Thursday, 31 October 2013

DAZ #36: "The Human Touch!"

("Those who have seen your face
Draw back in fear")


Fun fact: this is the only issue of the initial 42-issue Dazzler run to be written by a woman.  I mention this for historical interest, mainly, trying to use this fact as a springboard to discuss how this issue differs from its predecessors would be problematic both in terms of gender politics and basic statistics.  I'll simply note that this is the first issue for a few months which doesn't include anything that could plausibly be described as cheesecake, and leave it at that.

It's also the first time for a little while that Dazzler has fought an honest-to-Gods supervillain in the title. I'm ashamed to admit that I had to look up Tatterdemalion - both as a character and a word.  He apparently turns up from time to time as a Z-list villain on either side of this issue.  Since this story basically works as his origin, however, it doesn't particularly matter, especially since this is all basically a repainted Gaston Leroux - Grant might have well entitled this as The Phantom Of The Hip Lounge Club.

Reilly's Ace of Clubs has itself a problem - its headline singers keep quitting. Unbeknownst to management, that's because Tatterdemalion - a mad tramp with burning hands and the common villain trait of referring to himself in the third person - keeps threatening to melt their faces if they don't cheese it.  Things have gotten so bad the manager is prepared to hire a mutant like Dazzler (here operating under the alias Dolores Rudolph, but her new boss sees right through that).  At last it's a chance for Alison to get money doing what she loves doing.  Even better, it doesn't seem as though her new boss is a murdering fame-whore or a would-be slaver, which is nice.

If only death-tramp didn't keep trying to kill her.

As I said, this is Tatterdemalion's origin story, and it's not remotely difficult to see what's going on.  The man seems determined to scare away every young singer who joins the club, but the older lady who provides piano accompaniment is left entirely unmolested.  Once the mistress of the ivories is revealed to be Julia Walker, one half of Wyatt and Walker, a movie dance duo that were once ubiquitous and now washed-up, with the male half having disappeared years ago, it's not hard to guess who's beneath Tatterdemalion's weighted scarf. An obligatory fight scene, and the misguided villain is unmasked as Wyatt, and is forgiven and taken back by Julia.

Tatterdemalion's story does not end up there - he shows up again as late as Civil War - but there seems every intention here that it should have ended with this. So taken as a whole, does it work? Well... not really. Whether one considers the return of supervillains to the title as a welcome change or an unfortunate reversion to a tired mean, the fact remains that Tatterdemalion is really basically just a Scooby Doo villain wearing oven gloves he just used to get out his lasagna. Which, fine, not every villain has to be a threat to humanity.  But in the process we lose the focus on Dazzler's life in general.  Indeed, whatever Tatterdemalion's problems, he indirectly actually helps restart Alison's singing career, and helps make her seem like a better bet than her mutant status would suggest.

With those two strands removed, what we have here is an obvious story about two people we've never seen before being reunited a half-dozen pages after we discovered they were ever together or ever broke up.  Worse, it reduces the theme of the title from the difficulties of making ends meet as a persecuted minority, making it instead about the unique difficulties of celebrity (OK, breaking up over a career divergence and then hitting the skids when trying to go it alone isn't only applicable to the famous, but it's still most recognisable as one of the cliched problems with fame). There is pretty much nothing I care less about than Alison worrying about whether fame will come with drawbacks. It's a terrible basis for self-pitying pop songs, and it's little better here.

Still, at least this is a tale about how a middle-aged woman can have a second chance with the love of her life, rather than about how young and nubile women can take their clothes off and it's all sexy and stuff.  If only this title could be interesting and non-exploitative all at the same time.  Hopes aren't high, though.  This is the mid-eighties, after all, and there are only six more issues to go...

(Also, that cover might be our first clear sign that we're slouching inexorably towards the infinite barren wasteland men call... the '90s.)


This story takes place over a full day, and creeps into the following morning.


Thursday 5th to Friday 6th October, 1984.


X+6Y+217 to X+6Y+218.

Contemporary Events

Glenn McMillan is born, the Brazilian Australian acting powerhouse who later found fame as the Yellow Wind Ranger in Power Rangers Ninja Force.  Frankly, I could make a joke about "yellow wind", but I find myself too queasy to attempt it.

Standout Line

"If you want to work with us normals you got to learn to take a little kidding, kid." - There's no evidence Grant realised that, but this is easily the most politically charged line in the whole book. "Of course you can part of our society. You just have to do it entirely on our terms."

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