Marvel’s first big-screen outing was almost a camp disco epic starring Cher and Donna Summer
Long before the stubbornly-heterosexual Marvel Cinematic Universe, cinema-goers were almost treated to a camp superhero epic that would have pitted Cher and KISS against Donna Summer and her Village People army.
In 1979, Casablanca Records and some Hollywood execs wanted Marvel to piece together a script for a movie about Dazzler, an all-singing mutant superhero who can convert sound vibrations into light and energy beams, making her a literal blast at parties.
Dazzer had made her comic book debut earlier that year, conceived in response to the rise of disco and in the hopes that Marvel would be able to make a leap into music.
According to Gizmodo, then-Marvel editor in chief Jim Shooter was asked to write up a Dazzler movie treatment in four days. And what he created was probably the most mind-boggling superhero-pop-music-heavy-metal crossover in history.
In a 2011 blog post about the proposed movie, Shooter recalled how Neil Bogart of Casablanca Records wanted “lots of Marvel heroes” in the movie and “stars he had under contract to provide voices for the non-Marvel characters”.
Shooter’s outline saw Dazzler, the Avengers and Spider-Man dumped into a bonkers future where they would battle super power-endowed versions of KISS and the Village People. Yes, for real.
And who would lead these powerhouses of music and apparently evil? None other than Cher and Donna Summer, who would have ruled over a futuristic version of New York.
Gizmodo reported that Cher would have been cast as the Witch Queen – a part she’d rock, let’s be real – who was the leader of the Deadknights (to be played by KISS).
Donna Summer would have been be her enemy, the Queen of Fire, whose minions were set to be played by the Village People.
At one point in the script, Cher’s character holds Iron Man, Spider-Man and the Scarlet Witch captive in a wasteland version of a lone World Trade Center tower.
Bo Derek (Tarzan’s Jane) was set to take on the lead role as Dazzler. Robin Williams was slated to be cast as Tristan, the main love interest in the film.
But alas, this camp fever dream wasn’t meant to be. In his blog, Shooter described how Marvel decided to hire another screenwriter to deliver the project, because he was “just a comic book writer”.
The late Leslie Stevens took an entirely new approach, one Shooter described as a “piece of c**p that defies description”.
Derek eventually turned down the role, telling Yahoo in August 2021: “It would have taken a lot of training, so I wasn’t anxious to do all that.”
After that, the project came crashing to a halt as studios started to withdraw bids for the movie.
Marvel eventually made its cinematic debut with 1986’s Howard the Duck, considered one of the worst films of all time. Dazzler made her movie debut decades later, in the 2019 X-Men film Dark Phoenix.