We’ve discussed Marvel cartoons of the late 90s, early 00s twice before with looks at Spider-man Unlimited & Avengers: United They Stand. There are two other cartoons I want to discuss of that era. So, this week, we’ll be looking at the best cartoon of the lot. Not that that’s much of an accomplishment.
For those of you unfamiliar with the character, The Surfer, also known as Norrin Radd, has simple beginnings. He lives on an alien world dedicated to peace and philosophy called Zenn-la. In spite of that, he’s always wanted to explore other worlds. One day, his relatively idyllic life is interrupted by the greatest menace to worlds with intelligent life, proselytizers. Actually, it’s Galactus. A being who feeds off of planets. Norrin uses an old ship to meet up with Galactus. He offers the devourer a deal, he’ll find planets for Galactus if Galactus spares his home. Galactus takes the offer, transforming Radd into the Silver Surfer.
There are some pretty significant issues with this cartoon. The first is that, like the other two we’ve discussed, it ends its only series on a cliffhanger. The second is the execution. The Surfer is a character who’s worked best in comics that can largely stand alone so that he can have his science fiction themed adventures, give us some excitement and proceed to the next thing. The cartoon, in contrast, tries to do more the X-men thing and have a bunch of inter-connected stories where the promise of a pay off is always lingering until that amazing moment where all the build up comes to fruition. The consequence of trying to do too much of that when you have all of thirteen episodes is that everything jumbles together in a bit of a mess. It doesn’t help that most of the episodes aren’t all that interesting.
I will give the cartoon some credit. The writers may not be the best, but they do demonstrate some understanding of the character. They try to copy his reflective, inner monologue and they do give him some decent scenarios. The episode with the royal skrull egg is definitely the best in the show. I also appreciate that they do actually address the Surfer’s wicked deeds that he performed as a herald of Galactus.
The Surfer himself is a well done character. Thanos is pretty true to his comic roots, although he’s obsessed with Lady Chaos instead of Death since standards and practices of the time didn’t allow the word “death” in a children’s cartoon. Galactus is pretty accurate as well. Nova is drastically different, mainly because they want to make her sympathetic and her murderous tendencies in the comic aren’t good for that.
One issue I do have is with all the one-shot guest characters and the way they give the Surfer a temporary sidekick with the troll Pip. Pip is really pointless. I also don’t like the way they waste Nebula & Mentor as characters. It’s also worth noting they make Mentor Thanos’ brother instead of his father. Probably because Thanos’ actual brother has exceedingly rapey powers and was deemed inappropriate for a kid’s cartoon. They kind of waste Adam Warlock, Drax, Gamora and Beta Ray Bill too. Just because they don’t do anything interesting with them.
Here’s one area I’ll give the cartoon a lot of credit. It looks really good. The CG doesn’t always blend well, especially with Galactus, but the alien environments, space phenomena and action sequences all look great.
As a whole, the acting is really good. And I’m not just saying that because a bunch of actors from X-men make appearances as minor characters. Although that is true, we hear Cyclops, Xavier, Forge, Mystique, Storm, Magneto & Jubilee and those are just the ones I noticed. But I digress. Paul Essiembre, Tara Rosling, & Gary Krawford are all really good. The musical score is quite well done as well.
Areas of Improvement:
- Instead of trying to connect most things, let the episodes stand alone. Like I said, these are the types of stories that the Surfer works best in.
- The Surfer does not need a useless travelling companion. Pip is just a waste. If you really want the Surfer to be journeying with someone, use a character like Quasar, Captain Marvel, or a well written Beta Ray Bill. In other words, a capable companion who can fight alongside him.
- Don’t end on a cliffhanger. I get that they thought they’d get a second series, but it’s just poor form to end a series like that when you don’t have another series definitively lined up. Because this could happen and the audience you did manage to grab will be stuck without closure.
The Silver Surfer, is not a bad cartoon. I don’t have nearly the same issues with it that I did with either of the others we’ve covered and there are actually some things it does pretty well. But, ultimately, the clumsy execution and the mistakes it does make leads to a mediocre product. I’ll give it a 5/10. A happy new year to all of you. This Wednesday we’ll be getting into January and you all know what that means. I pick some random theme for the reviews. We’re going to be doing super heroes this year.