Dial H for Hero is a comic book feature published by DC Comics about a magical dial that enables an ordinary person to become a superhero for a short time, such as an hour, by selecting the letters H-E-R-O in order. Each time it is used, the dial causes its possessor to become a superhero with a different name, costume, and powers. These superheroes are usually new, but on one occasion the dial caused its user to become a duplicate of Plastic Man.[1] Some versions of the dial, like the original, contain additional letters, allowing other kinds of transformations.[2] The title of the series is a play on the title of the 1954 American crime mystery film directed by Alfred Hitchcock titled Dial M for Murder.

Original series

Main article: Robby Reed

The original series debuted in House of Mystery #156 (January 1966), and continued until issue #173 (March–April 1968). The art was by Jim Mooney (though he did not finish the run), with scripts by Dave Wood.[3]

The original owner of the dial is Robert "Robby" Reed, a highly intelligent teenager with a penchant for exclaiming "Sockamagee!" He lives in the fictional town of Littleville, Colorado with his grandfather "Gramps" Reed and their housekeeper Miss Millie. During a camping trip, Robby accidentally falls into a cavern and discovers the dial in one of its alcoves. The origins of the dial and how it came to be in the cavern are never revealed.[4]

Resembling a rotary telephone dial, the device is hand-held with unknown symbols inside the dial's finger- openings and along its outer rim, which Robby deciphers into modern English letters. In Mark Waid's "Silver Age" mini-series, it is revealed that the symbols on the dial are Interlac.[5] Each time he dials the letters H-E-R-O, Robby transforms into a different super-powered being; dialing O-R-E-H reverts him to his normal form. Robby soon uses the dial to protect Littleville under the guises of numerous superheroes.[6]

The wide array of Robby's superhero identities included the Squid, Quake-Master, King Coil, Hornet-Man, Shadow-Man, Mighty Moppet, King Kandy, Future-Man, Human Bullet, Super-Charge, the Mole, Mr. Echo, Hypno-Man, the Cometeer and the Human Starfish, among others.[7][8]

1980s series

Main article: Chris King and Vicki Grant

The second Dial H for Hero series debuted in the 1980s, in a special insert in Legion of Super-Heroes #272 (February 1981),[9] then ran in Adventure Comics #479–490 and continued in New Adventures of Superboy #28–49; the duo also appeared alongside Superman in DC Comics Presents #44. A new feature of this series was that the readers could submit new hero and villain characters, which were then used in the stories. The submitters were given credit for their creations (and a T-shirt with the series logo), but the characters became DC Comics' property. Some, however, only made cameo one-panel appearances. The original writer and artist in the series were Marv Wolfman and Carmine Infantino.

In this series, two other dials are discovered years later by teenagers Christopher "Chris" King and Victoria "Vicki" Grant of the New England town of Fairfax in a "haunted house".[4] These dials — disguised as a watch and a necklace — only have the letters H-E-R-O on them, and work only for an hour, after which they will not work for another hour. King and Grant begin protecting Fairfax from a number of menaces. Unknown to them, most of these villains are created by a mysterious villain known only as The Master (who is obsessed with the H-dials for reasons unknown for most of the series) who creates them from the cell samples of unknown people.[2]

Eventually Chris and Vicki discover that a fellow student named Nick Stevens has been drawing up superheroes as a hobby — and somehow, the dials turn them into those heroes. With Nick's help, they find out that their dials were created by a being called The Wizard (not to be confused with the DC Comics villain of the same name), whom the Master thought he'd killed years before. In truth, The Wizard faked his death while he looked for the original Hero Dial. With it, he merges with The Master — and transforms into Robby Reed.

