Sunday, July 18, 2010

Dazzler: The Disaster

I promised I'd re-visit Dazzler: The Movie, so I am, but man is this a hard slog. Not that it took long to re-read. It's just really bad. Almost an admirable bad in some respects, as it manages to combine mysogyny, passivity, and totally contradictorily developed characters with utter boredom. That kind of total misfire is hard to come by, at least when it's not intentional. Even the Red Tornado mini-series from 1983 wasn't as bad as this 1984 production.

This travesty was written by Jim Shooter, with pencils by Frank Springer and inks by Vince Colletta. Right off the top, I'll say the art is passable. It's not bad, but it doesn't leave any kind of lasting impression, either.

Probably its major failing is that fat Allison Blaire looks the same as she did when she was supposed to be in Oympic athlete kind of shape. Just look at the two pictures below and see if you can tell which one is fat Allison.

Couldn't do it, could you? (Doesn't count if you read and remembered this mess.)

Really, the only memorable thing about this graphic novel (a term I've come to dislike and will go into at another time), is the cover by Bill Sienkiewicz. I was enamored of his style when he made the justifiably famous debut in The New Mutants Demon Bear story, and this cover, though less adventorous than that story, is still within the same style. I've read that Marvel solicited him to do several covers for the ongoing series that died around the same time this was book was published and would have to guess that this was a similar sort of work for him. It might explain some of the images that I can't place into the context of the story, like the balding guy with glasses and the flowers, neither of which make an appearance in the actual story.

The art is not the problem with this book, though. It's the story. Man, what a story. Allison Blair is no longer an aspiring singer in NYC. She's an aspiring actress in LA, working as an aerobics instructor at a high end gym and seeking out whatever night club gigs she can get. Let's start with that. She's doing nightclub gigs in the hope that she'll be seen by a producer who will whisk her away to a fabulous acting career. How dumb is this woman? Sure, she's drawn pretty (not beautiful, no matter how many unnamed sideline characters say she is), but if she wants to be an actress a far better route to coming to the attention of people in the movie business is to audition for a movie (or even *gasp* a TV show). If I want to go to law school I don't take the admissions test for business school and hope that some law school recruiter notices how good my business school scores were. Ah, but we're just starting on the abject failings of this book.

There are no other superheroes or any supervillains in this book, unless you count a brief cameo by the X-Men wherein Storm, in her Mohawk/punk phase, makes a phone call to Allison to try to convince Allison to join the X-Men because of the danger of being a mutant alone in the world. Much safer to join a team of mutants who are constantly being attacked by other mutants, governments, rogue government agents, aliens, and general na'er do wells who usually want them dead than to be a mutant who appears entirely human and is totally unknown by the public to be a mutant. (Which mostly tells me that there's no one with a brain in the press of the Marvel Universe because she keeps showing up in her performance costume and using her powers. It's not like people don't know that Dazzler and Allison Blaire are the same person, so if Dazzler keeps showing up with super heroes and using her powers, it doesn't take much to put together.)

Actually, there are no heroes in this book, super or otherwise. The only nice guy is a dorky character who's in the first few pages as a shy, nebbish sort at the gym who's befriended by super confident Allision and given a pep talk and a nice kiss. He's never seen again after that, which is too bad because a story involving him more would at least have given me someone for whom to root.

Another person at the snob gym is Eric Beale who's some sort of producer. He's a guy who assumes people will do whatever he wants, so when Allison tells him the gym has a policy against instructors dating members, he buys the gym. Not a few days later. Right that moment. 'Cause, you know, a gym that caters to the wealthy and arrogant is going to go cheaply to the first guy with an open check book. It's not like he could have put together any financing in those few moments. He had to have several million just sitting around in liquid assets to put into this, all just so he can impetuously buy a gym to get a date, or rather a booty call. Principled woman that she is, Allison doesn't quit working for a guy who thinks he owns her along with the gym. Instead she makes up a lame excuse that she can't go out with him that night because she's already going out with the nebbish. Yeah, that's a great paragon of virtue, that Dazzler.

