Showcase Presents Dial H For Hero by Dave Wood (graphic novel review).

February 25, 2016 | By | Reply More

Sockamagee! I have a vague memory of fondness for ‘Dial H For Hero’ when I was very young, so I bought this ‘Showcase’ volume to see what it’s like. The fun started in House Of Mystery # 156 (Jan 1966) when boy genius Robby Reed accidentally falls into a cavern and finds a strange dial. He takes it home to the timber-frame house with the white picket fence where he lives with his grandpa and grandma. Being a genius, Robby has a lab hut in the rear of the house and there he deciphers the strange writing on the dial and follows the instructions to dial H-E-R-O (in translation). Instantly, he is transformed into Giant Boy. He can fly and goes to rescue a plane in trouble. Later, he dials H and becomes the Cometeer and the Mole to help save a chemical works from destruction. The evil Mister Thunder has been hired to sabotage it by a rival factory owner. In the following issue, the Thunderbolt gang run afoul of The Human Bullet, Super-Charge and the Radar-Sonar Man. It ends with Mister Thunder shaking his fist as the sky and promising revenge on meddling super-heroes as he goes off to prison.


In House Of Mystery # 158, there is a new villain. When Daffy Dagan and his Siren Gang raid main street in Granite City, Robby hears about it on the radio and rushes home to get his dial. This time he becomes Quake-Master with earthquake-style vibrating powers that enable him to fly powered by vibrating feet, so he can quickly chase the wrong-doers. However, he vibrates too much at the escaping Daffy and fails to duck when a tree falls on him. In a trice, the villain grabs the dial from his belt and ‘by a billion to one coincidence’ dials V-I-L-L-A-I-N and becomes a super-villain. Taking the inspiring name of Daffy the Great, he goes off to wreak havoc. You couldn’t make it up, but Dave Wood did. Surely the duck was around even then and calling a super-villain Daffy was not a good way to have him taken stheriousthly? I mean seriously. Happily, comics were not so solemn in those bygone days.

In issue # 159, the Clay-Creep Clan are using their stretching powers to commit robbery, until they are stopped by Hypno-Man, the Human Starfish and Mighty Moppet, a baby-sized super-hero who squirts from his bottles a milk that shrinks his opponents to his own size. It’s a wonder that Mighty Moppet didn’t get his own series. The stretching powers of the Clay-Creeps may have reminded Dave Wood of Plastic Man, ‘that famous crime-fighting hero of years ago’, because young Robby turns into him in the next issue. Giant-Boy recurs and King Kandy makes up the traditional three for that month. House Of Mystery # 160 also introduces a brief romantic interest, one Suzy, who Robbie meets when he goes to visit his cousin. Inevitably, she enthralled by super-heroes but not by Robbie in his civilian identity. King Kandy gets a kiss so it’s not all bad.

The scripts are mostly by Dave Wood and the art is mostly by Jim Mooney. Only the last three issues of the eighteen featured here vary from that, with art by Frank Springer and Sal Trapini. Dave Wood wrote ‘Challengers Of The Unknown’ with Jack Kirby. His scripts are very much of that era in DC comics but he is a fount of ideas. It’s not easy to come up with three new heroes every issue, which is why he repeats a few of them, I guess. The art by Jim Mooney is very good. Mooney was known more as an inker in his later career at Marvel or rather for finishing other artists’ layouts, but he had a long career at DC comics before that. Here he has the classic DC style: clean and tidy, clear storytelling, unspectacular but competent and pleasing to the eye of the beholder.

Like many of the more quirky DC ‘Showcase’ volumes, this now costs more second-hand than it did new, on at least on one major book retailing website. It’s a fun collection from a more innocent age but not worth paying silly money for. Children who have just learned to cut up their own meat and read will love it. Older people who are forgetting how to read and can no longer cut up their own meat may like it as well. I’ll be at that stage myself in a few more years, so I’m saving my ‘DC Showcase’ collection to take to the retirement home. I hope they give me a big room.

Eamonn Murphy

February 2016

(pub: DC Comics, 2010. 288 page graphic novel softcover. Price: It varies a lot more than the original cover price of $ 9.99 (US) $12.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-40122-648-0)

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Category: Comics, Superheroes

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