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There Was Always a Female Silver Surfer

She’s been around since the late 1960s.

By Jenna DeedyPublished 2 months ago 3 min read
Shalla-Bal as the Silver Surfer

In April, Disney's forthcoming Fantastic Four film reboot revealed several unanticipated casting choices. The movie will connect to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but set in an alternate 1960s. Pedro Pascal as Reed Richards, Vanessa Kirby as Susan Storm, Joseph Quinn as Johnny Storm, and Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Ben Grimm were among the notable decisions, stirring both anticipation and debate among enthusiasts.

One particularly discussed decision is Julia Garner's portrayal of Shalla-Bal, a female Silver Surfer. The character, present in Marvel Comics since the late 1960s, has received varied reactions. Some fans fear the decision signifies "wokeness" from Disney and Marvel, while others defend it as faithful to the character's origins and Garner's talent to bring depth to the role.

This casting debate highlights the intricate relationship between Hollywood and its fans. Fans yearn for faithful adaptations, while filmmakers possess artistic freedom to alter the source material for a cohesive narrative. Balancing these interests is the constant challenge.

Who is Shalla-Bal?

In 1968, renowned comic book creators Stan Lee and John Buscema introduced Shalla-Bal, the female Silver Surfer. As the empress of the planet Zenn-La, she ruled alongside Norrin Radd, the original male Silver Surfer, and her former love interest. However, upon Norrin's transformation into a Herald of Galactus to protect their people, Shalla-Bal was transported to Earth by the malevolent entity Mephisto, who erased her memories of her home and its inhabitants. Tragically, during this period, Zenn-La was engulfed and absorbed by Galactus, despite the cosmic entity's initial mercy.

Eventually returning to Zenn-La, Shalla-Bal received a portion of the cosmic energy known as the Power Cosmic, gaining abilities similar to the Silver Surfer. With her newfound powers, she dedicated herself to restoring life to her devastated planet and resumed her role as its ruler. Shalla-Bal also displayed exceptional leadership during the Kree-Skrull War, playing a pivotal role in bringing the conflict to an end.

However, in a 2016 narrative arc of the Silver Surfer comic book series, Shalla-Bal underwent a transformation, becoming a formidable antagonist known as the Keeper of the Great Truth. She embarked on an interplanetary quest, seeking to replace various alien cultures with her own through the use of the Illuminatrix, a powerful artifact. This audacious endeavor led to a confrontation with Norrin, who had established residence on Earth. The resulting conflict culminated in the destruction of both the Illuminatrix and Zenn-La, a tragic turn of events that permanently altered the cosmic landscape.

What Could Her MCU Role Look Like?

Within the expansive Marvel Universe, Shalla-Bal's existence opens up many possibilities for her character development. Imagine her as the MCU's Silver Surfer, but with a twist: She serves as Galactus's antagonistic Herald (a role she shared with Norrin in the comics). This connection to the yet-to-be-introduced villain offers a unique opportunity to explore her character while maintaining her role as a planetary ruler seeking protection for her people and planet. To achieve this, she aligns herself with Galactus and carries out his bidding, potentially using the Illuminatrix to eradicate diverse cultures and replace them with her own.

In a subsequent turn of events, the Fantastic Four, during their cosmic travels to seek knowledge of the multiverse, encounter the cosmic artifact and clash with Shalla-Bal. A pivotal moment arises when the team captures and takes her into custody. This allows for introducing a dialogue in which Shalla-Bal reveals her motivations behind aligning with Galactus, emphasizing her desire to safeguard her people. This sets the stage for a potential redemption arc, ultimately leading to her betrayal of Galactus and her transformation into an anti-hero in future appearances.

Alternatively, integrating Norrin as Shalla-Bal's romantic interest could provide an interesting narrative. However, focusing on her profound love for her people and homeworld as the central driving force behind her quest for the Power Cosmic and the acquisition of the Silver Surfer's powers would offer an interesting and emotionally resonant character arc.

To Anyone Who Thinks A Female Silver Surfer Is Woke?

Norrin Radd has not solely held the Silver Surfer mantle since his introduction. Two other characters have assumed the mantle, namely Shalla-Bal and Juno, a Greek goddess in Earth-829. I encourage readers to approach stories featuring characters who take on hero mantles traditionally associated with male or white characters with an open mind, avoiding dismissal as mere political gestures.

As discussed in my previous two articles on the X-Men, indiscriminately labeling entire works as "woke" without a full understanding of the term can limit one's appreciation of storytelling, characters, and their significance for a broader audience. Dismissing a female Silver Surfer's portrayal disregards her history and character development in the comics, which explore her role as an interplanetary leader.

I urge readers to not allow personal disagreements to limit their understanding and to approach preexisting material with an open mind, facilitating meaningful discussions.

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About the Creator

Jenna Deedy

Zoo and Aquarium Professional, Educator, Cosplayer, Writer and B.A. in Psychology whose got a lot to share when it comes to animals, zoos, aquariums, conservation, and more.

Instagram: @jennacostadeedy

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  • Flamance @ lit.about a month ago

    Nice work it excellent

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