Dr. Doom’s castle, Latveria…
It is easy to forget that underneath his ruthless exterior, Victor von Doom is a human being just like everyone else. One of his few revelations is his appreciation of the fine arts. To indulge in this hobby, Doom has a personal art gallery in his palace. There, he retreats to find some much-needed peace. On this particular afternoon, he admires a modest sculpture of a man wrangling with a wild stallion. As he ponders the statue’s meaning – man’s struggle to contain the beast within – Doom ruminates that some men have more discipline than others. Therefore, he concludes all men are not created equal, and scoffs at the United States for embracing such a concept.
Doom’s messenger chime rings and disturbs his meditation. The irate dictator exits his gallery and meets his butler in the hall, who comes bearing important news: reports have surfaced about Doom’s alleged son in the States. Doom, while crumpling the message in his hand, reprimands the butler for interrupting him with such trivial information. He refuses to believe he has a son and blames this misunderstanding on the boy’s mother, whom he knew earlier in his life.
Doom recalls standing in the rain on a cobblestone street while a desperate woman begged for him to acknowledge their child. She couldn’t inform him of their son’s existence while he was away, he remembers her saying while sheltering her boy from the rain. Doom firmly directed her into a carriage, and told her it was only by his boundless mercy that she would leave Latveria with her life. As Doom watched the carriage disappear into the storm, he told himself that he must lead his nation alone. He can have no son.
Nevertheless, after reviewing this memory, Doom decides he should monitor the young man, who currently lives in California. Whether the boy is his son or not is irrelevant, as he may attempt to claim Doom’s throne either way.
Meanwhile, in California…
From atop the iconic “Hollywood” sign in the hills of Los Angeles, the blue-furred Defender Beast can see the entire valley. He wonders how Hollywood will treat him; after all, it is reportedly receptive to eclectic personalities. He fears, however, that due to the recent anti-mutant hysteria surrounding Dazzler’s outing as a mutant, he may not be treated to the kindest of welcomes. Like all things in life, however, he will not know until he tries. Beast heads into town.
The town proves to be slightly less welcoming than Beast had anticipated. Instead of receiving a star’s welcome, he is treated to sneers, snubs, and shrieks. One insensitive photographer takes his picture with hopes of selling it to a horror magazine. And here I thought everyone loved a ‘star,’ Beast says, referring to his popularity as both an Avenger and a Defender. He decides to head toward the Hollywood Walk of fame, along the way passing by several wax figures of famous silver-screen legends. Like the city itself, the Hollywood Walk of Fame fails to live up to Beast’s expectations; he grimly notes that several of the stars are no longer famous. Guess a lot of stars are more like comets -- they shoot through the sky for one night, and they’re gone the next, Hank thinks. Hank wonders if now is not the best time visit Los Angeles. He wants to see his good friend Wonder Man, though, and also notes that the recent, national wave of anti-mutant hysteria certainly would not have passed over his home in New Mexico.
Walking by an abandoned antique theater, Hank notices anti-mutant slurs scrawled on the walls in spray-paint. At first, he does not understand why this particular theater was tagged, but then he sees the target: a poster displaying an advertisement for a Dazzler concert. The word “MUTANT” is scrawled across the torn banner. Yeah, this town sure does love a star – to death, he thinks.
Hank recalls the first time he met Dazzler. Her beauty was stunning, a feature overshadowed only by her singing voice and her mutant ability to transmute sound waves into stunning displays of light. Unfortunately, the world now hates her, as they do all mutants. Hank does not know who to blame. Is it simply human jealousy and fear of the unknown? Why did the media decide to make Dazzler into a scapegoat? How could the world treat someone so beautiful in such an ugly way? he asks.
