By 1980, Marvel Comics readers had become accustomed to the strange, exciting and tumultuous world of the X-Men and their fellow mutants, but in “Uncanny X-Men” #130, they were introduced to a different kind of mutant, Alison Blaire AKA Dazzler. Blaire was both a mutant and a musician, so she had to deal with the dual perils of the superhero and entertainment worlds. After her initial appearance in “Uncanny X-Men,” Dazzler didn’t do the expected and join the intrepid band of mutants, opting instead to set out to make her own way in the world.
In the “Dazzler” title which ran from 1981-1985, she did just that. Over the course of the series, the mutant heroine faced super-powered adversaries like the Enchantress and Doctor Doom, and even had a brief encounter with the planet devouring Galactus. However, the comic also focused on the non-superheroic aspects of the character’s life, like her career and her relationships. After the series ended, Dazzler eventually joined the X-Men and was a valuable member of the team for years. In 2005, she moved to England and became a cast member of “New Excalibur.” After that series wrapped in 2007, Blaire made her way to San Francisco where she is once again a part of the X-Men.
So, Alison Blaire has a long sordid pas, involving epic heroic conflicts, career victories and missteps and a complicated relationship with her younger half sister, Lois London, who operates as the mutant villain Mortis in the current “Necrosha” storyline that’s running through “X-Force.” In May, writer Jim McCann [“New Avengers: The Reunion”] and artist Kalman Andrasofszky [“NYX: No Way Home”] plan to explore these various elements of the fan favorite character in a special “Dazzler” one-shot. CBR News spoke with McCann about the project.
CBR News: Jim, it’s no secret that you’re a big fan of Dazzler. That being said, I understand that this project came about when editor Mike Horwitz approached you to write a “Dazzler” one shot and your initial answer was, “Let me think about it?”
Jim McCann: I think Dazzler is a character that can be relevant and powerful and popular, but I didn’t want to write her for the sake of saying “I wrote Dazzler! Yeah!” I wanted to wait until I actually had a story. I thought about it for a while, and it hit me that there were two things I wanted to do with this if I were to take the gig:
1) Address the “image” problem and stigma Dazzler has. She is seen as a joke or a throw-away character now, but that wasn’t the case at all back in the day. She turned down the X-Men. twice.
2) I wanted to give her two things that she was missing that I think every character needs to be fully rounded: a villain and a family/loved one. The story that came to mind fit both of those, so I agreed.
The first aspect is addressed directly to the reader through Alison’s thoughts and her actions, and it’s done in a way that is sometimes blatant. Then, other times, there are revelations that she makes along with the reader.
The second, I realized could be accomplished in one person: Lois London, her sister who was also a mutant. So I wrote the first draft of this one-shot and we sent it over to the X-Office guys to make sure I wasn’t conflicting with anything they had planned for Dazzler and got back a note that I never imagined. It turned out I wasn’t the only person looking at bring back Lois London! Craig Kyle and Chris Yost had added her to Selene’s group for the (then upcoming) “Necrosha” event! What are the odds that three writers, working on two different projects would want to bring back 1 character who appeared in only five issues over 25 years ago?! Do that math!
So Craig and Chris got my script, since Lois (now named Mortis- which fit her perfectly – hats off to those guys!) was needed in the event, and we had a pow-wow at Wizard World Chicago. Since anything could- and will– happen in “Necrosha,” Mortis’ survival at the time was not guaranteed. I gave them my best puppy dog eyes and they agreed to let her live. (They are awesome guys who I love dearly. I probably didn’t need the puppy dog eyes, just the extra cash I stuffed in their suitcases as hush money) We then compared back-stories for Lois (I had written a back-up feature for the one shot and they had written one for “Necrosha the Gathering”) and the similarities were amazing. We were all on the same page as to what she’d been through and where she was now.
So , they wrote all of the Necrosha scripts over the next few months and I tabled the one-shot because we all thought it would be best for this to come after. That way, these two sisters could deal with the fall-out and face off in the aftermath of Lois’ actions. I retooled my one shot to be a “Necrosha” aftermath book and it made for a much more powerful story. I owe Chris and Craig a ton for that, so thanks guys!
Dazzler isn’t one of Marvel’s big name characters, but she does seem to be an iconic character to you and the other members of her vocal and devoted fanbase. What is it about Dazzler that makes her fans love her so much?
Well, she has an incredibly iconic (if dated) look with the disco thing, and that is both a blessing and a curse. But I think the real reason is it’s the fact that she represents someone that is very relatable. She struggles in her career, her self-image, her love life, her place in the world, and the persecution that she’s gone through at other people’s hands just for being who she is. That’s a huge part. She is the mutant metaphor that translates to a lot of different minorities.
All of that was addressed in her solo series- we got to see her day-to-day life, which was unusual for a lot of spandex characters (especially when that came with roller skates and disco balls). That “slice of life” aspect she brought to comics continued to be a part of the character through the 80s. She was sort of lost in the late 90s and much of the 2000s, but I think we’re starting to see more of that Alison a little more now.