Robby explains that years before, he had used the dial to split in two (dialing "S P L I T") so that he could disarm a dead man's switch, while his other self, the Wizard, defeated the villain who set it. However, the Wizard carried all of Robby's inherent goodness, while the Robby that remained possessed only evil impulses; the original Hero Dial was lost when this Robby, renaming himself The Master, dialed "hide yourself", causing the dial to vanish along with The Master's and The Wizard's memories of their former life as Robby Reed. While The Master learned genetic techniques that allowed him to create his army of super-villains, the Wizard was driven to create the new H-dials, unconsciously designing limitations into them to prevent what happened to Robby from recurring (only heroic identities, a time limit, and the exclusion of letters other than H-E-R-O; the latter, however, did not prevent Chris from experimenting on one occasion and dialing H-O-R-R-O-R, with disastrous results). With Nick developing the ability to actively influence the dials' results (rather than subconsciously as before), Robby passes his dial to Nick, and retires as a hero.

In New Teen Titans #45 (June 1988), Victoria and Chris' history after the end of their series is revealed. After the two teens graduated from high school Vicki was recruited to join a cult called the Children of the Sun, where she was physically and mentally abused, deranging her. She sought out her former partner Chris in order to kill him. With help from the Teen Titans, Chris rescued her (in New Teen Titans #46). Chris now finds that he changes into a new superhero every hour, without the dial, and remains that way until he expends an unspecified amount of energy. He decides to continue his superhero career, using a suit provided by S.T.A.R. Labs to monitor his changes.

In Superboy and the Ravers #5 (January 1997), Hero Cruz finds Vicki's H-dial in the lair of Scavenger, and uses it to gain superpowers. A still deranged Vicki returns in Superboy and the Ravers #13 (September 1997) to get her dial back from Hero, but she regains her sanity once she uses the device. She is last seen in the care of the Forces, a family of metahumans.

Silver Age event

During the 2000 Silver Age cross-over event, Robby encountered his old House of Mystery co-star Martian Manhunter, in Silver Age: Dial H for Hero #1. Believing that he and the rest of the Justice League had gone bad, Robby turns into a superhero to stop him. Actually, Martian Manhunter has been mind-swapped with Dr. Light (the other Justice League have undergone similar mental transpositions, but those seen here are only Light's illusions). Subsequently, in Silver Age 80-Page Giant #1 (July 2000), Robby lends the H-Dial to the now mind/body restored Justice League, allowing several of its members to transform themselves into new superheroes to defeat Agamemno's Injustice League at a time when they had learned how to defeat the Justice League members in their normal forms:

In these new forms, the Justice League were able to defeat the Injustice League.

2003 series

Main article: H.E.R.O. (comics)

DC relaunched Dial H for Hero again in 2003, this time simply titled H.E.R.O. Written by Will Pfeifer with art by Kano, the series focused on the effect the H-Dial has on a series of average people whose lives are usually ruined by the pressures of superherodom. Robby Reed, now grown old and bitter, is searching for the missing dial, determined to retrieve it and keep a serial killer from getting his hands on it. H.E.R.O. lasted 22 issues, ending with the H-Dial's powers being internalized into Robby Reed and some other people who have come across it, and the H-Dial itself being sent back in time to 50,000 BC. Superman is featured in one of the stories.

2012 series

Main article: Dial H

For The New 52 initiative, DC began publishing a reboot of the series titled Dial H, written by China Miéville with art by Mateus Santolouco. The series focuses on Nelson Jent, an out-of-shape, unemployed middle-age man who accesses superpowers by dialing seemingly random numbers in an old phone booth. Another main character is an older woman named Roxie Hodder who takes the identity of "Manteau" regardless of what powers the dial calls up and acts as an advisor to Nelson. Following the fight against Ex Nihilo and Abyss, Nelson and Roxie work to figure out the secrets of the H-Dials.

Later issues of the series introduces the S-Dial which turns anyone who uses it into a superhero sidekick to match the person's superhero form.

When it comes to Nelson and Roxie's encounter with the Fixer (who is associated with the different dials), both of them have an encounter with a group of superheroes called the Dial Bunch who have fought the Fixer before. There is also an introduction to the J-Dial (which enables the user to jump through worlds), the G-Dial (which can summon any technological gadget), the Dial-Tapper (which can copy any H-Dial in range), and the Auto-Dialer.

