Sequential Daze is a monthly web column focusing on comic books and related matter of a nostalgic/controversial/cult/ or any other off the beaten path kind of topics that the writers may feel like focusing on in any given month. This column will appear the last week of every month, not counting holidays or unexpected circumstances. None of the articles are intentionally trying to slander, deface or offend any of the related topics/products, creators or persons involved in the subject of discussion. We highly respect all comic books and related topics, no matter their depths of quality or integrity, and that goes the same for the writers, editors, artists and everyone else involved in their creation.
Who is The Dazzler?
By Paul D. Houston
Created in 1980 for X-Men #130 by Tom DeFalco, John Romita Jr., Roger Stern, and Louise Simonson, the character of Alison Blair a.k.a. the Dazzler has been a mainstay in Marvel Comics ever since. Well mainstay is a bit of a stretch. But she is nearly as popular today as when she first appeared three decades ago. Maybe that isn't true either. At one point Dazzler's comic was incredibly popular, at least according to former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter who said, “Dazzler #1 sold 428,000 copies.” Four hundred and twenty-eight thousand copies! Of her first issue! For Dazzler! Shooter also said “Dazzler outsold Superman by 40,000 copies at that time. That's how well we (Marvel) were doing.” You can find the rest of the interview at: http://www.nycgraphicnovelists.com/2010/07/jim-shooters-secret-origin-in-his-own_26.html
Unfortunately, Alison Blair has sort of faded in to the background since her heyday in the 1980s. While her fan base is much smaller, it is nonetheless loyal. Her most recent solo feature was a one shot in May of 2010 by Jim McCann and Ramon Perez that sold 17,000 copies. That does not sound like much but if you think about it, that means it outsold properties such as The Spirit, Astro City, G. I. Joe, and Doom Patrol.
With these kinds of numbers, it is safe to say that Dazzler is decidedly not “A-List” anymore, if she ever was. But can you comfortably say that she is “B-List?” Maybe she is “C-List.” It is hard to say since the character is so adored and so mocked at the same time. When you look at the character with an open mind, you can see both the appeal of the character and the significant problems that lead to frequent mockery. I won't lie to you, I was a guy who actually bought many issues of the Dazzler comic back in the 1980s. I was a teenager at the time so forgive my bad taste. At 36, I certainly would not be caught dead buying a Dazzler comic. As would most people over 30. Seriously. Anyone over 30 buying a Dazzler comic needs to seriously rethink their life. Well , most people. There's a Dazzler related thread at http://forums.comicbookresources.com/showthread.php?t=297079&highlight=Dazzler and I discovered that there is still a large fanbase. According to the thread linked above... “Dazzler is one (if not THE) favorite character of gays, girls who have gay friends and/or always secretly wanted to be Jem from Jem and the Holograms, straight guys who have gay friends and/or girlfriends/wives who love Dazzler, and those who love dance music.” [sic] (Editor's Note: I know that there might be a contradiction here.)
Anyway, as a teen, I bought everything that I could get my hands on. I had a paper delivery job that paid me twenty dollars a week and comics cost fifty cents each. I was not that picky and I loved to read. I had both the first and last issue of Dazzler. As a teen reader, I especially prized issues 9-11, the story where she almost became a herald to Galactus. Yeah. Galactus. The Dazzler didn't mess around in those days. I sold my copy of Dazzler #1 on eBay a few years ago. I got around twenty dollars for it and then I gave away the rest of my issues (there were maybe twenty total). Sometimes I regret selling them off. Naah, Not really.
So Dazzler might be a well liked character in certain circles but there might be some dedicated Sequential Daze readers (Bwah-hah-hah! [sic]) who don't really know who Dazzler is. I am going to give those small few (wink-wink!) a quick review.