She’s strong willed, and that was shown from the first appearance. She turned down membership in the X-Men twice. It was that second time that made me fall completely in love with the character, in “Dazzler” #38. She kicks Wolverine and Colossus’ asses in a real-world training session and then basically says, “Ok, thanks guys! I’m ready to take on the world again. On my own. Call ya if I need help.” That’s my girl.
Another seemingly misunderstood aspect about Dazzler is her mutant power, which has been interpreted and presented a number of different ways during the course of the character’s life. In your mind, what exactly is Dazzler’s mutant ability and how powerful is it?
Simply put, she absorbs sound and transforms it into light. That can take the form of lasers, solid holograms, light bursts, all sorts of ways. I also did a lot of research into the aspects of light and the ways that can be harnessed and used in preparing for this to add to her power set in one or two ways, so you’ll see some new things pop up that should be exciting.
As you mentioned, this takes place in the aftermath of the current “Necrosha” storyline. How much story time has passed and what’s on Dazzler’s mind when the one-shot begins?
This happens just a few weeks after “Necrosha.” I can’t say a lot because that event is still going on (And you should all be reading it!!!). But the fact that she finally was reunited with her sister again only to find Lois is a villain known as Mortis, killing Dazzler’s friends – that’s enough to mess anyone up. She’s at a loss of what to do and that is also manifesting itself in her own life, so you could say she’s at the biggest crossroads she’s ever faced.
Obviously, Mortis plays a huge role in your story. What you do find most interesting about the character and what makes her a compelling foil for Dazzler?
She is a fascinating character because she is the perfect foil for Dazzler – not just in powers, but in the way Lois sees the world. They are sisters, but they grew up apart. The experiences they have had have led them down two radically different paths. Added to that is the fact that they are both mutants and the way they deal with it psychologically – I couldn’t have asked for a better enemy/sister for Dazzler!
What can you tell us about the plot and themes of this one-shot?
The plot is simple: survival and what we have to do to achieve that. And I mean that mentally, physically and emotionally. And how two people can show you two different sides of the coin. There is a strong theme of acceptance and rejection that runs through this as well.
And lasers. Lots of lasers.
Is there anything else you can tell us about the supporting cast of your story? Is this mainly a tale of Dazzler vs. Mortis, or are there other important supporting players as well?
There are some very important supporting players. In addition to some X-Men, we will see some huge names in this. Mortis has her own gang now that she’s running with, and they include a lot of people that Dazzler faced in her solo series. Maybe you’ve heard of a few of them: Dr. Doom. Enchantress. And Rogue?! There are a few others, but I don’t want to ruin the surprises. Let’s just say that this story makes Dazzler look back at her early days in her solo series and realize “What the $^&*#$ was I thinking taking on these people alone?!”
Dazzler is a character that has quite a bit of camp elements attached to her, like her original disco inspired costume. Throughout her history, though, she’s also experienced some pretty serious and emotional things. So how would you describe the tone of your “Dazzler” one-shot?
I address the campiness right away through Dazzler herself. She acknowledges it. But once you peel away that layer of blue face-paint and skin-tight silver jumpsuit, you are left with someone who has gone through hell, and she needs to realize that and embrace the strength that comes with it if she’s going to survive. That’s something Lois could learn from as well, but I don’t know if she’s ready to…yet.
You’re working with artist Kalman Andrasofszky on this one-shot. What’s it like working with him? What do you feel he brings to this book as an artist?
Aside from sheer awesomeness?! More awesome. I loved his work on “NYX,” so I was thrilled when I found out we were working together on this. There are specific things I wrote in just for him because I feel there’s an energy and composition that Kalman can bring to a page that fit this book and these characters perfectly.
Seriously, look at that cover and you’ll realize Kalman understands Dazzler. There are a lot of layers in that one image alone and when you see what he brings to the table for the story, you’ll be blown away! Also, added to the eerie similarity factor, Kalman was asked to draw the Mortis story for “Necrosha the Gathering” before he stared working on this! It was meant to be!!
As I mentioned above it’s no secret that you’re a huge Dazzler fan. So if this one-shot does well would you be game to tell more stories featuring Alison Blaire? Do you have ideas where you’d like to take her next?
Dear God, yes. Next year is the 30th anniversary of her ongoing (this year is the 30th anniversary of her first appearance. You look great, Ali!!), and I would love to do more with her, if they’ll let me. Again, I don’t want to write her because I’m “that Dazzler guy,” I want to write a story that fits the character and adds to her, moving her forward. I have one in mind and will hopefully be bringing that to the table soon. So, we’ll see!
In the meantime, the best way to help more Dazzler appearances is to buy this book. Seriously. People point out that her solo series was rather successful, and it was at the time. Today, Dazzler fans are vocal, now let’s see them on the march to prove that she deserves a spot on the shelves in today’s market. In the words of Dazzler herself, “Go for it!”
Any final thoughts that you would like to share about your “Dazzler” one-shot?
Aside from me thanking everyone involved in this, from Mike Horwitz to Jeanine Schaefer, Craig Kyle, Chris Yost, David Gabriel, Kalman, I want to thank the writers who have come before, who gave Dazzler such a rich history to mine from. I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface, but if this was my one chance at writing her, I certainly had a blast doing it. I hope the fans feel the same when reading!