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Created originally by Dave Wood and Jim Mooney, then later expanded upon by Marv Wolfman, Carmine Infantino and others, Dial H For Hero was a series of filler stories for comic books published by DC Comics off and on from 1965 to present day. It's a curious idea for a Comic Book Storyline. One could call it a blatant gimmick intended to spur on a formulaic and generic series of stories to entertain the masses without an abundance of effort on the part of the writers. That is, on the surface. Truth to tell, this concept proved itself to be more difficult than it was worth, and despite several attempts to jump start this idea over the decades, it never quite caught on.

The earliest Dial H for Hero story was published in House of Mystery #156. Touted as "the most original character in comic book history," young Robby Reed's origin begins in Littleville, Colorado. He happened to witness a crime go down, and the criminals started chasing him. Hoping to escape capture, Reed hid out in a previously unexplored cavern. While there, he happened upon a mysterious device that looked like the rotary dial on a phone, but without the phone. The inscriptions on the dial seemed ancient or otherworldly, but Reed was a bit of an egghead and managed to decipher them. He dialed what he determined to be H-E-R-O since that's what he needed at the moment to attack the villians chasing him, and the dial turned Robby Reed into Giant-Boy. He quickly dispatched the baddies and a super hero career was born. Only, not as Giant-Boy, because the next time Reed dialed up to become Giant-Boy, he almost died from poisonous gas and only survived by dialing O-R-E-H. Reed never turned into Giant-Boy again.

However, every time he dialed H-E-R-O on the dial, he'd become a random super hero complete with costume, powers, and a name. Reed would instinctively know how to use these powers, and he continued being that particular super hero until he dialed O-R-E-H, when he'd revert to his normal self. For about two years the House of Mystery comic book included regular installments of Robby Reed's adventures. Once or twice his girlfriend Suzy Shoemaker even gave it a go. Some super hero names during Robby Reed's brief but colorful time with the dial include: The Human Bullet, The Quake Master, King Kandy, Mister Echo, The Human Starfish, and The Yankee Doodle Kid. He even turned into Plastic Man once, though it was never properly explained why.

The style of these stories, being written in the late 1960s, was mostly very flat and action oriented. Reed would find himself in some location where a dangerous predicament or powerful villian would make an appearance, and Reed would be forced to dial himself into a new superhero so as to dispatch the evil. Subplots were few and far between, though there was some effort made for a romance with his girlfriend Suzy. We also met Robbie's grandfather a couple times, but the stories were relatively brief and simple, so we never got to learn an awful lot about Reed, beyond the fact he liked saying the word "Sockamagee!"

The first series of Robby Reed stories ended with House of Mystery, issue number #173. It continued off and on in the back of titles like the New Adventures of Superboy and Legion of Super-heroes. I should also point out here that parts of Robbie Reed's story were not told until after publications like Crisis on Infinite Earths and Zero Hour in which the writers and editors of DC Comics retconned large chunks of DC's overall continuity. They rewrote history so that future stories would (in theory) make more sense. There had been holes in the Dial H For Hero storyline back in the 1980s. Several years later some of those holes were filled in.

Reed would overuse the dial at times and then neglect it other times, so near the end of his use of it the dial was acting a little quirky and rusted. For a time he began using his powers for evil, seemingly against his will. He even confronted the real Plastic Man but was thwarted. Because the power of the dial became greater than Reed thought he could control, he decided to dial the word "D-I-V-I-D-E" which he thought would multiply the dial but weaken each dial's strength. When he did this, Robbie Reed himself was divided into two separate powerful entities; the Wizard represented Reed's higher self and the Master represented the evil side of his psyche. Reed himself disappeared. The Wizard part of his psyche took the two weakened dials and hid them from The Master. He hid them in an old chest in an attic of an old house, located in the east coast town of Fairfax which is located somewhere between Gotham City and Metropolis.

The Dial H for Hero concept was put on the back burner for a couple years, and resurfaced in the comic book series called Adventure Comics #479, first published in March of 1981. This second series of stories was written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by Carmine Infantino. This storyline introduced us to Christopher King and Victoria Grant. Chris had just recently moved to Fairfax, and made friends with Vicky, when the two of them heard a strange voice emanating from the attic of Chris' new home. There they found the two dials. One of them fit around Chris' wrist like a watch or bracelet. The other was worn around Vicky's neck like a pendant or necklace. They experimented with it, and after dialing H-E-R-O they learned they'd turn into a different super hero each time they used their respective dials. As they struggled through their neophyte roles as super heroes, they found themselves in a sort of baptism of fire as Fairfax found itself facing wave upon wave of evil villians for Chris and Vicky to dispatch, all the while managing to keep their true identities secret. Chris and Vicki could only be their super selves for one hour at a time, at which point they would revert to their true selves whether they'd successfully accomplished that story's particular goals or not. They could also use 'O-R-E-H' to revert to normal if they wanted to do so before the hour was up.

