Be Dazzled!

PROBLEM: Can a former roller-skating mutant/disco diva ever become regarded as a serious, credible super hero?dazz1

You have to feel a little sorry for Dazzler. She’s had a rough go of it even before she made her official superhero debut in 1980. Originally created by Marvel Comics as a multimedia tie-in with Casablanca Records, Dazzler was to be a first – a comic book singing super heroine with a real-life recording artist counterpart. As Marvel made a big push to establish Dazzler as a presence in the Marvel universe (with high profile guest appearances in The Uncanny X-Men and Spider-Man) Casablanca Records was supposed to be developing an actual disco diva counterpart. But, after numerous delays, Casablanca Records suddenly withdrew from the project.

Despite this setback, the groundwork had been laid and ignoring the fact that disco had all but died, Marvel went ahead with their plans to launch  Dazzler as an ongoing series. Telling the story of Alison Blaire – a disco singer with the onstage persona of “The Dazzler” – who discovers she has the mutant ability to transduce sound into light, it was initially a success and practically every big-name hero and villain popped up in the book’s first year. Dazzler seemed to be on her way to making it a credible super hero, working with the likes of the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Spider-Man and going toe-to-toe with heavyweights like Dr. Doom, The Hulk and even Galactus.

Unfortunately, the series began to focus more on Alison Blaire than Dazzler and even went so far as having her throw in the towel on her singing career, ditch her kitschy yet iconic disco duds and leave New York for an L.A. acting career. Now being portrayed as the ultimate reluctant super-hero, even the fans couldn’t get behind her (letter columns from these issues contain a number of comments  lamenting how boring, dull and downbeat Dazzler had become – and these were the fans!). And how can you expect for a super hero to seem credible when she doesn’t even want to be a super hero?

dazzlermarvel-graphic-novel-12After a well-received graphic novel – Dazzler: The Movie – in which Alison comes out as a mutant, then quickly becomes a scapegoat, Marvel finally stepped in line by giving Dazzler an actual costume, amplified powers and some training with the X-Men. But it was too little, too late and Dazzler was cancelled at issue #42. But Dazzler’s rocky road to rebirth had already started, so let’s take a look at some notable points on her journey and see if Dazzler was able weather the ups and down to come her way (as both a property and a character) and emerge as something more than “former disco diva”.

THE X-MEN YEARS

After her title is cancelled, Dazzler resurfaces and officially joins the X-Men after taking on Juggernaut all by xmen218herself.  She ends up sacrificing herself (along with the rest of the X-Men) fighting the villainous Adversary, (but they are all resurrected because, comics).

Dazzler is chosen as one of the core characters in the 1989 X-Men animated pilot “Pryde of the X-Men”. Unfortunately, the pilot isn’t well received and undergoes massive retooling. When X-Men: The Animated Series finally debuts in 1992, Dazzler is noticeably absent.

Due in part to her role in the animated pilot, Dazzler becomes a playable character in Konami’s classic side-scrolling X-Men Arcade game. However, being in a video game where the other playable characters are Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Colossus and Nightcrawler pretty much means Dazzler never makes the 4-player short list.

Dazzler falls in love with fellow X-Man, Longshot, and they eventually the leave the team to become rebellion fighters in Longshot’s home dimension (the Mojoverse). Dazzler is only seen sporadically over the next decade.

NEW EXCALIBUR

Dazzler resurfaces again, but without Longshot, and it is revealed that she suffered a miscarriage in her time away.new excalibur

She finally reconnects with Longshot…but he has comics-amnesia and can’t remember much – if anything – about their time together.

Dazzler tries to jump-start her singing career in the UK – sporting a tougher look and an ill-advised short pink hairstyle. She ends up joining Captain Britain and others as part of the team New Excalibur (who launch in a comic book of the same name).

As a member of New Excalibur, Dazzler gets killed – TWICE! But she’s okay because she has somehow developed new resurrection-based powers (?!).

New Excalibur is cancelled after 18 issues. Dazzler returns to the U.S. (and her resurrection powers and pink hair are never spoken of or alluded to again – yay comics!).

X-MAN, AGAIN

Dazzler resurfaces yet again, this time at the X-Men’s new base, Utopia. She’s almost unrecognizable, now with long blonde hair and a completely new costume.

She becomes a supporting member of the now-sprawling X-Men roster, occasionally taking part in an adventure or two while also pursuing singing gigs in nearby San Francisco.

Dazzler is chosen by Cyclops to head up the X-Men’s unseen “Street Team” to help foster relations between humans and mutants.

X-TREME X-MEN

A statuesque Classic Dazzler (via Bowen Designs).

A statuesque classic Dazzler (via Bowen Designs)

So, now we’re pretty much back to square one, with Alison Blaire making her way via singing gigs and taking part in the occasional heroic exploit. And even though her power set has greatly increased over the years and despite the fact that she has sported three distinct looks since her white-jumpsuit days, it’s still “Disco Dazzler” that gets the most love and recognition (both in the comics and in the real world – see right) – everyone loves that Dazzler – the now retro-cool, sparkling, roller-skating human mirror ball.

So it would have to take something drastic, something unexpected to shake up everyone’s preconceptions of Dazzler. Something where she could prove once and for all that she was not a frivolous lightweight but xtreme12that she has what it takes to be one of the top guns. Fortunately, that something came along in the form of X-Treme X-men.

In this series, Dazzler gets sucked through a portal to an alternate Earth and ends up taking charge of a rag-tag group of alternate reality X-men as they race against enormous odds to prevent the destruction of the multiverse. This is where Dazzler finally gets to shine. And while the series only lasted for 13 issues, it was enough to make a mark for Dazzler. It showed this new, empowered and powered-up Dazzler stepping up to the plate, gaining confidence in herself and becoming a steadfast (not to mention quite good) leader. She even gains the respect of Wolverine after she returned home and joined forces with her former teammates for her final mission with the X-Treme X-men.

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Dazzler has no doubt now proved to both readers and naysayers that she can be taken seriously as a hero, but the effects of  how this new take-charge Dazzler will fit it with the rest of the Marvel Universe proper has yet be seen. However, if this teaser page from a recent Uncanny X-Men is any indication, it looks like she’s about ready to shake things up.

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