To tie-in with DC's Villain's Month event, DC published Justice League #23.3: Dial E, a coda to the series. It featured the Q-Dial in which a person must be evil to use it. The Q in Q-Dial is for "Qued" which is an old word for bad.

2019 series

A Dial H for Hero limited series was launched as part of the Wonder Comics imprint for younger readers, starring new protagonists Miguel Montez and Summer Pickens. The series was written by Sam Humphries and drawn by Joe Quinones. Issue #1 was released on March 27, 2019.[10] Originally intended for a six-issue run, Dial H For Hero was extended to a total of 12 issues along with its fellow Wonder Comics limited series Wonder Twins. The final issue was released on February 26, 2020.

Miguel and Summer are teenagers living in the small town of Devil's Canyon, California. Miguel is an orphan who works in his uncle Brant's mayonnaise-themed food truck, and has engaged in daredevil stunts ever since he was saved by Superman from a near-death experience at age 10. Summer is a frequent runaway with a troubled home life. The H-Dial manifests itself in front of Miguel during a bicycle stunt gone wrong as he is plummeting into Devil's Canyon – dialling "H" for "Hero", Miguel is turned into a superhero called Monster Truck. When Miguel comes to and finds that he has trashed a car dealership, Summer arrives in Uncle Brant's stolen food truck and the two flee town together along with the H-Dial.

Via the H-Dial, Miguel and Summer are in contact with a mysterious elderly man known as the Operator, who is soon revealed to be Robby Reed. Meanwhile, it also transpires that there are thousands of former users of the H-Dial across the country, many of whom are desperate for another chance to get superpowers – the mysterious villain Mister Thunderbolt has recruited many into his Thunderbolt Club and sent them to take the H-Dial. After being targeted by two Thunderbolt Club members, Miguel and Summer resolve to travel across the country to Metropolis and give the H-Dial to Superman as the only person they trust not to misuse it. It is later revealed that the Thunderbolt Club are in pursuit of four hero-dials, named in reference to the CMYK color model for printing: in addition to the magenta M-Dial that appeared before Miguel, there is the cyan C-Dial, the yellow Y-Dial and the black K-Dial, each with different functions. While the M-Dial transforms the user into a random superhero, the C-Dial transforms the user into their inner superhero, the Y-Dial was responsible for splitting Robby Reed into the Operator and Mister Thunderbolt, and the K-Dial sends its user into the K-Hole.

Snapper Carr appears in the series as a recurring supporting character, being identified as a past user of the H-Dial. Issue #10 shows Miguel and Summer traveling through various realities in the DC multiverse, including an extended sequence on Earth-32 where every superhero is an amalgam of two main-universe heroes (e.g. Super-Martian, Bat Lantern, Wonder Hawk).

Issue #11 is primarily set on the planet Apokolips where the K-Dial is located, and features extended homages to the Reign of the Supermen and Superman Red/Superman Blue storylines. Granny Goodness stated that the scientists working for her that dialed the K-Dial never returned alive as it is "a gateway to anguish, a pit of oblivion". In issue #12 when Miguel and Summer defeat Mister Thunderbolt, they dial up H-O-P-E on the Multiverse Dial and travel the Multiverse until they are brought back to the Heroverse through the Chromium H-Dial.

The series contains many other homages to significant works in comic books and manga, through shifting art style and the identities of various heroes summoned by the H-Dial. These include Dragon Ball, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, various Vertigo Comics titles, and the works of Mike Allred, Rob Liefeld, Moebius, Frank Miller, Chris Ware and others. The series also examines the concept of a superhero's "secret origin", identifying it not as the moment where they acquired superpowers but instead as the moment of their decision to use their powers to do good.

