The X-Men and my uncanny evolution of language

Posted: October 16th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

A couple of years ago, I was invited to submit an essay for what was going to be the second volume of Hey, Kids, Comics!, an anthology that was a labor of love for editor Rob Kelly. Unfortunately, volume 2 never came together (but you still can, and should, pick up the first volume). Since then, I kind of put the following essay in the back drawer of my mind and digital files, but I recently came across it again and thought I’d share rather than let it languish.

I hope you enjoy — Language X!

•••

 

When the older Asian lady gently grabbed my elbow, I thought I was in trouble.

I say older, but truthfully she was probably around 40, at most. But I was in my early 20s and, being a kid in my second year of college, everyone past 30 looked old to me. And, being young, I was of course doing things like jumping off couches in the Student Union building and shouting, “Konnichiwa!” to a group of friends who were meeting us for lunch.

The lady, still holding on to my elbow, began talking to me excitedly in what I could only guess was Japanese. “Oh, crap,” I thought. “I’ve offended this woman and now she’s telling me off!” I instantly felt shame, even though I knew “konnichiwa” was an innocent greeting, equivalent to “good day.” I wanted to explain to her that my yell was basically a third of my total Japanese vocabulary. I wanted to blame the X-Men.

wolverine_amiko_japan

I can’t remember exactly when I started reading The Uncanny X-Men, but I do know I was at just the right age to soak up Chris Claremont’s dramatic, angst-laden prose as if I was an adolescent corncob rolling in a bed of warm butter. Rattling off the roster of my X-Men is easier than naming all my cousins; Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Colossus, Kitty Pryde, and Professor X. This all-new team wasn’t the one originally created by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum for Giant-Size X-Men #1 in1975 — Thunderbird had already been killed off by the time I got there, and Kitty was a recent addition. Claremont’s Southern belle, Rogue, would come later and other characters, like Banshee and Sunfire, were on the periphery. As far as I was concerned these seven heroes were it — these were the X-Men.

It took years before I realized I was essentially reading a superhero soap opera, but by then I was past caring. What I did care about was what happened to these characters, both in fightin’ action and in the melodrama of their personal lives. I was fascinated by the different cities and cultures they would jet off to in their SR-71 Blackbird. I luxuriated in Claremont’s overwrought writing style, and I spent whole afternoons imagining the characters’ various accents.

Claremont’s X-Men were a United Nations of mutants, which the dialogue seemed intent on almost constantly reminding readers. Cyclops and Kitty were from the United States, so they spoke the way an average reader might expect, but everyone else was from what — to me — was an exotic location. Storm was Kenyan, and had a cadence to her speech that echoed the European colonization of that country. Colossus, of what was then the Soviet Union, spoke in a deliberate, almost ponderous way; Piotr Nikolaievitch Rasputin, the gentle farmboy from Russia, embodied the implacable nature of our Cold War adversary.

Nightcrawler, a demonic-looking teleporter who disappeared in a cloud of sulfur and brimstone, peppered his conversation with the Gothic embroidery of his native West Germany. I had no idea what Wolverine — a backwoods Canadian — sounded like. A cowboy? Sorta? Your guess was as good as mine, bub. And the less said about Banshee’s magically delicious Irish brogue, the better.

colossus_tovarisch

Storm stuck with straightforward English, but Nightcrawler and Colossus would use words and phrases from their native languages constantly. In retrospect, I loved it not just because it introduced me to languages I probably never would have been exposed to otherwise, but also because it was comfortingly familiar. When Colossus dropped a “bozhe moy!” or Nightcrawler a “mein gott!”, they could have just as well been letting loose with the “Ay, Dios!” I heard every day.

