The ‘classic’ 1960s “Silver Surfer” series was put out in two Marvel Masterworks volumes back in the 1990s and I was recently able to acquire and read both volumes. Between the two, they contained the full eighteen issues of that series.
The stories age rather well compared to other comics in that mid-to-late 1960s era. Stan Lee mentioned in the introduction that he found the Surfer to be a perfect muse and his stories dripped with Lee’s trademark angst. The hook of the book is that the Surfer is trapped on Earth and struggling to be accepted, rather than feared. If anything, Lee seemed to be writing for a teen audience as opposed to the usual pre-teen audience of the era.
The art by John Buscema was very good, clean and classic. In particular, the cover for issue #4 was amazing, perfectly capturing a face-off between the Surfer and Thor. I’d read a review of the first Masterwork volume when it came out back in the early 1990s and that cover image had stuck with me for the past twenty years. It was one of the main reasons that I finally read these comics.
The series featured double-sized stories for the first seven issues, but then shifted to a conventional length in order to bring the price down. Those remaining issues weren’t quite as interesting. It seemed as though Stan Lee was trying something bold with the series, given that it started off telling longer stories than were the norm and it also had a much higher cover price than was the norm. This gave the stories the benefit of feeling a bit more ‘important’ or epic. When things changed to the conventional format, the stories lost some of that scope or size.
Following cancelation, the Silver Surfer floated around the Marvel universe. Oddly enough, this particular series actually ended on a rather dark note, suggesting that the Surfer was to become a villain against humanity. He wouldn’t get another regular series again until the late 1980s.