Silver Surfer’s Saddest Timelines, Ranked

It’s never been an easy life for the Silver Surfer. Ever since the day Norrin Radd willingly surrendered his existence to Galactus to save his love and home planet, the former herald has never been able to catch a break. While he’s always acted heroically, the Surfer’s alien nature and association with the Devourer of Worlds earn him more foes than friends, even as he stands for what’s right. Facing constant moral quandaries on a galactic scale and a steady diet of one-sided beatings, the Sentinel of the Spaceways has endured lifetimes’ worth of pain. And that’s just in this lifetime.

Marvel’s comic multiverse allows fans to explore different interpretations of their characters across new worlds and more condensed stories. This has led to unforgettable variants of Spider-Man, Wolverine and Deadpool that all twist the premise of these heroes into something different but just as exciting. And while there are versions skewing toward depressing or tragic, these are often outliers. Such isn’t the case for the Silver Surfer, however, who sees tragedy follows him as closely as his board. Norrin Radd’s track record of features across the multiverse is almost uniformly despondent, with stories that often provide him with especially dour fates.

The Surfer’s Corpse Stops a Kree Invasion in Ruins

Silver Surfer being torn apart in Marvel Ruins.




Ruins #1 (1995)


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Marvel’s Ruins is a miniseries that takes the idea of dystopian realities to its most visceral extreme. Across its two issues, Ruins takes beloved Marvel characters like Spider-Man, Hulk and the X-Men, spinning their heroic tales into horrific tragedies. Norrin Radd is referenced in Ruins #1 by an imprisoned Mar-Vell, whose diseased Kree are interned in American concentration camps. Their fleet was destroyed in orbit after their cloaking was unknowingly negated by energy radiating from the Surfer’s floating corpse. Mar-Vell speculates that Radd had been desperate to breathe again and clawed his own chest open in a fit of insanity.

The Silver Surfer’s fate is characteristically ironic for Ruins. After leaving Galactus, Norrin Radd couldn’t return to Zenn-La, but was free to go anywhere else. The Power Cosmic granted him freedom on a scale few could ever dream of, but Mar-Vell posits this liberation as a trap. The Sentinel of the Spaceways is speculated to have died by his own hands simply because he wanted to feel the very sensations that kept him terrestrial. Ruins isn’t any more merciful to Radd’s former master; Galactus is seen on the cover of a tabloid magazine that boldly reads “God found dead in space.”

Earth-X Tears Away Norrin’s Happy Ending

silver surfer and shalla bal on the cover of earth-x #12




Earth-X #0

Earth-X is one of Marvel’s most prominent alternate realities, and its Silver Surfer’s first appearance initially seems to be one of the character’s most positive situations. Norrin Radd is still Herald of Galactus, but Shalla-Bal serves at his side. The two are grateful for their roles, with Shalla-Bal calling their master “the one who brought us back together.” However, the couple are shot down in battle against the invading Celestials and Shalla-Bal is killed. Her bereaved husband spends the next three years inside New York’s Human Torch, grieving her until the Absorbing Man attempts to snuff out the flame.

More tragic than the Surfer’s loss is his role in the existence of Galactus. Reed Richards had previously turned the Devourer of Worlds into a star, not realizing the cosmic entity was feasting on Celestial eggs left inside planets. Mister Fantastic, the Surfer, and others were eventually complicit in transforming Franklin Richards into the new Galactus. Unaware of his previous identity, this new Galactus is maintained by others’ belief in who he is. It’s a conspiracy the Silver Surfer must support for the betterment of the universe, one that has unfortunately robbed one of his greatest friends of his only son.

Galactus’ Prisoner in Old Man Quill

silver surfer in old man quill 8




Old Man Quill #8


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In 2015’s Secret Wars, an altered version of the Old Man Logan reality is explored through several miniseries. Old Man Quill finally sees the Silver Surfer debuts in the dystopic franchise as part of the Guardians of the Galaxy’s final mission, where he could politely be described as being on reassignment. He reveals Galactus’ use of the Universal Church of Truth as a new source of heraldry, a decision the Surfer unsuccessfully fought against. The Devourer of Worlds then traps his former herald but still-current servant into a machine that siphons his Power Cosmic to bend others to the will of Galactus.

