So I like to do research on Dazzler, because I get sick of all the horse-hooey that people "know" about her character, her creater, and her origins.
Recently, I received an old mag with pictures and a lengthy article about the Dark Phoenix Saga - how it was changed that Phoenix had to die, the creation and controversy of the Phoenix character, and some clear "creative differences" between Claremont and Byrne.
I'll post a snippet I transcribed. If people are interested, I'll finish the rest (this is only about 1/2 of the total article) for your viewing pleasure. If anything, it gives a first-hand, contemporary account into Phoenix and the DPS, and will hopefully be of benefit to the fan community, which is unfortunately full of misinformation.
Here we go....
“The Many Alternate Fates of the Phoenix: The Complete Story Behind the Death of Jean Grey”
By Peter Sanderson
From Comics Feature No. 4, July-August, 1980.
By now, X-Men readers are well aware that Jean Grey, who was Marvel Girl in the original X-Men and Phoenix in the current group, committed suicide in last month’s conclusion to the “Dark Phoenix” saga (issue 137). What readers may not know is that the “Dark Phoenix” storyline had been planned nearly two years ago, and that numerous possible conclusions had been considered and discarded. In fact, issue 137 was originally completely penciled and scripted with an ending in which Jean Grey survived. The present conclusion, in which she dies, was substituted at the last minute. Comics Feature wishes to thank Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter, X-Men penciller/co-plotter John Byrne and X-Men co-plotter/scripter Chris Claremont for allowing us to publish some of the artwork from the original ending in these pages.
To understand the course of events that led to the decision that Jean had to die in 137, we must look back to the decision to turn her into Phoenix in the first place. Len Wien and Dave Cockrum, the creators of the “new” X-Men series, wrote Jean out of the book in issue 94 along with all the other original X-Men except Scott Summers (Cyclops). When Chris Claremont began plotting the book, he asked Cockrum to bring her back in issue 97, but to make her look like a “young, sophisticated New York collegian” instead of retaining what Claremont calls her former “young middle-American Republican” look. Drawing her this way made Cockrum enthusiastic about the character. He and Claremont decided to change the superheroic name (since “Marvel Girl” sounded too much like the “Ms. Marvel” character then being planned), to change her costume to give her a more striking appearance, and to upgrade her powers to make her more comparable to the group’s other female member, Storm.
Claremont says that he wanted to make Phoenix “a female analogue to Thor, Firelord, and the Silver Surfer,” and thus a heroine on the “cosmic” level of power. He and Cockrum intended that the more she used her power, the more she would become like a god. In face, she would become a “power junkie,” who enjoyed the rush of pleasure exercising her power would bring. This fact, Claremont says, would lead to some interesting storylines. In she used a great deal of her power before she had learned how to control that much of it, she might accidentally wreck havoc. Moreover, if she unleashed even more of this power before she was fully prepared to handle it, her passion for using her power might unbalance her mind as it eventually did in the “Dark Phoenix” serial. Therefore, the X-Men’s mentor, Professor Xavier, would have to train her in the use of her powers. Shooter believes that the concept of the X-Men as a school for super-powered mutants is fundamental to the series’ appeal, but Byrne and Claremont agree that the current X-Men do not need school since except for Colossus they had all been using their powers for years before the new team was formed. Claremont saw the training of Phoenix as a means of bringing back the “school” motif. Moreover, he envisioned creating situations in which Jean was caught between her need to use her powers to rescue the other X-Men, and her awareness of the dangers that using it could create.
When X-Men went monthly, Cockrum left the book and John Byrne took over. Byrne had and still has fundamental objections to Jean’s Phoenix persona. “It’s not that I don’t like Jean Grey,” he explains. “I have an abiding fondness for redheads, and have been in love with Jean when we first ‘met,’ about a million years ago when I was thirteen.” Byrne saw Marvel Girl in the original series as a heroine who pulled her own weight in battle with the team (thereby contrasting, he points out, with Sue Storm of the Fantastic Four), without making a big deal out of the fact.
