Armagideon Time

Dazzler is one of those characters — alongside Gambit and the android Red Tornado — who would instantly qualify for Nobody’s Favorite status…if they didn’t possess an inexplicable and quite vociferous fanbase.

The mutant disco (no affiliation) diva was an abortive bit of cross-media multimarketing, therapist an attempt to capture the power of the boogie fever hegemony in funnybook form. Unfortunately for the parties involved, abortion the public mania for all things disco experienced a massive implosion shortly after Dazzler’s debut in Uncanny X-Men #130 (February 1980).

By the time she landed her own solo title in 1981, order her designed-by-committee roller disco ensemble (featuring a glitterball medallion) had become an extremely dated punchline even as all traces of her original Bridge-and-Tunnel tough chick persona faded into bland WASP-iness. Still, this was a time when slapping “Marvel” on the cover of a book and an X-Men appearance on the inside could guarantee a level of speculation-driven sales which contemporary publishers would sacrifice their firstborn children to obtain.

Whether by the virtue of nostalgic camp kitsch or fond memories of an era when X-titles were illustrated by the likes of Bret Belvins and Art Adams, Dazzler has somehow managed to retain a significant number of devoted fans…

…though good luck finding anyone willing to admit they’ve read (or much less enjoyed) Dazzler: The Movie.

The 1984 graphic novel came wrapped in a typically gorgeous cover by Bill Sienkiewicz and the breathy promise that it would “effect every living mutant (sorry, Changeling!) FOREVER!” That’s a fairly high bar to set out of the gate and the actual story — crafted by Big Jim Shooter, Frank “Deserved Better” Springer, and Vince “The Living Eraser” Colleta — had a snowball’s chance in hell of delivering the goods.

The tale opens with Alison Blaire (a.k.a. Dazzler) settling in on the West Coast, where she teaches aerobics classes by day and performs Elton John covers in a dinner theater by night. While the X-Men (so now you have to buy a copy, fanboy!) worry that “Ali” is risking her safety by semi-covertly flaunting her mutant sound-into-light powers at a time of heightened anti-mutant hysteria, the struggling singer is more concerned about fending off the unwanted advances of Mr. Sinister Mustache Guy and a faded Hollywood heart-throb seeking to use Ali’s glamor to give a lift to his own stalled career.

After announcing that Ali would be the star of his next picture, the latter lothario begins his pursuit in earnest. He physically forces himself upon her. She blows out the tires of his sports car with a lazer beam and sends him crashing into a brick wall. He fakes a heart attack in order to cop a feel.

There ain’t no romance like superhero funnybook romance, I tell you, and thank providence for that.

Ali eventually agrees to hear the comedic creeper’s pitch, with the stipulation that their relationship remain on a business level…

…though your definition of “business” may differ from Dazzler’s.

Life as a pampered nugget of arm-candy to an unctuous slice of paparazzi-bait soon takes its toll on Ali’s attitude and physique. She experiences a moment of genuflection in which she wonders if her newfound fame and fortune were worth the price she paid, if perhaps she wasn’t happier when she was a struggling songbird with limited career prospects. (Scenes like these are what social scientists refer to as “the grease that keeps the grinders of capitalism moving.”)

That state of complacency is rocked to the core, however, when her lumpy lover tries to drum up publicity for the upcoming Dazzler movie by informing the press that the star is a bona fide member of the mutant race. As the protests against her genetic variance ramp up, Ali performs a public demonstration of powers by converting the noise of a brace of jet engines into a spectacular lightshow which strikes terror into the heart of a previously adoring crowd.

The exhibition unlocks new refinements to Dazzler’s mutant powers and triggers a pronounced transformation in her attitude. No longer willing to be a pampered starlet, Ali takes a more aggressive stance in both the bedroom…

…and the boardroom.

She seizes control of the film’s production, with the intent of turning Woman in Goofy Jumpsuit Makes Shit Explode (expect a 2016 remake by Zack Snyder) into a personal project advocating the peaceful coexistence of humans and mutants.

No sooner does the project wrap, however, than the true architect of the above events emerges.

Yes, it was the work of Mr. Sinister Mustache Guy all along! He wanted to bind Ali’s sleazeball has-been beau to an exclusive contract and perhaps score a sweet piece of mutant ass on the side! What better way to make that happen than to sink tens of millions of dollars into a non-starter of an action film and whip up the currents of anti-mutant hysteria?

Don’t laugh, you plebes. He ran the numbers past his people and was told the percentages were just fine.

Ali rejects the faustian financier’s diabolical deal, incinerating the sole copy of the film in the process. After planting a farewell kiss on her repentant former beau, the slightly dinged Dazzler steps out into a promising future involving this cover, this cherished quarter-muncher, and not a whole lot else, to be honest.