As the sun goes down over Southern California, Hollywood’s true culture emerges. The city has its own way of doing things; to outsiders it may appear anarchistic, but those who live there understand the rules: Thou shalt stay out all night; thou shalt never be bored; thou shalt pursue the pleasure principle before all else. One raucous mansion hosts a slew of people doing their best to follow these rules, with only one exception. Alison Blaire, the former superstar known as the Dazzler, stands in a corner by herself without even a drink in her hand. One gentleman named Alexander Flynn decides to right this wrong.
Flynn approaches Alison under the pretense of offering her a glass of champagne. She politely refuses, asking for a ginger ale instead. Flynn immediately breaks down and confesses he knows exactly who Alison is; he recognized “The Dazzler” as soon as she walked in the door.
Hearing someone confess to being a fan of hers surprises Alison, as she believed the entire world now hated her for being a mutant! Flynn probes these feelings a bit, and Alison soon spills her heart. She confesses to becoming a hermit since her career ended, with this party being her first true outing in recent memory. She hoped to blend in, have a good time, and maybe begin her career anew.
Funny thing, Flynn tells her; he knows a producer in search of true talent who is not afraid of garnering negative media attention! Flynn adds that while the show itself is somewhat of an underground production, he refuses to take “no” for an answer.
The next day, Alison auditions in front of sleazy talent producer Hugo Longride. While Alison pours her soul into her performance, Hugo chats idly with one of his buddies. He does not even notice when she has finished. Alison makes sure to ask him what he thought of her music, and Hugo turns to her, seemingly having forgotten she was even in the room. “Huh? Oh, you were great, honey!” he says with a cigar clenched between his teeth. “Yeah, ya got what it takes, honey. Yer gushin’ wit’ talent!” He walks her to his office, the entire time raving about her potential stardom.
Dazzler tells him to cut it out. She knows of the baggage that accompanies her name, and figures he could probably make a toad into a star if he packaged it right. All she wants is one more chance. Hugo mutters something in agreement and whips a contract out of his pocket. As Dazzler scrutinizes the contract, Hugo stands behind her and points out with his greasy finger every line she needs to sign. He interrupts every one of her attempts at humility and caution. Dazzler is now his act, and she begins performing in two weeks.
Now under the contract of Mr. Longride, Alison embarks on a whirlwind week of clubbing, networking, and drinking. On Friday night, her assigned escort Alexander Flynn pressures her into going to a party. On Saturday night, he pressures her into doing something much more intimate. To soothe her nerves over this tumultuous week, Alison begins drinking. Her powers also begin to leak out of her control. A formal backyard party on Sunday turns into a staged photo op as Alison is pushed into the swimming pool. Monday…Tuesday…Wednesday…with each passing day, Alison’s life grows more wild, and her powers less stable. By Thursday, she has already made the front page of the tabloids. She shows a copy of the paper to Alexander, pointing out its gross misrepresentation of her character. The Alison Blaire in the tabloids is unrecognizable to the real thing. However, she believes this life with Hugo’s Theater, as well as the accompanying celebrity, may be her last chance to make it as a star in this life. She vows to make it work.
Friday comes, and Alison attends a wrap party for a film in Hollywood. She stands alone near the buffet table with a glass of champagne in her hand. A beautiful woman can never drink alone for long in Hollywood, however. She is soon approached by an aggressive, horse-faced mutant. “So, you’re the new mutie for the mutant theater?” he asks. Dazzler is shocked; she had no idea she was being sold as a mutant act. This revelation, coupled with the effects of the drink in her hand, causes her powers to slip out of control. Alison insists everything is fine, but curses under her breath as light spills from her fingertips.
Also attending the party, and totally unaware of Dazzler’s presence, are Beast and Wonder Man. From across the room, these two guests notice the beautiful blond woman’s sudden change in temperament. Hank grows especially irritated by the pushiness of the horse-man, and decides to intervene. He grabs the mutant by the arm, tells him to take off his ugly mask, and adds that the lady wants to be left alone. “I got news for you, buddy,” the horse-faced man says, “…this ain’t no mask, an’ with a mug like yours, I wouldn’t go around callin’ anyone else ugly!” He bares his horse teeth and tells Hank to go pick up some other woman; this one is taken. Alison recognizes her defender, finally, and reintroduces herself. Hank immediately recognizes Alison. They were once friends, and Hank admits he has trouble seeing his friends treated with such disrespect.
