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There was an issue of Silver Surfer that was a very good satire on reality TV. The Surfer visited / was captured by an enormous spaceship and held prisoner. The only way he could buy back his freedom was to have his entire life experiences copied from his memory and displayed on the spaceship's entertainment system. There was a creepy android emcee with a yellow smiley-face.

I think in the end the 'entertainment value' of his life experiences added up to his freedom -- but by various 'fees' and 'demerits', his account was drained back down to zero (or close to it).

In the end, the Surfer escapes, saying "I'll be back", but the whole storyline gets dropped. It's a cynical, Black Mirror-type story, but notable for being back in the '90s.

Can anyone identify the issue?

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I believe you're referring to the Dynamo City storyline, which ran from Silver Surfer Vol. 3 #40-43, although most of what you've described takes place in Silver Surfer Vol. 3 #41.

From the Marvel Database page for the issue:

The Silver Surfer attempts to find a job, in order to earn enough credits to exit Dynamo City. With little practical work experience and not able to handle manual labor without his Power Cosmic, the Surfer has nowhere else to go but the shanty town, Tent City. There he learns of a way to sell his memories for credits. He meets with the Sensory Stimulation Network and agrees to give them his memories for a price. However, he is angered to find that his final earnings (after all the hidden fees have been applied) are not even enough to pay the city's exit fee.

Silver Surfer Vol. 3 #41, page 12

Silver Surfer Vol. 3 #41, page 19

Silver Surfer Vol. 3 #41 (September, 1990)

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  • From memory it wasn't so much a spaceship, as a city-sized rock with a force field around it floating through space.
    – Nacht
    Jan 31, 2023 at 4:21

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