ONE THOUSAND ELECTRIC GUITARS: "Silver Surfer: The Rock Opera"

Thu, June 14th, 2007 at 12:00am PDT | Updated: May 12th, 2010 at 3:26pm

Comic Books
Andy Khouri, Editor

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Averted or otherwise, all eyes will be in the area cineplex this weekend when one of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee's most beloved creations makes his bittersweet cinematic debut in Twentieth Century Fox's "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer." The Silver Surfer has of course been a pop culture icon for decades and numerous attempts have been made to translate his cosmic adventures into extra-comics media. Journalist James H. Burns reported on one such endeavor in the 1980s; an effort to bring the Silver Surfer to perhaps the most unexpected medium -- the musical.

Sure to be in a future edition of Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed, CBR News is pleased to present James H. Burns and his account of the plan to create "The Silver Surfer: The Rock Opera."

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By James H. Burns

As a young teen, one of my first cover stories was a look at the summer of 1980's explosion of rock movies, for Jim Steranko's Prevue magazine. The piece included coverage of the Olivia Newton John/Gene Kelly picture, "Xanadu," which, bizarrely, is about to make its debut as a Broadway musical--the reason, hence, for why I was going through some old notes!

"Xanadu's" executive producer was Lee Kramer, John's erstwhile long-time manager. He was hoping his next movie would be a twenty-five million dollar rock influenced adaptation of "The Silver Surfer." (Incidentally, it was always my belief that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had created the Fantastic Four-less Silver Surfer origin/graphic novel for Simon and Schuster, in 1978, to help show exactly how such a film could proceed.) In 1980, Lee Kramer said, "I originally got turned onto the Silver Surfer in the 1960s when the character first appeared, but I wasn't in any way involved in this business at the time. Once I was in a position to negotiate for the comic's film rights, I jumped at the chance to get them.

"Stan Lee and I get along very well, but he's totally into the idea of doing the Silver Surfer as a rock opera. I don't think that the rock opera films ('Tommy,' 'Sgt. Pepper's') have worked too well; there's a need for dialogue to tie a movie together. Music, however, will play a very important part in the film. We're going to make an epic picture on the scope of '2001: A Space Odyssey' with the kind of soundtrack that that film had, only using contemporary rock and roll. It's even conceivable that the Surfer might have a chant or a fanfare made up of one thousand electric guitars….

"I'm really very lucky," Kramer finished. "Doing the Silver Surfer has always been a dream of mine, and now it's going to be realized."

James H. (Jim) Burns, a writer/actor living in Long Island, New York, has written features for such magazines as Gentleman's Quarterly, Esquire, Heavy Metal And Twilight Zone. He can be heard frequently as a guest on radio talk shows, throughout the United States.

Original Aritcle � Copyright 1980 James H. Burns

This Revised Segment � Copright 2007 James H. Burns

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