THE X-MEN PROJECT: CHAPTER 5 – HOWARD BARR NEVER UNDERSTOOD WHY I LIKED DAZZLER SO MUCH

THE X-MEN PROJECT: CHAPTER 5 - HOWARD BARR NEVER UNDERSTOOD WHY I LIKED DAZZLER SO MUCH 13

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Chapter 5

Alison Blaire was always meant for something better, yet she embraced what she wanted to be. Even if she was a mutant or not. I’d keep saying that and Howard would keep replying with further questions. Howard Barr was a gay man in the categorical sense, but not in cartoonish fop way that seems to color most personalities. More importantly, Howard was the only other person I knew that unironically loved Dazzler and “Xanadu”. Both fictions aren’t easy things to appreciate, as so many people want to delve into the camp value of the material. The two of us sincerely dug Dazzler and bonded over the two volumes of Essential Dazzler that Marvel released like throwback phonebooks.

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The Blaire family had a proud legal tradition. Carter Blaire was a proud legal eagle that wanted his daughter to become a lawyer, but she discovered the charm of the stage and never looked back. The character was meant to be a promotional deal via Casablanca Records. But, disco was dying and Chris Claremont was willing to help out the Marvel Team. Sure, other creators helped to get her to the character that we loved, but Claremont defined her personality. It was only later that I learned that Dazzler was a heartbeat away from a film project with Bo Derek in the titular role. Now, that would’ve been the Darkest Timeline.

The last real talk I had about that Bo Derek bit came from a brief conversation with Howard after my daughter was born in April. He hadn’t had a chance to read the Marvel: The Untold Story book that many of the BrainDead Radio members had been pouring through in the Spring. I kept saying that I was going to send him a picture of it, but I could never find a jpeg. I also said that I was going to send him the link to the Instagram for my daughter’s pics. I kept putting it off. Not out of malice, it was just a backburner thing that I would keep remembering me when I was driving and nowhere near a computer.

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When I discovered the X-Men in the 1980s, Dazzler had her solo series ended and she joined the team. The first Dazzler comic I ever read was Blaire dropping the Juggernaut with an array of light blasts. She was always trying to hit on Longshot, but Longshot lacked any personality when Art Adams wasn’t personally involved. Claremont liked to mention that he came from the Mojoverse and had hollow bones, but that character was solely defined by the fact that Dazzler wanted to bone him. I found it funny that Howard said he never read any of those comics. But, I guess he wasn’t the right age during the Marc Silvestri and Jim Lee eras.

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Brian Michael Bendis has tried his hardest to bring Dazzler back to the limelight. He was obviously a fan as he kept sticking the character into his works from Ultimate X-Men to House of M to his recent Uncanny and All-New X-Men runs. It was fun to see a creator that wanted to try her in new roles and showcase her powers. Unfortunately, she had been kidnapped and replaced by Mystique. Mystique was keeping her hidden on Madripoor, as she drained her blood and marrow to create MGH (mutant growth hormone) for the black market. Really, Bendis? I know that Dazzler is supposed to become this big badass soon, but you had this going for almost two years? Carol Danvers wept.

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Dazzler is remembered online for some of the weirder storylines. She teamed up with Galactus to fight off Terrax. She had fans all over the Marvel Universe. Honestly, I was far more partial to Lila Cheney, but taste be damned. Most of you are probably familiar with the character from random Seanbaby chatter or Cracked never-ending “AREN’T COMICS WEIRD” lists. That’s what happens when a female led series in the early 80s goes through seven creative shifts in 40+ issues. They tried to make Dazzler a movie star and it failed. They tried to make her an X-Men, but they chucked her into the Siege Perilous and then they gave up. Floating in the ether, as she showed up in mini-series and quirky one shots. Fans that could remember laughed, while others waited for the moment for Dazzler to redeem herself.

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Very soon, the above image will be the latest iteration of Dazzler. Don’t worry fans! It’s still good ol’ Alison Blaire. The above image was sitting in an email folder that I was supposed to send out this week. I wasn’t sure if Howard still had that email, but I had the whole thing set up and ready to go there and to his BrainDead Radio account. I wanted the guy to see what Marvel was doing with the character that we both loved. Unfortunately, Howard died today. He had been ill with cancer and AIDS complications for a bit now. And, all I can do is talk about Dazzler.

Specifically, the fact that all I can do is look at this last image and realize the power of serial entertainment. You come into the life of fiction, cherish it or hate it. Some of us get lucky enough to find employment in nurturing that fiction. The rest of us either privatize or wait for the day where we can share that fiction with younger fans. The lives we live are finite and feeble, but we share something in our fiction that allows us to dare to be greater than we realize. Through Dazzler, I made a connection with a person that I only routinely chatted with before that point. Dazzler helped me to look past personality differences or minor issues. In the end, it’s all minor. What matters is that we make connections in the first place.

I made a friend over Dazzler, how many people can say that?

For Howard B aka Gigolo Joe aka the guy who I could never remember to send jpegs.

The story never ends, only the readers.

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