Dazzler #33

Issue Date: 
August 1984
Story Title: 

Mike Carlin (writer), Mark Bright (penciler), Vinnie Colletta (inker), John Morelli (letterer), Andy Yanchus (colorist), Ralph Macchio (editor), Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief), Bill Sienkiewicz (cover artist)

Brief Description: 

While attending a high-profile Hollywood party, Dazzler meets film director Robert Benson, who offers her a role on a music video he is directing for superstar musician Teddy Lingard. Dazzler intends to accept the gig despite her agent’s warnings about the supposed Benson-curse. After Benson exits the party, he survives a car-bombing. The next day, Dazzler calls Benson and accepts his offer to audition that afternoon—an audition she nails without even trying at all. She arrives at the set the next day to begin filming the horror-themed music video, in which she plays one of the zombie dancers. A brief rehearsal and a meeting with Teddy Lingard later, the shooting begins—but not before Dazzler overhears Benson making a suspicious phone call to a news station. As per her role in the video, Dazzler gets buried alive. After she fails to emerge from her grave on her mark, Benson stops the shooting, approaches Dazzler’s grave and declares her dead because of a malfunction. Just as he begins to weep, however, Dazzler reaches up, grabs his ankle, and—while pretending to be a zombie—tricks Benson into confessing that he not only tried to kill her for the sake of his career, but staged accidents on several of his earlier films as well. Benson is arrested and Dazzler parts ways with a grateful Teddy Lingard.

Full Summary: 

Alison Blaire partially shields her eyes to block out the horrifying image before her, while her friend Janet, her eyes wide with terror, frightfully clutches her shoulder for support. Both women gasp in fear. “No, don’t open that door—don’t do it!” Alison shouts. However, it is to no avail. The character on the movie screen opens the door and beholds the grizzled face of a decrepit old villain. The audience—including Alison and Janet—screams in terror. Some people throw up their hands, and others, popcorn.

At this point, Alison has had enough. She tells Janet she can’t take it anymore and walks out of the crowded theater. Janet follows after her, but whether she does so because she feels bad for her friend or because she doesn’t want to be left by herself is unclear. As Alison nears the exit, she justifies her decision by telling herself she doesn’t mind a good scare every now and then—but she’ll be darned if she’s going to pay five dollars for one! She endures enough of this stuff every day.

Struggling to feel her way through the darkened theater to the exit, Alison decides to use her mutant powers of sound-to-light transduction to illuminate the way to the double-doors. Being a mutant with the power to convert sound into light sure comes in handy for the small details!

Outside the theater, Alison apologizes to Janet for her outburst, but says she could not stand it another minute; she just doesn’t have the stomach for this stuff. Janet claims she doesn’t either, but Alison seems hesitant to believe her. She takes Janet by the hand and assertively leads her out of the theater. Janet asks what’s wrong. Alison tells her she doesn’t like to waste money like that. Janet isn’t sure what she means; she got exactly what she expected from the movie. Alison supposes she did too. She just hates to admit that the movie was the most exciting thing to happen to her all week!

The two women mindlessly enter a crosswalk without looking. The loud horn and blinding headlights of a passing automobile shock them back to attention. “Why don’t you dippy chicks watch where you’re walking?” the irate driver shouts. Alison apologizes, skips out of his way and stumbles over to a streetlight for support. The movie must have spooked them badly, she says as she catches her breath and waits for her adrenaline to settle. Janet agrees wholeheartedly. Deciding to part ways for the evening, the two women say their goodbyes and head home. Janet asks Alison if she’ll be all right, but Ali assures her everything will be just fine. What’s there to fear, anyway? Nothing much, she thinks, except getting fired if I don’t work up those new exercises for the aerobics class she’s teaching. Gotta run.

Alison sprints all the way home, covering the distance between the theater and her apartment quite quickly. She frantically tries to fit her key into the door to her apartment. It takes the added help of her light powers—aided of course by the rattle of her keys—to slip the key into the hole. As soon as Alison gets inside, she slams the door, leans against it and catches her breath. Now she remembers why she hates those movies! She worries she might be a nervous wreck for days.

Suddenly, the phone rings. Its abrupt alarm gives Dazzler yet another scare—her third for the evening so far. After realizing it’s only the phone, she calms down and walks over to the coffee table, hoping she won’t feel this jittery for long. To her surprise, when she answers it, she hears the comforting voice of her agent, Roman Nekoboh.

