Dial O for Oreh

It's been three years since Chris and Vicki's Dial H strip ended, and when Marv Wolfman brings them back in New Teen Titans, three years in their own lives as well. Unfortunately, Marv brings them back only to crap all over them. Or all over Vicki Grant, at any rate. Apparently, she and Chris lost touch when he went off to college and fell in love with another girl. Meanwhile, Vicki went to San Francisco and got into drugs and, I dunno, lesbian stuff? Orgies? Dungeons? Whatever it is, Marv can't say it, even in a non-Code book. And she fell under the spell of the pervy atomic cult, the Children of the Sun. And while she was high one night, she Dialed in reverse and has been a villain bent on killing Chris ever since. Doesn't listen in school Chris King went to college and thought playing superhero was kid stuff, and rich good girl Vicki Grant goes bad? It's almost like Marv Wolfman forgot he uses to write for their strip. Not that this turn is impossible exactly, but they might as well be Crisis-induced discrepancies, like the two being confirmed "lovers" (cool it with the sex, Marv!), Nick's total absence from the narrative, and even Barreto drawing them as 13-year-olds in the flashback (oh, and suggesting the Wizard was one of Chris' identities; he was really Robby Reed). Still, some readers got to see their creations again:
Case 59: New Teen Titans #45-46
Dial Holder: Vicki Grant
Dial Type: The Pendant Dial
Dialing: Chris (whose Dial he hid, but has since disappeared) says the superhero identities lasted "about an hour", not a strict 60 minutes. The Children of the Sun did something to Vicki that makes it possible for her body to store energy (including Dial energy) and use it to transform without the Dial. When she does, the transformation takes far longer and seems to pull from elements around her. There are hints that the Dial has lost its time limit, though that is probably due to her power reserves. The opening of issue #45 also suggests that she can change identities within second, without a wait, but I've gone with another interpretation below based on the two identities' looks. The big thing here is that Dialing in HERO in reverse, i.e. OREH, while high on drugs can unhinge the mind. Vicki from then on only Dials raving, psychopathic identities, and acts as if she is addicted to the feeling. It is unclear how much of this is caused by the Children of the Sun, and how much by the bad Dialing. Notably, none of the identities actually give their names (a Dial H tradition), so I've gone with what Wikipedia called them and offered an alternative. It may not be a coincidence that none of the identities have a costume per se; they are naked forms. By story's end, Chris has taken possession of the Pendant Dial; Vicki is AWOL.
Name: "Fire Girl" and "Water Girl", alternatively Elemental
Look: Either a bright yellow woman with long fiery hair, or an identical woman made of blue-green sea water.
Powers: In her fire form, she can fly and fire balls of flame. In her water form, physical blows go through her and she can turn into a wave of water or make her escape as rain. Somehow, fish live inside her. I'm going to out on a limb here and say that she siphons her powers and form from the sun and the ocean, remotely stealing substance from elsewhere. The name I alternatively gave her might suggest she can also turn into Earth and Air.
Sighted: In New York City trying to kill Chris King and fighting the Titans.
Possibilities: In addition to becoming the mascot for the Fire and Water Podcast Network, Elemental might have a connection to alchemy, or even DOCTOR Alchemy, a woman transformed or creature brought forth from another play to do his bidding. Now loose, she's still dangerous, in part because she doesn't understand our world.
Integration Quotient: 40% (we've already got a bunch of proper elementals, not sure she fits in too well)
Name: "Fish-Girl", though she's more lizard-like. I'd go with Kaiju instead.
Look: A 40-foot scaly green woman who wears floppy green hood - I don't know what you call those things, but Fisherman and Ronan the Accuser wear them - with a row of spikes in the middle.
Powers: Think Attack of the 50-Foot Woman meets Godzilla. She's a giant, with the devastating strength that comes with it.
Sighted: Chasing after Chris King in some city, leaving destruction in her path.
Possibilities: The Marvel Universe is better suited to kaiju stories, but I'm sure we could imagine a mutated woman crawling out of Metropolis harbor and having it out with Superman. Can't imagine it happening more than once though.
Integration Quotient: 15% (Kaiju just isn't monstrous enough, so she just looks silly)
Look: "Diamond Girl", though it looks like she calls herself Diamond (the statement, "I am Diamond" could really be "I am diamond"), so we'll keep that.
Look: A naked woman made of diamond. Her red eyes flash with power.
Powers: Indestructibility and strength. Though apparently quite dense, she still seems able to swim with a grown man in her arms.
Sighted: In New York City, fighting Cyborg and late kidnapping Chris King from Titans Tower.
Possibilities: Another one-shot Superman villain as someone who can take his blows and deflect his heat vision. Wouldn't want to give her a fascination with her namesake though, feels like that would be sexist. (I've had enough of that in this story.)
Integration Quotient: 30% (again, a character that might work for a single story, but no more)
Name: "Electrical Girl" and "Machinery Girl" are really an incomplete form and a finished form; alternatively, I would call her O-R-E-H since it seems to fit the monster on the cover of issue #46.
Look: A creature made of wires and metal plates, the latter place in such a way as to create a breast plate, cod piece and illusion of shoulders, while the wires create a mane of dreadlocks. The face is monstrous, the mouth filled with teeth and the eyes glow electric yellow.
Powers: OREH can absorb and release electrical power, the former through tentacular cables growing out of her form. Transforming back into pure electricity, she escapes by zapping herself elsewhere.
Sighted: At Titans Tower, fighting the Titans until she is forced to escape.
Possibilities: Does this character have a relationship with the Flash villain Kilg%re? Maybe be made a mate for itself, a sentient virus that later comes into being to act a little bit like the DCAU's Live Wire. Maybe put a % or a & in her name.
Integration Quotient: 80% (the most striking of Vicki's looks in these comics, it would totally work as a techno-organic villain)

