As the Silver Surfer, Norrin Radd wields the Power Cosmic, riding atop a gleaming surf board that allows him to traverse the space ways at impossible speeds, the means by which he travels amidst the wonders of the Marvel Universe. For years, he had no one to share those wonders with, but that has changed in his new series from writer Dan Slott and artist Mike Allred, whit the masters of the massive alien world known as the Impericon thrusting the Surfer into a situation that has linked him with an Earth woman named Dawn Greenwood.
Following the series' opening arc, which establishes the Surfer and Dawn's friendship, the second storyline brings the pair back to Earth for a run in with the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Surfer's old Defender's teammates, the Hulk and Doctor Strange. Once the Surfer's business with his compatriots is concluded, he and Dawn will begin their exploration of the unknown corners of the Marvel U. CBR News spoke with Allred about his work on these stories, the characters that populate them, and his love for the Silver Surfer.
CBR News: Mike, it's clear from the first two issues of "Silver Surfer" that you're having a blast, and that the story has provided you with plenty of material to let your imagination run wild. I know Dan usually works Marvel style -- is that how you're collaborating on "Silver Surfer?" What's it like working that way?
Mike Allred: It's the first time I've ever worked that way, so to accommodate me, because it is my first time, it's been kind of half and half. Initially, I was concerned that I wouldn't have all the information and emotions because the dialogue isn't set in stone yet. Long story short, I was concerned, and now I'm excited. It gives me all the information that I need for the storytelling, but it also leaves things wide open. I can interpret the emotions and how the characters act with a lot of comfort. I guess it leaves more room for inspiration than I thought it would. This being my first time, I'm pretty happy with it.
Sounds like working that way may allow you to flex some writing muscles as well.
Yeah. I've always enjoyed collaborating with great writers, and working with Dan has been one of my favorite experiences. So far, it's a dream. I'm loving every second of it.
I would think one of the most enjoyable aspects of this gig has got to be the opportunities for character design. What sort of notes did Dan give you about Dawn? What inspired her look?
That was interesting. Initially, he just said, "Give me one of your classic Allred women." She's the girl next door; somebody everybody can relate to, and she's not going to be a damsel in distress. She's going to have an inner core and spirit that will make her a very strong character, as opposed to somebody that the Surfer is constantly trying to get out of trouble. As you've seen from the first couple of issues, Dawn can step up. I guess we can attribute that to her experience running a bed and breakfast. [Laughs]
With the look of the character, he said she was pretty much going to have one outfit that she's stuck, with and it's something identifiable, [but] not like a costume. Initially, I drew her in something a cosplayer would buy at the mall and use to make a costume out of, but it was maybe a little too superheroic. Dan wanted something more girl next door, and again, something that was instantly recognizable. I said, "You mean like Charlie Brown's stripey shirt?" And he said, "Yeah." [Laughs] So I kind of came up with some patterns and he and I, Tom Brevoort and Jake Thomas threw some ideas around.
I then thought, "What about polka dots?" And Dan was like, "Oh, cool!" So I did a few color variations of polka dots. Then, when I showed those to the guys, I said, "Here's kind of the outfit I'm seeing now." At that point, I had come up with the leggings and the sneakers, because we didn't want her in heels. We wanted her to able to move around easily.
Then I said, "I kind of like the lady bug." That was the design with the black on red. Everybody else agreed that was their favorite, too. Dan took it step further and said, "It's a perfect nickname for her father to call her." We also had the idea that she had a twin sister. So then I suggested, "If Dawn is a Lady Bug let's have Eve be a Bumble Bee." I put her in black and yellow stripes, and it was like perfect.
It became not only an extra nickname for the characters, but, when you have twins, you might want to differentiate them. This explains why Eve has an affinity for stripes and Dawn has an affinity for polka dots. It was a way to separate them as twins when they were little babies. It's something that stuck with them.
Issue #2 had some scenes that suggested that Dawn and the Silver Surfer aren't the only stars of this book.
Yes, the Silver Surfer, with the Power Cosmic, gives his board a kind of level of consciousness. You know how you can take an inanimate object and project a personality on it? This is taking that one step further.
What's it like bringing the Surfer's board to life? Seems like it might be an interesting challenge to depict it emoting.
I love it. It's kind of like the Lone Ranger and Silver. It's a faithful companion, again, just kind of in an exaggerated way; taking an inanimate object and projecting some of yourself into it. We've seen there's a way he can task the board with certain things while he's busy doing something else, and because of the way Dawn is introduced to the board, it kind of becomes a pet for her as well.
Issues #1-2 also featured a whole host of new aliens. What's it like coming up with all these different characters? Were there any that you especially enjoyed brining to life?
Oh, man, that's one of the more enjoyable things about working on the book. It's like when you're in school, and maybe you're in a boring class and you just sit in the back and do all kinds of drawings.
