“Anywhere and everywhere — hang on!”
For the last few years, that evocative declaration has been the calling-card of Marvel’s Silver Surfer, a brilliant pop-art reinterpretation of the spacefaring superhero by writer Dan Slott and artist Michael Allred. Slott and Allred gave Surfer a new human companion, Dawn Greenwood, whose fresh-eyed enthusiasm for adventure defined the series as much as the Surfer’s cosmic powers. Together, Surfer and Dawn traveled the universe — exploring perfect planets, out-betting cosmic gamblers, and defying world-eaters alike — while their relationship blossomed into a beautiful romance.
And now the journey’s over. This week’s Silver Surfer #14 put the final bookend on Slott and Allred’s run, and on Surfer and Dawn’s journey together. The series already feels like an instant classic — it won an Eisner Award for Best Single Issue in 2016, and years from now could be remembered alongside classics of the genre like All-Star Superman, as another blazing reminder that superhero comics can be lovely and surreal and emotional as easily as they can be dark violent.
As a lifelong fan of the Silver Surfer, Slott was the right man for the job. The legendary “Galactus Trilogy” from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original Fantastic Four run, which first introduced Silver Surfer and his planet-eating master Galactus to Marvel readers, were the first superhero comics Slott ever read. Given a chance to finally tackle the character years later, Slott says he deliberately took a different approach from past creators.
“There were two big things I decided going in,” Slott tells EW. “A lot of the time, you’d see people treat the Surfer as so alien that he didn’t understand basic things, like, ‘what is this thing you call a hamburger?’ And I’m like, the guy’s lived on Earth for 10 years under Galactus’ barrier, and he has cosmic senses. He knows everything! He speaks every Earth language, he knows every blade of grass, and he couldn’t wait to get off Earth. And that’s the other thing: He always keeps going back to Earth! If I was locked in a cell, I wouldn’t be like, ‘I really want to see that corner of the cell again.’ If I’m the Surfer and I can fly anywhere, I’m going to find new places! He was the astronomer of Zenn-La — he wants to see new stars!”
Allred’s art gave life to all kinds of far-out concepts and planets, but exploring new stars wouldn’t be that interesting if the Surfer didn’t have someone to journey with. That’s where Dawn came in. Slott says the original inspiration for her was as something like a Doctor Who companion, but as he and Allred discussed her more and more, they found an even better touchstone.
“When we talked about the character and what we wanted from her, our shorthand was ‘Miyazaki heroine,’” Slott says. “The moment you say that you get the whole ethos. A Miyazaki heroine doesn’t care about beating the bad guy, they care about solving the problem. They’d much rather, at the end of the story, turn the bad guy into a friend. They’re courageous, they’re adventuresome, they never give up, there’s a whole feeling. The moment you say ‘Miyazaki heroine,’ you get Dawn.”
Indeed, much like Spirited Away’s Chirio, Dawn often convinced enemies to see the error of their ways and made instant friends with many of the colorful aliens she and the Surfer encountered in their travels. Her humble beginnings as a manager of her family inn never prevented her from standing up to beings as terrifying as Galactus himself. It’s always hard to introduce a new character to a canon as rich and complex as the Marvel Universe, but Slott and Allred succeeded at making Dawn complex and relatable without falling into any Manic Pixie Dream Girl-like tropes. Allred says it took “lots of lengthy phone calls” for him and Slott to get her exactly right.
“We very quickly just started talking about her like she was a real person,” Allred tells EW. “It’s so odd to not have her in our lives on a daily basis anymore. Maybe too real.”
Dawn’s eagerness to trust people meant that she and Surfer hit it off right away. He opened her mind to new possibilities, and she put a new zip in his step and even brought a personality out of his formerly-inanimate board. But Silver Surfer was never a one-note comic. It was an emotional adventure, and for every bright happy moment, there were also actions that had devastating consequences, producing heartbreak and trauma aplenty. The darkest element of all, of course, involved the Surfer’s former service to Galactus, in which he had used his exploring skills to find fresh planets for his master to devour.
“People like to play him sometimes as Space Jesus,” Slott says of the Surfer. “But when you think about it, he’s the guy who drove Galactus around the universe and said, ‘eat that planet. That planet looks good. Oh whoops, a billion people died.’ I don’t think Space Jesus would do that. One of the things I really wanted to play with was that the Surfer knows exactly what he did, and have that weigh on his soul. One of the fun things was knowing what readers knew about the Surfer, and having Dawn not know that. Waiting for that moment where she finds out who Galactus was, who he is, what the Surfer’s done, and how this guy you’ve been having all these fun adventures with is actually more like Space Hitler. We knew we had that moment coming, and if you get them past that point of their relationship, then you’ve got some grist for the mill. That was something fun to play with as a series. It’s something our editor Tom Brevoort likes saying: We tricked everyone. We got you to think it was an adventure, we got you to think it was Doctor Who, and that was all window dressing. What we were secretly selling you on was, it’s a romance comic. And by the time you figure that out, it’s too late, and we’ve got you.”
The romance has now come full circle — literally, with a time-travel reveal in the final issue that was originally planted by Slott all the way back in the series’ first issue. Silver Surfer #14 provided an extremely satisfying end to the run, but also closed off the possibility of future Dawn Greenwood stories.
“We were all nervous, that if we ended Silver Surfer with Dawn still out there, then the next time someone wanted to write the book, they would want to write a completely different Silver Surfer,” Slott says. “That meant there were only a couple of things that could happen. Either they’d take Dawn back to earth or leave her on another planet and Surfer would go on, and then it’d be like, ‘well that was one thing in my life that kind of didn’t matter.’ Or worse, they’d kill her so that the Surfer would be motivated to do something. So we were looking at a world where the next time someone played with Dawn, she would be either shelved or fridged. Neither of those appealed to us. We’d spent so much time with this fictional character, we’d grow so attached not just to her but to their chemistry. We wanted to make sure we told the story in such a way that ended that story definitively. If someone was going to tell the last Dawn Greenwood story, it would be us.”
Now that the story has been told, Slott and Allred both admit to feeling somewhat bittersweet that it’s over.
“I can’t think of a more satisfying project I’ve ever been a part of with such epic proportions, largely due to it being the first one I did from beginning to end with no fill-ins, and on a lifelong favorite character,” Allred says. “There’s an intoxicating sense of accomplishment, but also crushing sadness, like any end to a beloved era. A happy, satisfying, crushing sadness.”