Growing up in El Paso, Texas, meant a lifetime of being steeped in my Mexican-American culture. El Paso was (and still is) a community that hovers at around 80 percent Hispanic, sitting directly on the U.S./Mexico border with Ciudad Juarez. Most people in my hometown are bilingual in English and Spanish, and EVERYBODY speaks some form of Spanglish, that mashed-up way of speaking both languages at once. Seeing the X-Men use phrases from their native tongues (or, in some cases, a language Professor X psychically plugged into their brains) was the most natural thing in the world to me. The people around me did it all the time; it just made sense the heroes in my world of comics would, too.

nightcrawler_fraulein

This normalization of foreign languages was comforting to me in another way. It helped emphasize that it was OK to speak a language other than English in the United States, and it didn’t make you less American. As a child of the 70s and 80s, I was never discouraged from speaking either Spanish or English (or Swahili, if I’d ever gotten the itch). But I grew up with the stories Dad told me of growing up in El Paso and Albuquerque in the 50s. Spanish was his first language; once he started going to public school, this meant being teased by teachers for his accent. Raps on his knuckles if he slipped and used a Spanish word in class. Beatings if he was caught having an actual conversation in Spanish.

Later, after he’d married Mom and gone to a Los Angeles broadcasting school to obliterate any trace of an accent, he was adamant his kids wouldn’t go through the same thing he did. Times had changed, but not that much, and both my little sister and I would grow up with English as our first language. And like a lot of kids who are later-generation descendants of immigrants, we never really got the hang of our cultural language. I’m better now, but for a long time my Spanish was terrible.

My Spanglish, however, was excellent.

Thanks to the constant practice I had at listening to more than one language at a time, adding some comic book German or Russian to my vocabulary was a cinch —especially when it was reinforced by Claremont’s quirky insistence on peppering it throughout nearly every issue of The Uncanny X-Men. Suddenly I was getting regular exposure to the varied lyricism of other languages; the staccato brass of German, the stentorian fluidity of Russian, and occasionally the soft rat-a-tat of Japanese. Comics, and X-Men comics in particular, helped me realize different languages could have things in common with each other, and this lead to a further understanding of shared cultures and histories. There was a connection, and the X-Men were helping me make it.

And then Claremont seemed to make Japan itself a semi-regular member of the cast. In quick succession, and over various issues, Wolverine fell in love with a cultured Yakuza clan leader, Storm fell in with a free-spirited Tokyo thief, and Kitty was kidnapped and became a ninja (in the seminal Kitty Pryde and Wolverine six-issue limited series, also written by Claremont). In Uncanny X-Men #181, following the team’s adventures in the Secret Wars limited series, the X-Men randomly appeared over Honshu, Japan, where Lockheed fell in love with a dragon. Slowly, Japanese started creeping into my vocabulary.

wolverine_japan

“Arigato” (though Styx beat Claremont to that one), “hei,” “giri” and “gaijin” were all words I was comfortable using. I never used them in everyday conversation, but they were there if I needed them.

So years later when I let loose with a “konnichiwa,” it seemed like a good way to greet my friends. But I wasn’t sure the Asian woman felt the same way. After she asked me something a couple of times, I had to embarrassedly tell her I didn’t actually speak Japanese. Still holding my arm, she immediately switched to English.

“Oh, but I heard you. You spoke Japanese, right?” She sounded disappointed, and explained that she thought she was going to have a chance to talk to someone in her own language.

“No, no … I’m sorry,” I said, even more embarrassed now. “I only know a few words. I’m sorry.”

The woman smiled, and squeezed my arm.

“That’s OK — your accent is very good!”

And with that, she let go of my arm, smiled and said, “Goodbye!”

Relieved, I smiled back and waved. “Bye!”

But thanks to the X-Men, I could have just as easily said, “Sayonara!”

Or “auf wiedersehen.”

Or “do svidaniya.”

Or even, “adios.”


Hey, it’s a new post! Also, it’s #Writetober!

Posted: October 6th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: | No Comments »

October is my favorite month of the year. Not only is it when the weather seems to shake off the oppressive heat of summer in exchange for the bite of fall, its also happens to be when I got married and, of course, the Halloween season. And if fall is my favorite season, Halloween is by far my favorite holiday.

