Julia Garner recalls her time on Ozark during an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (2022), NBC / The Silver Surfers return to Earth on Alex Ross’ cover to Earth X Vol. 1 #12 “Earth X, Chapter 12” (2000), Marvel Comics

In a move so stereotypical that it borders on parody, Marvel Studios has announced that rather than the Norrin-Radd version of the beloved cosmic hero, their upcoming Fantastic Four film will instead present audiences with the female, Shalla-Bal incarnation of the Silver Surfer.

The Silver Surfers stand defiant against the Celestials in Earth X Vol. 1 #12 “Earth X, Chapter 12” (2000), Marvel Comics. Words by Jim Krueger and Alex Ross, art by John Paul Leon, Bill Reinhold, Melissa Edwards, and Todd Klein.

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Confirmation of Marvel’s latest casting move first made public on April 3rd when, in an exclusive for the outlet, Deadline‘s Justin Kroll reported that according to his sources, Ozark and Inventing Anna star Julia Garner had been cast to play the iconic Herald of Galactus.

To this end, Kroll also noted that rather than an outright race-swapped version of the aforementioned Radd, Garner would instead be portraying the wholly separate character Shalla-Bal.

Julia Garner speaks with Gucci for their fashion interview series The 21 (2023), Gucci

A fellow native of Radd’s home planet of Zenn-La, Bal is first introduced in the debut issue of 1968’s Silver Surfer Vol. 1, therein being depicted as the love of the eventual-cosmic-entity’s life.

Sadly for the couple, the coming of Galactus and Radd’s agreement to serve as his Herald in exchange for the sparing of Zenn-La would eventually see the couple forcefully ripped from each other’s arms, and as a result Bal would be left to stay on their home planet while her lover set out to perform his heartbreaking duties.

Shalla-Bal mourns for her lover in Silver Surfer Vol. 1 #1 “Origin of the Silver Surfer!” (1968), Marvel Comics. Words by Stan Lee, art by John Buscema, Joe Sinnott, Bill Everett, and Sam Rosen.

From there, Bal would spend the next roughly 50 years as a supporting character to the Surfer’s adventures, her appearances taking on one of two distinct forms: Either a temporary reunion with Radd after which they would be forced to accept their fates once again, or an illusion employed by one of the hero’s enemies with the intent of breaking his mind.

That was, until 2016’s Silver Surver Vol. 8.

Therein, writer Dan Slott promote Bal from ‘Radd’s love interest’ to Zenn-La’s Keeper of the Great Truth, a role which saw her not only turn into a villainous ‘cultural expansionist’ intent on overwriting the universe’s various cultures with that of her own home planet’s, but also come to blows with her heroic former lover, who sought to stop her twisted machinations.

Shalla-Bal reveals herself as the Keeper of the Great Truth in Silver Surfer Vol. 8 #2 “Things Change” (2016), Marvel Comics. Words by Dan Slott, art by Mike Allred, Laura Allred, and Joe Sabino.

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Eventually, their conflict would come to a head when Radd, in a moment of desperation, used his Power Cosmic to erase Zenn-La’s culture from existence, thus crippling Bal’s entire campaign.

Unwilling to accept this humiliation lying down, Bal in turn stripped Radd of his Zenn-La citizienship, thus leaving both of them without a true home to ever return to.

Shalla-Bal strips Norrin-Radd of his Zenn-La citizenship in Silver Surfer Vol. 8 #4 “Homeworld” (2016), Marvel Comics. Words by Dan Slott, art by Mike Allred, Laura Allred, and Joe Sabino.

Notably, at no point in her does the core, Earth-616 version of Bal ever serve as the Silver Surfer herself.

Rather, the only time a version of Bal has been seen in the role was in the final two issues of the 1997 Earth X Vol. 1 mini-series, wherein she is temporarily granted the powers of the Silver Surfer and made his ‘Twin-Herald’ before being killed a short time later by an invading force of Celestials.

All in all, Bal’s total page time as a version of the Silver Surfer amounts to roughly four pages across two issues – Earth X Vol. 1 #12 and Earth X Vol. 1 #X.

Shalla-Bal falls in battle in Earth X Vol. 1 #X “Earth X, Chapter X” (2000), Marvel Comics. Words by Jim Krueger and Alex Ross, art by John Paul Leon, Bill Reinhold, Melissa Edwards, and Todd Klein.

Further, it should also be mentioned that, while not a proper appearance as any sort of Silver Surfer, 1982’s What If? Vol. 1 #37 told a tale in which after Radd’s time of servitude is over, Bal also gave herself up to as a Herald of Galactus in exchange for Zenn-La’s survival.

Of course, that’s where the similarities between her and the Surfer end, as rather than adopting his appearance and moniker, Bal instead dons a golden appearance and chooses to go by the name of Starbolt.

Shalla-Bal fails to recognize her former love in What If? Wol. 1 #37 “What If Galactus Had Turned The Silver Surfer Back Into Norrin Radd?” (1982), Marvel Comics. Words by David Kraft, art by Mike Vosburg, Steve Mitchell, Bob Sharen, and Diana Albers.

At current, Marvel’s Fantastic Four is currently set to break into the Marvel Cinematic Universe on July 25th, 2025.

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 Marvel has announced that Julia Garner will be playing the Shalla-Bal version of the Silver Surfer in their upcoming ‘Fantastic Four’.  Read More