Monday, April 4, 2011

1980 - Dazzler

I was startled by the amount of content behind the creation of Dazzler. I was under the mistaken impression that it was all Chris Claremont and John Byrne. While Claremont and Byrne wrote and penciled Dazzler’s first appearance in Uncanny X-Men #130 (February 1980), they had no input on the Dazzler character or her ongoing series that debuted in 1981.
A record company, Casablanca Records, trying to bring Marvel Comics and Filmworks together to create a new disco-oriented character, originally called Disco Queen, that would span music, comics and the movies. Rising superstar, John Romita Jr., was tapped to design the Dazzler, modeling her after Grace Jones. However, when Bo Derek signed with Filmworks to star in their film, that changed everything. And then, Filmworks had a difficult time getting traction on the Dazzler film, but Marvel decided to publish Dazzler #1 anyways. Over 400,000 copies of Dazzler #1 were pre-sold to the direct comic market and was the first Marvel comic sold only to comic stores. At that time, the average comics pre-sold around 200,000 copies.

Some trivia bits
* Bogie in this drawing was Casablanca president Neil Bogart.
* The Disco Queen was supposed to have powers that could make people tell the truth
* Roger Stern came up with the name, Dazzler
* from Dazzler #1, Dazzler's conception was credited to Alice Donenfeld, John Romita Jr. and Jim Shooter with help from Stan Lee, Al Milgrom, Roger Stern, and Tom DeFalco.

So I was quite shocked when, in response to a question on the subject, Jim Shooter graciously let me in on an amazing piece of information that I had never heard before – that the Dazzler character was first intended to be featured in an animated film, and the film was to feature all the artists that Casablanca had under contract!

Here is Shooter describing the situation:

“The Marvel brass wanted a treatment done over the weekend. The Casablanca people wanted to use many of the people they had under contract, including Donna Summer, Cher, Rodney Dangerfield, Lenny and Squiggy, Robin Williams, the Village People, Kiss and more as the voices of the characters. They told me “hire anyone you want” to write the treatment. Our film/TV agent suggested Harlan Ellison. Fat chance I could get H.E. up to speed and get him to write something in four days. I considered my options and decided that it was me or nobody — I’d be the hero or the goat. I delivered as requested. Treatment atached, OPR-scanned from the original. The Casablanca people said, and I quote, “F**k half-hour animated special, this is a feature film.”

Shooter then even more graciously supplied me with the actual film treatment, which is far too awesome to post here in its entirety, but as you can imagine, a story that needs to find roles to spotlight the qualities of Donna Summer, Cher, Rodney Dangerfield, Lenny and Squiggy, Robin Williams, the Village People and Kiss, while also guest-starring Spider-Man and the Avengers (not to mention introduce us to Dazzler) is going to be quite “out there,” and this story is no exception!

Interestingly, Jim Shooter wrote the Dazzler: The Movie Graphic Novel (Marvel Graphic Novel #12, 1984). And thankfully, it didn’t include Rodney Dangerfield, Lenny and Squiggy, Robin Williams, or the Village People.

From Comic Feature #7 (November 1980), Tom DeFalco was interviewed:
They [Casablanca Records] 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.

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.

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.

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 he’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… 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.


  1. The Dazzler, i ve always been a fan of the original Dazzler series. Disco outfit, reluctant hero, a it of soap opera drama, and fights against Galactus, The enchantress, and Rogue, who was pretty ugly at that time. Later they messed up with the character. Well it happens. Finally Bill Sienciewickz covers on the title were amazing. Be well man.

  2. 1st issue was always my favorite... merely due to the fact that the first song Dazzler uses to power up is a Pink Floyd song... I'd have to guess at Run Like Hell since Dazzler was a discobunny and that was Floyd's self-described "us being disco" song.... but a cool and odd choice as Dazzlers first solo issue music use to power up for a fight... and the skating took me way back to iron mans stranger days....




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