Sunday, October 28, 2012

SuperSoundtracks #6: The Silver Surfer & Babylon Zoo

Welcome to another super-soundtrack blog entry. In this (somewhat) regular feature, I take a good song and pair it with a comic book character. Today's comic subject is yet another creation from the minds of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby; a character who first appeared with his master Galactus in the pages of Fantastic Four in March 1966. The musical subject today is the mid-90s hit 'Spaceman' by the English band Babylon Zoo.

An advert from The Avengers #25 (February 1966) This blogger (shamefully) doesn't own a copy of Fantastic Four #48 (March 1968)
Hailing from the highly advanced world of Zenn-La, the Silver Surfer was originally a scientist named Norrin Radd. When Galactus, the god-like devourer of worlds arrived at his home planet to consume it, Radd took a long unused spaceship and flew to Galactus for a parley. The resulting deal he struck was that he would serve as 'Herald' to Galactus and spare both his and other inhabited planets that Galactus would normally feed upon.    

The Silver Surfer is born! From (Silver Surfer Vol. 2 #1 1982)
At first this bargain served both parties well. Galactus, slow and cumbersome, was able to devour planets that were void of life and thus spare living creatures. At the same time, Norrin Radd as the Silver Surfer was able to explore the universe. But when the two came upon Earth conflict ensued: the Surfer grew to care about the humans while Galactus needed to eat them. Ultimately, when he aided the Fantastic Four in saving their planet, the Silver Surfer was released from Galactus' service and bound to the planet he helped spare as punishment.

Splash from Silver Surfer Vol. 2 #1 (1982). This one-shot told about the Surfer's Earth-bound captivity and starts with him in despair. Script by Stan Lee and plot and pencils by John Byrne.
It also featured a back story for readers not familiar with his creation story and...
...culminated with a conflict involving the Silver Surfer battling Mephisto. The Silver Surfer is very much an angelic presence in the Marvel Universe and it's fitting that he would count its devil as one of his chief adversaries. Above images also from Silver Surfer Vol. 2 #1.
The Silver Surfer is among the most popular characters in the Marvel Universe and has had many great creators take their turn at writing and drawing him. After appearances in the Fantastic Four he was given his own book for a short time between 1968 and 1970. This 18 issue series was silly in parts, yet is still well received to this day. Since then, the Silver Surfer (and Galactus) have appeared in many guest spots, minis and one-shots and between 1987 and 1998 Volume #3 of the Silver Surfer ran for 146 issues, an impressive run especially since it survived the mid-90s comics bubble. More recently, when it launched in 2011, The Mighty Thor featured a great opening story starring the Silver Surfer and in late 2011 Matt Fracton and Terry Dodson's Defenders also included the Silver Surfer. So far I haven't heard what Marvel NOW! plans to do with this cosmic hero, but we will be watching.
The Silver Surfer battles a pirate in the service of Mephisto in Silver Surfer Vol. 1 #9 (October 1969)
Marvel's (Marvel Knights) Silver Surfer: Requiem (July 2007) Writing by J. Michael Straczynski & art by Esab Ribic
Croatian artist Esad Ribic's work was especially good in Silver Surfer: Requiem (July 2007)
Today’s super-soundtrack chosen for the Silver Surfer is ‘Spaceman’ by Babylon Zoo, a band from Wolverhampton, England. You may remember these guys: especially if you're from the UK and heard them rocket to the top of the charts in early 1996. Unfortunately, this early success did not translate into long-term viability, and they quickly fell off the music map after their first album. Interestingly, it appears that Babylon Zoo were comic book fans -- their second album featured a song called ‘Chrome Invader’ which was originally called 'Silver Surfer' but was changed for copyright reasons. 

Spaceman is a cosmic-sounding mash of psychedelic and indie/alternative musical styles. With hauntingly slow lyrics, heavy beats and at times spoken words, it certainly has a mid-90s feel to it, yet still holds up to the 2012 listener. Its lyrics are also very appropriate to the Silver Surfer, with the below sample being particularly well matched:    
 There's a fire between us  
So where is your God?  
There's a fire between us  
I can't get off the carousel
I can't get off the carousel 

I can't get off the carousel 
I can't get off this world

If you can think of another song that would match the Silver Surfer or have a super-soundtrack of your own, please leave a comment below. That's it for now, so thanks again for reading and with the Marvel NOW! coming soon look for more reviews in the weeks to come.

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