The Silver Surfer Storyline That Mocked Marvel’s Then Editor-in-Chief

Summary

  • Comic book editors often make decisions that impact the creative teams and storylines, which can lead to tension and disagreements.
  • Steve Englehart was not pleased with the changes DeFalco made to his Silver Surfer series and used the character Clumsy Foulup to satirize DeFalco’s rise to Editor-in-Chief.
  • Englehart’s departure from the comic involved him mocking DeFalco by having Clumsy Foulup become the leader of the Kree Empire, satirizing how DeFalco became the Editor-in-Chief of Marvel


Welcome to the 919th installment of Comic Book Legends Revealed, a column where we examine three comic book myths, rumors and legends and confirm or debunk them. This is a special “basing characters on real life people” edition of CBLR. In the first legend, we look at a Silver Surfer storyline built around mocking Marvel’s then-new Editor-in-Chief.

This might be a shocking revelation, but very often, people view events in terms of how they affect them personally. I know, I know, it’s a stunning fact, but it is true, whatever personally affects you the most tends to be your takeaway from any given situation. That’s the funny thing, then, about Editors-in-Chief at comic book companies, in that people’s take on who was a good Editor-in-Chief and who was a bad one tends to involve whether one E-i-C or the other gave them assignments.

At the end of the day, in comics (or heck, in any business), no one is going to be thrilled by the people who fire them, ya know? Frank Miller’s Daredevil is one of the all-time great comic book runs in history, right? Well, for Miller to take over as the writer on Daredevil, the then-current writer, Roger McKenzie, had to LOSE the gig. That’s the truth for many famous runs in history. Famous run X only started because some guys lost their jobs doing the book before the famous run started. It’s a fact of life in the comic book industry. As the saying goes in the world of sports, coaches are hired to be fired. It’s a similar thing about comic book creative teams. You can say that it isn’t personal, but for the person losing their gig, it IS personal, ya know? At the same time, that’s just reality. You’re GOING to piss some people off if you’re an Editor-in-Chief. In the case of Tom DeFalco, though, when he told Steve Englehart that his run on Silver Surfer was ending, Englehart went out with quite a bang, mocking DeFalco along the way.

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Who was the Silver Surfer character, Clumsy Foulup?

Steve Englehart described the start of his run of Silver Surfer over at his website:

It began when Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter asked me to do a SURFER book. I was pleased to be asked, but remembered that the character had been reserved for Editor Emeritus Stan Lee. Jim was clear in his response: the current Powers That Be had decided the Surfer could make the company money, and should. So, if I were going to do the Surfer, I wanted to get him off Earth. He had been trapped here, denied the vastness of space, since his first epic in FF #48-50, and I felt that situation had long outlived its interest. For one thing, despite everyone’s affection for the character and some good people giving it their all, he had never sold. The Surfer seemed like he ought to be great, but he wasn’t. Nevertheless, I was told he had to stay on Earth. So I wrote a #1 issue, and plotted two more, under that restriction. But I kept bugging Jim, and all of a sudden, for whatever reason, I got my way. The Surfer could fly free. That first issue was shelved and I started over with a new #1. That “earthbound” first issue later appeared as an “imaginary story” in MARVEL FANFARE [I did a Comic Book Legends Revealed on that years ago]. But we were off to the races at last. I got the Surfer into the grandeur of space, and for the first time ever, he sold.

In Silver Surfer #11 (by Englehart, Joe Staton and Joe Rubinstein), Surfer and Nova are on the run, and they show up in disguises at a sort of pirate planet, where they are accosted by an alien…

Surfer and Nova meet Clumsy Foulup

Later, the alien assaults them, and we learn from someone that the alien’s name is “Foulup”…

We learn Foulup's name

At the end of the issue, we discover that Foulup is a part of a group of pirates, led by a Captain Reptyl….

We meet Captain Reptyl, the head of the pirates

In the next issue (Marshall Rogers now on pencils), we learn that this pirate underling of Captain Reptyl’s full name is Clumsy Foulup…

We learn Clumsy Foulup's name

Now, at this point, it is pretty clear that Clumsy Foulup is just a minor character, and he doesn’t seem to be any sort of specific parody of anyone. That would soon change, though.

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How did Clumsy Foulup’s rise to power satirize Tom DeFalco’s rise to Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief?

DeFalco had been the Editor-in-Chief at Marvel since Silver Surfer #5, but as time went by, Englehart felt that DeFalco was having him make too many changes to the series, noting, “I was told to go back to the formula which hadn’t worked: one issue stories, with a moral, while he pined for his lost girlfriend (who hadn’t been his girlfriend since issue 2 of this run).”

DeFalco had been Jim Shooter’s second-in-command when Shooter was fired, with DeFalco promoted to take over the top job. Obviously, something like that happens all of the time, but naturally, if you’re Shooter, you feel stabbed in the back, while if you’re DeFalco, what are you supposed to do? The guy was getting fired no matter what, so you’re going to turn down the top job?

However, Englehart obviously saw it as a “backstabbing,” and so when DeFalco let him know he was being taken off of Silver Surfer, DeFalco gave Englehart free rein to wrap up his storylines. Englehart then had Clumsy Foulup be manipulated by the Elder known as the Contemplator (who had been seemingly killed by Reptyl in Silver Surfer #12) to betray Captain Reptyl and cut a deal with the Kree.

Englehart’s final arc on Silver Surfer was a new Kree-Skrull War. Reptyl became the leader of the Skrulls, but then, in Silver Surfer #29 (by Englehart, Ron Lim and Tom Christopher), Clumsy literally stabs Reptyl in the back…

Clumsy stabs Reptyl

Clumsy then escapes to the Kree…

Clumsy Foulup escapes to the Kree

And Clumsy’s Kree benefactors are shocked in the next issue when the people treat Clumsy as a conquering hero for killing Reptyl…

Clumsy is now a Kree hero

This is all the Contemplator’s doing, as well…

The Contemplator manipulates the Kree

And by the end of Englehart’s run, Clumsy Foulup is now the head of the Kree Empire…

Clumsy is now Da Boss

Or, as he puts it, “Da Boss.”

This, of course, is how DeFalco was referred to at the time, like in this Rick Parker comic strip in Marvel Age #123…

A comic strip about Tom DeFalco

On his website, Englehart noted, “When I left, Clumsy Foulup ruled the Kree Empire, and four years later, Marvel was bankrupt.”

In Englehart’s departure from the Fantastic Four around the same time, he used a pseudonym and did a bit of a protest over the direction Marvel wanted on the series (I noted this in an old Comic Book Legends Revealed).

I’m not saying who was right or wrong in this conflict between Englehart and DeFalco, as I don’t think there really IS a right or wrong, just noting that Englehart’s departure involved him making fun of DeFalco on the way out.

A comic book legend about Steve Englehart's final Silver Surfer story

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