The last couple of years, its been hard for me to get into the Halloween spirit. But thanks to Delilah S. Dawson (pointed out to me by Ken Lowery), I’m feeling a little like my old boney self again. Delilah has started what she calls #Writetober, a kind of companion/response to #Inktober, but instead of encouraging artists to draw something every day, she’s releasing writing prompts and encouraging writers to come up with flash fiction on Twitter that will fit in five tweets.

I’ve obviously coming late to this party, and I doubt I’ll be able to participate every day, but it sounds like fun and I’m going to do my best to join in (flabby as these particular writing muscles are). In that spirit, here’s something I wrote that doesn’t follow any of the prompts so far, but was inspired by one anyway. Close enough, right? And don’t worry, the story is shorter than this intro.

•••

It awoke with a start. A sudden awareness where there had been nothing.

Fingers. On its skin.

Exploring, tracing skin more like hide, tanned and taut. Then hands, dragging it out from its cupboard, a hole in a wall identical to dozens of others edging into darkness. It had been untouched for what seemed like forever. It resisted the temptation to open its eyes.

A grunt was testament to its dead weight. It felt itself lifted, almost dragged, to thump and lay flat on a long, wooden table. Electricity ran through it as a finger mapped its crooked, tortured spine. Sinew and connective tissue flooded with forgotten blood. It sighed.

A hand reached between its dry and yielding folds, splitting it open, groping at what was hidden inside. Musty air flowed over uncovered creases.

Then a voice, human and otherworldly, reads its fleshy, tattooed pages.

“Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn …!”


Darwyn Cooke and that sonofabitch cancer

Posted: May 13th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: | No Comments »

Darwyn_Cooke_New_Frontier_Wildcat

This was originally a post on Facebook, but I thought I’d share it here, too.

The news was released today that artist Darwyn Cooke is receiving palliative care for a particularly aggressive form of cancer. As a fan of his work, and as a cancer surivor, this news is shocking and makes me sadder than I can say.

Cooke is a wonderful artist who’s probably most well-known for his DC: The New Frontier, but he also deserves recognition for his wonderful Batman family stories and — my personal favorite — his adaptations of the Richard Stark “Parker” books. His work has always been nostalgic yet modern, gentle yet powerful, and always filled with joy. In a medium in which the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” carries more weight than usual, Cooke’s art spoke with the authority of a king clearing his throat.

Cooke doesn’t seem like the kind of person to blow smoke, so I won’t either — “palliative care” isn’t usually a good sign. It means that, instead of treating the disease, the patient will be made as comfortable as possible while things run their course. It is a heartbreaking, but heroically humane, courageous, choice to make.

I don’t know how long we’ll have Darwyn Cooke with us, but I’m happy to know his art will be immortal. And I don’t know if donations will help him or his family at this point, but I hope you’ll at least consider donating to a cancer organization in his honor. Then go out and buy his books, and tell others about them. Share the work that he so obviously put so much of himself into.

I think he’d call that a win.


Announcing the winners of the Be a Hero in the Fight Against Cancer raffle!

Posted: April 4th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | No Comments »
As I announced earlier on the Facebook page, the winners in the Be a Hero in the Fight Against Cancer raffle have been selected! Thanks to their generous contributions (as well as those of others who chose not to be included in the drawing), we managed to raise a total of $454, and I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate that. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
 
And now, the winners are:
 
Asjha Stus — signed DCU Online posters, Wonder Woman bookmarks, and a Half-Price Books gift card
 
Kyle Jones — the Indie Comics pack
 
Tom Alvarado — the DC Showcase bundle
 
Rebekah Starnes — two Marvel hardcover collections
 
Virginia Childers Davidson — the Indie Hero pack
 
Peter Gaskin — the Sideshow Boba Fett figure
 
Ryan Steans — the vintage Hall of Justice playset
 
Thanks again to everyone who donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, American Cancer Society, Fuck Cancer, and LIVESTRONG — your generosity will help people dealing with cancer treatment, and will also go toward research that will help us take care of this sucker once and for all. And of course, big thanks to everyone who donated items for the raffle itself — none of this would’ve been possible without you!

