Dial H for H-E-R-O: The Series

The year is 2003 and Dial "H" for Hero finally gets its own title, courtesy of Will Pfeiffer and Kano. The strip has had its own SERIES before, but not under its own banner. Robby Reed headlined in House of Mystery, while Chris and Vicki starred in Adventure Comics. Here comes a FOURTH Dial (whaaaa?!) and Pfeiffer's concept is a Dead Man's Gun type of thing where the artifact changes hands every few issues so completely different stories can be told about the Dialing experience. As someone who thought Black Hood was the best series in the Impact line (I realize that praise is faint AF), I'm not opposed to this approach. Now, the series did collapse time quite a bit at times and various heroic identities were left unnamed, even when they were featured in more than one panel. I'm not going to be able to cover these. If they did play a bigger part than "montage hero #3", I'll stick their pictures at the end and try to give them a name and backstory, but I won't go into as much detail. You ready for this?

Case 70: H-E-R-O #1-4
Dial Holder: Jerry Feldon
Dial Type: Push-button Dial
Dialing: This new H-Dial is as large as Robby's original, with similar alien writing around its edge, but instead of an old-timey spin dial, it has buttons. Four of these buttons are clearly the Roman letters H, E, R and O, all on the left side, with differently shaped buttons (mostly rectangles ) making up the rest (what these might do, or whether they're just lights, is not revealed). It works much as the others did. H-E-R-O dials a heroic identity, while O-R-E-H returns the person to normal (with all wounds incurred healed). No time limit is observed, and one can dial heroes back to back. Transformations are accompanied by a bright light and smoke display. The dialer instinctively knows the name of the hero they've dialed, and what powers they have (one exception, on Jerry's first dial, he wrongly believes he must be invulnerable but isn't). The identities presumably have a heroic disposition, but Jerry uses one to commit arson; however, this could be explained as a heroic act because the old factory was responsible for ruining so many lives and was disused and empty anyway. In terms of tracking the Dial, Jerry is a soda jerk who finds it in the dirty dishes, forgotten by its previous owner, an old woman (who did use it, as there are female heroes in the newspapers). She wants it back, but by the time he admits to having had it, it's been lost again. She seems to know at least one of his identities' names, as if she'd either accessed it or seen it before. She also makes comments that suggest dialing is addictive. Indeed, Jerry uses it for no better reason than to give himself more confidence on the phone.
Name: Afterburner (damn it, that was my friend's superhero identity when we were teenagers, drew up a Marvel Universe style page and everything)
Costume: In red tones, this one piece sleeveless spandex features a large badge-like chest emblem (possibly a stylized flame), an open cowl, leather bracers, and a cape clasped with buckles to the chest piece.
Powers: Rapid flight, but definitely not invulnerability.
Sighted: In Heaton (a small industrial town), saving a kid on bicycle before he's run over by a drunk driver, then getting hit by that driver's van.
Possibilities: Flight? That's it? Well, given how buff he is, he might just be you normal, fit, battle-ready street vigilante, but for the fact he can fly. Still plenty you can do, presumably.
Integration Quotient: 30% (good look, but no hint of what the larger story would be)
Name: The Bouncer (ironic pun name)
Costume: This teenage-looking hero wears bands of green, and a cowl that lets his long hair out in the back. His arms an legs are exposed. Not the most evocative fashion statement.
Powers: Jumping, not thanks to powerful leg muscles necessarily (so no standing jumps), but because his feet are "bouncy".
Sighted: In Heaton, bouncing around town for a few hours.
Possibilities: Expand the powers a bit to make him entirely bouncy (defensive powers) and you've got a character that looks right out of Young Heroes in Love. He'd be deep into the club/rave scene too, as a further link to his moniker.
Integration Quotient: 50% (not the most useful character, but teen heroes have long held an advantage in the comics world)
Name: The Blur (Flash Fact: TV's Iris West once named the Flash just that)
Costume: A simple two-piece powder blue and black number, no mask. Angular, but hard to see. Distinguished him from the Flash, but not from Marvel's Quicksilver.
Powers: Superspeed and running.
Sighted: In Heaton, running on the highway.
Possibilities: Does DC need another speedster? Well, if it did, the Blur isn't a bad name for one. Maybe he's the blue collar version, patrolling the nation's highways exclusively, being friends with truckers, etc. Like a freeway Aquaman.
Integration Quotient: 60% (I talked myself into it, but pretty redundant)
Name: The Wake (would eventually become the title of a Vertigo mini-series)
Costume: A sporty diving suit in black and white with a gold stripe, plus goggles.
Powers: Rapid swimming and water breathing, apparently even in highly polluted water (though Jerry might have been counting on being healed after dialing back).