When the horse-man proposes they take the fight outside, Hugo intervenes. He tells Rocker, the horse-faced man, to get lost. As Rocker turns to leave, Hugo pulls him close and whispers in his ear. “I trust you took care of that little job I gave you, right?” Rocker responds in the affirmative; the valuable property is primed and ready. Hugo shakes his hand, discretely slipping him a wad of bills. Then, he turns to Hank and Alison. “So, who’s your new friend, Daz?” he asks. “How about we use him in your first show? We could bill you as beauty…and the beast!” Raucous laughter from the spectators ensues.
Enraged, Beast grabs the sleazy producer by the collar and hoists him into the air. A plea for Hank to calm down comes from the most unlikely person of all: Dazzler. She calls Hank a maniac, and adds that if he does not like being called a “beast,” he needs to not act like one. Hank is shocked to hear an attack coming from one of the only allies he has in the room, but realizes Alison has already made her choice in friends. As Hugo grabs Alison and leaves, Wonder Man offers Hank some grim insight on the situation. If Alison is already hanging around with scum like Hugo, it may be too late for her; any self-respect or values she once had are probably gone.
As Hugo and Dazzler exit the party, her powers spiral out of control. She sneaks away. Hugo, rambling about the importance of Dazzler sticking with him as an agent, hardly notices her disappearance. When he does finally notice, he feels no concern for her safety. Alison’s escape actually reinforces his sinister plan to break her will. He finds one of his spies and orders him to follow Dazzler; when she turns up, he will need to reel his valuable property back in.
Alison runs frantically through the studio back lot, growing increasingly alarmed with each step. Her light powers pour out of every cell of her body while the haunting images of the cackling party guests play in her mind. She grabs the cloak off of a bystander and drapes herself with it, hoping to subdue her radiance. It hardly helps. The studio sets bear down on her, warped by her hallucinating mind. What’s happening to me? she silently screams.
Wonder Man’s apartment, the next day…
Simon Williams rests his feet on his coffee table and tries to enjoy a cup of tea. His houseguest, the excitable Hank McCoy, makes relaxation a bit difficult. Hank, crouching on the coffee table with a newspaper in his hand, points his hairy finger at the headline “DAZZLER DISAPPEARS!” She wandered away right after their encounter at the party and has not been seen since. Hank suspects foul play. Simon bluntly asks why Hank is getting so worked up over someone who did not seem to care about him at all. Hank shrugs. “I don’t know. Since I saw her at that party, so out of place, so…alone…I can’t stop thinking about her,” Beast says. For some reason he feels the need to rescue her, but does not know where to begin. Wonder Man does. He tells Hank he has seen the horse-mutant Rocker plenty of times at the Village Arms. Simon suggests starting there.
Beast departs right away and heads to Rocker’s residence. Meanwhile, inside Rocker’s swanky apartment, the horse-faced mutant nurses a brutal hangover by admiring his private sculpture collection. The bounding, blue-furred Beast puts an abrupt stop to this serenity. He swings into the doorway, clutches Rocker with his feet, and demands to know where Dazzler is.
Rocker barely flinches; he actually takes the opportunity to rub in Dazzler’s rejection a little further. With Beast caught off guard by this insult, Rocker drops to the ground and bucks Hank with his hooves. Beast soars across the room and lands on the ground in a daze. By the time he recovers, Rocker has already cleared the distance between them in preparation for his next attack. “Ya come here picking a fight?” he asks, casting aside his bathrobe. “Well, guess what? I’m a professional fighter! I do this every day!” He kicks Beast across the face once more. Beast lies on the ground on the verge of unconsciousness. Rocker, leaping into the air and positioning his hooves directly over Hank’s skull, prepares the coup de grâce.