On the other end of the line, Roman smiles and leans back on his sofa as he extends an invitation to a party to Alison. Can she be dressed to kill in thirty minutes? When she asks why, Roman informs her that the snagged invites to the party of the season! All kinds of networking opportunities will present themselves to Alison at this party. What does she say? Alison laughs; of course she will attend! Glad to hear this, Roman tells her to wear something sexy and hangs up. After the call ends, Alison considers for a moment how much Roman has done for her. He’s only been her agent for the short time she’s been in Los Angeles, and he’s already done more for her than anyone else has in her whole life—including her father! With that, she focuses on getting ready for the party.

Ninety minutes later, inside a sprawling Beverly Hills estate, the cream of Hollywood’s celebrities mix and mingle. However, the surroundings and company only serve to frighten one novice Tinsel Town partygoer. Alison Blaire, dressed in a striking purple dress, tells Roman she hopes she doesn’t do or say the wrong thing at the party; she would hate to embarrass him in front of his friends! Roman just wishes she would settle down already. After all, she’s doing fine just standing there looking beautiful.

A cigar-smoking man wearing a puffy, yellow shirt opened all the way down to his belt approaches Alison and tries to get her attention. He claims he could not help but noticing the attractive young lady in the company of Roman Nekoboh. He prompts her to give her name, and she does, introducing herself as Alison Blaire. As the man resumes speaking, however, Roman grabs Alison by the shoulders and steers her away. She claims to know who the man is—but so does Roman.

After they get out of an earshot, Alison angrily reminds Roman he wanted her to meet people at this party. “Who’s managing Alison Blaire, you or me?” Roman asks. Ali admits Roman is, but before she can add a qualifier, Roman tells her he doesn’t want her to meet everyone at this party. Does she understand? Yes, Alison tells him—but in truth, she doesn’t.

Later, after Roman and Alison drift into different conversation cliques, a newcomer to the party is asked to meet Alison Blaire. Alison shakes hands with the bearded man, whose name is Robert Benson, and asks if he is the film director Bob Benson. Indeed he is, Robert says.

Roman, meanwhile, overhears this interaction and grows angry. He tries to pull away from his conversation with a thickly accented foreign woman, but she refuses to let him go. He eavesdrops instead.

Back in the other conversation circle, Alison tells Mister Benson that, just earlier that evening, she saw his latest horror movie “Bloody Mary”. After asking her to call him “Bob”, he asks Alison what she thought of the film’s twist ending. With trepidation, Alison admits she left the film before it ended—not because it was bad, but because she was so scared. Ali, you jerk, she tells herself. Bob, meanwhile, just laughs it off; he didn’t come over to make her blush! In fact, he came to tell her he likes her look, and would like to use her in a music video he’s directing with Teddy Lingard. He gives her his card and asks her to call his people. Alison politely thanks him. Internally, however, she has struggle maintaining her composure. Teddy Lingard!! A video!! I’ve died and gone to heaven!

After Bob says good night to her, Alison runs over to Roman and tells him he will not believe what just happened! Roman, his arms folded, tells her he actually would believe what happened—and advises her to be careful. Naturally, she asks why. Averting his glance, Roman states that Bob Benson has a reputation for playing fast and easy with his hired talent—and he’s not talking about heartbreak, either; he means physical risks!

Before Alison can finish telling Roman he’s laying it on a little thick, an explosion outside the mansion rocks the estate and shatters a nearby window. The force rips the curtains to shreds and sends shards of glass into the room, but thankfully, no one inside the party sustains any injuries. Everyone rushes outside and finds Bob Benson’s car ablaze. The frightened partygoers shout for someone to do something. Dazzler gasps because she was just speaking with the victim moments earlier, but realizes he could not have made it to his car that quickly! Despite Roman’s attempts to keep her away from the flames, Alison runs over to the car to investigate. As she approaches, she hears noises resembling a moan coming from the bushes.

Hoping to isolate the source of the noise, Alison fights her way through the shrubs. She finds she cannot pinpoint it because of all the ambient noise and the darkness. To solve both these problems, she discretely transduces the extra sounds into light and makes herself a spotlight. As she searches through the bushes, however, she laments that maybe she did not hear anything at all. To her relief, she spots Bob Benson lying injured near a small tree. He looks like he’s alive—but just barely.

On the other side of the fire, Roman urges everyone to get inside before the car explodes again. Back in the bushes, Dazzler helps Bob to his feet. Mere moments after she gets him clear of the burning vehicle, its gas tank explodes, obliterating the remains of the car.

Inside the mansion, a short while later, the other party guests marvel at Bob Benson’s good fortune. He affably claims he’s okay and asks what the big deal is; he can always get another car! Besides, he has grown accustomed to these little mishaps. There’s always weird things happening to him; he supposes he’s just jinxed! Roman offers Benson a ride to the hospital. Benson accepts the ride, but not the destination; he would rather go home. As Alison and Roman help the injured director to the car, Alison notices that she seems far more concerned about the incident than the victim does… but why?

