DIAL H FOR HERO was one of my favorite comic-books as a young lad. The version that I was first introduced to originally ran as the lead feature in Adventure Comics, and then became the back-up feature in the Superboy series. The concept was about two teenagers, Chris King and Vicky Grant , who found these magic dials with the letters H, E, R, and O, on them. And when they dialed HERO, they would transform into superheroes.
Each time they would become brand new superheroes with different powers, usually they’d be connected to each other (with similar or complementary powers). And, coincidentally, the heroes would typically happen to have exactly the kind of powers that they needed to stop whatever crime was going on. The powers would wear off after one hour when they would transform back into themselves, and then they would have to wait at least one hour before they could use the dials again to become new heroes.
The hook for the stories was that the heroes that they turned into would be new characters that were created and submitted by readers, who got their names listed in the book. I think I may have tried to submit a character once, but I don’t remember exactly.
Eventually the feature was canceled. And the characters of Chris and Vicky showed up in other comics here and there over the years, before basically fading away completely. I found out that this version of the concept was actually a revival of an original feature called Dial H For Hero which appeared in a series called House of Mystery back in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s.
In that version, a young boy named Robby Reed found a magic dial in some abandoned cave, and when he dialed HERO he would become a new superhero. I bought a collection of the series last year and, well, the stories are typical Silver Age comic stories, meaning they’re rather simplistic.
In 2003 DC launched a new revival, written Will Pfeifer, and initially drawn by Kano. I never bought it when it was first published, but I recently just purchased a trade paperback, which collects the first six issues. The first 4 stories are about a young man who, late at night, is in a public phone-booth calling a suicide prevention hotline. He tells his story to the operater. He worked in a diner, a pretty dead-end job, and discovers a new version of the H-dial when an old lady leaves it there by mistake. When he dials in the letters he becomes a superhero. And the remaining stories are about how he tries to use his new powers for good but he keeps just making things worse. In the end, he loses the dial during a failed suicide attempt.
The next story is a one-off about a successful businessman who found the dial and begins using all of his free time becoming superheroes and fighting crime. But all of this begins to affect both his personal and professional lives. He loses his job and then his wife leaves him, taking their daughter with him. The daughter unwittingly takes the H-dial with her, and the final story shows her at her new school, where she and her new friends take turns using the dial to become various superheroines.
I really loved this collection and, as soon as I finished it, I wanted to read more. This series lasted 22 issues but, unfortunately, only this one collection of the first 6 issues was published. So I had to go online to order the individual issues for #7-22. They should arrive next week, and I can’t wait to read them.