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Who Is Shalla-Bal: The Fantastic Four Movie's Silver Surfer Replacement, Explained

At long last, the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Fantastic Four cast is taking shape, and it's quite impressive so far. Pedro Pascal, Vanessa Kirby, Joseph Quinn, and Ebon Moss-Bachrach — who previously played a forgotten Marvel Netflix hero — star as Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Human Torch, and the Thing, respectively, rounding out the iconic team. They're now joined by Julia Garner, who has been cast in the supporting role of Shalla-Bal. To many MCU fans, her name might not be a familiar one, despite having a pretty extensive and fascinating history in the pages of Marvel Comics dating back decades.

Shalla-Bal made her Marvel Comics debut in 1968 in the first issue of "Silver Surfer." She calls the utopian planet Zenn-La home and is the romantic partner of Norrin Radd, better known as the Silver Surfer. When the world-consuming Galactus threatens the planet, the two are tragically separated as Rad becomes Galactus' herald. He does so to save her life and Zenn-La, though his status eventually puts her in danger. The demonic Mephisto uses her to get to the Surfer, leading the two to reunite, but their relationship is not rekindled. Shalla-Bal has used the Power Cosmic, become Zenn-La's Keeper of the Great Truth, and versions of her have served as the herald of Galactus. The one from Universe X even becomes the Silver Surfer.

Surprisingly, Garner's take on Shalla-Bal isn't the first adaptation of the Marvel Comics character.

Shalla-Bal was first adapted decades ago

Even though Shalla-Bal is a major part of the story of the Silver Surfer and a character well-known among even casual Marvel fans, she's far from mainstream. Surely, her presence in "Fantastic Four" will change that, but it's worth remembering that this isn't the character's first adaptation. Decades ago, Shalla-Bal jumped from the pages of Marvel Comics to animated form for the first time. She features in the short-lived "Silver Surfer" cartoon series from 1998, voiced by Camilla Scott of the MCU-inspiring "X-Men: The Animated Series," "The Berenstain Bears," and "Due South" fame.

Shalla-Bal appears in various forms throughout five of the 13 total "Silver Surfer" episodes, playing a pivotal role in the Surfer's (Paul Essiembre) personal journey. Their relationship follows many of the same beats as their comic counterparts, with them being in love on Zenn-La, only for Galactus to come between them. The Surfer becomes his herald and loses his memory, and when he regains it, he makes it his mission to return to Zenn-La and reunite with his beloved. Unfortunately, by the time the series concludes, Thanos (Gary Krawford) — the villain responsible for some of the worst things in Marvel history — along with Lady Chaos (Lally Cadeau), seem to destroy the universe before the Surfer can return to Shalla-Bal and their home.

It remains to be seen what the MCU version of Shalla-Bal will be up to in "Fantastic Four." Will her tale mirror that of her print and animated versions? Will Marvel Studios take the character in an entirely different direction? These questions and others will likely be answered when the film premieres on July 25, 2025.