The fifth and final volume of the most recent Silver Surfer series will be released this week, completing the collection for one of Marvel Comics’ most celebrated series of the past decade. Storytellers Dan Slott and Michael Allred took the Sentinel of the Skyways on adventures for four years in a run that would receive widespread acclaim from critics and fans alike, as well as an Eisner Award for best issue. Now that all is said and done, there’s a question of where the work sits within the pantheon of great Silver Surfer tales. That’s why we’re ranking the absolute best artists to ever work on the character.
Since the Silver Surfer debuted in Fantastic Four #48 more than fifty years ago, he has been one of the most iconic and visually inspiring characters in all of superhero comics. His simple design combined with complex settings and fantastical stories have brought many of the medium’s best artists into the character’s orbit. Their styles and storytelling have helped shape Western comics in the 20th century and beyond, and work on the Silver Surfer was definitive for many.
So who makes the cut? How do they rank? Does Allred find a spot in this very competitive top five? And who is the greatest artist to ever draw the Silver Surfer?
Click ahead to find out.
5. Esad Ribic
Recommended Story: Silver Surfer: Requiem #1-4
Ribic is now a superstar at Marvel Comics, but he first became a regular name at comic book stores with miniseries like Silver Surfer: Requiem. The comic showed Ribic doing what he does best with grandiose backdrops and lush, painterly visuals. His rise to blockbuster titles like Thor: God of Thunder and Secret Wars is no surprise after seeing his work here. Ribic is also a particularly good match for the attributes of the Silver Surfer. He captures the alien nature of the mostly humanoid hero and provides the aura and shine of his metallic body as well as anyone else.
If there’s any criticism to be made of Ribic’s work here, it’s that the characters remain somewhat cold. The Surfer is aloof, and, while his loneliness is beautifully captured, the passion and angst of the character is missing to some degree. Yet even as an artist developing into his career, Ribic still provides one of the most majestic takes on the Silver Surfer, earning him a spot on this list.prevnext
4. John Buscema
Recommended Story: Silver Surfer (vol. 3) #34-38
No artist worked with the Silver Surfer more regularly than John Buscema, and his work helped to define the character’s growing mythos after leaving the pages of Fantastic Four. Buscema’s influences are clear and elements like Kirby krackle are regularly present, yet the work within his issues of Silver Surfer exceeds imitation. Buscema was a masterful storyteller and regularly developed new characters and encounters that would challenge the Surfer and bring his story to new heights.
It’s no coincidence that Buscema was instrumental to the Thanos and Infinity Gauntlet stories now being developed into Marvel Studios’ largest blockbuster. He worked on a truly epic scale and was able to set gods and men side-by-side, a potent combination with the Silver Surfer who veers between both categories. Buscema managed to both humanize the character and display his awesome powers - walking a line that has become definitive in Surfer lore.prevnext
3. Michael Allred
Recommended Story: Silver Surfer (vol. 7) #1-3
Allred is one of the best artists working in mainstream comics today, and his run on Silver Surfer shows just why that is. It is a series that never ceases to invent as the Surfer and his new companion Dawn Greenwood roar across the Marvel Universe. Almost every issue introduces a new planet, concept, or character, each of them expanding upon what already exists in fascinating new directions. Allred’s use of the page is just as important as he utilizes spreads and non-traditional layouts perfectly.
This work is both an excellent showcase for Allred and the character. The Silver Surfer’s general stoicism is used to great effect in order to reflect the increasingly diverse and exciting settings of the series. Allred avoids overplaying emotions and focuses on sparse understatement with clear linework. The results help to emphasize what makes the character greater rather than reshape him into a type Allred fans may be more familiar with. There’s no doubt that Allred has earned his place within the canon of Silver Surfer artists.prevnext
Recommended Story: Silver Surfer: Parable #1-2
Stan Lee often mentions that his favorite comic he worked on was Silver Surfer: Parable. No doubt that goes in large part to working with French master artist Jean Giraud, better known as Moebius. His work on Silver Surfer is perhaps his best known among superhero fans, but only a small segment of an extensive library spanning many decades and genres. It is a great glimpse at what makes Moebius one of the most renowned comics artists of all time though.
The art in Silver Surfer: Parable is nothing short of stunning. Each panel is delicately detailed with carefully considered perspectives and landscapes that seem to sprawl for miles. Given a choice between what was easy and what was hard, Moebius regularly opted for the latter. The two-issue series encourages readers to spend time with each page, considering planets and characters that appear only briefly. It is an enthralling read, and one that really displays the infinite possibilities surrounding the Silver Surfer.prevnext
1. Jack Kirby
Recommended Story: Fantastic Four Annual (vol. 1) #5
“Everybody that reads comic books knows that Kirby’s Silver Surfer is the only true Silver Surfer.” - Denzel Washington, Crimson Tide0comments
It’s not just that Kirby came first. Kirby defined the Silver Surfer in every way that remains important even 50 years later. The sprawling, cosmic landscapes, the juxtaposition of distant alien nature and passionate, angry consciousness, and the soaring, explosive action are all there from the start. Whether you’re looking at the work of Ribic, Buscema, Allred, or Moebius, it’s impossible not to trace their inspirations back to Kirby’s work on Fantastic Four.
Whether you see the Silver Surfer as an avenging angel sent down from heaven or the lonely, eternal stranger questing for knowledge, it’s Kirby who made those characterizations iconic from the very start. Within the lines of his face and physicality of his expressions, the Surfer was stuffed with contradictions and a rich inner life. The foundations for every beloved story featuring the character since was laid down by Jack “The King” Kirby starting in Fantastic Four #48 and across the next several years of backups and B-plots. When it comes to the Silver Surfer, there’s simply no artist better than Jack Kirby.prev