BONUS BOOK – Dial “H” For Hero (1981)

BONUS BOOK – Dial “H” For Hero (March, 1981)
“Who Are the Heroes?”
Writer – Marv Wolfman
Pencils – Carmine Infantino
Inks – Frank Chiaramonte & Dennis Jensen
Letters – Ben Oda
Colors – Gene D’Angelo

Here’s a new one for me.  Dial “H” For Hero… one’a those properties/concepts I never paid all that much attention to.  This was the second “Insert Preview” DC Comics put out… but, we’re doing these out of order… since each one requires rather strenuous longbox excavating.  This story was included with Legion of Super-Heroes (vol.2) #272 (February, 1981).

Guess what… tomorrow we’re gonna be doing another insert included in a Legion ish!

Our story opens with a flashback to twenty-five years prior… where an old beggar named Horace Whittiker pops into an abandoned old house in hopes of finding a bit of shelter.  He is quickly scared off by something inside.  The house at 231 Jewel Avenue stood empty from that point on… until today, as the King family have just moved in!

One of the King boys, Chris, is wearing a very stylish outfit… or, at least editorial seems to think so, as they credit a 14-year old Eric Daniel, from Chuktowaga, New York for its design!  Anyhoo, Chris is a bit nervous about starting at a new school during the middle of the term… and his goofy brother (?) Gary is no hope in that matter.

The next day, Chris heads off to school… where he feasts his eyes on a girl, who I believe we’re supposed to find very beautiful.  Unfortunately, this was drawn by 1980’s Carmine Infantino… so, she just looks like a Muppet who underwent some unfortunate plastic surgery.  Anyhoo, her name is Vicki Grant… and if school busybody, Roger Dunbar can be trusted… just about every fella in the school has eyes for her.  This includes the resident bully, Brad.

Chris can’t help but to… get this… sketch the lovely Vickie.  Roger spies the art and snaps it out of Chris’ hands to show to his muse.  Nowadays, you might think Roger was just being an a-hole to the creepy new kid… but, I gotta say, I’m pretty sure he was his attempt at doing our man a solid.

And whattaya know, Vickie actually really digs the pic!  A little advice from your friendly neighborhood bloggin’man… don’t try that at home.  I’m pretty sure (though, I couldn’t say from experience… I promise) you’d just be branded as a creepy stalker.  Thankfully, for story purposes, this isn’t to be.  Vicki thanks Chris for his art… and they become fast friends.  This doesn’t exactly sit well for bully Brad… who’d really just prefer Vicki’d spend all her time with him.  Oh!  Mustn’t forget, Vicki’s blue button-up and scarf combo was designed by a sixteen year old Douglas Cunningham, from Dayton, Ohio.

After giving Brad the cold shoulder, Vicki and Chris head back to the house on Jewel Avenue… all the while, Vicki fills him in on all of the rumors surrounding his new digs.  More or less what it comes down to is “place be haunted”.  They head inside, and hear an odd whistling coming from the attic… and so, they decide to investigate.  What they find is a light shining from behind some wood panels.

Meanwhile, we find out that Bully Brad Mann decided to follow Chris and Vicki back to the pad… and he’s got vengeance on his mind.  He enters the house… only to be enveloped in a thick fog, which leads to his beating a hasty retreat.

Back in the attic, Chris and Vicki find a box… with a plaque on it.  Did you know that 1981 was mankind’s darkest hour?  Well, ya do now.

Inside the box, the kids find a pair of odd timepieces.  One in the form of a watch, the other a pendant.  When they touch them, however, the clock-face fades away, leaving only a strange dial… with four letters on it.  Thankfully, they immediately recognize the letters as forming the word H-E-R-O, otherwise this scene could go on forever.

Vicki wastes no time in “dialing in” with her “slender fingers”… and before we know it, she’s transformed into a superhero!

She bursts through the roof, soaring into the skies… and proclaims herself to be Futura!  Worth noting, “Futura” was created by Jim Simpers, Age 15 – Newark, Delaware.

Chris doesn’t wait long to join in on the fun… and with a flick of his digits, is transformed into The Moth!  “The Moth” is credited to future comics colorist… Danny Vozzo, Age 17 – Brooklyn, New York.

As they play in the sky, Futura’s Spidey-Sense starts to tingle.  She can sense that an accident is about to occur nearby.  Whattaya know, she’s right!  Dumbass Brad Mann, still so bamboozled by his haunted house experience, is completely out to lunch as he crosses a street… right into the path of a truck, with no brakes!

The heroes are able to save the day… and, even repair the trucker’s brake pads for good measure.  Not quite sure how Futura’s “Mind Over Matter” powers can make brakes work… maybe it’s kinda like how airplanes shouldn’t stay in the air, and only do so because we all believe they can?  Maybe?  Okay, maybe not.

Back at Jewel Avenue, Chris and Vicki return to the attic… where, the latter quickly figures out how to return to their mortal forms.  Ya see, ya just dial H-E-R-O… backwards!  So, one letter off from one of my favorite cookies (O-R-E-H), and they’re back to normal.  It’s here they decide that, from this point on, they’re in the superhero business.  Chris suggests that the Dial H Heroes are going to be around for… a long time.  Oh Chris, I come from the future… and I have bad news.

We jump ahead to the next day… where a strange pyramid lands in a nearby field.  Some military-types waste no time in… blasting it with bazookas.  Really?  That’s how we’re doing this?  Naturally, the zukes do no damage… and, in fact, only tick off the occupant of the craft.  Ladies and Gents, allow me to introduce you to: The Flying Buttress (created by twenty-year old Steve Mattson, from Portland, Oregon).  I wonder if that’s the same Steve Mattson who has a few comics credits to his name?  Anyhoo… the baddie zaps the soldiers and flies off.