For all the promises of radical changes and upended applecarts, Dazzler: The Movie didn’t accomplish much apart from separating obsessive X-completists (back when such a pursuit was arguably achievable) from ten bucks that would have better spent on Millie the Model back issues. I have no idea why the Mighty Shooter chose to descent from his editorial Olympus to take an active hand in its creation, unless he woke up one morning and decided that Marvel readers could really use a surreal superhero take on Mahogany staged like an extended Apartment 3-G arc and starring a minor member of the X-Men’s supporting cast.

Hell, it wouldn’t be Shooter’s weirdest creative decision.

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15 Responses to “Nobody’s Favorites: A star is stillborn”

  1. Tec15

    I actually came across this a couple of months ago while looking at old Marvel graphic novels at my local comic shop. There were quite a number of copies funnily enough. All told, Emperor Doom appeared to be the better purchase.

  2. LouReedRichards

    That artwork is surprisingly good for a collaboration between Springer and Colletta. I’m a little taken aback by just how good it is.

  3. Bill D.

    Funny you should bring up Gambit and Red Tornado because I think they are my least favorite characters from their respective companies.

    And Tec15, Emperor Doom was a fun story and definitely worth the purchase.

  4. Bill S.

    “…a surreal superhero take on Mahogany staged like an extended Apartment 3-G arc and starring a minor member of the X-Men’s supporting cast.”

    Not going to lie, that sounds like something I would love reading, although I’m reasonably certain I wouldn’t enjoy reading this. Dazzler is a character I have a lot of affection for, in spite of never having read anything with her that was remotely memorable. I think it may just be how outre her outfit was: at a certain point it seems to have flipped for me from being completely ridiculous to a sort of comforting retro-futurism.

  5. athodyd

    I assume “Roman Nekoboh” is a reference to the immigrants and Jews who Americanized their names to fit in better, except it doesn’t really work since Irving Berlin never went around calling himself Irving Edis-Tsae-Rewol.

  6. Tim O'Neil

    If those last couple of samples weren’t ghosted by John Romita, Sr. (undoubtedly at the last minute for whatever reason) I’ll eat my hat.

  7. Randy Jackson

    I own a copy, although I haven’t read it in a while. It’s not that good of a story.

  8. Snark Shark

    ” cover by Bill Sienkiewicz ”

    actually, that looks like the most BORING thing he’s ever done! Goes with the rest of the book, apparently!

  9. LurkerWithout

    I know Fox or whoever has the movie adaption rights to the X-Men stuff, but I wonder if they hold television adaptation as well. ‘Cause a tween Dazzler show where young Alison balances school, pop stardom and being a mutant seems like something that would be right in the Disney Channel wheelhouse…

  10. Matthew Johnson

    LurkerWithout, I think adding mutants might just be the thing to resuscitate a faded franchies. Why it’s all there in the theme song already:

    I’m going to live forever (like Apocalypse)
    I’m going to learn how to fly (like Angel, or Storm, or whoever…)
    People will see me and cry (OK, not the best mutant power ever, but they can’t all be winners.)

  11. Prankster

    I think the affection for Dazzler comes from the fact that she’s such a huge whiff, conceptually, that she becomes weirdly sympathetic and poignant. Like Poochie, it’s not her fault she’s the product of soulless marketing, and presenting herself as The Sensational Character Find of 197-whatever when she’s so, so obviously not that is weirdly endearing.

  12. sallyp

    Red Tornado? But I LOVE Ma Hunkel!

    Oh…you mean the other one.

    Carry on then.

  13. Elijah Fly

    I thought ultimate comics Dazzler was vaguely interesting in it’s ‘let make her a punk rawk chick of the P!nk variety’. but nothing came of it, and she was murder fodder for the ultimatium event, one detail out of many singling that Ultimate comics wasn’t worth paying attention too.

  14. Kid Kyoto

    It took me a bit but I finally realized that Roman Nekoboh is Frank Sinatra. Nekoboh is Frank’s hometown of Hoboken spelt backwards.

  15. Tracer Bullet

    Leaving aside the gross gender politics of turning her near-rapist into her boyfriend, what is the point of ruining Dazzler to sign a washed-up actor? Actors, particularly of the washed-up variety, are desperate to get back in front of the camera. “Hey, you? You doing anything professionally?” “No.” “Great. Sign this contract.” “Okay!”

    And Bridge-and-Tunnel Tough Girl or Sexually-dominant Ball Buster is a better personality than . . . Does she have a personality? Slightly Spoiled Pop Princess?

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