Dial H for Double

Welcome to a new era of Dial "H" for Hero! In 1981, DC revamped the concept of the boy who became 1000 superheroes, by giving H Dials not to Robby Reed, not just to a new boy, but to a boy AND a girl, doubling the number of superheroes each issue and not cutting their creativity off at the hero's gender. And when I say "their creativity", I don't actually mean DC Comics because for the first time, they offered READERS the chance to send in hero concepts in the hopes of seeing them in print. It's the kind of thing that could never happen again because everyone's too copyright-savvy. Chris and Vicki appeared first in a free preview inside the pages of Legion of Super-Heroes, then as the feature in Adventure Comics, and finally as a back-up feature in New Adventures of Superboy. Were superheroes created by readers better than the throwaways crafted by actual DC writers and artists? That's what we'll attempt to figure out by imagining them as a permanent part of the DCU.

Case 18: Legion of Super-Heroes #272
Dial Holders: Christopher King and Vicki Grant
Dial Type: Watch and Pendant Dials, respectively
Dialing: At this point, the connection between Chris and Vicki's Dials and Robby's is a mystery. Found in the attic of a house rumored to be haunted and just purchased by Chris' family, the Dials seem to have been fated to be found by these two specific teens. Everyone else who goes near the house has been scared off by sounds and ghostly smoke. There is a plaque in the chest with the Dials that says they have been summoned, and that they must use these powers to help people. These Dials are much simpler, with only 4 Latin letters on them. As with Robby's, they turn the kids into superheroes when they dial H-E-R-O and return them to normal when they dial O-R-E-H. One looks like a normal watch, and the other like a normal watch pendant, until Chris and Vicki touch them and they reveal their true purpose, and are always part of the superheroes' costumes. The teens intuitively know their powers and names when they turn into heroes.
Name: Futura (not bad, it's evocative and could be her real name; just don't ask to see her sister Pasta)
Created by: Jim Simpers, Age 15, of Newark, Delaware
Costume: Black, blue and white arranged in a pleasant composition, with lots of angular shapes, from her hair, mask, belt, cape and even her 1940s figure that evoke a time when the "future" was all about sharp fins on cars. There are some elements that don't work however. Those arrows on her thighs are ridiculous, and the F on her chest hopelessly outdated.
Powers: Futura can see the future, but it is a future that can be prevented. She also has "mind over matter" powers that allow her to fly, phase through a roof, and repair broken brakes on a car.
Sighted: In Fairfax, a town in New England (likely Maine). Futura and her partner prevent an out of control truck from hitting a distracted teenager.
Possibilities: Futura would make a good superhero from the future, but perhaps not as far forward as the Legion of Super-Heroes. She occasionally comes to our time to sort things out.
Integration Quotient: 45% (having her own niche makes her an occasional guest-star for timey-wimey team-ups)
Name: The Moth (a bit feminine, but still a solid insect-related superhero name; in fact, there was a Moth created by Steve Rude who appeared in a few Dark Horse comics)
Created by: Danny Vozzo, Age 17, of Brooklyn, New York (the same Daniel Vozzo who became a colorist at DC a few years later and has contributed covers to Batman: Haunted?)
Costume: Too generic to really evoke the insect whose name he goes by, this orange, yellow and purple number (ugh) hopes to make an impression with a blast-like cape and mask antennae (sort of). It's likely the big M on his wrestling belt would puncture his gut if he ever were to bend down to pick up something.
Powers: The Moth can fly. He's fast and maneuverable, but that's really all he can do.
Sighted: In Fairfax. The Moth and his partner prevent an out of control truck from hitting a distracted teenager.
Possibilities: His look and limited powers might make him a fair street hero, but his bright costume tells another story. I'd have him show up exactly once before he got himself killed on a giant light bulb.
Integration Quotient: 10% (the design doesn't quite work, and the lackluster abilities do nothing to help)

Something that strikes me as particularly progressive isn't just that they've added a girl to the mix (after all, Robby's friend Suzy made use of his Dial on one occasion), but that Vicki is the leader of the duo. She's self-assured, popular and understands the responsibility imparted her, where Chris is shy, a bit of a victim, and a little more selfish.