Sometimes that's the most zen aspect of what I do for a living. It's just joyful to be able to relax and to open your mind and let these things start flowing through your body and your hand and then onto the paper. It's largely unconscious. It's almost like meditation.
Then, from the doodles I start plucking out my favorite ones. There are certain things that I knew I had to include. When you see Issue #3, you'll see that I couldn't go too wild with the alien's bodies. I had to do humanoids, because they had to fit into space suits.
We've seen that the group of aliens gets smaller after Dawn breaks them out and they branch off and escape the Impericon in escape pods. Knowing that I was going to whittle down the group of escapees to a smaller group, that allowed me to go, "Okay, I like this one, and this one, and this one."
Unfortunately, most of them don't have names at this point. [Laughs] But as a for instance, the alien with the three horns on its head is one of my favorite designs. I also like the one with kind of the bat-like wings. Really, I like them all. I was able to pluck what you see on paper from several dozen doodles. The ones that made it into the book are the ones that I like the most.
As you mentioned, Dawn and her fellow Impericon captives had a jail break, and it looks like Issue #3 brings the series' first arc to a close.
Yes, largely. In issue #3 you'll see that people who you think are good guys are bad guys, and vice versa. There's also a major confrontation out in the cosmos. Also, we'll find one character getting imprisoned on a whole new dimension that we haven't ever seen before in the Marvel Universe.
"Silver Surfer" #4 brings the Surfer back to Earth, or at least its vicinity, and involves some classic and fan favorite Marvel characters, including Surfer's former Defenders' teammates, the Hulk and Doctor Strange. What do you enjoy most about drawing those characters?
Well, "Hulk smash!" [Laughs] And Doctor Strange is such an elegant and intelligent character. Along with Spider-Man, he's one of my favorite Steve Ditko creations. He's got this great design that comes with him, naturally. Plus, there's the whole other aspect and contrast with the occult and magic as opposed to cosmic energies. So he provided this additional facet that can be played with.
The fan favorite characters involved in the next "Silver Surfer" story are, of course, the Guardians of the Galaxy. What's your sense of these characters? It seems like they would be an especially fun bunch to draw.
For sure. Hopefully someday I'll get to play with them even more beyond their appearance in "Silver Surfer," because I really have grown to love these characters. Who doesn't love Rocket Raccoon?
And I'm a huge fan of the monster stories that Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko did before Marvel became Marvel with the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man and the success that came with that. I love all those monster stories that you would see in "Tales to Astonish," "Journey Into Myster," and other books that would evolve into different titles once the superheroes took over. Groot came from those books. It's just really cool and clever that some old Kirby monster design would end up being part of this cosmic superhero team. [Laughs] For that reason, he's one of my favorite characters.
Is this just the core version of the team? Or does it include their newest members, Agent Venom and Captain Marvel?
Agent Venom is there. It was very gratifying to draw him. I want to get my hands on everybody in the Marvel Universe at some point, one way or the other. I love them all. This was my opportunity to draw Agent Venom, but with an outer space jet pack kind of twist on him. It's a blast! That's another character checked off.
"Silver Surfer" #6 is where the Surfer and Dawn head off to explore new areas of the Marvel Universe. How does it feel to be adding to the worlds, species and empires of the Marvel U? This is a book that's sort of the best of both worlds in that you get to tackle classic characters from time to time, and you also get to go wild with your imagination and add new things.
That's exactly right. Best of both worlds is the perfect way to describe it. It's why I'm having as much fun as I'm having working with Marvel right now, because the last time I worked long term at Marvel was when I created new Marvel mutants for "X-Force" which became "X-Statix." On that book, Peter Milligan and I almost worked exclusively with our own creations. Here, though, not only am I creating new characters, but my new characters get to rub shoulders with classic characters. Plus, one of my all-time favorite characters, period, is the Silver Surfer, so to have that happening and to be able to introduce these new creations is, again, I can't describe it better, the best of both worlds. It's completely fulfilling.
What we're doing with this book is something that I wanted to see happen with the Silver Surfer ever since I was a kid. I've always been drawn to him, and now I'm able to draw him. Ever since I was little, I always sympathized with him and had this great empathy for him. I wanted him to find some kind of happiness.
As a kid, you'll act out and pretend to be your favorite heroes, and being kind of a water dog Silver Surfer was always something easy to pretend as you're playing with your friends. He had these amazing powers and this super cool surfboard that can take him literally anywhere, so I wanted more joy from him. I wanted to see a sense of fun from him, and that's been incredibly rare. I think we're naturally imbuing him with this opportunity to have a stronger sense of joy, and that is by far the most gratifying thing in doing this project; allowing an opportunity for one of my life long favorite characters to find a sense of happiness, satisfaction and contentment.
"Silver Surfer" #1, by Dan Slott, Mike Allred and Laura Allred, is on sale now.