One of Marvel’s most maligned and misused mutants is getting another moment to, err, shine, courtesy of writer Jim McCann and artist Kalman Andrasofszky.
Dazzler #1, due out in May, will put the most famous singer in comics front and center in her own book for the first time in two decades, facing familiar foes (like Dr. Doom and The Enchantress) and forced to confront many key decisions in her life.
McCann’s affection for Alison Blaire is well known. So after Marvel’s former public relations, marketing and convention panel host-at-large decided to focus on his writing career, it seemed inevitable he would get a chance to write the character. And he did script a short story for the recent Marvel Heartbreakers issue that serves as an epilogue of sorts to the late 80s mini-series “Beauty & the Beast” featuring Dazz and Hank McCoy. Now he gets his chance at reconciling Dazzler’s past with her present in the Marvel Universe.
He also proved his skill at balancing nostalgia and new directions by bringing Clint Barton and Bobbi Morse together again in New Avengers: The Reunion, which led to McCann’s first ongoing series, Hawkeye & Mockingbird, debuting in June. (Click here to read more about that series).
McCann took time out of his busy schedule to talk about his plans to return Dazzler to a prominent place in the Marvel U, why she continues to have such a fervent fan following, how Alison’s sister Lois figures into the story, and why he feels Dazzler deserves a bit more respect from comics fans.
Newsarama: Tell us what the one-shot is going to explore, besides getting at the core of who and what Dazzler is?
McCann: Everybody knows my love for the character, but when I started to branch out into writing more, the first thing everybody would ask me would be, ‘are you going to write Dazzler?’ I didn’t want to write her for the sake of writing her. I wanted to write her when I had a story. [Marvel editor] Mike Horwitz asked, ‘do you want to do a Dazzler story, and it would be awesome if she was in the disco outfit. You could do an old-school story, kind of the way the X-Men: First Class stories fit in-between continuity, or whatever.’
[Having her interact with the Marvel U] That’s the definitely the flavor I wanted to bring back in this one-shot, but more like interacting with all of these insane-o villains. Because that was the other thing. She faced off against some crazy powerful people in her solo series, and often was in over her head. I wanted to kind of take a look and be like, ‘well now that she’s older and wiser, does that make her more powerful or was ignorance really working in her favor back in the day?
So I really took a look at the character and realized she was missing a few key points that make a successful character. I think for a character to really succeed they need family, or something close to family, like a best friend, and also a strong rogue’s gallery, or at least an arch-nemesis.”
Newsarama: Dazzler didn’t really have an arch-foe back in the 80s, except for her short-lived feud with Rogue.
McCann: She definitely was [missing that]. And it was fun seeing that carry over into “Uncanny” when she [Dazzler] went there back in the 80s, but other than that…is Mojo her big bad? Who was her big bad? So I looked, and went, ‘wait. You have both archetypes in one character, which was Lois London [Dazzler’s sister]. So I pitched this story and they ran it past the X-office and they said Lois London fit into their Necrosha plans as well. As a villain, I thought that was perfect.
So we talked and I had an idea for a back-story for Lois, and they had an idea, and they turned out be very similar. Which was great because that meant I didn’t have to rework too much of my story. Instead, it made it more powerful. So now you’ve got Alison Blaire being forced to confront not only who she is but also who her sister has become. There was a really key moment when she left Lois in the care of Lois’ father, who [Alison] knew was not a very nice man. He was a gangster, he was an ex-drunk who beat Alison and Lois’ mother, and she said, ‘I’m not going to forget about you.’ And then she [Dazzler] promptly forgot about her (laughs)!
Newsarama: So can we expect Lois to have some resentment towards Alison?
McCann: They both have a lot of issues with each other. Alison has issues with the way Lois turned out but she also can’t help but blame herself a little bit for that. She never followed through on what she said she would do. Look what happened. But at the same time you can’t be fully responsible for another person’s actions. Lois doesn’t see that. She’s always kind of shifted the blame. There is a huge axe to grind.”
In Necrosha they don’t get a chance to face off against each other. They just meet in passing…and Lois got to scream ‘I hate you!’ at her, and Dazzler was taken aback by the whole situation. This [the one-shot] is where you get to see that battle, that fallout, take place. I don’t want to give too much away that happens in Necrosha, but I will say that Lois is not alone in this. She’s joined by Dr. Doom, the Enchantress, Rogue, and a few more people. She’s got her crowd that she’s running with, and a very personal agenda against Alison. And it comes at the worst possible time for Dazzler, because she’s at a crossroads herself.
