Monday, July 05, 2010

found: the lost surfer scripts

caution: this area reserved for fans of marvel comics' silver surfer. those at least familiar with the character might nonetheless find this post amusing ...

if you thought after the fantastic four had narrowly averted doomsday by turning back the cosmic threat of galactus that the big winners were earth's eight billion inhabitants, you might have been wrong, because marvel comics publisher stan lee knew better. marvel had a hot new property on its hands: the tortured, soul-searching oscar award lookalike, the silver surfer, who was himself awarded his own title.

looks turned out to be deceiving, however, and much to marvel's chagrin, the title was sadly put out to pasture without fanfare after only 18 issues.

though exiled on earth by his globe-gobbling overlord, the surfer was not without powerful friends, who soon piled stan lee's desk high with scripts from what seemed the entire pantheon of '70s pop lit: tom wolfe, charles bukowski, larry mcmurtry, sylvester stallone, james michener, hanna and barbera, erica jong and jerzy kosinski were among those attempting to resurrect icarus, but for one reason after another, their efforts languished and remained untouched by the light of day — that is, until now:

(art by bill sienkiewicz)

... of all the "mean streets"-type submissions, the most noteworthy was galaxy primeval: high noon in space, penned by then-obscure elmore leonard (who is now america's fastest-rising chronicler of the demimonde). a passage:
poke, in tan slacks and powder-blue shirt, sipping the salty dog, saying, "the fuck? bastard owes us ten grand. i earned that ten grand, man." think­ing, "this mother­fucker, shit, silver god­damn skin rid­ing a silver god­damn surf­board, shit, pick us out of a lineup in a minute."

the surfer, pushing off the little cross­bolt safety above the trigger, sliding it back and forward again, the beretta nine-millimeter parabellum dark against his silver skin, saying, "but why have fear and hostility so possessed the hearts of men?"

poke thinking, "this dude, fuck, man, dude's a fucking square. dude's ready for the psycho ward. the fuck i'm thinking, man, walk with this dude out on the streets? freakiest fucking dude in detroit. shit, man, freakier than deleon johnson and his .38 with the rubber god­damn bands wrapped around the handle." poke, earing back the hammer of his walther p-38, saying, "the fuck, ain't got no hostility, man. cock­sucker owe me ten grand, i'm gonna get it. don't care if the fucker eats planets, man."

the surfer, hands outstretched, fin­gers spread out be­seech­ing­ly, say­ing, "but you canst not under­stand. hu­man, how can one such as you com­pre­hend the li­mit­less po­wer of him whom men call galactus?"

"the fuck," poke saying. "don't give a shit what people call him. just stick this here gun in his fucking mouth, man, and ear back the hammer. fuckin' blow his brains all over outer space, man. like, no one will hear him scream."

the surfer, glanc­ing into the mirror behind poke, cock­ing his head like gary cooper in that movie, high noon, liking the way he looked in the o­rig­i­nal crested beaut american cowboy hat with the fun­nel­ed brim, the way it curved down over his eyes, say­ing, "per­haps, then, hu­man, it is de­sol­a­tion you seek, and per­haps, in that de­sol­a­tion, you will find the peace your heart desires. but as for where the silver surfer soars ... know you that he soars alone."

poke saying, "then fuck off, chickenfat."

lee liked the script, but cautioned that if the surfer appeared wearing a crested beaut american cowboy hat he might be confused with a marvel reprint standby, the rawhide kid. buscema argued, "yeah, but this hat has a funneled brim. the rawhide kid's doesn't have a funneled brim." arguments raged on for weeks ...
(original 1968 story by stan lee, art by john buscema and joe sinnott)

to savor other surfer stories in the voices of james michener, charles bukowski, jerzy kosinski, larry mcmurtry, eldridge cleaver, tom wolfe and j.g. ballard, download the complete article "the surfer scripts" (pdf).

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