prepared its audience for anything.

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Marvel Should Have Focused on Silver Surfer

The Silver Surfer was a product of Marvel’s notoriously unhinged 1960s era. Everything was psychedelic, colorful, and bizarrely high-stakes. Silver Surfer was born on a planet called Zenn-La. He was an ambitious young astronomer named Norrin Radd. Radd warned his people of an impossible oncoming threat. A being the size of a galaxy was traveling toward them. He saw Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds, and resolved to save his planet. Norrin Radd bargained with Galactus, offering his services to the mighty being in exchange for the safety of his home. Radd became the Herald of Galactus. He was given a powerful silver surfboard, a conduit to Galactus’s all-consuming Power Cosmic. He intends to offer Galactus empty planets, reducing his impact. Galactus tampered with Radd’s soul to force him to do his bidding. Radd became the Silver Surfer. When he eventually led his boss to Earth, his heart was changed by The Fantastic Four. He rebelled against Galactus and drove him off. For his betrayal, he was confined to Earth forever.

Guardians of the Galaxy provided a cosmic blueprint.

Despite the massive scale and strange ideas, Silver Surfer isn’t that hard of a character to grasp. He’s a man who takes a terrible job, sacrificing countless lives in a short-sighted deal to protect those he loves. All the planet consumption and deep-space travel are incidental details. Even those big cosmic horror ideas have come to audiences before. They were new in the ’60s, but everything from Transformers: The Movie to the Fox iteration of Rise of the Silver Surfer has explained these details to viewers. In the MCU, James Gunn has enjoyed a near-complete grasp of the depths of space. Aside from Infinity War and Endgame, the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise has shaped the beautiful expanse of the MCU’s cosmic outings. Luckily, these entries have been among the most popular Marvel projects.

The beauty of Marvel’s cosmic stories is that they offer something vastly different from the more terrestrial projects. The cinematic universe model relied on multiple trilogies that felt tangibly different from their neighbors. Captain America needed to feel substantially unlike Iron Man. This concept became harder and harder to keep up as every entry crossed over with every other. Captain America: Civil War feels like the other Captain America movies but also includes most of the Avengers. It’s hard to make that something distinct from the team-up vehicles. Taking the action a million light years away from the other films would be a perfect way to keep things interesting. It works for Guardians of the Galaxy. It would be perfect for Silver Surfer.

There’s been a lot of speculation about how Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben will make their way into the largest entertainment empire in modern history. Every earlier attempt at adapting the source material has been a disaster. Introducing The Fantastic Four through a related but independent superhero would be much easier than dropping four characters onto the audience at once. Silver Surfer could go on adventures with Galactus, doing his best to turn the planet eater away from inhabited worlds. There’s so much to be explored. Fox pitched the idea of a solo film in 2018. After Marvel got the rights in 2019, they played with the concept as well. Neither project came to fruition.

Silver Surfer could have been a unique and engaging new piece of the ever-expanding Marvel puzzle. The franchise has an unfortunate habit of becoming more insular over time. New entries borrow tricks and make references to old ones. It’s becoming another series dependent on things the fans remember. This model can’t survive forever without innovation. Efforts like Eternals, even if unsuccessful, are crucial to keeping things interesting. Silver Surfer would have been something new and bold, an original take on the iconic ’60s material. Marvel could still bring Silver Surfer to the screen. They’d be well-advised to start trying the weirder stuff sooner rather than later.

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