Dazzler was a disco star with a full sequin outfit that showed a lot of cleavage and came with a matching pair of rollerskates (Editor's Note: Rollerskates are not like fezzes or bowties. Rollerskates are not cool. They weren't cool in Solarbabies. They weren't cool in Starlight Express. They weren't cool in Xanadu. They will never be cool. Ever.) She basically looked like a human disco ball. Her superpowers allowed her to transform sound into light that she could control so apparently there might have been a point to the costume. At first Dazzler used her powers to help her stage show, a very practical use for superpowers. But she seemed to have nearly constant battles with supervillains and other nefarious foes (she did have a comic book that needed stories) and that necessitated that she learn to use her powers in a more offensive and defensive way. Thus the superheroine was born.
In her first appearance, both the Hellfire Club and X-Men sent entourages to a performance of hers to recruit her to their side. The X-Men sent Phoenix, Cyclops, and Nightcrawler to have a discussion with the young woman. The Hellfire Club sent a group of armed men to take her by force. The combined powers of Dazzler and the X-Men suppressed the foes and freed the members of the X-Men that were being held captive by the Hellfire Club. Professor Xavier offered Alison a position with the X-Men but she declined to focus on her music career.
It was pretty cool of her to have the confidence to stay solo considering that she knew what kinds of creeps might be coming after her. Maybe this was what entranced so many fans. Or maybe it was the cleavage. What do you think? Whatever it was, fans started writing in to voice their approval after her first appearance. Naturally this meant that Dazzler started to appear in other comics like the legendary Marvel Team-Up with Spider-Man (issue 109).
She soon proved popular enough to be given her own comic and a legend was born!
The solo Dazzler comic lasted 42 issues which is pretty good for a second rate character. Plus the character had a graphic novel entitled Dazzler: The Movie. It was done by Jim Shooter, Frank Springer, and Vince Colleta. With that trio how could things go wrong? Oh the humanity. I'm not even going to waste my time telling you how awful the book was. I'll let this guy do it.
The series did have a slight problem. It was actually outlasting the disco fad. The book actually emerged right around the time that disco was starting to die so the character's costume was actually dated before the first year of the book was over. But the guys and gals that make comics will never be accused of staying up with modern trends in fashion and culture. Forgive them. Soon enough (but not soon enough), Marvel realized how dated the disco costume was becoming. Her costume changed a few times over the course of the series until they found a good one. The new costume was blue with a yellow starburst on the chest. This was actually a huge improvement for the character.
This costume lasted until the end of the solo series and it continued when Dazzler joined the X-Men a few years later. With her appearance in the X-Men during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Dazzler endeared herself to a brand new audience. Some of this credit obviously goes to the superstar team of writer Chris Claremont and artist Marc Silvestri, the team that was making the X-Men comic a must read. Her peak seems to have happened in the early 1990s when Dazzler entered in to a romance with Longshot.
But this fame did not last forever. Longshot was a horribly crappy character on his best day and when Chris Claremont started not making sense anymore in X-Men (some will say he never did), the Dazzler/Longshot drama just got more and more confusing until people stopped caring anymore. [sic] The romance sort of ended with Longshot “dying.” By this point, Dazzler was a background character at best. After Claremont, other writers and artists would take on Dazzler. She started changing costumes again and again over the next few years. Maybe this is part of the reason why Dazzler can't evolve as a character and make the move to the A-List.
(Here's a few of the different images Dazzler has had since over the last decade or so. The last image is her current costume.)
But what do you do with Dazzler? There is nothing relevant about the character after 1988. The only definitive look she has is a horribly dated disco costume. You can't be taken seriously in modern times in a disco costume. In Ultimate X-Men, they reinterpreted her as a dark haired, tanned, pseudo punk rocker with a serious attitude (Editor's Note: To the Extreme! Cowabunga!).
Is this any better then her original incarnation? Maybe a little bit but I still don't think anyone beyond the 15,000 true Dazzler fans even cares. Even among them, I would wager that most prefer the blonde disco star to the dark haired punker. Personally, I always thought it odd that she never got a “techno-rave” transformation. This seems like a natural fit to me. The only problem was that rave culture was always a drug culture and the powers that be at Marvel never wanted their characters to be associated with anything remotely illegal. Or maybe there just weren't any writers at Marvel during the peak of rave culture who could figure out that Dazzler would have played well in that scene. It seems that all of the true Dazzler fans out there will have to deal with Alison Blair as an on again/off again character in the X-Men comics. 17,000 units sold will not get you a new series at Marvel.
