I have to agree with Sally and just about anyone who nominates Dazzler for inclusion on such ‘lists of honour.’ However, I don’t want to get into the merits of the character, because ‘disco queen as mutant’ speaks for itself and Scipio has already done a wonderful job here, here and perhaps most tellingly here.
I do want to hypothesize about Dazzler’s genesis as character. In other words, what led Dazzler’s creation? What inspired such a memorable character?
As a mildly creative person myself, I often wonder how comic creators come up with characters and concepts. I am constantly entertained by the answers I find. For example, it was interesting to discover that the X-men were not named after Xavier, their founder and patriarch, but for the eXtra bit of power they possessed. Huh? What now?
I think I may be able to pinpoint the exact trigger for the temporary insanity that afflicted the minds of Tom Defalco and John Romita Jr. (and others*) when they created the mutant dancer in the late 70s (1979 or so).
*Jim Shooter, Louise Simonson, and Roger Stern [who came up with the name] may also deserve some of the ‘credit’ for Dazzler – creation via Marvel committee. See how everyone is trying to spread the credit around on this one? Initially, no one wanted any part in Dazzler’s creation. How could anyone NOT want to be part something as high concept as Dazzler?
To fair, Dazzler was supposed to be a HUGE media tie-in character with a Graphic Novel, possible Movie, and definately a real-life singer styled after her. Things didn't go as planned - there were a lot of reworkings of the character. Today I really want to talk about the second or third reworking (out of a possible baker's dozen reworkings Marvel have approved over the years).
When a character isn't working after reconceptualizing, what do you do? You say, "Damn the torpedoes. Full steam ahead!"
Is it just me or is Dazzler starting to do 'the robot' here? That unique sparking thing really gives the dance the freshness it needs. Dazzler, you're a true artist.
Here’s what I suspect happened:
The year was 1981. Defalco and Romita (or whoever the creative team were at the time) were hanging out at the Marvel Bullpen, wondering how they were going to rework the character whose original power was a voice with the same effect as Wonder Woman’s lasso (Bad guy: “I’ll tell you the truth. Just stop singing!”). I kid you not.
They decided to turn the radio on for some inspiration. Their favourite segment was on - the one where they play the song that was number one two years earlier to the day. The Bee Gees were singing a song called “Tragedy” (released in1979). That’s the instant when they came up with Dazzler’s mutant power getting in the way of her singing career, because that’s a tragedy.
Here are a few lyric excerpts from the song in question:
When you lose control
And you got no soul...
[That little bit sounds like Dazzler in a nutshell, doesn’t it?]
When the feeling’s gone
And you can’t go on
[Apparently, she quit the whole hero gig at one stage. It was interfering with her vocal, musical, acting, and modelling ambitions. Our loss, I guess...]
And this little gem of an excerpt is kind of prophetic of fan reaction to Dazzler:
It’s hard to bear
With no one to love you,
You’re going nowhere...
Poor Dazzler. Her career as a superhero is the stuff of tragedy. [Cue the Bee Gees track. Then let the track fade out just as the spotlight fades on Dazzler.]