Who Is the FANTASTIC FOUR’S Silver Surfer, Shalla-Bal? Her Marvel Comics History, Explained

Marvel fans everywhere were surprised at the casting announcement of Ozark star Julia Garner as the Silver Surfer in the upcoming MCU Fantastic Four film, directed by Matt Shakman. However, this Silver Surfer won’t be Norrin Radd, the male Herald of Galactus most Marvel Comics fans are familiar with. Instead, it will be Shalla-Bal, a Marvel character with a history going back to the very first issue of Silver Surfer. For over five decades, Shalla-Bal has been a crucial part of the Cosmic Wanderer’s backstory.

Shalla-Bal, the Great Love of the Silver Surfer’s Life

Shalla-Bal says farewell to her great love Norrin Radd in 1968's Silver Surfer #1.
Marvel Comics

In the comics, Shalla-Bal has long been a key player in the Silver Surfer’s lore. Although, she’s only ever been the Surfer herself in alternate universes to the 616. The main Marvel Universe’s Shalla-Bal first appeared in Silver Surfer #1 in 1968. She was the creation of Stan Lee and artist John Buscema. Ever since that first issue, Marvel has portrayed her as Norrin Radd’s greatest love. She’s even appeared in animated form, in the 1998 Silver Surfer animated series.

The Silver Surfer says goodbye to Shalla-Bal in the 1998 Silver Surfer animated series.
Marvel Comics

Like Norrin Radd, Shalla-Bal comes from the peaceful and advanced world of Zenn-La. Shalla-Bal met Norrin Radd when she was still a child, and bonded with Norrin thanks to a strange Zenn-La tradition. After the death of Norrin’s mother, her parents tasked Shalla-Bal with being his emotional companion. This was a Zenn-Lavian custom, to help a child deal with profound grief. Shalla-Bal was a happy-go-lucky child, while Norrin was extremely serious. Nevertheless, the bond between them was strong. As adults, the two fell in love and became a couple. However, when Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds, comes to Zenn-La, their idyllic life is disrupted.

Mephisto and Doctor Doom Use Shalla-Bal as a Pawn Against the Silver Surfer

The Silver Surfer encounters Shalla-Bal without her memory in Latveria.
Marvel Comics

Norrin Radd saved his utopian world by offering himself to Galactus to become his herald, the Silver Surfer. By doing so, he had to leave Zenn-La, and his beloved Shalla-Bal, presumably for all time.  Eventually, the Silver Surfer rebelled against Galactus, who confined him to Earth as punishment. The Surfer’s enemy, the demon Mephisto, used Shalla-Bal as a weapon against Norrin Radd. Mephisto brainwashed Shalla-Bal, making her think she was a peasant girl from Latveria by the name of Helena. The Latverian monarch Doctor Doom, a mortal enemy of the Surfer, even married her in a mock ceremony.

The Silver Surfer hallucinates seeing his lost love Shalla-Bal in the pages of Marvel Comics.
Marvel Comics

As retaliation for his Herald’s betrayal, Galactus consumed the life energies of his home planet of Zenn-La. However, he spared the lives of the inhabitants, allowing them to return to their now-decimated planet. He believed their suffering would hurt the Silver Surfer more than their deaths. Eventually, Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four frees the Surfer from his imprisonment on Earth, and he returns to his homeworld. But Shalla-Bal is not there, and he learns how his enemies Mephisto and Doom used her as a pawn. He uses the Power Cosmic to finally free his great love.

Shalla-Bal, Empress of Zenn-La

A reunited Shalla-Bal and Silver Surfer travel through the cosmos.
Marvel Comics

Shalla-Bal used her new power to restore life to her homeworld. The grateful Zenn-Lavians then crowned her as Empress of the Zenn-La. Despite the Surfer n ow being free of his Earthly confinement, Shalla-Bal refused to marry him, citing her responsibilities as ruler of Zenn-La. Eventually, she becomes designated as the “Keeper of the Great Truth,” tasked with spreading the culture of her homeworld across the known universe. Over the succeeding years, Shalla-Bal has been killed, resurrected, and even become her love Norrin Radd’s enemy. She even dated Norrin’s half-brother. These literally star-crossed lovers can never catch a break it seems.

In Other Marvel Realities, Shalla-Bal Is a Herald of Galactus Herself

Shalla-Bal as Starglow, the Herald of Galactus of an alternate universe.
Marvel Comics

In a 1982 issue of What If..?, we learn that Shalla-Bal became Starglow, a different Herald of Galactus. As part of the alternate reality of the series Earth X by Alex Ross, Shalla-Bal became a Silver Surfer herself. In that universe, Norrian Radd realizes that Galactus serves a necessary function in the universe. With that universe’s Galactus dead, he allows the High Evolutionary to evolve Franklin Richards, son of Reed and Sue Richards, to become the second Galactus. This new Galactus gives the Power Cosmic to Shalla-Bal, allowing for twin Silver Surfers to roam the galaxy together, seeking planets to sustain the Devourer of Worlds.

The Powers and Abilities of Shalla-Bal

Empress of Zenn-La, Shalla-Bal, arrives on Earth. Art by Mike Allred.
Marvel Comics

As a native of Zenn-La, Shalla-Bal has an extremely long life span. The inhabitants of that world are essentially immortal. When the Silver Surfer granted her a portion of the Power Cosmic, plant life would grow wherever she walked. That is how she restored life to her devastated home planet. In the Earth X universe, she has access to the full Power Cosmic as the second Silver Surfer, which makes her almost a god. In the What If…? comics, she has another form of the full Power Cosmic as Starglow.

Shalla-Bal, the Silver Surfer of the MCU Fantastic Four

Shalla-Bal and Norrin Radd, the Silver Surfers of Earth X. Art by Alex Ross.
Marvel Comics

It is unknown how the filmmakers plan to portray Shalla-Bal in the MCU. Rumors suggest that Matt Shakman’s Fantastic Four will take place in an alternate reality from the Sacred Timeline. So it’s possible that in this universe, Shalla-Bal is the one and only Silver Surfer, offering herself as Galactus’ herald instead of Norrin Radd. Or, maybe as in Earth X continuity, she is one of two Silver Surfers doing Galactus’ bidding, and we just don’t know who’s playing Norrin Radd yet. We are sure to find out more as Fantastic Four begins production in the summer of 2024.

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