Cover of Dazzler's first appearance. Artist: John Byrne.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1980
Creators: Chris Claremont (writer) and John Byrne (artist)
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Marvel Comics had Kung Fu superheroes (e.g., Shang Chi) when Kung Fu was trendy, black superheroes with attitudes (e.g., Luke Cage) when black protagonists with attitudes …

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… were trendy, and feminist-like superheroes (e.g., Ms. Marvel) when feminism became trendy in popular entertainment. When disco was trendy, nobody was surprised to see them bring out a superhero like Dazzler.

Dazzler wasn't created, as a lot of characters are, in a flash of inspiration followed by a lot of development work. She was the result of a decision for the company to exploit the disco market just like it had exploited any number of other markets, and development work consisted largely of simply figuring out how to translate disco elements into the superhero idiom. Writer Chris Claremont (Iron Fist) and artist John Byrne (Alpha Flight) wrote and drew the story where she was introduced to the public, so they're generally regarded as her creators; but she didn't result purely from their work. When she got her own comic, the first on it were writer Tom DeFalco (later Marvel's editor-in-chief) and artist John Romita Jr. (Iron Man). The artist most associated with her was Frank Springer (Brain Boy, Phoebe Zeit-Geist).

Dazzler was Alison Blaire, a mutant whose special ability was to turn sound waves into light. Like Spider-Man, she tried to avoid superheroics in favor of a career in entertainment — the self-generated light show, combined with her natural singing ability, made a great act. Also like Spidey, she found herself involved in superheroics anyway. "Dazzler" (early, seldom-used variant: "Disco Dazzler") started out as her stage name. She got around the stage on roller skates, which also came in handy for superhero work.

Marvel gave the character a huge launch, devoting an issue of its most popular title, X-Men, to her introduction. She dominated both the cover and the inside story of #130 (February, 1980). Then they put her on the guest star circuit to let interest build, grooming her for a title of her own. When they finally did put Dazzler #1 (March, 1981) on the release schedule, they tried the experimental promotional ploys of having the cover fully painted instead of simply drawn and colored, and offering it exclusively to the Direct Market, to encourage speculation by collectors. It worked, making her comic one of the best-selling new titles in decades.

The launch continued into the first few issues of her own comic, with guest stars galore. Spider-Man, Iron Man and a couple of other Marvel characters appeared in #1. The Fantastic Four and The Avengers were in #2. In #3, she fought Doctor Doom. And so it went, until by #10, she was fending off Galactus. All this was done in a light, airy style, designed to give an impression that disco superheroing, like disco itself, was nothing but fun, no matter how heavy the action got.

But disco soon lost its trendiness, and Dazzler wasn't so much fun anymore. What had been light-hearted came to seem air-headed. Dazzler looked kind of like a comic aimed at girls, anathema to Marvel's increasingly testosterone-charged audience. The comic folded with #42 (March 1986), but displayed one final bit of self-mockery: a cover blurb reading, "Because you demanded it — the last issue".

As for Dazzler herself, Marvel doesn't turn loose of a character just because she has no audience. Dazzler joined The X-Men for a time, and became romantically involved with one of them, Longshot. The two eloped to the alien dimension he originally came from, where they first rebelled against the despotic ruler and later became rulers themselves. Later yet, they became guardians of the X-Babies, cast-off relics of an apparent attempt at the cliché of trying to market baby versions of adult characters. They returned to Earth after their world was overrun by baby villains. She's currently trying to get her singing career back on track.


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Text ©2004-06 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Marvel Comics.