Next: Chris... possible Titan?


Mela said...

This was when I gave up on NTT. Vicki being (implicitly) raped by the cultists & thus turned into a murderous vamp, along with the whole "she went down a ~dark path~" backstory that seems to justify the former and on Chris writing her off instead of, say, helping her get sobriety counseling was just too offensive. And as an adult, I'm even more disgusted to see that gross, cynical "this is what happens to kids in adventure stories" attitude popularized by crap like Venture Brothers vomitted onto those super fun Dial H stories. People talk about Chris Claremont's obvious fetish stuff, but Wolfman's have always been worse to me cuz of stuff like this.

Siskoid said...

I'm definitely going to keep the Titans-era posts to a minimum. Completely agree with you Mela. Not every property needs a "loss of innocence" story.

In any case, last we saw of the Dials, it was revealed that ROBBY had been turned evil by dialing a wrong number. So this is just more of the same, only not done as well.

Anonymous said...

I was 11 or 12 when New Teen Titans first came out, and even to my young sensibilities there was something amiss with the writing, like the writer just couldn't keep it in his pants. Issue one had doctors leering over Starfire's unconscious body, issue 2 had them making a point of putting Wonder Girl and Starfire in unnecessarily skimpy bikinis, issue 5 (or thereabouts) gave us Trigon's rapey rapey backstory.

Then Terry Long showed up as, per widespread speculation, a self-insertion author avatar: the smooth cultured writer that the hot chicks are attracted to whether they can admit it or not. I wouldn't have been able to articulate all that when I was a kid, but I knew Terry was doing better with the ladies than he ought to be able to.

I have had problems with Wolfman ever since. I didn't stick around for Deathstroke skeeping with an underage girl, and Wolfman framing Deathstroke as a bad-boy rebel and the girl as a harlot bereft of redeeming qualities.

About "The Venture Bros", they're going for shock value and laughs, so I can forgive them more easily than I can "serious" storytellers. Which is not to say that VB can do no wrong! Sgt Hatred was a bad idea from the very beginning -- a villain wrestling with pedophilia -- and the show tried to play that for laughs for a very very long time. Not cool, guys. Not at all cool.

Anonymous said...

... oh, about "Children of the Sun", this is what I think of:


The song's from the 70s, the animation is a new unrelated thing that is nevertheless pretty cool.

