Dazzler #1 (1981)
Written by Tom DeFalco
Art by John Romita JR, Alfredo Alcala, and Glynis Wein
Lettering by Joe Rosen
I was born in 1983 (two years AFTER this comic was published) so the way I discovered Dazzler was much the same as my discovery of Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld, Perez’s Wonder Woman, and Nocenti-era Spider-Woman – years past their publication date, the unwanted “girls” books in back issue bins in the early ‘90s. I was combing antique stores and garage sales for X-Men comics at the time, but having a few extra dollars meant picking up everything I could get my hands on. All these series remain among my very favorite books, better even than the X-Men, sometimes!
There are a lot of comics that give me comfort, but the Dazzler series has been a favorite since my earliest days as a reader, despite the merciless jokes of fanboys who had decreed her a useless and ridiculous character. Alison Blaire made her first appearance during the X-Men’s Dark Phoenix Saga, which I would have read the first time around age fourteen in one of those telephone book sized black and white “Essential” collections. Alison was one of the highlights of the story, appearing almost inexplicably amid all of the action on the streets of New York City, talking in immediately dated slang and sporting some of the wildest blue eye shadow you’ve ever seen in your life. Unlike nearly every other mutant the X-Men have ever encountered, Dazzler had no interest in uprooting her music career to join Marvel’s Merry Mutants, and I will always have respect for her for that.
Years later, I would learn that her appearance in The Dark Phoenix Saga seemed wedged in because it was – she had been a commission from the now-defunct Casablanca Records, who had intended to tie in a film in with the comic. In her earliest incarnation, she had been based on the great Grace Jones, though she was ultimately changed to physically resemble Bo Derek more than she did Grace. The film never happened, though the screenplay for it did, and there was indeed a truly bizarre comic called Dazzler: The Movie that would see publication in Marvel Graphic Novel #12 (1989). Somehow, this chaotic beginning is somehow fitting for the character we would later come to know and love.
The first time I remember reading about Dazzler, however, is Dazzler #1-2, which I picked up for next-to-nothing in a longbox of unloved comics at the closest comic book store to me (a mere hour long drive away). I had a smattering of issues from the series, and tried to piece together what the heck this character was about. In the end, I still might not totally get what they were going for in this series, but it’s still a lot of fun. Though Alison struggles with finding purpose and encounters many logic-defying threats, it is still a delight, more because of its absurdity than in spite of it. Though it isn’t available in its entirety on Marvel Unlimited, I’ve been chatting it up in public long enough that eventually the demand will grow to a place where they can no longer ignore it! Let’s face it, the world deserves to be dazzled!
Dazzler 1 & 2 are truly all over the place. The first issue opens on Dazzler being attacked by henchmen sent after her by her “latest manager” that she refuses to sign because it offers 0% royalties. She flashes her powers only to get immediately upstaged by Spider-Man, who swoops in and makes short work of them. Alison goes home to mope, listen to music on her Merantz CX550 (an actual receiver from the late ‘70s, it turns out), and reminisce about her terrible father, who spent a lot of her childhood yelling at her whenever she would try to dance or sing, and ultimately disowned her when she walked away from a career in law to sing for a living. The X-Men make a chaotic appearance when Dazzler tries to call Ororo to shoot the breeze, then, fast enough to give you whiplash, we run from the Avengers Mansion to Asgard.
Amora the Enchantress is hanging out in her absolutely baller house, turning men into trees for annoying her. This is supposed to make her seem like a remorseless villain, but for me, this is a truly epic and inspirational scene. I love The Enchantress easily as much as I love Dazzler, and her outfits in this issue just can’t be beat. She chooses to go to “The Disco” to audition for a position as their house singer, but when she gets there, Alison is already on the scene. Despite The Enchantress’ beauty, Dazzler’s skills as a vocalist can’t be beat, and she wins the competition. Amora’s response? Well, blast through the wall and vow her revenge, of course!
The fun continues into the next issue of the series, but I’ve done enough gushing so I’ll leave you here. Besides this issue, there are a few other high spots in the Dazzler series before you set it back down. Right after these two issues, she has a hilarious and baffling encounter with Doctor Doom in #3. In issue #13, she ends up in prison and gets the stuffing beaten out of her by the Grapplers, a truly underrated team of lady wrestler themed supervillains. Issue #16, Amora the Enchantress returns, and she’s just as great there as she is here. In #22, she squares off against none other than a pre-Carol Danvers Rogue. Down the line, she teams up with the Inhumans and the X-Men, and even develops an odd-couple romance with one Hank McCoy. Say what you will about Hank, he’s somehow still more likeable than most of Alison’s boyfriends up to this point.
Even though a lot of people have dismissed or made fun of the Dazzler series over the years, there’s no denying that this is a solid #1 and even if Dazzler isn’t your jam, it features cameos from roughly half the Marvel Universe. This was a series rife with guest appearances, but some of the best are in this very first issue. This story fits in a lot for a mere 24 pages. By the end of it all, it’s kind of baffling that the villain of the issue did nothing but turn a guy into a tree and blast through a wall after losing a singing competition that she herself imposed. Still, reading it almost thirty years after the first time I picked it up, it’s still a whole lot of fun. The story goes all over the place, but Dazzler’s life is nothing if not a rollercoaster. If there’s anything I can relate to this character about, it’s that!