Writer / director Cameron Crowe recently set the Internet ablaze when he mentioned that he’d love to make a Marvel movie based about the musical mutant, Dazzler. But while comic book fans were excited by the idea, not everyone is as familiar with this member of the X-Men as, say, Wolverine or Professor X. No matter. Now you can learn more about her in Amanda Bridgeman’s new novel Sound Of Light: A Marvel: School Of X Novel (paperback, Kindle) — which, in turn, you can learn more about in the following email interview.
For people unfamiliar with her, who is Dazzler, and what are her powers?
Dazzler is a singer who wants to focus on her music career but is constantly pulled into the X-men world due to her being a powerful mutant. She absorbs sonic energy and converts it to light energy, which means she can do everything from blinding people to creating light shields for protection, or creating fine lasers to use as weapons, and much more. If exposed to a lot of sonic energy, there’s no telling just how powerful she really could be.
And then what is Sound Of Light about, and when and where does it take place?
I’ve set my story after the Brian Michael Bendis’ Uncanny X-Men storyline, where Dazzler was working as Mutant Liaison for S.H.I.E.L.D. In that storyline, Mystique captured Dazzler and held her prisoner while she produced Mutant Growth Hormone (MGH), before Magneto and the Cyclops X-Men gang rescued her. Dazzler has moved on with her life since then but she’s still affected by what happened.
Suddenly, S.H.I.E.L.D. turn up in her life again, and Dazzler’s informed that her estranged father, Magneto, and Cyclops have gone missing. Relations are frosty between S.H.I.E.L.D. and Cyclops’ X-Men faction, so Dazzler is asked once again to become Mutant Liaison to find out what happened to them. Why? Because Magneto and Cyclops were looking into a new case of MGH when they went missing and MGH is something Dazzler knows all too well.
In the interview I did with Tristan Palmgren about their novel Squirrel Girl: Universe, they said Aconynte’s Marvel books share a universe, one that’s connected to the comics but not the movies or TV shows. Do I have that right?
The beautiful thing about the Aconynte’s Marvel novels is that while they need to align with the comics universe, they are actually set in their own universe. For example, if the comics universe is Earth-616, the novel universe is Earth-618. There are a lot of similarities, but there will be differences, such as two characters who have met in the comic universe may not have crossed paths in the novel universe. The parameters of writing the novels are that the stories must align with the comics and ignore the cinematic universe. So, the Brian Michael Bendis’ Uncanny X-Men storyline forms the “history” of my novel, which then tells a new chapter in Dazzler’s life dealing with the MGH.
So aside from the shared universe, are there any connections between Sound Of Light and the short story you wrote for the collection School Of X, “Eye Of The Storm”?
Not really. The only connection between my short story and the novel is the New Charles Xavier School. The school is mentioned in the short story, and Dazzler visits the school in the novel. The school is the through-line or touchstone of the School Of X line of stories, meaning it’s the main parameter for writing in that world: they must connect with school in some way during the story.
What about between Sound Of Light and Aconynte’s other Marvel books? Is there any connection between it and the other School Of X book, Tristan’s The Siege Of X-41, or the other X-Men ones in the Xavier’s Institute series [Carrie Harris’ Liberty & Justice For All, Robbie MacNiven’s First Team, and Jaleigh Johnson’s Triptych]?
Not that I’m aware of, outside of the school. All the novels will touch base with or take place in the school, and feature a certain cast of characters. Aside from that, we’ve all been doing our own thing.
Sound Of Light is not your first novel. Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on Light but not on any of your other books?
The main source of inspiration for me was the comics. I went back and read a stack of the original Dazzler comics, then jumped forward a bit to read some of the more recent stories featuring her, to ensure I captured her spirit correctly. Of course, the Brian Michael Bendis comics were the most influential because that storyline formed the backdrop of this new chapter in Dazzler’s life. So, yeah, I didn’t draw any inspiration from any other works outside of the Marvel universe.
What about non-literary influences; was Sound Of Light influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?
I wrote a Dazzler who’s inspired entirely by the comics as I really wanted to ensure she was treated with the respect her fans rightly demand. I didn’t want her treated as a bimbo with powers. Yes, she’s curvaceous and attractive, but she’s also smart, having once been on the path to law school. So, I wanted to present an incredibly capable yet emotionally flawed woman who has some inner demons to overcome — all of which was drawn from the comics.
As I mentioned, this is the second book in the School Of X series. Or maybe third. Either way, has there been any talk of you writing another novel about Dazzler, or another School Of X book about some other X-Men character?
I’ve floated the idea of writing another Dazzler novel, but I guess it depends how this first novel is received. [laughs nervously] The idea I’ve floated for a second novel would largely depend if I’m allowed to write a certain character in that story… Some characters are out of bounds, so, the short answer is that there’s nothing in the pipeline yet. But if fans would like to see me writer another, let Aconyte Books and Marvel know. If people enjoy the book, spreading the word on social media and leaving ratings and reviews helps a lot with me getting another gig.
