Sometimes, the story of how a comic book character is created is as interesting, and as strange, as the stories the character stars in. In the mid to late 70s, as the story’s told, Marvel had an idea. Partnering with Casablanca Records and Filmworks movie studios to create a new character, one that would star in her own comic book, put out records sung “in character” by a recording artist, and star in her own movie, all of which capitalizing on the Disco music craze. Thus was born The Disco Dazzler!
I said Marvel had an idea, I never said Marvel had a *good* idea.
Casablanca and Filmworks would both back out of the promotion after creative differences over the end of the seventies, but Marvel’s Editor In Chief at the time, Jim Shooter, and chairman emeritus Stan Lee felt like the character was still a sound investment. They dropped the Disco part of the character, and Alison Blaire became the Dazzler, mutant pop star.
And honestly, all my snide comments aside, they were totally frickin’ right.
Dazzler, with the ability to turn ambient sound into beams of light varying from bursts of light to intense laser beams, made her way into the X-Men with issue #130 in 1980. Using her mutant power to create her own light show while singing, Dazzler had aspirations of super stardom, but superheroes and super villains kept getting in her way. In her own, self titled magazine, she would encounter everyone from the X-Men to the Avengers, Spider-Man to Spider-Woman, and Doctor Doom to Galactus. Dazzler’s book had a revolving door of guest stars, keeping her book on the stands for forty one issues. She even had a brief romance with the Beast, chronicled in the aptly named “Beauty and the Beast” mini series. That’s not super important, but I always liked the Bill Sienkiewicz covers, wanted to include one in the photo gallery, and am adding these two lines to justify it.
After her solo book ended, Dazzler became a fixture in the X-Men books, remaining with the team for the remainder of the 80s and into the 90s. During this time, she’d develop a relationship with another X-Man, Longshot, the extra-dimensional refugee from the twisted Mojo World, where he was scientifically created to be that world’s greatest…reality television star before that even really a thing. Ok, I’m not doing Longshot any justice, trust me, he’s super cool.
Dazzler would return to the X-Men franchise, serving on multiple teams, including a stint with New Excalibur, the X-Men’s British branch. She’d even serve as SHIELD’s mutant specialist for a time. She can currently be found as part of A-Force, the all female Avengers squad, during the Marvel event series, Secret Wars.
Some people, even the non comic fans, now Dazzler from another platform, neither comics, nor Marvel’s abandoned plans for records and movies. Dazzler was one of six featured X-Men for Konami’s 1992 arcade game. Along with Cyclops, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Wolverine, players controlled Dazzler as they set out to stop Magneto and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants from conquering the world. I can personally attest that many quarters were sacrificed in the pursuit of world peace, but man was it worth it. That game is still a blast to play, and is currently available through the PlayStation network and Xbox marketplace.
And if you’re familiar with the game at all, I apologize for getting the “X-Men, Ex-Ex-Ex-Ex-Men" theme song stuck in your head. If it’s any consolation, I’ll be singing it for days to come too.
why is Professor Xavier such a jerk? Also, who else has Annie cosplayed?
It’s a reference to the X-Men story arc where he tried to bust Kitty Pryde down to the New Mutants (which, amusingly, @keyofjetwolf is live-blogging RIGHT NOW, hie ye over and see her wording wonderfully). It’s one of those classic X-Men lines that requires no context.
Annie has done lots of cosplay, but the one she’s probably proudest of, for sheer “I did it, look, I did it, and you can’t take that away from me” points, was disco-era Dazzler, complete with roller skates, because it meant she got to use her roller derby tricks in a context where they still made sense and she looked awesome. It was a banner day.
There’s something important about being a creative superhero. Not just someone who can punch giants, fly over the moon, or shoot lasers out of their wherever. Yes, Dazzler can shoot lasers out of her wherever, but that’s sort of an afterthought. She takes sound and turns it unto light. She takes something and turns it into something else. She’s an artist. And her art isn’t just an afterthought. It’s part of who she is. She doesn’t paint on the side to relieve stress, or take dance lessons that help her fight. Creativity is part of her identity, all the way down to her genes. For her, mutant powers are just another creative tool. They’re an extension of her. Like any good artist, she sees potential where others don’t. She sees solutions that others can’t. She can illuminate the unclear. She can turn anger into joy. She can rock the house.
Greg Pak was saying McK and I should do a Dazzler comic on twitter earlier.
It reminded me of something.
When we were doing PHONOGRAM, we were often asked in interviews about what superhero work we wanted to do. Our standard answer was Dazzler, not as we really wanted to specifically, but because we wanted to talk about our creator owned books in interviews. It was a standard answer that got a laugh, and to get back to trying to make people interested in our desperately uninteresting indie book.
However, the problem with writers is that if you even say things enough near them, they’ll find themselves thinking about it on some level. And one day I realised I had an idea for a Dazzler story.
And then you find yourself just writing them down, to get them out of your head. I did it for this story, and put it in a folder alongside such masterworks as ROBIN HOOD VERSUS PREDATOR, and expected to never touch it again. I’m not working for Marvel, and I wasn’t trying to court them. I had uninteresting indie books to try and sell.
Then Fraction mentions to me that Marvel may be looking for a Dazzler mini. I smile, polish it up a bit and lob it at Axel and Nick.
It didn’t go anywhere for reasons that will become immediately obvious - in part that Attilan had just moved off the moon, in part that it was patently apeshit - but I’m still fond of it in many ways. There’s at least two jokes I like in it a lot - the implicit one that it’s a PROG vs DISCO story set on the Dark Side of the Moon and the other which you’ll probably guess, as I mention it twice.
And on a more practical level, people do ask me what one of my synopsis/pitches look like. This is a very early version, obviously, but may be interesting for that too.
Anyway - here’s what 2007 era Gillen was thinking about the Disco Dazzler…