The very next morning, Dazzler sips a cup of coffee and reads the newspaper report of the car explosion. She is relieved to find no mention of her name—even though she’s the one who found Bob in the bushes. She struggles to decide whether she should call him or not. An obvious air of danger surrounds him, but she can’t tell whether he’s unlucky or someone’s target. After all, this is not the first time Bob has narrowly escaped injury. Alison decides to take her chances and give him a call, despite Roman’s warnings. Taking risks is the only way she will make it in this town!

Later, at the health club where she works as an aerobics instructor, Alison finishes leading her class through yet another rigorous routine. She sends them off and heads to the payphone to call Bob Benson, whom she probably should have called earlier. She hopes he still wants her for the video—if he even remembers her! When he answers, Alison awkwardly introduces herself, but to her surprise, Benson remembers exactly who she is! He asks if she still wants a part in the Lingard video. After informing him she does, Bob tells Alison to be at Paragon Studios in two hours. Alison gets cleaned up and hops in her car. As she drives away from Los Angeles Health and Racquet, she assures herself the audition will be a breeze—but wonders whom she’s kidding. She’s already sweating bullets, and it’s not from the exercise!

Shortly thereafter, Alison arrives at Paragon Studios and meets up with Bob Benson in the parking lot. He apologizes for the mishap the night before; he likes to save those types of scares for his audiences! As a result of the incident, however, he now has two bodyguards, to whom he introduces to Alison. He adds that the studio also decided to advance the production schedule of the Lingard video, possibly because they fear Benson might be dead before they finish the project! Because of that, he tells Alison the job will require her presence every afternoon for the next two weeks. Alison assures him she can meet those requirements. However, doesn’t she need to audition? Does he want to see her dance? Benson nonchalantly tells her that would be all right and asks her to dance. After giving her uncertain agreement, Alison begins dancing right there in the parking lot. She thrusts her legs forward and throws her hands on the other direction. Then, she thrusts her arms in the air and goes on toe, but before she can even get to the next move, Benson tells her she can stop. “Great! That’s enough!” he says. He tells her they start the next day at noon. As Benson departs with his two bodyguards, Alison gives him a curious look. He gave her the job after dancing two steps? It’s all happening so fast—and just a little too easily.

At 12:03 the next afternoon, Alison, still on-edge, wanders over to the makeup trailer. It’s been three whole minutes and nothing has happened—yet. She walks into the makeup room and introduces herself, explaining that the assistant director sent her over to get some touch-ups on her makeup. “Touch-ups, huh?” the makeup guy asks. He tells her to find a costume that fits, put it on and take a seat. He promises to be with her shortly.

After changing, Ali spends close to two hours in “the chair” at the mercy of the makeup artist’s every whim. Time drags, until he finally steps back, smiles and says “voila!” Alison turns to the mirror and is horrified to see a rotting face of a grizzled old woman staring back at her! “Is that me?!” she asks. After her initial surprise wears off, she has a good laugh about her undead appearance. Maybe she’s been working herself a little too hard lately! She compliments the makeup artist on his work and tells him he did a beautiful job.

The zombified Dazzler exits the makeup room and heads into the hallway. She finds it packed shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow actors all made up to look like the undead. This is going to be a blast, she tells herself with excitement. She walks over to a fellow actress, brushes back her hair and jokingly says she was chosen because Bob liked her looks. The other woman laughs; that’s what Bob told her too! The way they look now, she can’t believe Bob said that to them with a straight face. Speaking of Bob, he arrives in the waiting room and tells the cast he would like to run them through a few of the simpler steps before Teddy arrives. That way, they can be sure to have a productive afternoon.

Benson puts the eager young dancers through their paces—though other matters occupy his mind. After twenty minutes of rehearsal, Teddy Lingard, a handsome, young, black man wearing a red leather jacket and pants, enters the room and greets everyone. “Teddy, baby,” Benson says to him, “—I was getting a little worried about you! Thought maybe—”

“The jinx thing, Bob? Come on, really,” Teddy says, smiling. Alison, meanwhile, gets a look at the handsome musician up close and grows faint. She finds him even cuter in person! Benson smiles and conveys to Lindgard what an honor it is to work with him, one of the greats of the music world. Teddy just rolls his eyes in anticipation of the embarrassing schmooze. He listens for a moment while Benson yammers on, but then interrupts. “That’s fine, Bob. I like your work and I like to think you like my work like I like your work,” he says. “But, let’s make this official and do some work!”