Newsarama: The story sounds almost like an epilogue to Alison and Lois’ roles in Necrosha. Will it be easy access for somebody who’s just been hearing about this character who was hot in the 80s, as well as be something for the fans that regularly flip through Essential Dazzler?
McCann: I think it’s definitely the case. It was very flattering when [Mike Horwitz] asked me to do it based on what I did with Mockingbird in New Avengers: The Reunion, where, look; here’s a chance to bring this character back from the dead. Dazzler’s not being brought back from the dead but…here’s a character with a rich history and here’s a character that we want to platform. See if she has legs. I got four issues to do that with Bobbi in The Reunion.
With Dazzler, I want to take things one step at a time. To give people who have loved her and stood by her for years, to give them something to go, ‘Oh my God, yes, yes yes! She’s back!’ But also to give new readers a chance to say, ‘why are those people screaming and jumping up and down in the corner of the comic shop?’ Hopefully, it will be a good entry point and also a satisfying story for fans, because it does not ignore the history, but you don’t feel burdened by it at the same time.
Newsarama: You’ve said that you’re looking to clarify exactly what Alison’s powers are and maybe raise her power set a bit?
McCann: Yeah…and I think I see where you might be going with this…there is one aspect of her power that has confused a lot of people, and that was the seeming immortality issue that was brought up in New X-Men. I’m not touching that right now. I have an idea for what causes that, and if I do get the chance to write her again I would love to touch upon it and reconcile it. Cause I do like to…as you saw in the ‘Beauty & the Beast’ epilogue [in Heartbreakers], I like to try and clarify some things, for myself. If it’s out there. But I definitely do want to show people how powerful she can be.
I did a whole lot of research on the way light is used, and along different spectrums. Cause it’s not just...oh what, so she can just be a really bright, colorful lamp? Or she can shoot, ‘Pyoo Pyoo,’ laser beams from her fingers. There’s a lot more to it. The thing that really nailed it for me is the issue from the original series (Dazzler #38) where Wolverine and Colossus show up and do a real-world Danger Room scenario with her, and she uses her eye beams for the first time, which she picks up from Cyclops. She [also] manages to slice Wolverine’s shirt with laser claws. She’s grown and honed her powers since then and I really think that there’s a chance to show she can do a whole lot with her powers, especially if she’s focusing on various aspects of the whole light spectrum. There’s heat along that spectrum, there’s infrared… I kind of want to show that hey, she’s kind of freaking badass, and this am why.
Newsarama: That’s a good point. She’s never really used heat as a power before. Back in issue #10 of her series, when Galactus showed up…he makes reference to the fact that she’s the only Earth-bound hero who could pull off the mission of finding and bringing back Terrax from inside the Black Hole. Which tells you the kind of potential her power set gives her.
McCann: Yeah, she’s not the most powerful mutant in the Marvel Universe - she’s not an Omega-class – but, when faced with certain circumstances, pardon the pun, and I didn’t realize it was going to be a pun until I said it, but she can really have her moment to shine (laughs). She really can. She’s got a really unique and cool ability and I think that she’s gone through enough that she knows how to use it.
I loved, loved the scene that Matt Fraction had in Uncanny X-Men when Storm blows out all the windows and [Dazzler] uses all of San Francisco as her own portable radio to blast off evil Psylocke’s face. Matt gets that, and I would love to build upon that. I think its fantastic.
Newsarama: Let’s talk about another important aspect of Dazzler: Her look. Iconic to some, who really appreciate and admire the disco look, but to the non-fans, it’s the reason why they don’t take her seriously. How do you reconcile that, and how do you get past that to make Alison relevant again?
McCann: You’ll find out in this issue. Honestly, because she is in the retro costume. The circumstances behind that are very important to the overall story. Its definitely something that she looks at and says…she’s kind of reconciling it along with the readers, while also celebrating it a bit in it. It was a really fine line to walk. When you’re taking on a character like that, that has all of those different layers and different levels to her personality, including some massive insecurity issues, and with a past like hers.
