This is the forty-eighth in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous forty-seven.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Dazzler was created as a cross-promotion between Marvel and Casablanca Records.
In Comic Feature #7 from November 1980, Richard Howell and Carol Kalish interviewed Roger Stern, Tom DeFalco and Louise Jones about the debut of Dazzler, and how the character came about. According to the article,
The collaboration with Casablanca caused many development difficulties in the Dazzler concept, leading Marvel to cancel the book “five or six times” previous to the publication of its first issue (a possible record). Although over the past year, Marvel had begun to guest-star The Dazzler in various targeted-circulation titles in their own comics line, the corporate vacillation of Casablanca over the character’s future caused several significant variations of powers and personality between her various depictions. At the time, The Dazzler was guest-starring in SPIDER-MAN, for example (#203), Spidey’s then-scripter Marv Wolfman called DAZZLER-writer Tom DeFalco to ascertain the nature of The Dazzler’s powers. “At that time,” says DeFalco, “I had gotten three different power suggestions from Casablanca. I had to tell Marv, ‘Marv, I can’t tell you! I told him what the three powers were…'”
Later on, when discussing how Dazzler developed from an initial concept called “The Disco Queen,” the interview proceeds…
Comic Feature: Did Casablanca’s interest precede DISCO QUEEN or was it the spark for THE DAZZLER?
Tom DeFalco: Casablanca’s interest was before DISCO QUEEN.
Louise Jones: Casablanca just came to Marvel and said, “Hey, you make a singer and we’ll create someone to take on the persona.” It was a wonderful tie-in. And then Casablanca… (Jones puts thumbs down)
DeFalco: So anyway, we worked out a plot, Jim Shooter and I. Jim was editor-in-chief so it was accepted by Marvel. The plot went over to Casablanca. Casablanca said, “No, this is nothing like what we want.” So they bounced it back.
Comic Feature: Did they say what they did want?
DeFalco: They had about ten or twelve different things that they wanted. I’m a professional commercial writer and I can put in anything that a customer wants. Especially if they were willing to pay for it over and over again. So we went and did everything that they wanted. Sometimes it was pretty silly, but we did it just the way they wanted.
Comic Feature: Anything in particular?
DeFalco: At this point I can’t remember the silly things but it didn’t really matter because the second time they saw it they decided again that it wasn’t what they really wanted. So I think around the third or the fourth time we finally got what they wanted, more or less, and we had essentially the story that will appear in Dazzler #1 and #2. They wanted some strange things done with the artwork. Take the X-MEN pages which basically come across like bubblegum cards. They said the story was fine and basically everything was fine – they wanted the F.F., THE NEW X-MEN, SPIDER-MAN, THE HULK, and a bunch of other characters thrown in.
Comic Feature: All in one issue?
DeFalco: Yes. By this time we had already decided not to publish it as a regular comic book. We were going to bring it out as a Super-Special. So we had like 34 superheroes in the book?? I don’t remember what it was – some outrageous number – and we were going to publish a 34-page book. They liked all the introductory scenes where all the characters were introduced, but they just didn’t see any need for a fight scene. Originally there was just a one page fight scene. Didn’t you realize that in issue #2 there was only a one page fight scene (to Jones)?
Jones: Oh, I realized that, we changed it…
DeFalco: J.R. [John Romita Jr, the artist] made it work. You almost wouldn’t notice it. J.R. really worked on this project, and when he’s good, he’s fabulous – when she’s having an off-day, he’s merely brilliant – still they wanted so much introductory stuff in the space allotted, especially the way they wanted it written…
Jones: That’s exactly what I thought happened… that they wanted so much introductory stuff that there wasn’t room for a fight scene.
DeFalco: They wanted so much introductory stuff that we had a 34-page story with a one page fight scene. It was a weird story with these 34 characters fighting the Enchantress in one page.
At one point, Casablanca wanted the character to be black, hence the following piece that John Romita drew for Casablanca president Neil Bogart in 1979 (with Bogart in the piece), during the creation process (drawing courtesy of Novaya Havoc).
Reader Ted Watson wrote in with the following question,
Actually, I don’t know that this qualifies as an U.L. or just a mystery, since I’ve never encountered a suggestion that anybody else suspects it, but I’ve wondered about this ever since the underlying event happened in the mid-70s. At that time, DC instituted a new policy, prohibiting an editor from writing for his own comics. They even changed the job title, with “Story Editor,” if memory serves. It didn’t last long, and was history when Roy Thomas arrived from Marvel (Gerry Conway also edited his Firestorm revival, Fury of….). As the new policy went into effect, the first issue of Kobra was published, a comic created, plotted and pencilled by Jack Kirby, but admitted to have been reworked by scripter Martin Pasko, with the artwork retouched, by Pablo Marcos, I think. The question: Was the new rule motivated by a desire to get rid of Kirby, who was essentially running his own company out of his studio, and putting out comics that the vast majority thereof suffered from poor sales and quick cancellations (in those pre-direct-distribution-to-comic-shops days)? Please note that no disrespect whatsoever to the King on my part is intended by the above theorizing.
It was an interesting question, so I put it to everyone’s favorite “guy who knows a lot about comic, specifically Jack Kirby comics,” Mark Evanier.
Here is Mark’s reply:
The policy was instituted after Kirby left. KOBRA was published some time after it was done. And Kirby’s sales track record at the time was no worse than anyone else’s. DC had dozens of comics that were quickly cancelled.
The no writer-editor policy was instituted because there were several people who wanted that status but DC’s then-management felt they were not worthy. Rather than alienate those people, the publisher decided to just eliminate the position. But this was a decision made after Jack was already back at Marvel.
In his great book of interviews, Comic Creators on the Fantastic Four, Tom DeFalco asked John Byrne about Fantastic Four #220 and #221, which were the first two issues of Fantastic Four that John Byrne both wrote and drew.
Jim Salicrup, who was editing Fantastic Four at the time, called me up one day and asked me if I would like to do a comic book that would distrbuted by Coca-Cola. They wanted me to use the Fantastic Four, so I came up with a self-contained, very innocuous kind of story because that was what Coke wanted. They didn’t want anything huge and cosmic with planets exploding or anything like that. My story was slightly less than a double-sized issue, and when it was all finished, Coca-Cola said that the story was much too violent. If you go back and look at it, you’ll see that the Thing hits a couple of robots. But it was too violent for Coca-Cola and they rejected it. Jim suggested we cut it in half, add a couple of pages and turn it into two issues of Fantastic Four. They’re the two dullest issues of the FF ever published.
Five cool points to anyone who can tell me if Coca-Cola ended up doing a comic, and if so, what was it like?
Well, that’s it for this week, thanks for stopping by!
Feel free to drop off any urban legends you’d like to see featured!