BOBA FETT joins the battle against cancer!

Posted: March 2nd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Another prize has been added to the raffle drawing, and this one is a doozy:

star-wars-boba-fett-sixth-scale-21282-02

Huge, huge thanks go to Peter Gaskin, who not only donated to one of the cancer organizations we’re supporting, but who also provided this brand-new, sixth-scale Boba Fett figure! As you can see from this description page, this is an amazing prize, and it could be yours with just one simple donation to one of the following groups:

American Cancer Society

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

F*ck Cancer

Livestrong

And remember, every donation is an entry, so the more donations you make, the more chance you have to win! Let’s be heroes, and join the fight against cancer.

See here for more details!


Announcing prizes for the Fight Cancer raffle!

Posted: February 19th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

After a couple of weeks of mostly silence, a flood of raffle donations have come in, and believe me when I tell you it’s a stack of really awesome stuff.

Donate to the American Cancer Society, Livestrong, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, or to F*ck Cancer (the organization supported by Arrow star Stephen Amell!) and you’ll have a chance to win one of these great prizes. And remember, someone was generous enough to donate these items for the raffle, so please be generous when you donate to one (or more) of these organizations. A donation in any amount gets you in, and every individual donation you make counts as an entry. (See this previous post for more details.)

Not only would your donation help support cancer research and treatment, it might nab you one of these prizes!

Indie_bundle_TB_MR

  • An Indie Comics bundle, with titles including The Rack: Year One (Mostly), 32 Stories (an Optic Nerve collection), Caricature by Daniel Clowes, Snake Pit Gets Old (by Austin creator Ben Snakepit!), and the Wild West Show anthology (signed by several of the artists and writers!). Oh, and I threw in a Dark Horse keychain for good measure. Most of these books were donated by pal Tina Brackins.

Showcase_collection_DCUO_SM

  • DC Showcase Presents collection, which you can see is a nice stack of goodness. One lucky person will get all of these books! We can thank SJ Mueller and DC Universe Online for this prize, as well as this next one. A collection of mini Wonder Woman bookmarks will come with this, too.

DCUO_Fights_Cancer1

DCUO_Fights_Cancer2

  • This is really, really great, and would be a fantastic addition to any comic book fan or gamer’s collection. As you might be able to tell, these are posters for the DC Universe Online MMO, signed by each member of the development team! These make for a very unique prize, and depending on the number of entries these might be split among two donors, or they might go to one entrant. Thanks again go to SJ Mueller and the dev team at DC Universe Online.

OK, people, hold on to your butts — this next prize is a big one.

Mego_HallofJustice_RK

  • Your eyes do not deceive you; that is a beautifully preserved Mego Hall of Justice! Generously donated by the inestimable Rob Kelly, this 1976 playset is gorgeous, and 99.9 percent complete (all that’s missing is the conference table accessory). It even includes the mini-catalog it originally came with for other Mego toys!The outer walls of the Hall of Justice feature images of Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Batman, Supergirl, Green Lantern, and Green Arrow. As you can see, it also comes in its original box, which is amazing.

Some other prizes that are also up for grabs (but not pictured):

  • A $20 gift certificate for Half-Price Books
  • Marvel Visionaries: Stan Lee (hardcover) and Spider-Man & The Human Torch hardcover (by Dan Slott and Ty Templeton)
  • A Star Wars-themed prize to be named at a later date (but believe me, it’s incredible)

I’ll update this post as soon as additional prizes become available. Remember to donate to one of the following organizations, and you’ll be entered to win one of these awesome prizes!

American Cancer Society

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

F*ck Cancer

Livestrong


Blue Romance: Wait, let’s see that again

Posted: February 14th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Aah … l’amour!

Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody!