Elsewhere, frightened Dazzler screams from within a binding cocoon of light. Not even her own voice escapes from the grip of her raging powers.
Back in the apartment, Beast regains consciousness moments before Rocker’s hooves connect with his face. With only a fraction of time to spare, he instinctively reaches out with his feet and grabs Rocker by the hooves. In one swift motion, he hurls the dangerous mutant across the room into some of his cherished horse sculptures. Rocker, apparently, forgot Beast is an accomplished fighter himself.
From a distance, Hugo’s spy Ralph observes the luminous Alison Blaire as she wanders through on a near-empty stretch of beach. Disheveled and delusional, Alison embraces her own shoulders. Her tattered dress ripples in the wind and her hair falls in her eyes. “My own power… is destroying me,” Alison mumbles. “I am this all-consuming light.”
Beast and Rocker continue to wreck Rocker’s apartment with their fighting. Beast stands over the fallen mutant and grabs him by his mane of hair. Tell me where Dazzler is and what you’re hiding, he demands. Rocker manages to squirm free and kick Beast off. “Go beat your chest, King Kong!” Rocker says. “I wouldn’t tell you anything even if I knew something! Besides, that chick can take care of herself!”
Little does Rocker know, “that chick” lies unconscious on the beach, face down in a tide pool. Light continues to emanate from her body. The luminescence finally draws the attention of a nearby group of people, who approach the sleeping woman. Dazzler stirs. The leader of the group, a haggard old woman, assures her they mean no harm. The mysterious people lift Dazzler out of the water and gently set her on a cart. While Ralph observes from his cover in the rocks, the vagrants wheel Dazzler away to some place called “heartbreak.”
Beast’s battle prowess finally affords him the advantage in his brawl with Rocker. He kicks the mutant into the air and sends him crashing back down onto his coffee table. Like everything else in the apartment, it breaks. Beast pounces on his defeated foe and wraps a telephone cord around Rocker’s neck. Rocker denies knowing any useful information. Hank, shoving the phone to Rocker’s mouth, calls his bluff. “Maybe your boss can help jog your memory! Dial! And act cool! First wrong word gets sliced off – along with your throat.” Rocker submits and dials Hugo. From their end of the conversation, Hank picks up enough clues to establish his next lead in the case: Dazzler was followed, and presently resides at 26 Ocean Circle. After threatening to end Rocker’s life if he is followed, Hank departs for the coast.
Hank soon arrives at his destination. The building, an old, Victorian-style house overlooking the ocean, bears the sign “Heartbreak Hotel.” In his manic quest for Dazzler, Beast kicks the door down. Instead of a room full of goons, however, he sees an old woman with tattered clothing sweeping the floor, and a suspicious young boy crouching in the corner. Hank awkwardly apologizes; he must be the wrong place, he says. He adds he is looking for a certain young woman. The woman’s overeager denial of seeing any young women, as well as the young boy’s move to cover the crack beneath a door, furthers Beast’s suspicions. He asks what is behind the door; the boy says it is nothing. Spying the light seeping under the door, Hank then asks the boy if he always glows like the Dazzler. Having had enough with the obvious attempts at a cover-up, he hoists the lad out of the way and enters the forbidden room.
The vibrant light that pours out of the room almost blinds him. Its source: Dazzler. “Daz! Oh lord, what have they done to you?” Hank asks. He feels his way over to poor, frightened Alison. She cries that she cannot stop the light, and apologizes for her wretched appearance.
“Funny, huh?” Alison says, her miserable facial expression contradicting her words. “She sings, she dances, she’ll dazzle your senses…it’s Dazzler, the greatest show in town!” Hank wraps his virile arms around the frightened woman and whispers words of comfort into her ear. He tells Alison not to worry; some mysterious force has drawn him to her, and he promises to do his duty and protect her. He only asks her to trust him.