On the other hand, Byrne regards Phoenix as “too brassy, too loud, too hip and too feministic,” and hence not in keeping with the personality he feels was established for Jean in the “old” X-Men series. Claremont agrees that his treatment of Jean’s personality differs from Stan Lee’s and Jack Kirby’s in the early issues, but says that Jean was becoming more assertive in the issues on which Roy Thomas and Neal Adams collaborated. Claremont says that he relates to the Jean Grey of the latter stories rather than the earlier ones. Besides, he continues, anyone who has been a superheroine for at least seven years of “Marvel-time” would naturally have become more assertive by now.
Byrne does not see why there should be another “strong female character” (in terms of both powers and personality) in the X-Men when they already have Storm. Claremont, on the other hand, attacks what he sees as a double standard in comics that decreed that “ a superhero group can have an infinite number of strong males, but not two strong females.” Byrne argues that the male X-Men do not have equally assertive personalities, and contrasts Colossus and Nightcrawler with Wolverine.
As for strength as measured in terms of sheer power, Byrne believes that Phoenix was too powerful to be a member of a superhero group. She had, after all, saved the entire universe in issue 108. What would there be for the other X-Men to do in stories that had “Phoenix flexing a pinkie and putting everything back to rights while the others had looked on?” Claremont argues that this is not at all and insurmountable problem. If Phoenix stayed in the book, she would stay on a Thor/Surfer power level rather than equaling or surpassing Galactus as she did in 135-137, and, Claremont points out, writers have been able to come up with effective adversaries even for the Surfer. Keeping Phoenix in the book would simply “require a better class of villain” for the X-Men, and “making the villains work for a change.” A villain on the order of Proteus could be used, or villains could come up with means of draining her power, he contends. Moreover, “for all her Phoenix-like ability, she was still heart-and-soul a twenty-four year old woman from upstate New York;” her effectiveness in battle would be limited by her amount of experience and her courage in facing horrifying adversaries. She could be fought through mental disorientation, Claremont says, or psychic domination as in the Mesmero and Wyngarde stories, or through threatening her loved ones. He notes, too, she would be aware that to unleash too much power at the stage of her life and training would be to risk losing control of it and even turning into the evil Dark Phoenix. Byrne maintains, however, that as long as Phoenix was around, “the X-Men had become guest stars in their own comic book.”
When Claremont decided to have the Beast and one of the X-Men get separated from the others at the finale of the Magneto story in 113, Byrne suggested it be Phoenix. As a result, the Phoenix was out of the book for nine issues. Still, the problem of what to do with her had only been postponed, and as the time for her return approached, Byrne began losing interest in the book.
X-Men’s editor also felt that Phoenix should not be a member of the team, and Claremont decided that he did not want to make Byrne “do a character that he’s uncomfortable with” and so “there’s no sense in keeping her around.” But then what would be done with her?
Marvel writer Steven Grant supplied the key by proposing that Phoenix become a villain. Claremont had already decided to bring in the Hellfire Club. Byrne suggested using Mastermind and having Jean psychically enthralled, whereupon Claremont decided to have him turn her into the decadent Black Queen. “Almost simultaneously,” both co-plotters seized upon Grant’s idea for the next plot development: Jean’s psychological transformation into a villainess would be permanent, and the Black Queen would become the comic-powered Dark Phoenix.
But then what would happen to Dark Phoenix? Byrne and Claremont devised at least seven different scenarios, four of which were constructed over the course of three nights! Among them were the following.
Jean would lose her Phoenix powers and once again become Marvel Girl. The problem here was the same as the one that had arisen when Phoenix’s power was limited during the Magneto story (112): it could not be agreed what level of power she should have.
Phoenix would be destroyed but then Jean would show up a few months later, without explanation. The characters would spend months wondering whether Jean would again turn on them, and eventually she would. Jean’s eventual attack seemed too inevitable to create a real sense of mystery, and so this idea was rejected.
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