Blue Romance: Love to love you, baby

Posted: February 11th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

And now, the rest of the Beauty and the Beast story is coming at you in wham-bam fashion — let’s go!

When we last saw our lovelorn couple, Dazzler had worked herself into a nice little nervous breakdown, Beast was getting inexplicably possessive and Doctor Doom was still railing like Michael Jackson that the mysterious kid in L.A. was not his son. He may have moonwalked, but that is unconfirmed. After getting picked up by an apparent gang of hippies on the beach, Dazzler ended up at a mutant misfit halfway house called (sigh) Heartbreak Hotel, with Beast hot on her heels.

What happened next? Well, there was some inappropriate touching …

… and then, after “days pass” a couple of times, Beast finally wears Dazzler down with his teddy bear charms!

Who knew Dazzler and Beast were such sticklers for proper grammar?

Everything is copacetic until sleazy show producer Hugo Longride and smooth operator/Dazzler boyfriend Alex Flynn remind Alison that she signed a contract that they expect her to honor. Eventually she hits the “stage,” which looks like a cross between the floor of the Coliseum and a Lovecraftian rumpus room. Dazzler sings, gets booed, and what the crowd really wants is revealed — fiiiiight!!!

Afterward there’s some moral debate, heavy mutants-are-outcasts discussion and a lot of angst I’m gonna skip over. Beast busts into the dressing room to rescue Dazzler (again), but she starts to glow uncontrollably (again), freaks out and tells Beast to hit the bricks. Which, of course, leads to more frowny-face Beast.

Later, Dazzler and Beast seem to be an item again (writer Ann Nocenti has a tendency to get loosey-goosey with the flow of time), but still debate whether or not she should be “performing.” There’s some more “we’re all misfits in some way” talk (it really starts getting thick at this point), as well as more pining from Beast. And then, in preparation for her next battle, Dazzler puts on a stereotypical Native American costume for absolutely no reason.

Hank decides to do some snooping and discovers that Flynn and Longride have been drugging Dazzler to make her more suggestible, while also causing her to lose control of her light powers. But before he can do anything about it, he’s caught and drugged himself. Now a slobbering animal, Beast is put on the gladiator floor with Dazzler and a nasty little fight breaks out pretty quick.

Faced with the embarrassing smell of burning dog hair, Beast snaps out of it and desperately shouts some sweet-nothings to Dazzler. True love wins through and the fight ends with the two hugging it out in the middle of the floor. The crowd, of course, isn’t very happy about this turn of events and to calm them down, Flynn puts on a cape and talks the other fighters into killing Longride.

Meanwhile, Doom decides he’s had enough and hops a doomjet for California, but still takes the time to doomslap his butler some more. Stupid butler, with his constant updates on Doom’s bastard son!

Once he reaches L.A., it’s revealed that Longride was really a doombot keeping an eye on the alleged doomspawn — Alexander Flynn!

While all this is going on, Beast and Dazzler have been captured and hung upside down in a basement. But that doesn’t mean they can’t make out a little, right?

At the same time, a couple of the Heartbreak residents decide to mount a rescue of their own, Rocker (remember the horse-faced fighter?) switches sides, Flynn monologues about how he’ll be the next ruler of Latveria, and Doom lurks in the shadows while continuing to deny Flynn is his son (alright, man, we get it — gah!).

After being freed by Rocker, Dazzler and Beast confront Flynn (who’s now wearing a Kirbyesqe helmet in addition to his doomcape) and his semi-mind controlled mutant gladiators! Against all odds, the duo not only hold their own, but start winning. Er, surprise?

Even more surprising is Flynn’s O-face:

In his defense, that line never fail to impress da ladiez. Feeling pretty good about himself, Flynn captures one of the misfits, which forces another gladiator to nearly kill Flynn before he’s stopped by Beast and Dazzler.

Defeated and utterly humiliated after his fighters turn their backs on him, Flynn finally gets a little face-time with dear old not-dad. It goes about as well as you’d expect.