Sighted: In Heaton, swimming in industrial refuse.
Possibilities: An urban Aquaman? I like it. Leave the wide ocean to the King of the Seven Seas, this guy just patrols the Great Lakes!
Integration Quotient: 75% (needs a better look, but his one panel tells an unusual story)
Name: Winged Victory (that's an Astro City character, right?)
Costume: A red and white spandex uniform with feathery shoulder and a streamlined blue helmet. Vaguely patriotic, but the American Eagle isn't necessarily referenced.
Powers: Rapid flight.
Sighted: Above Heaton, flying next to a jetliner.
Possibilities: The least interesting of these "movement power" heroes, but combine them into a trio (or quartet if you want to include the Bouncer) patrolling the Rust Belt as a loose team, and you've got something. We just need a name for them...
Integration Quotient: 30% (but jumps to 75% if we go with the Fast Four idea)
Name: The Wrecker (whoa there, Marvel's gonna put a crowbar through your windshield)
Costume: Hard to make out because we don't get a full frontal on it, but this huge bald dude seems to be dressed in purplish straps, gloves, trunks and boots. His skin may or may not be a normal human color.
Powers: Presumably, strength and toughness. It's possible he just has a super-knack for destruction.
Sighted: In Heaton, burning down the old auto plant.
Possibilities: Obvious ideas include a super-powered pro wrestler, or the big bruiser on some generic team. Less obvious is to go with the idea that he's incredibly destructive, though well-meaning. So now you have a vigilante who isn't about bringing in or killing criminals, but rather, destruction of private property in the name of justice. I think that makes an interesting mini-series.
Integration Quotient: 70% (not a great look, but I'm really keen on that idea; copyright Siskoid 2018, all rights reserved, yo)
Name: Powerhouse (pretty generic, but that may be why it works)
Costume: Blue spandex with a white star on the right shoulder, and a pouchy utility belt. The full cowl has two pale stripes running to the mask's eyes. The black boots are made up of buckled straps. Sort of a Captain America Lite.
Powers: Super fitness that includes some measure of super-strength. What he carries in his belt is never addressed.
Sighted: In the bad part of Heaton, the South Side, punching a drug pusher in the gut too hard and having to bring him to the hospital.
Possibilities: I like the idea of a vigilante who doesn't know his own strength and keeps messing up, but one wonders how long you could keep that up. Another mini-series then, about this screw-up Batman, considered a menace by the people he means to protect.
Integration Quotient: 60% (but is there more than one story to tell with him?)
Name: Napalm (Dial H already did this one in New Adventures of Superboy)
Costume: Blazing with fiery orange energy (so the costume looks the same color), this one-piece features darker leather boots and gloves, and a chest emblem that looks like a hairy ball, but is likely a representation of solar flares (which does not go with his name). He bald head is uncovered. He eyes lack pupils.
Powers: Throwing almost uncontrollable flame around.
Sighted: In Heaton, saving Jerry's love interest from a robber, but accidentally burning down his place of employment.
Possibilities: Sort of a Dr. Solar type, this reluctant hero is tortured by the destruction he accidentally leaves in his wake. It's about atomic age fears and all that. The name may instead point to a Vietnam War origin. Either way, a "relevant" hero past his prime.
Integration Quotient: 35% (the name/costume mismatch is a problem, but mostly, it's that he hardly brings something new to the table)

Bonus Nameless Heroes!
Jerry becomes two heroes of note over the course of the issue. The first he only uses to ask his love interest on a date. I will call him Confidence Man, which is a silly pun, but works with the patch that's on his armor - a heart transplant gives him unlimited courage? It's better than just an Iron Man riff anyway. The second is just another flyer Jerry uses to go up into the stratosphere before dialing out, in order to commit suicide. Between that and the sun motif on his chest, I'll call him Sunrise. Cheesy, but it's about hope.

Next: The Dial moves on!

3 comments:

John Heaton said...

I remember seeing the preview pages for this issue at SDCC in 2002 and being very excited about the name of the city in which the first issue was set. Will Pfeifer happened to be there in the DC booth at the time and thanked him for naming a city after me; he graciously accepted the compliment but wisely neglected to tell me only the first arc would be set there. Ah well, it was cool while it lasted.

Siskoid said...

Not everyone is born a Fairfax.

American Hawkman said...

This was the first Dial H bit I was able to buy off the stands. I quite liked it.

I'll note that the Blur along with Hawkman appeared in the DC Baby Ruth commercials, and that Fox Comics had a Bouncer character now in the public domain. (Who was a genuinely crazy concept)

 

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