Real Name: Alvin Bernard Harper

Identity/Class: Human

Occupation: Physicist

Group Membership: None

Affiliations: Silver Surfer

Enemies: Stranger

Known Relatives: None

Aliases: None

Base of Operations: A small cottage in the woods

First Appearance: Silver Surfer I#5 (December, 1968)

Powers/Abilities: Al Harper had no super-human powers, although he was quite intelligent.

History: (Silver Surfer I#5)- In an attempt to breach the barrier that Galactus had placed around the Earth to trap the Surfer inside, Silver Surfer stole a device called the space scrambler designed by Reed Richards. The device failed and Silver Surfer plummeted to back down to Earth unconscious. He was found by Al Harper, who was in the middle of looking for rocks for his rock collection. Al Harper brought the Surfer into his home. Harper was quite hospitable (he offered him java), and after the Surfer explained his situation, Harper thought he might have been able to help, since he was a physicist who specialized in research . He needed money to put together equipment to help then Surfer though. Surfer got the money through gambling and fixing the dice with his power cosmic, and Harper went to work on a machine to breach the barrier. When he finished, Surfer took off to try it. But before he could escape, Surfer met up with the Stranger in the Earth's upper atmosphere. The Stranger was going to eradicate all life on the planet, and had planted a bomb somewhere on Earth that would kill all life. Surfer raced back to Harper and told him about the bomb. The authorities wouldn't listen to them, so they used a machine that Al Harper created called a Geiger-scope to try to find the bomb. While Surfer fought Stranger, Harper fought his way through a mob of people who wanted to know what he was doing, and Harper managed to find the bomb disguised as a rock. Harper started to disarm it, but it was booby trapped and released poisonous gas. Harper managed to deactivate the bomb, but died in the process. The Stranger realized that he misjudged humanity and left. In honor of Harper's sacrifice, Surfer lit a fire with the power cosmic that would burn as long as the planet still existed, as a monument to Al Harper, who was buried in an unmarked grave.

(The Ultimate Silver Surfer novel: The Broken Land (fb) - BTS) - The memorial beacon of fire was discovered by scientist Enoch Matthews while visiting his own father's grave. Recognizing the power in it, Matthews stole the beacon and brought to Omega Keep, a former government base in the Appalachia. There Matthews studied its power and sought to use it to cure the people of Creighton, who had been mutated by radiation poisoning from a government experiment at Omega Keep in the 1970s.

(The Ultimate Silver Surfer novel: The Broken Land) - The Silver Surfer discovered that the beacon was missing during one of his visits to Earth to pay his respects at Harper's grave. He tracked it to Omega Keep, where he initially thought Matthews was trying to use it as a weapon. After learning the truth, the Surfer used his powers to remove the radiation from Omega Keep and Creighton, and to prevent further progression of disease in those who had been affected by it. The Surfer then placed a new memorial beacon on Al's grave, one with subtle safeguards that would prevent it from falling into unworthy hands.

(Spider-Man Team-Up#2) - The Silver Surfer visited Al Harper's grave and again paid his respects--after a diversion involving Thanos, the Skrulls of Kral, and Quasimodo. Spider-Man (Ben Reilly) accompanied the Surfer, who explained Al Harper's sacrifice, and how Harper had awakened his humanity, allowing him to regain his emotions which had been blocked by Galactus. Spider-Man then took the Surfer to a tavern to toast Harper.

(Silver Surfer III#123) - During a period of time when he was emotionally dead, the Surfer visited Al B. Harper's grave, recalling their meeting and his promise that the fire would burn as long as the Earth existed. Considering it curious that such things ever mattered to him, the Surfer extinguished the memorial flame.

Comments: Created by Stan Lee and John Buscema.

     I'm not sure which city Harper's cottage is located in. I think it is around Los Angeles, or at least somewhere in California because when Surfer and Harper were searching for the bomb they passed what looked a lot like the Golden Gate Bridge.
Harper's grave was described as being in the Pacific Northwest in Spider-Man Team-Up#2, which would be consistent with that, but was instead described as the Northeast quadrant of the USA in the Ultimate Silver Surfer novel. Either one of those sources is wrong, or it was moved between the stories.

    Alas, novels are not considered definitive canon. There are multiple examples of them becoming so, such as the "This Evil Undying" short story written by Jim Shooter, which was adapted into Avengers I#201+202. A Generation X novel also adapted into comics form, and I'm sure there are others. However, until such time as they are written in, they remain at the fringe, in the same zone occupied by the Hostess Villains, only one of whom has ever crossed the continuity barrier as of this writing. The Ultimate Silver Surfer story can be fit into the Silver Surfer's continuity at any point after Galactus dissolved the barrier around Earth. It was a nice story by Pierce Askegren, who always makes an extra effort to keep the stories true to continuity.
    For the record, these characters are welcome additions to the Appendix site. Maybe this will encourage fan and/or writer interest and get them across. I can dream, can't I?

    In addition, the Null-Life Bomb used by the Stranger later turned up in a story in Champions#12+13.

Thanks to Luis Olava Dantas for pointing out the Silver Surfer appearance in which the memorial was extinguished, and thanks to Sean McQuaid for pointing out the exact issue. Additional thanks go to John Kaminski, who provided the colored image at the top.

CLARIFICATIONS: Al B. Harper should not be confused with: 

Silver Surfer I#5 (December, 1968) - Stan Lee (writer/editor), John Buscema (pencils), Sal Buscema (inks)
The Ultimate Silver Surfer novel: The Broken Land (1995) - Pierce Askegren (writer)
Spider-Man Team-Up#2 (March, 1996) - Roger Stern & George Perez (writers), Tom Grindberg (pencils), Bill Anderson (inks), Tom Brevoort (editor)
Silver Surfer III#123 (December, 1996) - by George Perez and J.M. DeMatteis (writers), Ron Garney and Bob Wiacek (artists), Jayne Gardner (editor)

Last updated: 01/11/06

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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