15 Jul 2011
Hadn’t exactly occurred to me before Alyssa Rosenberg wrote this post espousing the virtues of the unbelievably tripped out Jim Shooter Dazzler treatment that’s been floating around the internets all week, but in addition to being Baz Luhrmann on peyote and maybe some crystal meth insane (but in a good way) the aforementioned treatment-approach solves both the most origin stories are just rather boring problem with comic book adaptations … And the how comic books are at their core ridiculously incestuous while films aren’t, because rights sales aren’t problem with comic adaptations.
To properly adapt any book like say Alias (Jessica Jones) or of course Dazzler to the screen Marvel would need to make use of the backdrop of their “expanding lattice of movies.” In Dazzler’s case it would be absolutely essential because her whole “wants to be a disco dancing singer not a superhero” thing as a metaphor for every young fool who dreams of being to be an artist rather than a suit wearing-whatever-professional (which would clearly be impossible to convey within the boundaries of a filmed universe where she’s the only heroic super-being). That “within the backdrop” approach would also be necessary because the basic template of a classic Dazzler story goes something like: Your basic blond square jawed macho male superhero pops into Dazzler’s life and makes one two or three rather ham-fisted attempt to impress-seduce her. A real live supervillian shows up and beats said would be-wannabe Alison Blaire paramour into to a rather seriously unconscious pulp. Whereupon Alison steps up to save him, usually but not always herself and often the day or even the world by kicking said naughty supervillian’s round ass square.
Once again, the only way to retain that element – the thing that makes Dazzler almost unique in comicdom and a character well worth pointing cameras and screenwriters toward – would be to set any adaptation in Marvel’s shared film universe (and in a cameo rich pre Saturday Night Fever 70’s disco scene that showcases perfect for it Kristen Bell … please).
Now, I said most of that in comments over on Alyssa’s post so you’re seeing it again here, because there are a few things related to why Dazzler is such a fascinating and almost unique character (who really does need to be filmed and soon) that I just feel compelled to unpack. Why? Because that story template above is, I think, among the most unbelievably subversive story templates in all of comics. Even though The Disco Dazzler was originally thunk up in the mid-70s as a cross-promotion project in the mold of KISS, (who had comic book tie-ins and this needs to be seen to be believed TV movie). Marvel would develop a singing superhero and Casablanca Records would develop a singer then Filmworks would produce a motion picture (which is where that there rocket fueled acid-trip treatment of Jim Shooter’s came from). Once all of that corporate cynicism maneuvering and product development that imagined Dazzler as Bo Derek (yes, this Bo Derek) fell apart, Dazzler became something kind of amazing … well, at least in the context of comic books of the day and in many ways a model for today’s comics as Meta commentary on comics (like say Alias) in that it’s a superhero book about not wanting to be a superhero, that takes place mostly in a “real word” that only brushes up against the world of costumed heroes and supevillians. Her book (at at least until issue 37) focused on her career, family and relationships rather than using such elements as mere back drop. She does battle with stalkers, corrupt music industry types and even natural disasters as often as supervillians. When Dazzler inadvertently kills a supervillian she’s actually put on trial. When she’s tossed into prison, a group of locked up villainesses make an ill-fated attempt to turn her out … not for revenge or anything, but just because they’re the top dogs inside and she’s new.
More importantly, for 37 issues Dazzler was the least sexist-most feminist thing in comics and frankly you’d have a hard time scanning shop shelves today and finding a better use of forthright – as opposed to very special episode – feminism. Which was odd and is notable today because it was never “liberation craze“ 70s style feminism but rather something closer to what Joss Whedon did with Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and I’d actually argue more evolved than); in that Dazzler’s strength is never something she pays a price for romantically or otherwise. Unlike say Phoenix, whose power bedeviled her relationship and required her death or Elektra’s strength that removed her from the possibility of having a relationship and required her death or how Storm power riddled portrayal seemed to come at the price of a couple of decades worth of celibacy. Dazzler got to be talented, Ivy League law school worthy smart, typically the most powerful superbeing in a room and date … like a lot, and without anything in the way of tragic consequences (unless you count constantly having to save her boyfriends lives). Unlike too many other women in comics, she was generally the rescuer and rarely if ever the rescued. No. Really. When she hires Power Man and Iron Fist as bodyguards, it;s Dazzler who has to save them. The whole Dazzler as rescuer thing was so much a part of the character that it bled over into her encounters withe other heroines … She Hulk goes insane, Dazzler chills her out with the assistance of a Mack Truck, Spiderwoman gets captured by bad guys, Dazzler busts her out. When a male character is seen to do her a solid, that male is a father figure character so powerful he has been removed from the day to day action in the Marvel Universe (Odin, Galactus, Black Bolt). And even their assistance is offered based on their “respect and admiration” for Alison’s ever evident “strength and courage” rather than because of anything resembling condescension.
So. Isn’t that the kind of heroine filmed entertainment desperately needs right around now?