Finally in an attempt to figure out why she has such a fervent fanbase, I went and interviewed two of the more fervent fans of hers who post repeatedly at the above linked comic book resources messageboard thread, Tetragene and Lightengale. Those are obviously not their real names, but they answered each question with passion and I thank them very much. Tetragene's answers will be in red and Lightengale's in blue.
THE FASCINATINGLY CRAPPY LAZARUS: Cartoons of the 1980s Part 5
By J. A. Crestmere
The first part of the series has the most detailed mission statement (although the concept of this series might have evolved in the months since the first article). For those of you just tuning in that are not going to go back, this series is my response to PAUL'S ARTICLE about the cartoons of the 1980s. While I liked his article, I thought that he got a lot of things wrong. I am responding to his comments by saying that there is a reason why a lot of these cartoons have come back (and a reason why a lot of these cartoons have not come back). In this article, I will go through each of the cartoons that he reviews (and he missed a lot of big ones) and I will score them based on how likely I think that they are to be brought back successfully today.
The ratings go from 0 (worst) to 10 (best).
In this section, I will round out the decade with the cartoons of 1988 and 1989.
THE CARTOONS OF 1988
I had forgotten about this show until I saw Paul's article. I vaguely remember this show as it was on really early in the morning and I was rarely up at the time. I went back and watched a few episodes. This show is absolutely brilliant. It is one of the rare children's cartoons that kids can watch but adults will probably enjoy significantly more. The original series holds up very well also. I have to say that I have some doubts as to the modern success given that we seem to have moved from psychology to gore as the basis for horror. If a children's cartoon tried to parody that, it would just be Itchy and Scratchy with a plot. While I think this show could come back, I am not exactly optimistic about its chances. A new version would probably be anime styled and that might take away some of the quirky British humor.
I only realized that Peter Chung did the character designs rewatching this as an adult. I love Peter Chung as a designer but he seems to fall flat for me as a storyteller for some reason though I think it was my scars from Phantom 2040. I have to admit that I thought this was a pretty cool series when I watched it as a kid. The characters were bright and shiny. There was plenty of action. Above all, the toys were awesome (and don't kid yourself, these cartoons were mostly advertisements for toy lines). The series seems to have everything needed to succeed today. But it won't fly today. The problem is politics. That series was made in the 1980s at the end of the Cold War and a time when people were scared of crack, razor blades in apples, and satanic ritual abuse. We are now living in a time when we are seeing the results of draconian laws. In our world, 1% of the population is imprisoned, the majority on nonviolent drug charges. At least one major police department a year gets in to a major scandal. Above all, criminal investigation relies less on legwork and investigation than on questionable forensic science (see Cameron Todd Willingham). A modern version of this would team up five Vic Mackeys and five of the accountant from The Untouchables. I know that I am getting political here and it might not be appropriate to get political about cartoons. But the politics surrounding this cartoon have changed a lot and the changing environment is a factor that needs to be taken in to account. For that reason, I do not see this show as being particularly successful.
CHIP 'N DALE RESCUE RANGERS
This was a pretty cool cartoon. It could probably be brought back fairly easily. There even seems to be a cult following for this show (and an actual cult around Gadget and that is pretty disturbing). The property is coming back in comic form as part of BOOM! Studios and their line of Disney licensed comics. The biggest problem in terms of this series coming back is that there are already 65 episodes that exist. To bring this show back, you would need to convince people that there is a need for more or that there is a story there that is not being told. While I don't think that this would be all that difficult, it is a small obstacle that needs to be overcome. I would be curious if this show would come back as a continuation of the old version or a relaunch of the old property. I would favor the latter.
I can't comment on this show. I was not able to find any episodes of this to review. I knew that this was going to happen but I was surprised that it was this late in the game. The only things that I was able to find were the introduction and half of an episode in German. I don't speak German well enough to be able to criticize it with no subtitles.
The last film in the franchise was in 1994. There has been effort to make another film since 2007. There might be some baby boomer nostalgia for the property but it isn't going to translate to cartoon form. A Police Academy cartoon is as dead as the dodo.