And this is where things really fall apart because the whole thing ends up being one big anti-climax. Doom just sorta leaves, the fighters get revenge on Flynn by mocking him a bit before leaving, and then — AND THEN — Dazzler and Beast come to the conclusion that maybe they should “just be friends.”

I SWEAR TO GOD.

Am I the only one who thinks this is just like the last scene in Singles? It just needs more Paul Westerberg. But that, finally, is the end. Heavy-handed but morbidly entertaining, the mini-series winds up being a little frustrating because, things just go back to the way they were when this whole thing started. As far as I know, this Love-That-Could-Not-Be is never mentioned again. Ever. Personally, I’d love it if somehow this little bit of ancient romantic history would be brought up again, even if it was just in passing. Like a lot of past relationships, it’s just too damn weird to ignore.

Ann Nocenti, writer; Don Perlin, artist; Kim DeMulder, inker

Bonus Panel!

Oh, God.


Blue Romance: Under the covers!

Posted: February 10th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Before we get back to the inexplicable tale of romance that is Beauty and the Beast, let’s take a look at one of the best things about this four-part mini-series — the covers.

I’ve mentioned it before, but Bill Sienkiewicz is one of my favorite artists. His artsy sensibility and ever-evolving — yet still signature — technique has a tendency to elevate whatever particular comic book he’s working on. That’s certainly the case with his Beauty and the Beast covers.

Each of these has that Sienkiewicz “look,” and while I think issues #3 and #4 are pretty standard in terms of setting and design, they’ve all got a certain visual energy. That said, what’s up with issue #4? That one is particularly weak and looking at it is the optical equivalent of a sour note — I want to ignore it, but it’s tinny and flat in a way that just bugs me. I always get the feeling Sienkiewicz phoned that last one in (though it is still consistent with the theme of energy bursting outward, both in Dazzler’s light and Hank’s fur).

My favorite, though, is probably the cover to issue #2, just because it’s such a great callback to the classic romance comic. I especially dig the way Sienkiewicz renders Dazzler’s power; it’s subtle but touches on an important characteristic while also drawing in the viewers’ focus without hitting them over the head with it.

Take a look, and see what you think:

Even more than the covers themselves, my absolute favorite design element is the itty-bitty Beast and Dazzler that Sienkiewicz drew for the cornerbox. In just one tiny mini-scene, the artist has summed up the attempted tone of the story, and all the bittersweet, clutching emotion that goes with it. It’s really freakin’ impressive, actually:

Awww — aren’t they adorable? And there’s that outward burst again, carrying a visual theme through to what’s often a throw-away patch of art. Sienkiewicz is really a master artist.

Cover art by Bill Sienkiewicz


Blue Romance: Stars (and garters) get in your eyes

Posted: February 9th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

Jean Grey and Cyclops, Daredevil and Elektra, Spider-Man and Mary Jane — these are names that represent comicdom’s fairy tales of everlasting love*. And while these well-known stories from the Marvel Universe chronicle the never-ending bliss of big-name characters, that doesn’t mean the second-tier characters are left out in the cold.

Take for instance, oh … Beauty and the Beast.

Written by Ann Nocenti with pencils by Don Perlin, this four-issue mini-series was nothing less than the classic tragedy of unrequited love as seen through the eyes of a mutant disco queen and her shaggy blue boyfriend. Yes — it is EPIC.

Now, as far as I know there was never any hint of even a smidge of attraction between Dazzler and Beast in the past, and the script seems to hint they only had a passing acquaintance before this series. But drop them in a Hollywood party or a gladiator pit and it doesn’t take long for them to start making goo-goo eyes at each other.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Beauty and the Beast #1 actually starts the way all stories should — with Doctor Doom.

All Doom wants — I mean, besides total power and the complete obedience of his subjects — is some alone time with his art. Can’t a guy decompress a little? No! Not when the bastard son you turned your back on years ago suddenly surfaces in California, you can’t.

