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(Image credit: Netflix / Marvel Comics)

Julia Garner is reportedly set to play the Silver Surfer in the MCU Fantastic Four reboot movie – but not the classic Silver Surfer, Norrin Radd. Instead, it seems she’ll be playing a version of the Silver Surfer who is actually Shalla-Bal, the lover of Norrin Radd and the ruler of his home planet, Zenn-La.

But what does that mean for Silver Surfer as a character, and the Fantastic Four movie as a whole? How might the change from Norrin Radd to Shalla-Bal affect the movie’s story? And will the fact that Shalla-Bal has a strange past with Doctor Doom as well as the demonic Mephisto come into play?

We’ll dig into Shalla-Bal’s comic book history to offer some insight into who she is, what her place in the Marvel Universe has traditionally been, and how that could potentially impact the MCU – as well as her own time as the Silver Surfer in comics.

Silver Surfer’s girlfriend

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Shalla-Bal’s comic book story is inextricably tied to that of Norrin Radd, the classic Silver Surfer. As told in 1968’s Silver Surfer #1 by Stan Lee and John Buscema, where Shalla-Bal first appears, both she and Norrin were residents of the planet Zenn-La. But their world is shaken (literally) when the planet-eating cosmic being known as Galactus appears over Zenn-La with plans to consume it as his next meal.

With few options and no weapons capable of deterring Galactus, Norrin makes a heroic sacrifice, offering to serve Galactus as his herald, seeking out suitable worlds for him to devour as long as Zenn-La – and Shalla-Bal – were spared. Agreeing, Galactus imbues Norrin with the so-called ‘Power Cosmic’ and turns him into the Silver Surfer.

Norrin leaves Zenn-La, and Shalla-Bal, never to return (or so he believes), eventually leading Galactus to Earth. There, the Surfer defies Galactus and is trapped on Earth as a result.

The rest, as they say, is Marvel Universe history. However, there’s another side to the story, which is less known – the fate of Shalla-Bal.

Pawn of cosmic supervillains

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

It’s important to know that Norrin Radd and Shalla-Bal’s love, though seemingly devoted, was often fraught, and one-sided, with Norrin frequently withholding his affection and acting cold and distant. This distance comes to a head in Norrin’s last moments on Zenn-La, as Shalla-Bal actually begs Norrin to take her with him when he leaves, but Norrin refuses, leaving her behind.

But Shalla-Bal wouldn’t stay on Zenn-La for long. Thanks to the machinations of the devilish Mephisto, who was by then an arch-enemy to the Silver Surfer, Shalla-Bal wound up trapped on Earth in the guise of a human woman named Helena – a Latverian subject of Doctor Doom, who became Doom’s unwitting bride for several years.

If that sounds as upsetting as it is complicated, we’re not even getting into the half of it, including multiple kidnappings by Mephisto, the death and rebirth of Zenn-La at least twice, and more – meaning that when you get into the nuts-and-bolts of it all, Shalla-Bal has an incredibly complex history for a character who has mostly been an unwitting pawn for the better part of her nearly 60 year existence.

Empress of Zenn-La

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

All of this ultimately culminates in the reunion of Norrin Radd and Shalla-Bal back on Zenn-La, but only in time for Galactus to return to devour the planet, considering Silver Surfer’s betrayal and his escape from exile on Earth to have broken the deal they made that originally spared Zenn-La to begin with. Galactus uncharacteristically warns the planet’s inhabitants to flee, allowing the people to survive though their planet dies. 

Hope is not entirely lost, however, as Silver Surfer shares his vaunted but mysterious Power Cosmic with Shalla-Bal, allowing them to recreate Zenn-La. Shalla-Bal is named the reborn planet’s Empress, further complicating her already fraught life with conflicts with the Kree Empire, more manipulation from outside forces, and even her own death and resurrection as she becomes embroiled in the affairs of all-powerful cosmic beings.

In her most recent appearance, Shalla-Bal became the ‘Keeper of Great Truth’ of Zenn-La, turning her planet’s peaceful, idyllic monoculture into an imperial force of galactic conquest using a device known as the Illuminatrix, which even allowed her to rewrite Ben Grimm’s mind, turning the Thing into her own personal herald. 

Though Shalla-Bal’s attempts at conquest were thwarted by the Silver Surfer, she retaliated by expelling him permanently from Zenn-La and revoking his place among their people.

Becoming the Silver Surfer

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

So when exactly did Shalla-Bal become the Silver Surfer herself in comic books? Well, it didn’t actually happen in the mainstream Marvel Universe. As is often the case with the MCU, they’re taking inspiration not just from the core Earth 616 version of Shalla-Bal and the Silver Surfer, but from one of her Multiverse Variants as well.

Shalla-Bal became the Silver Surfer – or more accurately, a Silver Surfer – in the 1999 alt-reality comic Earth X by writer Jim Kreuger, co-creator and designer Alex Ross, and interior artist John Paul Leon, which is about heroes finding the first rays of hope in an increasingly dystopian future.

In that story, the original Galactus dies and is replaced by Franklin Richards, who uses his cosmic abilities to ascend into the form of Galactus. As the new Galactus, he reunites Norrin Radd and Shalla-Bal by imbuing her with the same Power Cosmic that transformed Norrin Radd into the Silver Surfer, with the pair sharing a cosmic surfboard as the two sentinels of the spaceways.

Shalla-Bal in the MCU

(Image credit: Netflix)

As for how Shalla-Bal will fit into the MCU as the Silver Surfer, there’s already speculation that the MCU Fantastic Four reboot will take place in an alt-reality outside the core Marvel Cinematic Universe, which may account for why she’s different from the mainstream comic versions of both the Silver Surfer and Shalla-Bal herself.

Marvel has also pointed to the original Galactus story, told in 1966’s Fantastic Four #48-50, as a main point of inspiration for the film, likely indicating that Julia Garner’s Shalla-Bal Silver Surfer will play a similar role in the film that the Norrin Radd version of the character does in that landmark comic story.

Still, Marvel Studios loves its connections and story links, and Shalla-Bal offers potential in-roads to both the much anticipated Doctor Doom, and the demonic Mephisto, who has been expected to join the MCU himself for some time himself.

Fantastic Four releases in July 2025.

Want to start reading Fantastic Four comics? These are the stories you should start with.

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“}]] Julia Garner’s MCU Silver Surfer Shalla-Bal could be the connection Marvel needs to bring in Doctor Doom and Mephisto  Read More