I take the most exception with this of any of the things Paul reviewed so far. First of all, there were THREE Robocop movies and the first Robocop was a brilliant movie. Sure it was a mediocre sci fi actioner but it was a brilliant satire about the excesses of the 1980s that still resonates today. I date anyone to watch the first movie with that lens and not see genius. While the cartoon was awful, a satirical Robocop movie would still fly today. I would be interested to see how someone would do this as a commentary on the Bush Administration and its policies towards things like torture and the Iraq Invasion.
THE WORLD OF DAVID THE GNOME
I hated this cartoon as a child but I love it as an adult. I want to say that this could succeed again but I don't think that it could. There was just too much working against this cartoon. A cute little forest creature can't do much when irreversible environmental damage will likely occur within the lifetimes of the audience, especially when half the country does not even believe that global warming is happening. This show also relies far too much on pre-modern mythology and it would be awkward to get things to work the same way twenty plus years later. I would love to see a show like this set in the modern world but it does not need to be affiliated with the franchise at all.
THE CARTOONS OF 1989
THE SUPER MARIO BROS. SHOW
I like most of the Mario games but I really don't think a cartoon would work. I do think it would be cool to try one though if you could do it mixing together the best parts of all of the previous Mario games but no single game could work as a television series. I would actually really want to do this kind of Mario series if someone needs a writer. But no live action stuff.
CAPTAIN N THE GAME MASTER
This was kind of a video game oriented version of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. There might be something here that would let you make a cool television series again. The biggest problem is that Nintendo had a fairly integrated product. A work like this would have to feature games from dozens of different companies and there is no way that they would all comply. Not a bad idea but it would never work practically.
This show is not given enough credit. Modern animation comes out of The Simpsons as much as Walt Disney or Hanna-Barbera. Seth McFarlane would never have been able to sell the world on Family Guy if there was no Simpsons. This show gave the modern world the idea that animation can appeal to adults as well as children and you can put different things in there for each audience. The show is so important that it is a cultural institution in the United States. I think we are actually at the point where people would recognize Simpsons allusions over other “icons” like The Great Gatsby, Moby Dick, or Huckleberry Finn. There is not enough that I can say about how important this show was and continues to be. It really is the show of the last two generations.
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA
The games are still going but the cartoon isn't. I would be interested to see someone try a cartoon with a plotline that consists only of parallel stories and prequels (Zelda II was the last actual sequel to the original game).
RUDE DOG AND THE DWEEBS
Seriously? How the hell was this ever made? This should be relegated to the dustbin of history.
The movie got remade. Not very well. I didn't even know that there was ever a cartoon. After watching it, I realize why no one remembers the cartoon. You will be laughing after about ten seconds. The introduction starts out as Avatar the Last Airbender before turning in to MacGuyver. The martial arts boom of the 80s is over.
He still seems to be going strong.
The cartoon was NOTHING like the movie at all. I really doubt that anything would happen with this franchise short of a complete reboot (and probably a reconceptualization of the whole endeavor). Possible but unlikely. There are too many things ahead of it to be made and remade.
DINK THE LITTLE DINOSAUR
I'm going to sound heartless here but dinosaur stuff is so extinct. Everything related to dinosaurs was already done in the 1980s. It would take something awesome to make it work again and I'm not sure that a Land Before Time ripoff would be the thing to do that.
Note from the Editor:
This is going to be the final issue of Sequential Daze.
But don't be afraid. There will be only be a three month hiatus. After that, we will be returning with a new title but the same quality.
During this time, the SD crew will be working on articles for the future publication as well as personal projects that will doubtlessly rock your world.
Note from the Publisher:
The reason why we are going on hiatus is because we were unaware of a blog also titled Sequential Daze. If you type in Sequential Daze in Google, thats what comes up first. And it's been around since 2005. So to avoid any possible confusion, and strive to be truly unique we are going to take a break to retool and queue up a bunch of new articles in advance of our returning under a new nomenclature.
In the meantime, we recommend you visit the other Renderwrx.net columns if you haven't done so yet.
Thanks for reading!