With that, Benson begins issuing instructions to the crew. He tells the actors to be ready on the set in fifteen minutes. The stagehands, meanwhile, he asks to prepare the set for the graveyard scene. Intending to use her fifteen-minute break wisely, Alison asks to be excused so she can powder her nose. The stagehand gives her permission and directs her to the bathroom. He tells her to just follow Benson; she can’t miss it. Minding her own business, Alison wanders to the ladies room, but as she opens the door, she cannot help but overhear Benson as he makes a call from the phone booth. “Hello, KPTP News? Yes? I suggest you get a couple of cameras over to Paragon Studios fast!” he says. “Something terrible has happened on the set of Teddy Lingard’s latest music video—and Robert Benson is the director of the film!” He hangs up the phone, ignoring the other party’s request that he identify himself.

Just as the call ends, the zombified Alison exits the bathroom. He asks if it’s her; he can barely tell under all that makeup. She knows what he means, Alison says. As they walk back to the set together, Benson lets her in on a little secret: if everything goes smoothly, by tomorrow she’s going to be a household name. Oh, really? Alison thinks.

On the graveyard set, Benson instructs all the living-dead types to find themselves a comfortable, final resting place for themselves. In this shot, he explains, they will all crawl out from their graves! Alison can barely believe what she’s hearing; nobody said anything about being buried alive! Regardless, she finds an open grave, sits down and prepares herself for burial. Benson approaches her and asks if everything it okay. No, she tells him; she jokes that with the way she looks, she could use some eternal beauty sleep! She asks if it’s going to hurt, though.

With all the actors in place, Benson gives his stagehands the signal to bury the creatures of the night. Alison, lying still with her arms folded over her chest, acknowledges that this is not her idea of fun. The burial begins. The stagehand nearest her throws on shovelful after shovelful of hard, heavy dirt. As the dirt pile encroaches on Alison’s face, Benson tells them to slowly push up from the ground and stalk Teddy after he gives the signal. I hate being buried alive, Alison thinks as the darkness overcomes her. This is soooo creepy! I HATE THIS! When the final scoops of dirt cover her head, she curses herself for not listening to Roman’s warnings.

The filming begins once the actors are properly buried. Teddy Lingard walks in front of the set, heeding Benson’s performance directions. After telling the actors playing undead to stand by, Benson gives them their signal. They emerge from their graves slowly while Teddy tries to look frightened—really frightened. He lets out a scream.

Suddenly, Benson calls for a cut. He noticed that Alison didn’t crawl out of her grave. He marches over to her resting place and shouts at her. “Oh, Miss Blaire? Hello down there? A little tardy on the stalking, aren’t we? Would you care to join us topside for a little work, Miss Blaire? Alison?” She doesn’t answer. Benson begins to act a little worried. He wonders aloud if she’s in trouble! Kneeling by the grave, his eyes widen in shock as he sees that there is no air hose in Alison’s grave! “Where’s her air hose?!” he shouts. Just as the reporters from the news station arrive, Benson asks for help. Someone needs to do something, he says! She can’t breathe! “Oh no! Not the news! Not now!!” he shouts when he sees the news cameras.

However, behind Benson, a shaft of light pokes through the dirt—a laser beam created by the mutant powers of Alison Blaire from the very sound of Benson’s voice. The beam vaporizes more and more of the soil and earth until, in the timeless tradition of the horror film, a hand thrusts upward from the grave! Benson screams and falls backward as the hand grabs his ankle. “She’s alive! Someone help me!!” he shouts. As he falls on his butt, he asks how she can still be alive.

This strange outburst raises puzzled looks from several of the cast members. Alison, meanwhile, begins crawling out of the grave. She calls out Bob’s name in a deep, gravel-throated voice. Bob runs away in terror. Dazzler follows, her arms outstretched like a member of the undead. “Bob Benson… youuuu’re tooo blame!!” she says as she lumbers forward. Bob rushes to his trailer, screaming for help the entire way. They can’t just stand there, he shouts! Meanwhile, while the cameras capture every moment on film, Dazzler continues her approach. “Heard you on the phone” she says in her most terrifying zombie voice. “You’re responsible for my death… you knew there wasn’t any air… you called the reporters… you set up all the accidents! You’re to blame!” she says with a ghoulish expression on her face.

To everyone’s surprise, Benson admits to she is right. He did it! He did everything! He blew up his own car and rigged all the disasters on the “Bloody Mary” set! He’s to blame for his own bad reputation, he says while clutching his head. The cameras continue rolling. Benson admits he only wanted some publicity—any publicity! He needed it for box office appeal!

