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Tag Archive: Dial H for Hero


Review by C.J. Bunce

Every twenty years or so, some intrepid editor or assistant editor rummages through the files at DCHQ only to stumble upon an old comic book featuring the H-Dial.  And with a loud poof it becomes another attempt to revive a strange and cartoonish concept, a dial with symbols or letters and numbers.  When the finder dials the right order of symbols or letters, the dial transforms the dialler into a superhero–usually a strange superhero we’re never encountered anywhere before.

First seen the House of Mystery and later featured as secondary stories throughout Adventure Comics and other titles and featured as its own title starting in 2003 that lasted 22 issues, titled H.E.R.O., the H-Dial is a short story writer’s dream.  What Quantum Leap did with Sam Beckett, only the holder of the H-Dial gets powers to help solve an immediate problem (usually).  The result should be an unlimited source of stories for short-lived superheroes and their powers.

Like the headpiece to the Staff of Ra, the H-Dial carries its own brand of mystery.  We have never learned the story behind its origin, or how many H-Dials are circulating the past and present of this or any parallel Earths.

Clever gimmicks have often accompanied the H-Dial.  In Adventure Comics in the 1980s, Marv Wolfman and Carmine Infantino created a way for readers to create new heroes to appear in issues of the comic book–an early interactive way of engaging readers.

The longest user of the dialler was Robby Reed.  He has appeared from the 1960s to the past decade in full stories and cameos with the dial.  In the New 52 series titled simply Dial H, we find in Issue #1 the new finder of the H-Dial is a young guy named Nelson, who, visually, seems a bit like Hurley from the TV series Lost.  Nelson finds the dial and uses it to try to help his friend, creating two superheroes with the device: Boy Chimney, who can travel on smoke and do who knows what that a… um… chimney and smoke would do to stop bad guys, and Captain Lachyrmose, who makes people sad and gets more powerful through other people’s sadness.

These two first uses of the H-Dial sort of fall with a thud.  The ideas are bizarre, which can be a good thing when done the right way.  But first-time comic book writer China Mieville’s dialogue is clunky.  We cannot tell what accent his friend has–is he suppoed to have some accent or does he intentionally speak a little strangely?  If he is supposed to be of some ethnic group, then artist Mateus Santolouco isn’t clear enough of what we’re supposed to think.  It doesn’t matter to the story, but it’s just a bit difficult to understand what these friends are saying to each other.  Example: “Please excuse me while screw you… just damn luck there was no damage this time.”

That said, for the most part, Santolouco does a very good job of creating bizarre images to fit Mieville’s story.  His characters are creepy and this book does fall into the “Dark” line of DC’s New 52 series.  It’s just unortunate the story is difficult to follow.

As a fan of the concept and a reader of the Adventure Comics issues featuring the H-Dial and the 2003 H.E.R.O. series, I will give Dial H a few more issues to hook me.

I’ll take a tangent for a minute and mention what DC Comics didn’t do on this round that I think would be more fun.  In this world of reality TV, as DC featured as a device in the first issues of the New 52 Green Arrow series, Dial H is the perfect venue to try some new things.  Why not have readers submit stories on some type of Dial H blog?  Why not have DC Comics’ whole pantheon of writers and artists each get a crack at developing a story within the pages of Dial H, much like Top Cow did with the Eisner nominated mini-series Common Grounds?  I’ll stop there because I’m not a fan of people reviewing what they want to see instead of what is offered by a creator.  But I do think there are unlimited stories to be told with a device like the H-Dial, and I hope Mieville, once he gets his sea legs in his new medium, takes full advantage of the opportunity.

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The big news for the week in comicdom is DC Comics’ confirmation yesterday that it will cancel 6 of its 52 regular series after Issue #8, after a lot of speculation over the past several weeks that DC would trim off some of its low selling titles.  DC has offered very little by way of explanation other than low sales, and it released the names of the six titles unceremoniously at the end of its press release touting the addition of 6 replacement titles.  Unfortunately three of the exiting titles were part of DC’s effort to diversify characters and its audience.  As to the new titles, there is some good news, some indifference, and some… seriously?