Man, that’s cold. By coincidence (*cough*), Doom isn’t the only one headed for the land of sun, surf and drive-bys. The Beast is taking a vacation from the Defenders (and the X-Men and the Avengers, because he’s a member of all of ’em, as he’ll mention like a bajillion times), and he’s decided Los Angeles is weird enough to accept a mutant covered in nothing but blue fur and a Speedo.

Think again, Hank! Even though he mentions it a few times to himself, Beast is still surprised that the anti-mutant craze sweeping the nation has come to L.A., too. In the Dazzler: The Movie graphic novel, Dazzler was outed as a mutant and now the whole country hates “muties.” ‘Cause Dazzler betrayed her audience? Or something? I’m not sure how Dazzler became the cornerstone of mutant/human relations, but thinking about her fall from grace makes Beast get all frowny-face.

Meanwhile, Dazzler is dealing with her new image problems head-on by going to parties. She blazed a trail for Paris and Britney more than 20 years ago! As far as I know, though, Daz is still wearing underwear.

At the party Dazzler meets Alexander Flynn, and this guy is smooth. Alison speechifies about how mutants are going to have to start drinking out of separate water fountains soon — Nocenti hits the “mutants as misunderstood outsiders” thing pretty hard — and Alex gives her the ol’ “yeah, yeah” before convincing her to sign a contract with slimy producer-type Hugo Longride. He’s cagey about exactly what kind of show he produces, but Dazzler signs anyway, because as we’ll see, she’s not very smart. I mean, c’mon, Longride? Even if it’s not what it sounds like, shouldn’t that name itself be a red flag? It’s like taking a job with Dick Stickyfloor**.

Alison doesn’t have time to sweat the details, not when there are more parties to go to and a battered reputation to sabotage. But, like a lot of people who party too hearty, Alison suddenly has a problem with leaking in inappropriate places.

A week later Wonder Man (who’s with the West Coast Avengers at the time) thinks a wrap party is just what Hank needs — that and a bright yellow shirt with no buttons. And hey, guess who else is there drowning her sorrows? Before he can even say, “How’re YOU doin’?” Beast is defending Dazzler’s dubious honor and roughing up a guy with a look that the Fall catalogs call “The Seabiscuit.”

That guy must spend a fortune on toothpaste. Soon Dazzler is breaking up the fight after squinting at the furry blue dude and saying, “Hey, you look familiar,” then skedaddling when her unpredictable light show freaks her right out. Luckily, Wonder Man is there to be the voice of optimism.

Wonder Man: Ultimate Douche. Anyway, Dazzler proceeds to lose it a little more, and Beast convinces himself that Alison needs some sweet, sweet rescuin’ while he cranks up the pining from “wistful” to “stalkery.”

Yikes. Dial it down,Hank — it just isn’t attractive. But what’s a lovelorn Beast to do? How does he save his Beauty from a nebulously defined fate-worse-than-death? Well, tracking down and beating up a guy with a horse face is a start. While all this is going on, Dazzler has emo’ed herself all the way to the beach. She gets out another, “I am the light,” before a gang of beach bums with a cart pick her up and carry her away.

Yeah, seriously.

At the same time, Beast has pinned the horse-faced Rocker (I know, I know) in a half-gelding and forces him to call his boss so he can find out where Dazzler has gone. Somehow Beast was right to guess Longride would have her followed, and with an address in hand he throws himself out a closed window and hotfoots it across town.

The address turns out to be an old hotel and — even though he’s supposed to be the thoughtful intellectual — Beast immediately busts in the door and starts making demands of the old lady and the kid who are just kind of hanging out. They make a half-hearted try at hiding Dazzler, but she’s easy to find since her light power is really out of control now. Dazzler figures glowing a lot makes you grotesque, but Hank is there to handle damage control.

Hank. Dude, seriously.

* This might be sarcasm.

** I’m so, so sorry.

Ann Nocenti, writer; Don Perlin, penciler; Kim DeMulder, inker