Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Jack Kirby, Storyteller: Galactus and the Inhumans

By Barry Pearl

About a Year ago the Daily Kirby gave me the privilege of posting a blog that asked a very interesting question.  I thought the time had come for me to give MY answer, which actually has a Cold War influnce.  And I hope it surprises you!!!!   I wrote, in part,

In Fantastic Four #48, the Inhumans siblings, Black Bolt and Maximus battle and Maximus wins. “I can create a negative zone around our land. A zone that nothing can penetrate.” And Maximus creates a barrier forever separating the Inhumans from Humanity.

Of course, life goes on, and Galactus, led by his herald, the Silver Surfer, attempts to drain Earth of all of its energy.  In issue #50, the Silver Surfer turns against his master and is punished for it. “Since you shall be herald to Galactus no longer. I shall remove your space time powers. Henceforth, the Silver Surfer shall roam the galaxies no longer.”  And the Surfer is banished, stranded on Earth to live amongst the people he helped save.

So what’s the link? A defeated Maximus punishes the Inhumans by imprisoning them in the Giant Refuge to keep them separate from humanity. Galactus does just the opposite he punishes the Silver Surfer by imprisoning him on Earth where he must forever mingle with the same humanity. There is a contradiction here. But which is the worst punishment?

The surprising (I hope) answer is: Both are!!!! Because they were both given the SAME punishment.  In both cases the powers that be, Maximus and Galactus, took away their ability to make a choice. They took away their freedom, their freedom to choose. They were both shown that they were not fully in charge of their own lives.  Crystal was separated from her love, Johnny, and the Surfer was separated from his love, Shalla-Bal. Neither could go where they wanted to.

Why is this a cold war ending? In 1966, Russia did not allow people to leave their country, even on a vacation.  Even during the Olympics, Russian athletes were heavily guarded. They, like the Inhumans, had to remain where they were born. The ability not to travel was definitely a cold war era concern.

PS: There were two mistakes in the Silver Surfer comic I feel that lead to its cancellation. First, although he was the Sentinel of the Skyways he was trapped on Earth. That was fun for a few issues, but he would have been more interesting visiting other galaxies.

But there was something about the early Silver Surfer  stories that was so silly!!!!!  Stan Lee, wanted to use the Surfer as the best example of prejudice and discrimination, often alluding to the reality of being an African-American or another  minority.

So is it discriminatory or common sense when in the middle of winter a naked, silver, plastic person shows up with a surfboard in your backyard and you don’t live near the beach… and you call the police?  Being fearful of that is not prejudice, it’s common sense.

(Barry became part of the Silver Age zeitgeist by having a letter printed in SILVER SURFER #14. - Bill)

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