Fantastic Four's Silver Surfer Casting Sets Up a Mind-Blowing Marvel Crossover

The MCU is introducing a new Silver Surfer... and a potential multiverse twist.

Marvel Comics

Marvel’s long-awaited take on the Fantastic Four is shaping up to be a subversive one. With each member of the First Family already cast, fans have been speculating on which antagonist will follow them onto the silver screen, and now we have our answer in the form of the Silver Surfer. Ozark’s Julia Garner will portray the character in Fantastic Four, but her casting is more than just a classic gender-swap.

The Silver Surfer is primarily the alter ego of Norrin Radd, and comic adaptations rarely stray from that incarnation. Matt Shakman’s Fantastic Four will be the first to feature a different Surfer: Garner is Shalla-Bal, a character with close ties to Radd. In most timelines, Shalla-Bal is his one true love. They both hail from the utopian planet of Zenn-La, where Shalla-Bal serves as Empress. Norrin Radd usually becomes the Surfer to protect the planet from Galactus.

Shalla-Bal does become a Silver Surfer herself in a far-flung timeline, Earth-9997. In Earth X #12, she and Norrin Radd were both given the Power Cosmic, and briefly shared a role as the “twin heralds” of Galactus. Her stint as a Surfer was relatively brief, and this particular timeline isn’t well-known. The fact that Fantastic Four will be pulling from such an unusual arc gives us a better idea of what to expect. It seemed like a retro setting would be the upcoming film’s big twist, but introducing a character that only exists in one very specific universe suggests Fantastic Four could take place well outside of Marvel’s main timeline.

Shalla-Bal and Norrin Rad shared the powers of the Silver Surfer on Earth-9997.

Marvel Comics

Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is designated Earth-616. Not to be confused with the 616 of the comics, this timeline is home to Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel, and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, among all the other stars you know. We’ve yet to see the Fantastic Four in this timeline, but the film’s retro marketing led to the assumption that The Fantastic Four will be set in the past of Earth-616.

But what if The Fantastic Four is set in an entirely different universe? It would explain the emphasis on Shalla-Bal’s Silver Surfer, not Norrin Rad’s. It would also explain why there’s been no mention of the Fantastic Four in 616 until now, aside from the behind-the-scenes rights issues between Disney and Fox. Marvel already seems to be taking a similar approach with the X-Men, as The Marvels established that one version of the mutant team exists on another Earth.

If The Fantastic Four follows suit, then Marvel’s cinematic universe will finally be a true multiverse, with different adventures happening concurrently in different worlds. Notably, Avengers: Secret Wars is scheduled to hit theaters in 2027, two years after The Fantastic Four. The team-up event will likely mark the end of Marvel’s “Multiverse Saga,” and though we don’t yet know what that entails, we could see multiple realities merging into one.

Why should the Multiverse limit itself to one Silver Surfer?

20th Century Studios

New versions of heroes and villains could cross paths with those we already know, and The Fantastic Four could pave the way for that massive crossover. We could even see the return of the Silver Surfer played by Doug Jones and voiced by Lawrence Fishburne in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, the iteration most fans would recognize. Marvel wouldn’t have to stop there, either: the multiverse could open the door for several unique versions of the Fantastic Four and their antagonists to appear simultaneously.

Secret Wars would also allow the “main” incarnation of the Fantastic Four to move to Earth-616 after being introduced in another reality. Until that day comes, though, the MCU can explore the multiverse as it sees fit. Marvel’s Multiverse Saga has played it disappointingly safe, but technically, nothing is off-limits. The Fantastic Four should demonstrate that before the latest phase of the MCU comes to a close.

The Fantastic Four is set to hit theaters on July 25, 2025.

Related Tags