The Morality of the Silver Surfer

Posted by RazzaTazz (11944 posts) - - Show Bio

I should mention first of all that I am far from a fan on the Silver Surfer, but that I have indeed read a few issues dealing with the character and I am familiar with his background and origin.  In my eyes the Silver Surfer is somewhat of an oddity in comics from a moral standpoint as he is one of the few to make a noticeable switch from the concept of utilitarianism to one of deontology.  To sum up these shortly utlitarianism deals with the common good while deontology judges every action on its own moral correctness.  Some heroes already breach the roles of the two modes of thought, for instance Batman will break and enter, steal and even assault someone for the common good, but has an absolute deontological outlook on killing.  Other heroes fall somewhere on this scale, from those who regard the law as even more rigid (Superman) to those that will kill under exceptional circumstances to those that will kill without much thought (Wolverine or the Punisher.)  Essentially when it comes to most characters, their moral and ethical behaviour is more or less a constant.  The Silver Surfer on the other hand went through a very noticeable shift in his outlook.  With his planet threatened he made a bargain with Galactus to become a herald.  In so choosing to become a herald he chose a path which would have been filled by another, thus his choice of him personally serving this role was to save his planet.  After making this decision he acted as herald, though the morality of this behaviour is unclear, as he both served the greatest good but then continued to do so.  When this leads up to Earth he then eventually makes the deontological decision to not serve evil no matter what good it accomplishes.  That Earth being treated like some sort of intergalactic place for a last stand is a pretty common theme in comics, which of course touches on our own frailties as humans (although this is sort of beside the point.)  What is interesting though is that we see a noticeable shift in the moral behaviour of a hero,and this is a story which is not often told.  It is not really fair to say of Silver Surfer that he was never a hero, some make the claim but they neglect that every action of his was heroic.  On the contrary he is indeed a heroic character but one whose complex morality is often ignored.  
#1 Posted by thanosrules (886 posts) - - Show Bio

RE: SS #37 - Poor, poor Drax... finding his memory for a Love of Lucy, instead of Thanos, in this issue...

I agree with you that SS has a complex morality.

I think part of the complexity can be derived from Galactus' alterations to SS's personality/soul; a countermeasure to ensure Norrin's altruistic behavior did not shine though in his tasks as a herald.

After many a world's destruction, I believe it was Alicia Masters that really taught him how to "see" his moral side again (which eventually led him to betray his master and his "programming").

Thanks for the post, it is a great topic of discussion!

#2 Posted by RazzaTazz (11944 posts) - - Show Bio
@thanosrules: Not sure how that got in there ... 
The effects of love on morality is an interesting topic but one which may be beyond my novice level of readings of ethics. 
#3 Posted by jloneblackheart (6705 posts) - - Show Bio

It's interesting because he did what he did to save his world, thus being a hero to the Zenn-Lavians. But after Galactus altered his memories and soul, he could care less about his main goal to save lives. In the process, Zenn-La gained the animosity and hate of the universe once they learned they were spared so others could suffer.

He turned on Galactus and got his memories back, but not his guilt. He actually had to ask Galactus to turn that part of his mind back on, something Galactus spared him. The Silver Surfer lives with the deaths of billions upon billions on his conscience. He tries to make up for this, but knows he never can.

Since realizing his place in the universe, he decided to once again take the role of Galactus' herald as is the way of the universe, beyond good and evil, although he can still understand what he is doing is wrong on the level of those involved. This is where the morality is the most complex, as he has strict morals but a role that is above them. He is between mortal and immortal and that is what makes him such an interesting character.

Best blog yet Razz. ;P

#4 Posted by RazzaTazz (11944 posts) - - Show Bio
@jloneblackheart: I think you should maybe have written this ... you know a lot more about the character than I do.  Those are interesting points you bring up, I should have talked with you first I guess ...
#5 Posted by jloneblackheart (6705 posts) - - Show Bio

@RazzaTazz: I'm adding to a great topic, not rewriting it. I only have such insight when critical thinkers like yourself pose a question or topic.

#6 Posted by RazzaTazz (11944 posts) - - Show Bio
@jloneblackheart: I think in terms of morality that science fiction like concepts are harder to fathom.  It is easy to understand Batman roughing up a thug for some info, less so as you say when a character is involved with destroying planets and is not fully in control of their actions.  

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