It’s a poetic nightmare for the pacifistic Surfer, who is unwillingly complicit in destroying the minds and lives of countless others. Norrin Radd sends his board to Earth for the Ultimate Nullifier in a final act of rebellion, but it fails to return. His knowledge assists the Guardians of the Galaxy in their rebellion against Galactus, but the Surfer himself is left to rot in his mechanical tomb. Radd isn’t seen again after his brief appearance, but Peter Quill eventually defeats Galactus as the last Guardian of the Galaxy.

Exiles Made the Surfer a Tragic Villain

Silver Surfer flies through space in Marvel Exiles




Exiles #87 (2006)

On the surface, Norrin Radd’s history on Earth-552 is fairly similar to most versions of the character. Born on the planet Zenn-La, Radd eventually conscripted himself into the service of Galactus. The details of this world, though, are some of the farthest departures either character has taken from core selves. Galactus here is the Restorer of Worlds, returning extinct planets that have been destroyed by cosmic blight. The Surfer, meanwhile, is not the kind-hearted Norrin Radd looking to spare his world from a terrible fate. Instead, the planet was already doomed by Norrin himself.

As a military scientist, Radd destroyed his home through his own work and sought out Galactus in hopes of resurrecting Zenn-La. But when he discovered that his master would not restore worlds destroyed by their own hands, he violently rebelled in hopes of stealing the power for himself. The Exiles arrive in Radd’s dimension just in time to see him slaughter Gladiator and his Imperial Guard, barely saving Galactus from the Surfer’s wrath. His hubris led to the destruction of Zenn-La and ultimately himself, as he’s killed in battle against a superpowered Sabretooth and the all-too-lucky Longshot.

Marvel Zombies Made the Surfer Plot-Relevant Prey

silver surfer in marvel zombies #2




Marvel Zombies #1 (2006)


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Marvel Zombies is one of the most gruesome titles in its company’s catalog, but it’s not exactly known for its tragedy. In their lives as cannibalistic undead, former heroes are so often over-the-top in their abuse toward both allies and enemies that it feels more schlocky than scary. But the reality of the violence these undead inflict never feels more vicious than when the Silver Surfer arrives on Earth. Warning the planet’s inhabitants of his master’s impending arrival, the Herald of Galactus isn’t met by the Fantastic Four, but by their starving compatriots. The Surfer is immediately mobbed by superpowered undead, who quickly overwhelm and devour him.

This Surfer would never break free from Galactus, find friends among Earth, or even realize what he was up against before being felled. The undead were coordinated, with the series’ hyperintelligent killers showcasing a twisted version of the intelligence that made them effective while alive. The Surfer is eventually taken down by the Hulk, who restrains Surfer’s wrists to stall his cosmic blasts before biting his head off, letting what remains fall from the sky. Those who earned a piece of flesh in the ensuing scuffle inherited the Power Cosmic, which they used to kill Galactus before taking their feeding frenzy on a universal tour.

The Fallen One is the Last Hope for Life in his Universe

The Fallen One rides Silver Surfer's surfboard in Thanos #11




Thanos #17 (2018)

“The tale of the man once known as Norrin Radd is perhaps the greatest story ever told,” reads the opening of Thanos #17 by by Donny Cates, Goeff Shaw, Antonio Fabela and Clayton Cowles. On this world, he stands at the end of time as one of the last living things in the universe; certainly the last standing against the omnicidal King Thanos. Now known as the Fallen One, this no-longer-silver surfer has seen all life exterminated. The black-stained Fallen One spends eons training to become worthy of Thor’s hammer Mjolnir, wielding it alongside the Power Cosmic in a final stand for life in the universe.

Things go about as well for the Fallen One as could be expected in a series called “Thanos.” While Norrin Radd shows off his powers by destroying a cosmically powered Frank Castle and his humanity by calming a raging Hulk, it gets him little against two Thanoses. After pacifying Bruce Banner, the Fallen One is stabbed in the back by King Thanos. He and his present day counterpart proceed to brutally beat Norrin Radd across several pages before shoving his head through Mjolnir’s grounded handle. The Fallen One’s death left King Thanos as the last native lifeform in his universe, finally earning him the attention of Death.

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