This series of stories were a little more in depth, although not by much. Both King and Grant had families but there was more of a focus on King's parents (Elizabeth and Greg) than Grant's (James and Samantha). Chris and Vicki also interacted with other members of the Fairfax community but this was usually only because said person would soon become an integral part of that issue's storyline. Marv Wolfman's capable storytelling talents coupled with Infantino's one-of-a-kind artistry made the series quite enjoyable, but unfortunately time hasn't been particularly kind to these tales either. The characters appear a little stiff and the suspension of disbelief is too great. Some of Infantino's work here also seems a bit forced and rushed. His work on The Flash was much more eye-grabbing. Still, even when these two men are bad they're still pretty good. This incarnation of the Dial H For Hero storyline also included the new idea of bringing the viewership into the story. Readers could write to DC Comics with their own suggestions for heroes that Vicky and Chris could turn into. Submissions were collected and incorporated into the comic book. Even Harlan Ellison (yes that Harlan Ellison) got a submission accepted. This sounds like a fun idea, but ultimately it was a hokey gimmick which restricted Wolfman's creative ability and limited Infantino's time to grow comfortable with each character design.

Some of the superhero names Chris King became during his time with the dial include but are not limited to Jimmy Gymnastic, Mister Opposite, Topsy-Turvy, Centaurus, Master of Vibration, Spectro, Hasty Pudding, the Red Devil, Power Punch, Kinetic Kid, Cold Wave, Earthman, Prism, Electrostatic, Zeep (who was one of my personal favorites) and Ragnarok, the Cosmic Viking. Vicki's heroines included Rainbeaux, Mistress of Color, Sparrow Hawk, Ariel, Echo, the Grasshopper, Futura, Alchemiss, Dimension Girl, Midnight Wisp, Ultra Girl, the Cardinal, Molecular Maiden, Hypno Girl, Tiarra Star, Plant Mistress, Unicorn, the Queen of Hearts, Sea Mist, Spinning Jenny, Tempest, Miss Hourglass, Gossamer, Raggedy Doll, Infra-Violet and Kismit, Mistress of the Mind Wave. Chris even once jokingly dialed H-O-R-R-O-R and turned into the Beast-Maniac. Needless to say the characters went through super hero names and powers quickly.

The stories of King and Grant continued in Adventure Comics until issue #491, then resurfaced briefly in an issue of DC Comics Presents #44 and the New Adventures of Superboy #28-47. Eventually the pair encountered Robby Reed's darker personality The Master, and in their first encounter The Master escaped. Soon after that the pair learned that a friend named Nick Stevens had been drawing super hero forms as a hobby, and the heroes he'd draw would soon become the heroes that Vicki and Chris became, so Nick had some kind of intrinsic connection to the dials. After a few more adventures, The Master kidnaps Nick Stevens to learn the truth to his connection, and Chris & Vicki attempt a rescue. The three of them learn part of the story between The Master and The Wizard, but Master has lost his memory, and doesn't know why he is so obsessed with capturing the dials. He just knows they're the pieces of the puzzle to his own fragmented memory. After a final showdown with several villians that The Master puts in their path, Chris Vicki and Nick help The Master merge with his apparent enemy to become Robbie Reed once again.

The last time we see Chris, Vicki and Nick together is in the final issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths, where they make a cameo appearance. After that, some years pass and we don't learn more about the fate of Nick. However, Chris King and Vicki Grant appearred again, beginning in New Teen Titans second series issue #45. Here we learn that the two teenagers broke up and grew apart. Chris went to college and Vicki fell in with a cult group called The Children of the Sun. They tortured, raped and brainwashed her. She then was set upon Chris to kill him and take his dial. With help from the Teen Titans, Vicki is thwarted. However, she escapes and remained at large in great confusion. During their time apart, proximity to the dials seemed to begin causing stored mutant "H-Dial energy" to form inside each of them, so that the dials were no longer always required to initiate their ability to change form. For a time Chris King was constantly changing into a new hero every hour, and could only revert to his true self briefly after he'd exerted an unspecified amount of energy in his hero form. Vicki was undergoing similar confusion with her dial, coupled with her growing state of madness. Eventually she could change form at will, even without the use of the dial, which she soon lost to a villian named The Scavenger.

Some time later, a teenager named Hero Cruz who was with a superhero team called The Ravers came across Vicki Grant's hero dial. Vicki soon hunted Cruz down, and after a battle she was returned to relative normality. And the Dial H for Hero story doesn't end there. In 2003, a new DC comic book title named H-E-R-O was published. An H-Dial is lost in an ice cream shop by a female customer. It is discovered by employee Jerry Feldon, who continues the saga, and then later lost the dial. It fell into several other hands over time as that comic book title continued. Then the dial fell into the hands of Tony Finch who wanted to use it for villianous purposes, and a tired Robbie Reed shows up to continue beating this dead horse.