DAZZLER: BIG IN ATTILAN
Greg Pak was saying McK and I should do a Dazzler comic on twitter earlier.
It reminded me of something.
When we were doing PHONOGRAM, we were often asked in interviews about what superhero work we wanted to do. Our standard answer was Dazzler, not as we really wanted to specifically, but because we wanted to talk about our creator owned books in interviews. It was a standard answer that got a laugh, and to get back to trying to make people interested in our desperately uninteresting indie book.
However, the problem with writers is that if you even say things enough near them, they’ll find themselves thinking about it on some level. And one day I realised I had an idea for a Dazzler story.
And then you find yourself just writing them down, to get them out of your head. I did it for this story, and put it in a folder alongside such masterworks as ROBIN HOOD VERSUS PREDATOR, and expected to never touch it again. I’m not working for Marvel, and I wasn’t trying to court them. I had uninteresting indie books to try and sell.
Then Fraction mentions to me that Marvel may be looking for a Dazzler mini. I smile, polish it up a bit and lob it at Axel and Nick.
It didn’t go anywhere for reasons that will become immediately obvious - in part that Attilan had just moved off the moon, in part that it was patently apeshit - but I’m still fond of it in many ways. There’s at least two jokes I like in it a lot - the implicit one that it’s a PROG vs DISCO story set on the Dark Side of the Moon and the other which you’ll probably guess, as I mention it twice.
And on a more practical level, people do ask me what one of my synopsis/pitches look like. This is a very early version, obviously, but may be interesting for that too.
Anyway - here’s what 2007 era Gillen was thinking about the Disco Dazzler…
DAZZLER: BIG IN ATTILAN
(In a paragraph, as you’re busy, like.)
Her career in the doldrums and critically savaged, Alison Blaire gets a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. She’s invited to be the first outsider to perform in the Inhumans’ home city. She arrives to find it in strife, between traditionalists outraged at her presence and her fans who – due to Attilan’s East-European Iron-curtain-esque Isolation - only really liked her old-Disco material anyway. After a disastrous, conflict-ruptured gig, the situation takes a bizarre and dangerous turn when a Celestial appears outside the city. Doing nothing. At least until, during an official ball, the classical inhuman music act is disintegrated. Others follow. Dazzler realizes that it’s here, somehow, to judge art. Her band – with Black Bolt guesting on backing vocals – don’t have to just play the gig of their lives – they have to play the gig to save everyone’s lives.
DAZZLER: BIG IN ATTILAN
While Alison Blaire’s life as a costumed adventurer is on the rise, her career as the world’s first mutant superstar has collapsed to Trance toilet-venues. It reaches a new low when, after playing a Student Freshers week gig, she’s savaged in an extended review in a broadsheet newspaper by a M-day depowered ex-mutant critic – that it’s a tragedy that the sole surviving artist from the mutant community is the one who, instead of making Mutant Art, crouched in the gene closet for most of her career making derivative Human music. It’s unfair, she knows, but it cuts her legs from under her. Why be an artist at all?
It’s then her agent her with an unusual – nay – unprecedented gig. A diplomat from Attilan has requested that Dazzler play the Inhuman’s city on the moon. No human has ever done this. It’s like being the first band to play behind the Iron Curtain…
Accepting causes problem. In the aftermath of the Silent War a US citizen traveling to Attilan is a touchy matter anyway. Her government warns her off – but, of course, there’s a reason why Allison isn’t living in the US at the moment. This Blair isn’t the sort to do something just because America tells her so. Riding a wave of hype, she’s elated pretty much until she actually reaches Attilan.
At which point a few problems come to light. Firstly, yes, she’s popular in Attilan. That it’s isolated means that in terms of culture, they’re at least 10 years behind the rest of the world.. That’s why Disco Dazzler is still the No. 1 foreign artist. That she’s moved on from Disco immediately alienates her from the fans. Secondly, the No 1 foreign artist in Attilan means little. It’s an isolationist state, and the dominant traditionalist factions are outraged at any outsider. This is made worse when it becomes clear she was invited under false pretences– the Diplomat wasn’t actually an diplomat. It was a young Inhuman who runs small club gatherings for Discophiles. This outrages traditionalists more, and all that stops Dazzler being ejected is – somehow – despite the DJ not being an actual Diplomat, Black Bolt did give permission for her to come. Why? No-one knows, and Black Bolt – as always – isn’t talking. Thirdly – and the particularly foul cherry on the whole cake – is that her agent invited the critic who tore her apart on the journey, to report on it and in hope the level of access will make him change his position. Alison and him don’t exactly get on.
