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The Origins of the MCU’s New Fantastic Four Silver Surfer, Explained


The Origins of the MCU's New Fantastic Four Silver Surfer, Explained


Summary

  • Pedro Pascal, Vanessa Kirby, Joseph Quinn, and Ebon Moss-Bachrach are leading Marvel’s
    Fantastic Four
    reboot.
  • Julia Garner will reportedly play Shalla-Bal’s version of The Silver Surfer in the film.
  • The film hints at a new take on the storyline with a possible alternate reality setting and intriguing multiverse elements.



Marvel Studios’ reboot of The Fantastic Four is finally starting to take shape. After years of cast speculation, Marvel Studios confirmed the cast for Marvel’s first family in a Valentine’s Day post with Pedro Pascal as Mr. Fantastic, Vanessa Kirby as The Invisible Woman, Joseph Quinn as the Human Torch, and Ebon Moss-Bachrach as The Thing. With the film set for release in July 2025, casting has started to heat up as the cameras are soon set to roll. Marvel has thrown fans for a loop by reportedly casting one of their most famous heroes for the film, The Silver Surfer. Yet they have a twist on the material.


On April 3, 2024, Deadline revealed that Julia Garner was cast as The Silver Surfer. This version is not the traditional male depiction of the character, the alien Norrin Radd, but instead a character with close ties to the hero, Shalla-Bal. Garner herself is a star on the rise, breaking out with a starring role on Netflix’s Ozark and winning three Primetime Emmys for her role on the series. Garner was also nominated for a Primetime Emmy and Golden Globe nomination for her role in Inventing Anna, playing con artist Anna Sorkin. Her film work includes Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Royal Hotel, and will next be seen in Blumhouse’s The Wolfman.

Garner’s casting as the Silver Surfer is certainly bound to raise some eyebrows, but it does have some comic book precedent and also hints at some plot details for the upcoming Fantastic Four film. Here is everything you need to know about Shalla-Bal, the new Silver Surfer for the MCU.



The Origins of Shalla-Bal in Marvel Comics

Shalla-Bal made her debut in Silver Surfer #1 in August 1968 with writer Stan Lee and artist Jon Buschema. While The Silver Surfer had been a significant part of the Marvel Universe for two years prior, this was the comic that fully delved into his backstory and revealed that Shalla-Bal was the woman he loved. She was the empress of the planet Zenn-La and Norrin Radd’s romantic partner. When Galactus arrived to devour their planet, Radd volunteered to become the herald of Galactus in exchange for sparing his planet and, therefore, the life of Shalla-Bal. Radd was given cosmic power and transformed into the Silver Surfer.


After years apart and battles with villains like Galactus, Doctor Doom, and Mephisto, the two former lovers found themselves back to one another, and the Silver Surfer even gave her some of his cosmic power to save her life. Yet the two could no longer be together due to how much had changed in their time apart. She continued to rule over her planet while the Silver Surfer traveled the cosmos.

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While she had part of the power cosmic in the main Marvel Universe, she never became the Silver Surfer in the main 616 continuity of Marvel Comics. However, everything changed in Universe X, a comic storyline published between September 2000 and November 2001 that features a dystopian future for the Marvel Universe. In this reality, following the death of Galactus, the Silver Surfer discovers that Galactus is a necessity for cosmic balance. With the help of the High Evolutionary, the duo evolved Franklin Richards, the son of Reed Richards and Susan Storm of the Fantastic Four, to become the universe’s new Galactus. Franklin transforms Shalla-Bal into her own version of the Silver Surfer, allowing her and Norrin to serve as dual heralds for him and be reunited as lovers once more.


Why Is Marvel Adapting Shalla-Bal as The Silver Surfer Instead of Norrin Radd?

The first thing everyone must be wondering is if Marvel Studios is finally bringing in The Silver Surfer, why is it not the most iconic version of the character and instead an alternative reality version of the hero? While Universe X is not part of the main Marvel comics continuity, this would not be the first time Marvel Studios has drawn from an alternate universe tale to inform the MCU.

Hope Pym, otherwise known as the Wasp and the daughter of Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne, originated from a universe titled MC2, which was set in the future and followed the children of major Marvel heroes. In that comic, Hope is a villain known as the Red Queen. When the MCU adapted the Ant-Man characters, the decision to turn Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne into older characters necessitated the need for a daughter character that could serve as the new Wasp for the MCU’s Ant-Man, so they drew from the character of Hope Pym for the comics and gave her origin and characterization.


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While the decision to include Shalla-Bal as the Silver Surfer might be as simple as they want to stand out from the previous film version of the Silver Surfer, there might be a specific plot reason. The Fantastic Four is set for release in 2025 and is part of the Multiverse Saga. With the cast photo hinting the movie will be a period piece set in the 1960s, it might be that the movie, in fact, does not take place within the MCU but in an alternate reality.


In this reality, the story is different from what fans know, and Shalla-Bal becomes the Silver Surfer instead. By the end of the movie, the Fantastic Four could find their own universe destroyed and stranded in the main MCU, where they will encounter the Silver Surfer of the MCU that is, in fact, Norrin Radd, showing how the storyline played out differently in each universe. This was seemingly confirmed the following day when Marvel released artwork of the Human Torch that showed a New York City in the background, but a more sprawling retro-futuristic city that was popular in the artwork of the 1960s.

There is also the possibility that the filmmakers are adapting the Universe X comics idea of Galactus having two heralds. Fantastic Four might include both Norrin Radd and Shalla-Bal as dual Silver Surfers working together, making them a romantic partner threat to contrast with the romance of Reed Richards and Susan Storm.

What Does This Tell Us About The Fantastic Four Movie?


The inclusion of the Silver Surfer in The Fantastic Four all but confirms the rumors that the main villain of Fantastic Four will, in fact, be Galactus. Rumors have suggested that Javier Bardem is the studio’s top choice to play Galactus, and the idea that the MCU’s Fantastic Four would include a female Silver Surfer originated as a rumor.

Including Galactus and The Silver Surfer in the Fantastic Four’s first film certainly shows Marvel Studios is going for a massive scale to showcase how powerful the new superhero team is. Marvel revealed five comics that fans can read to prepare for the upcoming film, and outside The Fantastic Four #1, the other four comics all concerned Galactus with the original “Galactus Saga” and the recently released Fantastic Four: Life Story.

Rumors have also circulated that the movie will include Franklin Richards, the son of Reed Richards and Susan Storm. With Franklin Richards tied to Shalla-Bal getting the Silver Surfer abilities in the comics, this might hint even more that the film will take place in an alternate reality to the MCU.


The casting of Garner as the Silver Surfer also speaks to a pattern in the film’s casting. All four members of the Fantastic Four and now Garner herself are all stars of critically acclaimed and Emmy-nominated or winning programs. It is clear that Marvel Studios is going for a specific type of performer for the Fantastic Four franchise. Not just movie stars but acclaimed actors who likely want to play these roles for a long time. However, it is unknown if Garner’s Silver Surfer will be a major character in the franchise moving forward or if she will meet her end like many other Marvel villains.


What is clear is that Marvel Studios and director Matt Shakman are making some big swings for The Fantastic Four, trying to show audiences that this will be a very different film than past cinematic incarnations. Before the release of the new Fantastic Four, the stars of the canceled 1994 film are hoping the film will finally be released. Check out our video on the story below.

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