Meanwhile, at Hamilton Junior High School… Chris and Brad have a heart-to-heart.  Which is to say, Brad tells him that Vicki belongs to him… and Chris tells him to bug off.  Then, ol’ busybody Roger runs up to tell Chris about the weird pyramid thing that landed… and suggests it might be a publicity stunt for “Star Wars 3”.  Chris knows better… and decides to dial in to check it out.

Oddly, he seems to already know that any time he dials H-E-R-O, he’ll become a different superhero.  I mean, that’s an odd conclusion to jump to, if he’s only dialed in once.  What’s to say he wouldn’t just become The Moth again, right?  Oh well… that’s just a case of me thinking too hard.  Chris does his thang, and becomes… Mega Boy!  “Mega Boy” was created by a David Cason from LaGrange, Georgia… age unknown.  He immediately finds The Flying Buttress.

Back at the school, we learn that Chris’ use of the dial causes Vicki’s pendant to glow.  Realizing that her partner might be in trouble, she decides to dial in herself… becoming the super-heroine, Sunspot (sorry X-Fans, not that Sunspot).  This “Sunspot” was created by a Shawn Sherman from South Roxana, Illinois… age unknown.

We wrap up with Sunspot arriving on the scene, just in time to see Mega Boy get slammed in the chest by the Flying Buttress!  What happens next?  Well, we’re just going to have to start buying Adventure Comics with its 479th issue to find out!

I tell ya what… this was kinda dumb, but so much fun.

I’m not even sure where to start here… but, I suppose I ought to open with the fact that I know precious little about Dial H For Hero.  Outside of the broader strokes that is… which, hmm… I guess is sort of the entire thing, isn’t it?  I read a little bit of the “Sockamagee” stuff from a SHOWCASE Presents Volume… but, none of it really stuck with me.  There was also Robby Reed’s appearances during that Silver Age event from 2000 which Reggie and I covered a couple years back on the Treadmill.  The Chris and Vicki versions, outside of their later New Teen Titans appearances, are completely new to me.

As for the current/recent Wonder Comics run?  Well, when I found out that the fella Bendis picked to write the thing had never even heard of the concept before… I immediately gave it a hard pass.

That said… I really found myself enjoying this!  I’ve come into a grip of those Adventure Comics issues, as well as the New Adventures of Superboy issues that feature Dial H as a back-up… I’ve just never read ’em!  After reading this, I think maybe I ought to!  I am brainstorming where this blog might be headed after the Bonus Books dry up… ya never know!

I really liked the Silver Age callback of crediting the creators of each Super-Identity.  I think they might’ve been a bit “too cute” in crediting Chris and Vicki’s civilian outfit designs to readers… not sure how legit that all was… and, I suppose it doesn’t really matter.  I just find it silly to credit somebody with “designing” a red v-neck shirt.  Oh well.

I think my only real complaint about this story is… the art.  I’ve expressed my distaste for 1980’s era Carmine Infantino a time or two before… heck, I think with a different artist in the saddle, The Trial of the Flash would be much more fondly remembered these days!  It’s just a personal preference thing… but I find it so off-putting.  It’s something to do with the faces… it’s gotta be, because everything else looks fine!

I included the “entry form” included with this issue below, where you (yes, you) could create your own Dial H hero for Chris and/or Vicki!  It says that if you do (err, did), you’d get a Dial H t-shirt!  I decided to Google that for ya… here’s the t-shirt in all it’s glory:

Overall though… even though my entire body told me I shouldn’t… I did, in fact, really like this!

UPDATE: February 11, 2020:
Adding a copy of the Release Form DC would have readers sign for use of their ideas, along with a news item about the revival of the property (from The Comics Journal #56 – June, 1980):

UPDATE: February 16, 2020:
A note from Amazing Heroes #1 (June, 1981) addressing the “creators’ rights” piece of the puzzle when it comes to Dial H:

Interesting (and Relevant) Ad:

4 thoughts on “BONUS BOOK – Dial “H” For Hero (1981)

  • Matthew O'Hara

    I enjoyed this, too, but it was one of those previews that was pretty much a first issue. That must have been frustrating for readers picking up ADVENTURE COMICS #479 and joining the story already in progress. I think they should have done the preview as the town reacting to its super hero population jumping from zero to dozens with the last panel reveal that Chris and Vicki are responsible and leading into the origin story in ADVENTURE.

    As much as I'd love for your blog to focus on ALL-STAR SQUADRON at some point, the combination of text heavy Roy Thomas scripts and copious historical references makes me think it might be too time consuming and DIAL H would be a better fit with your schedule. The stories in ADVENTURE are usually not full length, with each issue containing multiple tales that vary between seven and fifteen pages.

    Oh, and I thought DC was being facetious encouraging readers to design furniture, but that actually does become a plot point in the ADVENTURE run.

    • You know what… you bring up an excellent point there! I'm actually a bit annoyed at myself for not mentioning it during the discussion piece! I bet, had I just picked up ADVENTURE #479 I'd have been majorly annoyed that, even though that was the first part… I still somehow "missed out" on the complete origin! I think your idea for the PREVUE would have been the best possible solution!

      I, too, would love to focus on ALL-STAR SQUADRON… but, hoo-boy, that's one heckuva time-sink! The 16-page PREVUE took me 45-minutes… to read! The discussion piece itself took nearly three hours… so, yeah… that'd be a toughie to commit to, and I hate doing things half-way. DIAL H might be an interesting spur for the blog to take!

  • Grant Kitchen

    So in this story they turn back to normal by dialing O-R-E-H? In their New Teen Titans appearance it is revealed that Vicki had turn into s villain by dialing that. 🤔

    • *That* I'd forgotten all about! Great catch!


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