When she gets home we find the most disturbing character of the book, Roman Nekobah. Roman's a middle aged lothario and movie star in financial distress. Before he breaks into Allison's apartment with the assist of her landlord/Roman Fan, we first see him waking in his mansion after a night of debauchery. It's 7:00 p.m., and he and the "starlet" are just waking up. After putting on his hair piece, a girdle and an ascot, he does his B&E thing to wait for Allison, who he met at some previous party. It's a trifle odd to have him introduced in this way and not at the party where they actually met. It gets worse, though, when he tries to rape her. There's really no other way to describe their interaction. She says she's not interested, he grabs her, and they fall onto a glass coffee table, breaking it. He tries to sweet talk her into the sack by saying that's how pretty girls get a job in Hollywood, but finally leaves after telling her her career is dead.

He isn't gone long. The next morning while she's walking to a job interview or something that's found in a rolled up newspaper, Roman's stalking her in his sports car. When she can't lose him even after running into an alley, she uses her ability to tranform sound into light to shoot laser beams at both of his passenger side tires, which causes them to blow out and crash his car into a wall. Good high ethical standards on her part, sending a car careening into a sidewalk and building where it could easily have struck pedestrians. Not to fear, though. None are hit and Roman isn't even injured. In fact, he proceeds to chase her on foot until he fakes having a heart attack.
This is when the story really runs off the rails, off a cliff or whatever other metaphor for horrific story telling you want to use. When Allison realizes Roman has faked his attack she doesn't pound the shit out of him or even walk away in a huff. Hell, the logical thing would have been to call the police to press charges against him. He's already threatened to kill her non-existent career, so it's not like she'd have anything to lose. No, instead she agrees to go for coffee with him, then agrees to let him put her in a movie with him as a co-star, foisting a supposed romance on the press but really engaging in a platonic relationship. Not only is this incredibly stupid on her part, but if believed would be a total departure from his character, such as it is, as established as a total horn dog primarily interested in bacchanals. Unbelievably, the story goes on to establish that Roman is in fact a totally different person, willing to accept a solely platonic relationship.

Of course, this means that after some ridiculously short amount of time Allison does fall in love with the overweight, chain smoking, alcohol dependent, washed up rapist and moves in with him for a life of movie production and high standard sex. It turns out Roman's one redeeming value is that he's totally awesome with the ladies. Not being Omaha the Cat Dancer, there's no exposition to show or even tell exactly how he's such the supreme lover. Considering that the starlet he was with when we first saw him said the same thing about him, we have the unbelievably fantastic character who is totally self absorbed and yet is able to provide complete sexual satisfaction to someone else. That's what I call an oxymoron. Not that the use of the word moron can be over done when talking about this book.

The movie Allison and Roman end up making is about a mutant and her struggles with the prejudice against mutants in this world. Of course, Roman didn't have any backing for the movie nor resources of his own, so he ends up with Eric Beale, our ass who bought the gym (where, by the way, one can only presume Allison still works, as we neither saw her fired nor saw her quit), financing the movie solely as a means to "own" both Roman and Allison. I would have thought that he could have owned Roman for the price of his debts, which wouldn't have been much, and Allison for a few nice dates and some skill in the sack, which he obviously could have had Roman teach him for a lot less in money and machinations. With Allison becoming Roman's sex slave (I really can't believe there was any love there, no matter how many times she says so), it seems like it would have been obvious to Eric, a supposedly bright guy, that this was the basis of their relationship, and with some simple lessons would have been an easy role for him to assume, what with his being substantially more physically attractive than Roman.

Roman plays Allison after he's bought by Eric. He tells the public she's a mutant and sets up a demonstration to prove it. This is supposed to help generate buzz for the movie, and Allison buys into that excuse, but really, with how many years of mutant persecution being a central tenant of the Marvel U, you'd have to be just waking from a coma that you'd been in since the '50s to believe that. In fact, there's a lot about the '50s perception of reality, or the image of what was perceived as the '50s reality, that permeates this book. The total abuse of women as something significantly less valuable than men, the casting couch Hollywood stereotypes, the acceptance of stalking as some sort of cute wooing, and the stereoptypical nice guy nebbish are straight out of some B movie from 1955.

Anyway, the demonstration goes as expected, in that the press corps that was totally lusting after Allison (because, you know, the demo had to be done in a bikini to show there were no special effects being used), is now scared to the point of total witlessness and runs away from the air force base where the demo was held. After this Allison seizes control of the movie making (not realizing Eric actually controls the purse), and gets the movie made. To show how strong she now is she doesn't just appear to take on all roles in the movie process (director, star, stunt woman), she forces Roman to fulfill her voracious sexual needs and returns to a vigorous workout regimen to regain her lost fine shape (figured out which of those pictures is before and which after yet?). The extreme use of her powers in the demo also changed her ability from simply turning sound to light by expanding it into a battery capacity so she can create light from stored up reserves of sound she's heard at other times, you know, for those many times when she might find herself in a vacuum.