Other appearances

Hero forms

Robbie Reed

Main article: Robbie Reed § Hero forms

Vicki Grant

Main article: Chris King and Vicki Grant § Vicki Grant

Nick Stevens (in The New Adventures of Superboy #48)

Thomas Banker / Dial Man

Lori Morning (in Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 4)

Travers Milton

Jerry Feldon (in H.E.R.O.)

Matt Allen (in H.E.R.O.)

Andrea Allen (in H.E.R.O.)

Captain Chaos (in H.E.R.O.)

[17]

Tony Finch (in H.E.R.O.)

Joe Walker (in H.E.R.O.)

Nelson Jent (in Dial H)

Manteau

Mason Jones

Miguel Montez

Summer Pickens

Snapper Carr

Metropolis citizens

Villains

The ones that wielded the H-Dial had encountered various villains in their adventures:

Robby Reed's enemies

Main article: Robbie Reed § Villains

Chris King and Vicki Grant's enemies

Main article: Chris King and Vicki Grant § Villains

Nelson Jent and Manteau's enemies

Miguel Montez's enemies

In other media

Miscellaneous

Web series

In popular culture

See also

References

  1. ^ House of Mystery #160 (July 1966)
  2. ^ a b Jimenez, Phil (2008). "Dial "H" for Hero". In Dougall, Alastair (ed.). The DC Comics Encyclopedia. New York: Dorling Kindersley. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-7566-4119-1. OCLC 213309017.
  3. ^ Cowsill, Alan; Irvine, Alex; Korte, Steve; Manning, Matt; Wiacek, Win; Wilson, Sven (2016). The DC Comics Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to the Characters of the DC Universe. DK Publishing. p. 90. ISBN 978-1-4654-5357-0.
  4. ^ a b Markstein, Don. "Dial H for Hero (1966)". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  5. ^ Silver Age: Dial H for Hero Vol.1 #1 (July 2000)
  6. ^ Morris, Jon (2015). The League of Regrettable Superheroes: Half Baked Heroes from Comic Book History. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Quirk Books. pp. 144–145. ISBN 978-1-59474-763-2.
  7. ^ Wells, John (2014). American Comic Book Chronicles: 1965-1969. TwoMorrows Publishing. pp. 121–122. ISBN 978-1605490557.
  8. ^ Wells, John (2014). American Comic Book Chronicles: 1965-1969. TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 215. ISBN 978-1605490557.
  9. ^ Manning, Matthew K. (2010). "1980s". In Dolan, Hannah (ed.). DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 192. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. Within a sixteen-page preview in Legion of Super-Heroes #272...was "Dial 'H' For Hero", a new feature that raised the bar on fan interaction in the creative process. The feature's story, written by Marv Wolfman, with art by Carmine Infantino, saw two high-school students find dials that turned them into super-heroes. Everything from the pair's civilian clothes to the heroes they became was created by fans writing in. This concept would continue in the feature's new regular spot within Adventure Comics.
  10. ^ "DIAL H FOR HERO #1 | DC".
  11. ^ Doomsday Clock #9. DC Comics.
  12. ^ H.E.R.O. #1 (April 2003)
  13. ^ a b c d e f g H.E.R.O. #2 (May 2003)
  14. ^ H.E.R.O. #3 (June 2003)
  15. ^ H.E.R.O. #5 (August 2003)
  16. ^ a b H.E.R.O. #6 (September 2003)
  17. ^ a b c H.E.R.O. #7 (October 2003)
  18. ^ a b c H.E.R.O. #8 (November 2003)
  19. ^ a b H.E.R.O. #9 (December 2003)
  20. ^ H.E.R.O. #12 (March 2004)
  21. ^ H.E.R.O. #13 (April 2004)
  22. ^ H.E.R.O. #14 (May 2004)
  23. ^ "Hanna-Barbera New Teen Titans | Titanstower.com".
  24. ^ Justice League: Gods and Monsters Season 2, as well as #4Hero, and DC's Hero Project announced http://www.comicvine.com/articles/machinima-developing-multiple-dc-properties-for-th/1100-152185/