Now, this is the point in the interview when I’d normally ask if your novel could work as a movie, TV show, or game. And, in this specific case, a comic book. But Cameron Crowe — y’know, the Almost Famous, Say Anything…, Singles guy — he recently expressed interest in making a Dazzler movie. So I’ll ask you this: Do you think Sound Of Light could work as a Cameron Crowe movie?
Cameron Crowe could definitely do a great version. Almost Famous is excellent and it shows he certainly understands music, particularly rock / alternative music (he was once married to Nancy Wilson of Heart after all), and that would be fundamental to understanding the musician that is Dazzler. I tend to think that Dazzler’s been underutilized and underestimated. I’m naturally drawn to darker, more dramatic takes on things, and though I love the roller-skating chick, I also think Dazzler would be served well to have a more dramatic take on her life: her powers and ultimately the constant struggle of straddling that line between musician and mutant (self vs team / family), and constantly being seen as just the voluptuous blond and not the smart woman she is underneath. She is a woman who embodies duality and depth: the mutant and the musician, the babe and the brain.
If Crowe wanted to turn Sound Of Light into a movie, who would you want them to cast as Dazzler, and who would you want them to get to write Dazzler’s songs?
First and foremost, you want a great actress to play Dazzler. Anyone’s hair can be dyed blond to play her, great make-up can turn anyone into a bombshell, and a great actress can nail miming a song, so I’d be happy with anyone so long as they can actually act. It also depends on what age the film would be portraying her. There’s a bunch of actresses of different ages who could play her (for example Margot Robbie [The Suicide Squad] or Amanda Seyfried [Ted 2] would rock a Dazzler in her 30s). If I was the director I’d choose someone with acting talent first and foremost. I mean, they do that all the time with Batman (cast great actors), so why should Dazzler be any different? (yes, I know it’s DC vs Marvel, but the argument remains).
In terms of the songwriting, again it depends on the script and how they’re playing her. Dazzler’s had many personas over the years, as the disco queen or pop star, or as the rock star and even had a turn as a metal chick. Personally, as a rock fan, I’d love to see her as a rock star (hence why I wrote her that way myself). Dazzler has an amazing voice, so you want someone who can sing like a bird but also nail a rock ‘n’ roll vibe, and the songs needs to be hits. Again, it depends on what age they’re playing her; are they going for a Hayley Williams / Paramore vibe? Or an Amy Lee / Evanessence vibe? A Taylor Momsen vibe? Or a Pink vibe? Or a totally new sound altogether.
While we’re on the subject of adaptations, your sci-fi crime novels The Subjugate and The Sensation — which we previously discussed in an earlier interview — are currently being developed as a TV show by Anonymous Content and Aquarius Films. Is there anything you can tell us about the show?
There’s not much I can say at this stage, unfortunately. Keep your fingers crossed that we see Detective Salvi Brentt on the screen soon.
Going back to Sound Of Light, some comic book fans are hesitant to read prose novels about comic book characters. What do you say to someone who loves Dazzler but is unsure if they want to read Sound Of Light?
Some of the feedback I’ve had so far is that comic fans have loved seeing more of the internal world of Dazzler than they get to see in the comics. That’s the beauty of novels, we have the time and space to really explore a character, including their internal thoughts and feelings. When I chose to write Dazzler, it was always my intention to write her the best I could and honor the character that so many fans around the world love. On a Supanova Comic Con panel earlier this year with DC Comics writer Tom Taylor, we talked about how protective we had become after writing the characters we have. We may not have created the characters, but we spend so much time with them that we form this bond with them and will defend them like family. So, rest assured Dazzler fans, I only have good intentions with presenting her in the novel universe, and I will stand beside you to cheer Dazzler on.
So, is there anything else you think people should know about Sound Of Light?
I just hope people enjoy the story. I didn’t grow up reading the X-Men comics, I grew up in a small country town where comics were limited, so I predominantly read Archie and Garfield, though I did read a handful of Phantom comics, which I thoroughly enjoyed and still have to this day. My first proper introduction to the X-Men was the cinematic universe, which I absolutely adored. Needless to say, since being offered the chance to pitch an X-Men short story, then the novel — which resulted in Dazzler being added to the stable of characters we had permission to write about — I’ve been reading a lot of comics over the past almost two years (X-Men and others) to catch up. I’ve been loving the universe, the many iterations of Dazzler to date, and also the many awesome Dazzler fans out there who are so passionate about her. And I totally agree with them. She’s ace.
Finally, if someone enjoys Sound Of Light, which of your own books would you suggest they read next?
I’d say if they like murder mystery stories, then I’d suggest the Salvation series (The Subjugate, The Sensation), which is set in the near future and follows a female homicide detective, Salvi Brentt, who hunts a killer in a world of black market neural implants and high-tech prison systems. If they like grounded sci-fi, I’d recommend my novel The Time Of The Stripes, which I call an “alien contact drama where The Leftovers meets The Lord Of The Flies.” If they like space opera / military sci-fi, and enjoy a lengthy saga, then they should try my Aurora series — currently 7 books and counting… If they want a straight procedural in a similar vein to NCIS or CSI, then check out my Scribe Award winning Patient Zero, based on the award-winning board game, Pandemic.
Oh, and they should keep an eye out for some new work coming down the pipeline.