Join us after the jump for a Behind the Music-style look at Nightcat, Marvel Comics’ second, less well-known attempt to create a superhero comics-to-pop-music crossover hit.
Several weeks ago, I wrote a brief Tumblr post highlighting the history behind the creation of Marvel Comics’ Dazzler and the intention by Marvel and partner Casablanca Records to create the character as a multimedia hit encompassing comics, dance music, and live-action film—it’s a quick read, so get caught up by reading it here.
All done? Good.
Now, you would think that Marvel had learned its lesson from the debacle. The bizarre thing about the whole Dazzler project was that none of the principals concerned seemed to honestly ask themselves the question: Is there really a market for a real-world pop star with a fictional comic book crimefighter persona?
Somebody at Marvel at the time was definitely convinced that the answer to the question was a resounding “yes,” because in late 1990, Marvel, via figurehead Stan Lee’s monthly “Stan’s Soapbox” column, announced the impending launch of a comic featuring “the only superhero based on a real-life, flesh-and-blood human being,” Nightcat:
The announcement trumpeting the arrival of Nightcat came 11 years to the day of Dazzler’s X-Men comics debut and the parallels between the two were simply uncanny (sorry!). As with Dazzler, the idea was that Nightcat would exist both as a comic book superhero and a real-world pop star. But while Dazzler never got past speculative casting—Bo Derek was supposedly interested in the role at one point—Marvel and partner LMR Records (then an affiliate of RCA Records) already had their Nightcat: model and aspiring actress Jacqueline Tavarez, who actually lent her name to Nightcat’s civilian alter-ego.
Nightcat #1 hit the direct market two months after the character was first revealed in “Stan’s Soapbox.” Plotted by Amazing Spider-Man editor Jim Salicrup and Savage Sword of Conan editor Barry Dutter, with dialogue penned by Stan Lee himself, Nightcat absolutely flopped with readers, its only saving grace being the art by penciler Denys Cowan and inker Jimmy Palmiotti. A second issue never came out.
There are a number of blogs out there that take a blow-by-blow, slow-motion look at the trainwreck that was Nightcat #1, so I’ll leave it to you guys to read all about the bloody details on Mister Kitty and Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed. The long and short of it, though, is this: it might sound ageist, but it probably wasn’t the best idea to get a 69 year-old guy to write the dialogue for a teen Latina pop sensation/superhero.
But what about the music? Believe it or not, LMR Records did release Nightcat’s eponymous album, several weeks after the comic’s debut. The album only had one single, the album’s opening track entitled “#1 House Rule.” You can listen to it in its entirety in the video embedded below:
As far as early 1990s synth-pop dance music goes, it’s actually not bad. Production is clean and professional, the house-inspired beat has some oomph to it, and the the chorus is catchy. Music blogger Nasty G, however, speculates that the woman behind Nightcat’s singing voice might actually be session vocalist Nikki Gregoroff, who had previously done a similar “ghost singer” gig on Pajama Party’s 1989 debut album Up All Night. Like the comic, though, the Nightcat album came and went without anybody really noticing.
Despite Nightcat’s absolute dud of a multimedia debut, Marvel still tried to promote the character for a while. A brief article in Marvel Age #105 (October 1991) makes mention of Stan Lee and Jacqueline Tavarez (as Nightcat) making guest appearances on the TV variety shows Into the Night and Nia Peebles [sic] and the Party Machine.An “in-universe”-style review of the Nightcat album appeared in the pages of Marvel 1991—The Year in Review, but that was really the last major mention of Nightcat in a Marvel publication. There would be the rare Nightcat joke in the Bullpen Bulletins, but for the most part, the character and the comic were relegated to a footnote, elements of an amusing anecdote to be passed between knowing comic book fans.
And what of Jacqueline Tavarez, the model and actress who was the face of the ill-fated Nightcat project? A haphazard scan of IMDb reveals a solitary film credit, a minor role on 1996 film Tromeo and Juliet (which, incidentally, featured a screenplay co-written by James Gunn, who would go on to direct and co-write 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy). Some quick Internet sleuthing has turned up a trail that points to Tavarez also doing some nude modeling and erotica work later in her career, sometimes under the name Jacqueline Love.
As for Nikki Gregoroff, the alleged real voice behind the Nightcat album, she continues to work as a studio singer (video game fans may recognize her name as the singer on “My Sweet Passion” in Sonic Adventure) and she recently released her debut album as a singer-songwriter, Spark & Glimmer.