Publisher: Marvel Comics
First Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #130 (1980)
Created By: Ali was created by Marvel staffers Tom DeFalco, John Romita, Jr., Louise Simonson, & Roger Stern before her initial appearance, which was written and drawn by Chris Claremont & John Byrne respectively
When aspiring singer/dancer Ali Blaire manifested mutant light powers, she decided to make lemonade from her lemons and entered the music world as a disco performer with really suspiciously awesome special effects. While she was performing as “Dazzler,” the X-Men interrupted with one of her shows by beating up some bad guys. She helped save the day and went on to have a number of adventures, but shied away from becoming a full-time hero, preferring to focus on her singing and a burgeoning acting career. It took years before she finally accepted the team’s offer to join….but only after effectively ruining her career by coming out as a mutant.
During her time on the team, she met the handsome human mullet known as Longshot, a native of another dimension. They totally made heart eyes at each other, and she eventually went off to help him fight the rebellion in his own world. Along the way, they married, became quasi-guardians of the (*siiiiigh*) X-Babies, and suffered the loss of a pregnancy.
Eventually, their marriage broke up—it’s not really clear why, but Longshot’s stint as an amnesiac didn’t help the situation—and Ali came back to Earth to try to make it as a techno star, thus finding the only genre arguably more reviled than disco. She’s also an X-Man again, which is fine by me as long as she’s rollerblading over to punch villains in the face.
So What’s So Great About Her?
There’s a really obvious upside and downside to tying comic book characters with current pop culture trends. Upside: When the character debuts, they feel really fresh and cool and real! Downside: They start sounding cringingly dated about four minutes later.
Don’t believe me? Well, crack open one of the first, say, 30 issues or so of the original run of Gen13 to see what I mean. It’s so intensely threaded with then-current, now frankly bizarre ‘90s slang that I’d be surprised if a present-day teenager would understand half the dialogue. But seriously, at the time Gen13 was widely praised for its “current” flavor, and the fans loved it. “Oh my God, they listen to Soundgarden and wear babydoll dresses! IT’S LIKE THEY ARE ME.” Now it’s just like peering into an MTV-created time capsule.
But Dazzler might actually be the queen of this phenomenon. Because, I mean. Come on. ROLLER-SKATING, DISCO-SINGING, JUMPSUIT-WEARING SUPERHERO. It’s like you’re actively getting hit in the face with late ’70s/very early ‘80s hipness.
Ali actually has a complicated, fascinating history; she was originally created to be a tie-in for a (surprise) disco record, and later there was noise about a Dazzler movie starring Bo Derek. For much more in-depth, informed tellings of those stories, check out the posts here and here. But I have to say, for a character whose existence is largely in thanks to her merchandising potential, Ali is an extremely well-rounded, interesting person. She has a rather sad background, having been abandoned by her mother and raised by a John-Lithgow-in-Footloose-esque father. We got to see her career rise and then fall rather realistically due to a misguided, if well-meaning, publicity move. She had a sweet, long-term romance with a man who could have only been considered hot in the ‘80s (his mullet!) than ended due to apparently mundane reasons. All in all, she’s a compelling, really real sort of character.
The fact that she pulled it off in rhinestone-covered rollerskates makes it all the more impressive. It would have been all too easy to make her a one-note character, doing the hustle over to Juggernaut and telling him to ring this bell before bopping him in the gut with some light powers. In fact, if that were the case, I’d still totally love her, just maybe not as much.
Even still, it’s not difficult to understand why Dazzler faded from the comics scene for most of the ‘90s. As the trends shifted away from glam and toward edgy grunge, Ali was not the type of character any writer really wanted to spotlight. It’s actually kind of remarkable how quickly Ali went from being a character with a 40+ issue solo series to someone who didn’t appear even as a cameo for years. But luckily, in the last decade or so, writers riding the ‘80s nostalgia wave have rediscovered how fun and awesome Ali is, and she’s back on the scene as a member of X-Men. Hopefully she’ll stay there for a long while yet. After all, disco may be dead, but Dazzler never will be.
You know, until she is. Comics!
Amazing Spider-Man #203
Fantastic Four #217
Marvel Team-Up #109
Marvel Graphic Novel #12
Beauty & the Beast #1-4
New Mutants #29-31
Secret Wars II #1; 4-5
Uncanny X-Men #210; 213-252; 259-260; Annuals 1987-1991
Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men #1-4
X-Men vs. the Avengers #1-4
Marvel Fanfare #38
X-Men #5-7; 10-11; 47
Marvel Fanfare (vol.2) #4-5
Uncanny X-Men #392-393
X-Men Unlimited #32
New Excalibur #1-24
X-Men: Die By the Sword #1-5
Uncanny X-Men #502-504; 506; 509; 511; 513-519; 522; 524; 528; 531-534
X-Men and Spider-Man #2
X-Men: Manifest Destiny #5
Wolverine: First Class #16
Hulk Team-Up #1
Marvel Heartbreakers #1
X-Force (vol.3) #25
Dazzler (vol.2) #1
X-Men: Curse of the Mutants: X-Men vs. Vampires
X-Men: To Serve and Protect #4
Iron Age: Omega #1
Iron Age #3
X-Men: Regenesis #1