But Wait... Whatever Happened to Robby Reed? (Part 1)
Case 18? Robby's last case (posted last week) was Case 16. So clearly, I'm holding out on you. No longer! Robby did make an appearance in between his House of Mystery swan song in 1968 and Chris and Vicki's first appearance in 1981. It happened in a 1974 issue of Plastic Man (so he may still be on an alternate Earth), and though he doesn't dial up any new superheroes, he does dial up a number of old ones. See the case file below.

Case 17: Plastic Man Vol. 2 #13
Dial Holder: Robby Reed
Dial Type: The Big Dial
Dialing: As Robby dials O-R-E-H to return from a superhero identity, he gets his first randy feelings for a girl (Rachael Evans in hot pants). The two transformations (the Dial's and puberty's) have a strange effect on Robby and makes him forget all about the H Dial. He drops it where he stands and goes on with his life.
It's a life that's far removed from his superhero days. No saving the day, not special police lab, not deciphering alien runs. No boy genius stuff, basically. Two years later, he's a waiter in the Catskills. Hearing a girl hog hollering makes him remember about the Dial and he returns to the spot where he left it, but it's rusted. When he dials H-E-R-O on it, he turns into identities he's already assumed in the past (see below), but the rust somehow makes them supervillains. The evil influence continues to make itself felt on Robby's personality even when he dials back. After Plastic Man defeats him, Robby has completely forgotten the last two years. WHICH DOESN'T TELL US WHERE HE NOW IS! (Stay tuned for that).

Does the reappearance of a number of past identities as supervillains improve their Integration Quotient? After all, they were originally evaluated as HEROES. The standard is much higher because heroes are supposed to appear more consistently and headline their own books. Villains can show up once in a while and are allowed to be more limited and gimmicky. Here are Robby's repeats:
Mighty Moppet: The super-baby from House of Mystery #159 scored 15%, but as a more mischievous troublemaker, he'd make a good comedy villain for babysitters like Supergirl or Mary Marvel. Up to 35%.
King Kandy: Robby immediately realizes that even as a villain, this identity from HoM 160 sucks, and dials into another. My evaluation had him at 1% and said he sounded like a really lame villain. That he is. Up to 5%.
The Mole: One of Robby's first superhero identities way back in House of Mystery #156, he scored all of 4% for being extremely silly. Not a problem for a supervillain, and his powers are well suited to digging under banks or drilling holes in heroes' skulls. Up to 25%.
Human Starfish: From HoM 159 and tagged as a potential disposable Teen Titan, he scored a whopping 50%. As a villain, he taps into his monstrous side, but is too adorable-looking to be taken seriously. Down to 15%.
Plastic Man: In HoM 160, Robby turned into an established hero, Plastic Man! Obviously, that's 100% integration, though it's also 100% cheating. N/A

Robby's story still isn't over. Watch for Part 2 in the (admittedly) far future!

8 comments:

Martin Gray said...

That Plas story sounds the biz.

It's a shame Robby never met the Martian Manhunter, he could've dialled OREO.

What's innately feminine about moths?

Siskoid said...

They're feathery butterflies.

Jayunderscorezero said...

Ha! That Robby put superheroing aside the moment he discovered girls is strangely hilarious to me.

Siskoid said...

He had me believing he was dating Suzy. I guess she was just a beard.

Bill D. said...

I have a soft spot for this version of Dial H without even having read much of it because the DC Heroes RPG supplement book The Atlas of the DC Universe places the town where it took place as "a suburb of Bangor, Maine," although really it might as well just be Bangor. So that makes me happy. Bangor doesn't get a lot of comics locale love - Spider-Man made fun of us once, and we got to be the birthplace of the guy AIM turned into MODOK, but that's about it.

Siskoid said...

So imagine how *I* feel!

Still, Maine's close-by. I lived for 12 years on the NB/Maine border.

Matt Celis said...

How is the Moth "feminine"? Hmm, there's this male Moth, Steve Rude's male Moth, Watchmen's male Moth, and of course there is the Mothman...

Siskoid said...

It's a French bias, while the word for butterfly is masculine, the one for moth is feminine. Everything's wired with gender. I was probably thinking of Marvel's Gypsy Moth who is sort of in the same colors.

Of course, understanding of gender identity has evolved a lot since I wrote this point. I don't think today's Siskoid would have made any such remark.

 

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