You might recognize the song from the first episode of season 2 of "Fargo" (the 1980-ish season).

Siskoid said...

The sexual politics in New Teen Titans are icky, I agree with you. I got into Titans when the Baxter book started (actually when the newsstand book turned into Tales) so I missed a lot of that. Instead I got Wolfman with Writer's Block(TM) but I didn't know it. It was never my favorite book, but at the price of comics in those days, you could afford to keep up with books you found just ok.

At this point, researching this particular story, Barreto is a clear co-conspirator with lots of unnecessary cheesecake. I was even going to do a post about it.

Matter-Eater Lad said...

Reading NTT today I keep wondering how much of its bonkers/gross sexual politics was considered normal when it came out and how much of it had readers going "ew." Was it really totally normal for a thirty-year-old college professor to date a 19-year-old in 1982?

Siskoid said...

Seeing as a LOT of readers hate Terry, probably not. I don't remember even realizing Terry was much older than Donna. An 11 year difference doesn't bother me particularly, and in this case, Donna was a very mature 19, hardly naive and just out of her mother's skirts.

Terra-Deathstroke is the real aberration since it is pedophilia.

The real problem with Terry, if it is a problem, is that it's part of a PATTERN in Titans that makes the reader suspect the writer (and some of the artists) is treating female characters as objects and putting them in his own personal fantasies. Not saying it's the case, but it's definitely an odd quirk.

Also see John Byrne's writing for comics that expose their writer's perviness.

Anonymous said...

M-EL: I think a lot of the problem with the perviness is, 1980 was not too long after the Sexual Revolution, and the old rules had been tossed out but a new rulebook hadn't yet been published. The ethic of the Sexual Revolution was "if it feels good, do it", and that's not a bad starting place, but that leads to the issue of consent, and from there informed consent. There's a lot to debate and "finalize", and I don't think they quite figured out the rules about age differences during early NTT.

I will back this up with a few observations:

- "The Mexicali Blues" by the Grateful Dead, where a guy is talking about his drinking and womanizing in Mexicali, and this lyric: "So instead I've got a bottle and a girl who's just fourteen". I'm reasonably certain the point of the song isn't supposed to make you go "EW!!!!" but hippies.

- Speaking of hippies, talk to some, if you can find any. I was at a party with some aging hippies 2005 or so; said hippies were old enough that they had a daughter who was a senior in high school. Some of her friends were going to be coming over, and the dad-hippy was going on how there were gonna be some 18-year-olds dancing and gyrating around. EW!!!!

- "Quantum Leap" reruns. You know how Al is a wacky horn dog? Well he's not afraid to leer at high school cheerleaders in at least one episode (the one where Sam leaps into his younger self), and it's supposed to be a "boys will be boys" moment. Not "EW!!!!"

- "Raiders of the Lost Ark". How old was Marion when she first met (and dated) Indy? Sixteen or 17. EW!!!!

- Hal Jordan was dating Arisia, originally a teenager but then she used her ring to age her body so that she was technically legal. EW!!!! Also, thanks a hell of a lot Steve Englehart you jerk. You did more to ruin the GLC than anyone, including Ron Marz (with editorial mandate).

So I think we have a much stronger sense of the importance of age in relationships today: if you're an adult don't date underage, and additionally honor the rule of "half your age plus seven". Both of those are old rules -- we can find references to 7+x/2 as far back as 1901 -- and we gradually came to realize that yes, those are probably good old rules to preserve.

So Marv was not writing with the same age ethos we take for granted today, and Deathstork sleeping with an underage Terra just meant (according to Marv) that he doesn't give a damn about the law, he makes his own rules. But then we see a sexist double-standard, where Terra sleeping with Deathstork makes her a bad person. Mind you, we haven't yet shaken that double-standard even today; women risk a stigma for being "ho's" for just doing what men are allowed to do, i.e. own their sexuality.

Terry Long is not loathsome primarily for the age difference, but how generally oily and sleazy he is. I'll let Chris Sims take it from here:




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