I mean, she was also outed [in the Dazzler Graphic Novel] and she was the face of mutant hatred for quite some time. She has a lot that she has to deal with. And so, the best way I think to deal with that is…cause it’s not the easiest…is to get in that character’s head and let her work it out while you’re reading along. Let her acknowledge what the reader feels. I think that’s why characters like Peter Parker and even Wolverine are as popular as they are, because you’re in their heads a lot of the time. You know what they’re going through so it makes it all the more relatable and compelling. So I really want to get inside her head and let the readers be there, too. I’m pulling the curtain back on her and just showing her through her own actions and thoughts.
Newsarama: If you go back to the original series, they spent a great deal of time investing in her back-story and her out-of-costume life, which mattered much more to her than superheroing. You always got the sense when she had no power or food in her apartment that you were almost reading the female counterpart of Peter Parker, when the book hit the right notes. Do you think Alison works better alone or as part of the X-Men, which gives her a better support system?
McCann: I think having a support system is important [for her], but I like seeing her out on her own. But I just don’t think that…we couldn’t do another solo series right out of the gate right now. People point out that it was the most successful launch of its time, but it was also the first time a comic was offered only in the direct market. It was very successful. You can’t scoff at 42 issues plus the “Beauty & the Beast” mini-series and the GN. And the Beyonder fell in love with her. I don’t know if that was for the better or worse, but I’m just putting that out there.
She was not only offered membership in the X-Men, she was offered membership in the Avengers. So I think that if she had the whole Marvel U as a backdrop, similar to how Spider-Man does, I think there is the potential there for really good stories. I would love to continue…I do have an idea for a mini, but I’m waiting to see how this does. Then I’d love to follow it up with her a bit. There is a lot of story to be told and a lot of is her personal life. I think that what goes on in her head and in her life is as important as when she’s absorbing sound and turning it into killer laser beams.
It’s funny; her being a singer almost…trumps her being a superhero. That was the core of her series, was her trying to balance and juggle those 2 things, and they nailed it for those 42 issues. They really, really got that. And then as she joined the X-Men, she was an all-out superhero, left that [music] world behind her, due to circumstances and what have you. And then she went off to the Mojoverse…and then she came back. Chris Claremont brought her back for Excalibur and she was back, trying to balance career and adventuring. I don’t know, it kind of works but it kind of doesn’t. She doesn’t really know what she is or who she is, and I think that’s one reason why people kind of have a tendency to write her off. This one-shot is definitely taking a look, from her own point of view, who and what she is.
I think that’s one of the things that struck a chord with her fans [back then] and I think it can strike a chord with fans today. Really seeing what their life is, outside the costume. And then of course, fighting really badass bad guys always helps.
Newsarama: You are continuing the Dazzler tradition of having great artists draw her. Kalman Andrasofszky is doing the cover and interior art, following in the footsteps of guys like Bill Sienkiewicz, the late Frank Springer, Bob Larkin and John Romita Jr. How did you come together with Kalman on this?
McCann: I actually own a piece of Frank Springer original art from an early Dazzler issue [that captures] the exact moment of something that is crucial to this upcoming one-shot. I’m not going to say what or where, because it’s actually a spoiler, but when it does come out, fans that read the original series or Essential Dazzler will get it right away.
There is one page out there [in the market] from the issue, I believe it’s #38, where she fought Wolverine and Colossus, that I so want, but it’s just out of my price range. I just moved into a new place in Manhattan, and it’s either eat, or hang an awesome piece of art with Dazzler on it on my wall. And I have to eat once in a while.
But Kalman…I’ve been a fan of his for quite some time. I think that he brings a sense of kinetic energy and flow, and also style that is unique. When you’re dealing with somebody like Dazzler, I think he’s one of the perfect people to do this project, if not the perfect person, after seeing some of the pages that he’s turned in so far. He’s got so much love also, for this character. He really wanted to draw Dazzler as well. So you’ve got me who’s been dying to write her and Kalman who’s been dying to draw her. There’s a lot of love behind this.
Kalman brings a sense of rock-star quality that she deserves in there. He understands it. He’s taken parts of the script and blown me away with his interpretation of certain scenes. I wrote the script with him specifically in mind. I knew in advance he would be the artist, which really helped. I had my copies of NYX and his art in that was fantastic. Just flipping through and seeing where his strengths were, I definitely wanted to write toward those. The cover, you really do get the sense that it’s…it’s an iconic cover but it’s also a storytelling cover, which is really cool. All of that that’s in the cover, the bloodstains, is right there in the pages.
It’s been a dream working with him. I could go and on about him, but I’m going to let the pages speak for themselves.
Dazzler #1 comes May 2010, and will be 48 pages and $3.99.