In short, with stresses both inside and outside the visiting party, the situation’s a powderkeg. Her first gig, a small warm-up to the main performance, is a fiasco. Her fans don’t want the music she plays and it descends into an Inhuman brawl when traditionalists try and stop the performance. After the smoke had cleared, the critic smugly notes that this sort of disaster is what you’d expect with such a minor talent as a cultural ambassador. All that stops Allison from finally snapping at him is some unexpected news.
An enormous figure has appeared outside Attilan. A Celestial: Arishem, specifically.
Already the powder-keg, matches start flying. That he doesn’t appear to be doing anything only makes people more paranoid. What does he want? What caused this? What can they do? Is there anything they can do? Black Bolt keeps as calm a hand on the society tiller as possible, but the pressures show. Many fingers, understandably, point at the presence of Dazzler. With the Celestial’s silent presence not sublimating into something specific, life continues nervously on.
The next major event is at an inhuman ball which Alison is present. A traditionalist function, the music is provided by one of the Inhumans who’s been most outspoken against the debauched, immature and corrupting nature of Dazzler’s work. Half way through his performance of ornate classic Attilan sonnets… the Celestial rouses outside. Shortly afterwards, the performer disintegrates.
The military plans step up hugely, as the race of metahumans works out how it can possibly take on a Celestial. The pressure around Dazzler amps up further, as she fends off an assassination attempt. Attention is only distracted when a couple more inhumans are disintegrated… also during their performances.
Talking to the venomous critic, Alison has a moment of insight. As is their nature, the Celestial is here to judge, yes. But somehow it’s here to judge art. This isn’t something she can fight like an X-man or a member of Excalibur. She has to somehow put on a show that’d please the Star God that towers over the city.
She puts her plans into order, disappearing into hurried practice. Her stage before the towering Celestial in one of the enclosed domes of Attilan. A crowd of her previously disappointed faithful and the disgruntled disbelievers gather.
She steps on stage. And it’s in her old Dazzler gear. The band steps out. She introduces herself to the crowd, promising a very special show, and then calls forth an new addition to her band. Black Bolt steps out of the shadows. The Prime ruler of the Inhumans is, for this show, backing vocals.
Dazzler starts her set. It’s old school Dazzler, but merged with the her more modern take, her classics reinvented – it’s populist, crowd pleasing, communal, a world away from the austere chamber music of the people. You can dance to it. You can cry to it. You can live to it, y’know. And - as Black bolt sings - Allison absorbs all the energy into the biggest lightshow on earth, her body growing in energy, growing in intensity, just growing… until, at the song’s apex, she’s literally the star she’s always wanted to be.
The song finishes, laser light dripping off her like sweat.
The Celestial stares. Notably, no-one is disintegrated.
At which point the rest of the Celestial host materialize and join Arishem in his vigil. The gig continues, the Inhumans dance and… while the Celestials don’t, they watch.
As the gig finishes, a handful of the Celestials disappear. Some remain. “What do they want?” “I think… they want an encore”. Dazzler plays the coy star, saying that she’d only really be able to play another song if a few extra people were in the audience. You know – the ones you disintegrated a few days ago.
A moment’s tension.
The celestials rematerializes the judged ones, then return to their Vigil.
Dazzler tears off her blonde wig, gestures to Black Bolt to start singing and she kicks into a rapturously achieved encore.
The story picks up the next day. The Celestials vanished at the close of the gig. The party continued through the night And now, Dazzler and party are about to leave. In the farewells Medusa inadvertently reveals the information everyone was wondering – why Black Bolt would actually allow the DJ to invite her to Attilan. It’s very simple.
“Black Bolt would like to know how pleased he was to be able to perform with you last night. A chance to see you live was all he was hoping for, but that… was too much. You always were his favourite”.
Dazzler leaves Attilan with her faith in the importance of music – and her relation with it, as a performer – restored and those her mocked her well and truly humbled. It doesn’t matter what a little critic makes of her when Arishem the Judge understands.
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