With the culprit’s confession secured, Alison rips the zombie makeup off her face. She knew something was fishy! The party, the auditions—it was all too easy! After she heard that phone call and saw the setup for the grave, which had no breathing apparatus, she knew exactly what was happening. Thanks to her expertise in aerobic breathing techniques, however, it was easy for her to hold her breath for a couple of minutes! She keeps the truth of her survival to herself, however. She was under the dirt for more like fifteen minutes, but an air-hole she bored through the dirt with her light powers made them an easy fifteen.

Benson is stunned; does Alison mean to say she isn’t dead—he confessed in front of a television crew? With no options left, Benson tries to run for it. However, Teddy Lingard appears in his path. “Wait up, Benson!” he says. “I haven’t shown you my favorite step yet!” He thrusts out his leg and trips the fleeing director. Alison saunters over to Benson, strokes his hair, and tells him he’s sure a pushover when it comes to getting scared! Perhaps he’s seen too many monster movies.

As the police lead the disgruntled director away, Dazzler approaches Lingard and compliments him on the deft move he pulled to trip Benson. Not many guys would have done it! Lingard tells her to call him Teddy—and reminds her he’s not like other guys. He gets no argument from Alison. She decides to call her manager to let him know she survived. Teddy calls dibs on the phone after she finishes; he’s got to line up a new director! As Alison walks away, she tells Teddy it was a thrill meeting him. “See you ‘round,” Teddy says. With his director gone, Teddy struggles to think of another. He wonders if the guy who directed An American Werewolf in London is available.

Characters Involved: 


Roman Nekoboh (Dazzler’s agent)

Janet (Dazzler’s friend)

Bob Benson (film director)

Teddy Lingard (musician)

Various partygoers

Makeup artist

Various film extras, assistants and dancers

Camera crew

Story Notes: 

This issue was inspired by “Michael Jackson’s Thriller”, the landmark 1983 music video based on the song from Jackson’s album of the same name. That video featured, among other things, a screening of a Vincent Price movie and a scene in which a cemetery full of zombies rise from their graves and stalk Michael Jackson’s character and his date.

The scene at the beginning of this issue in which Dazzler walks out of a scary movie is lifted almost directly from the opening of the second act of “Thriller”.

The character Teddy Lingard is modeled after deceased superstar Michael Jackson. In this issue, Lingard wears the same red leather jacket and pants Jackson wore in the music video for “Thriller”. Although she doesn’t wear it in the issue itself, the red leather jacket Dazzler wears on the cover of this issue is inspired by that same outfit.

The Robert Benson character appears to be modeled after John Landis, the director of "Michael Jackson's Thriller" who was also known at the time for directing National Lampoon’s Animal House, The Blues Brothers and Trading Places. Not only does Benson resemble Landis physically, but, more notably, the entire plot of this issue seems to be a joke at Landis's expense. Like Landis, Benson has a reputation for harmful on-set accidents. In 1982, a year before filming "Thriller", Landis was involved in an accident on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie. During a scene in which actor Vic Morrow and child actors Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen were to escape through a swamp amidst explosions and a helicopter pursuit, a poorly timed explosion caused one of the helicopters to malfunction. It crashed onto the three actors below, instantly killing them. Landis and the film's crew were eventually acquitted of criminal charges.

This issue includes another reference to Landis at the end when Teddy Lingard considers hiring as Benson’s replacement the director of An American Werewolf in London—a film directed by none other than John Landis.

The marquis for the film Dazzler and Janet see in the beginning of this issue is labeled “Maniac” starring Vincent Price. While there are several films with this title, none star Vincent Price. Instead, this marquis is likely a reference to a scene in the “Thriller” music video in which Jackson and his date exit a theater showing a fictional Vincent Price film called “Thriller”.

Even though the theater marquis billed the film as “Maniac”, when Dazzler meets director Robert Benson in this issue she refers to the horror film as “Bloody Mary”. It’s possible the marquis was advertising a different film playing at the same theater, although one of the actors glimpsed in the comic’s horror movie resembles Vincent Price.

Dazzler’s comment about her hatred of being buried alive foreshadows a scene in UNCANNY X-MEN #217-218 in which Juggernaut, believing he’s killed the former starlet, buries her alive in the countryside of Scotland.

Lingard’s line “I’m not like other guys” was originally spoken by Michael Jackson to actress Ola Ray in the “Thriller” music video.

Although the station the news crew in this issue represents is not named, the crew’s van bears CBS’s iconic eye logo.

Bob Benson and Teddy Lingard both appear once more in X-MEN UNLIMITED (1st series) #32 as interview subjects during the “Behind the Music” episode on Dazzler.

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