The best news, of course, is that the very best of the New 52 titles are continuing, including All Star Western, Aquaman, Batgirl, Batwoman, Captain Atom, Justice League Dark, Savage Hawkman, and Wonder Woman.  And a character who I thought deserved her own regular title is now getting one.

The departing titles are:

Blackhawks – Blackhawks are an elite force of military specialists equipped with the latest in cutting-edge hardware and vehicles.  Their mission: Kill the bad guys before they kill us.

Hawk and Dove – The living avatars of war and peace root out the hidden forces who look to plunge the country into a deadly civil war.  Dove made an appearance in Justice League Dark as a pretty good character.

Men of War – The attempt to bring Sergeant Rock to the 21st century just didn’t get the expected readership.

Mister Terrific – One of the departing titles featuring a black character.  Though he has no super powers, Mister Terrific has a brilliant mind and an aptitude for science which he used to create the T-Mask, which renders him invisible to technology, the T-Spheres, which have several functions including holographic projection, generating electric charges and granting limited flight.

O.M.A.C. – Kevin Kho has become an unwilling participant in a war between Checkmate and Brother Eye as he is transformed into the One Machine Army Corp known as O.M.A.C.

Static Shock – A young justice title, focusing on a black teenager who was meant to be a modern, updated Spider-man for the DC universe.

DC Comics Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras stated that the characters in these titles will continue to be appear in the New 52 universe titles.

So the biggest disappointment of the new “second wave” on New 52 titles?  A TWELFTH Bat-title: BATMAN: INCORPORATED.  Really? If you’re not keeping track, we already had Batman, Detective Comics, The Dark Knight, Batwing, Batman and Robin, Batgirl, Batwoman, Knightwing, Catwoman, Birds of Prey, and Red Hood and the Outlaws.  No criticism intended of some of these titles (like the exceptional Batgirl and Batwoman), but there is only so many Bat-stories one can keep track of each month.   Ok, it was pretty clear Grant Morrison was going to come back with this title this year, so it isn’t a great surprise.  Still…

The cool news is a revamped classic title, WORLDS’ FINEST, known for its Batman and Superman team-ups, now with the apostrophe moved from where it was in World’s Finest, as it appears to have intentionally moved to account for the multiple Earths in the DCU.  The part we like is Huntress, just wrapping up her limited series, she will be a lead character sharing the storyline with Power Girl.  Written by Paul Levitz with shared art duties for George Perez and Kevin Maguire. DC is marketing this one as Stranded on our world from a parallel reality, Huntress and Power Girl struggle to find their way back to Earth 2.  Which brings us to the third new title:

EARTH 2.  Written by James Robinson with art by Nicola Scott.   This one could be fun, as there’s an unlimited number of change-ups that can be done with the parallel universe concept in the DCU.  The greatest heroes on a parallel Earth, the Justice Society combats threats that will set them on a collision course with other worlds.

A big surprise for me is the reboot of DIAL H.  Originally a classic series called Dial “H” for Hero, and rebooted only a few years back (2003) in a great series called just H.E.R.O., I think I have read all the back issues on this one and always liked the concept.  If it is like the original, you have a dial like the alethiometer in The Golden Compass, which is used by Joe Citizen, often changing hands, to allow you to be the hero you want to be as circumstances require.  It’s a little like Quantum Leap or Dollhouse, where you get to change everything with each new installment.  This will be written by comics newbie China Miéville with art by Mateus Santoluoco.

And the war concept must not be dead, despite killing the Men of War title, as it will be replaced with the classic title, G.I. COMBAT.   This will be a war series with three ongoing separate stories, written and drawn by three separate creative teams.

Finally the sixth new title to be added is THE RAVAGERS – Written by Howard Mackie with art by Ian Churchill. This is a Teen Titans and Superboy spinoff where four superpowered teens on the run fight against the organization that wants to turn them into supervillains.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

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