The fear the demo created in the media leads to Fox News type diatribes against mutants and mobs seeking out Allison. Kind of a mystery why a mob armed with blunt objects and bricks thinks it can take on a mutant who can produce laser beams. No, not a mystery. Just the moron factor at work. The moron factor is expanded when the mob breaks in to the screening of the movie (attended only by Roman and Allison) and they have to flee because she's out of reserves. Huh? She's being chased by an angry mob. There's all kinds of noise involved with that. Her batteries should be constantly re-charged, never mind the fact that she just finished watching a loud movie when the mob breaks in. Gah. My head hurts.

Anyway, the mob is escaped and Allison confronts the theater manager about why his guards weren't there. While there, Roman calls and has her come to Eric's studios here the big reveal is made that he owns the film. In fact, he's destroyed all but one copy and will destroy that one unless she signs on to be owned by him. Evidently no one in the Marvel U ever heard of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. You can make a contract that essentially creates ownership of one person by another, but you can't enforce it in the courts, so it's not worth the paper it's written upon. Anyway, Allison finally reaches a limit (probably because she now knows Roman has fled and won't providing those juicy, juicy sexual favors she so ardently desires) and refuses to sign the contract and burns the only copy of her movie.

Inexplicably, Roman shows up when she's walking on the street after this confrontation with Eric. She not only tells him she burned up his contract with Eric (which we never saw or had mentioned while she was there), but she doesn't blame him at all for having decieved her and put her in the hands of Eric. Oh, she breaks off the relationship, but that's because it's for Roman's good to be away from a known mutant. She still loves him. In the end, she walks out of Roman's mansion and says the herself that she's going to be okay. Really? What could possibly make her think that, other than insanity? She's been outed as a mutant, a group of people under constant threat by the government, random mobs, and just about anyone who just feels like attacking mutants (which really tells you there are a lot of people in the Marvel U with a death wish, as almost every mutant seems to have a power that could kill a normal person without much effort), she has no job, no prospects for a job and has just sent someone she professes to love away so that he'll be protected from her persecution as a mutant.

Allison Blaire has to be one of the most despicable "heroes" in comics. She's not a noir hero or the more currently fashionable dark hero who does something admirable to overcome personal shortcomings. She's a total loser. She doesn't overcome anything. She takes up a relationship with her attempted rapist and tells herself she loves him, though her actions indicate she reallly just wants his skills as a cunning linguist or phallicist (a word I may have just made up). When she realizes his weakness as a person she just uses him to get what she wants, the completion of her movie. When she doesn't have ownership of that, she doesn't call the bluff of the less than brilliant tool who's trying to blackmail her into a patently illegal contract, but instead destroys the product of what's supposed to be her dream endeavor. Then, she tells herself everything's okay, even though her supposed love has betrayed her because he's just as dumb as she is, and walks off into the sunset. She's totally insane. The only good thing is that if she actually does walk off into the sunset, she'll die because she'll be walking west into the Pacific Ocean, where she'll drown.

Unfortunately, she doesn't drown, as I know she appeared shortly thereafter in the Beauty and the Beast miniseries, which I once owned. I think I got rid of it. If I'm feeling particularly masochistic, and I still have it, I'll re-read that and review it, too. In the meantime, if you are ever confronted with a moment to read Dazzler: The Movie, run away. Run away far. Run away fast.


  1. Havent read this one, well I guess Jim Shooter was didn t care much for steryotypes or women in Comics; i remember there was much controversy about Avengers 200 were Ms. Marvel got raped, by Marcus Inmortus, who used advanced technology , to make Ms. marvel "love him", then the Avenegers let her leave with him to a parallel universe to live happily ever after.

    This was not the easy going,, reluctant hero i remambrer from the Dazzler regular series, then again that was another writer(s). Sienkiewicz did like 9 covers for the 42 issue series, aweasome.

  2. Your review was more fun to read than the actual comic!

  3. I love Dazzler: The Movie because it WAS cheesy and Bad much like most of the 80s.