Thursday, June 24, 2010

Showcase Presents Dial H For Hero

When I was a kid, I really dug the revived version of "Dial H For Hero" that ran for a time in Adventure Comics and Superboy. I never understood how that strip wasn't more successful. It had a plethora of heroes and villains in every issue, all courtesy of the magic of reader submission. But it wasn't to be, and "Dial H" faded into obscurity again.

Recently, DC published a collection of the ORIGINAL "Dial H For Hero" stories that ran in House of Mystery in the 1960s. Showcase Presents Dial H For Hero is only in black and white, true, but it's a steal at a mere ten bucks. You just can't find almost 300 pages of wonky Silver Age diversions for a lower price.

I had read a grand total of one of these stories prior to picking up this collection, but I had a pretty decent idea of what to expect. They manage to be colorful even in B&W, but I wouldn't rate them as especially lively. There are interesting ideas thrown about, such as the hero splitting into two different heroes or his alter ego being poisoned and "dying", but they aren't explored very much. The whole affair often sinks into the innocent and pleasant banality that was the hallmark of much of the DC line in those days. I wonder what might have been had Julius Schwartz been involved with the feature, as his books tended to be a little bit more sophisticated.

The bulk of the art is by Jim Mooney and he does a great job in realizing such diverse characters as the Human Starfish and Robby the Super Robot. It is, however, a crime that there are so few opportunities for him to draw ANY females. What a waste. Other hands take over for the last few tales, and they too do a good job as the Powers That Be tried to remake Dial H For Hero into something more "hip." I have no idea if it was due to slumping sales or just a desire to do something different, but House of Mystery shortly afterward became a genuine mystery book. That left Robby Reed, the wielder of the H Dial, out of a job.

Maybe that was for the best. Robby was spared the radical direction change that marked a lot of other DC features right before they died and couldn't resolve them. He simply went gently into the good night. Based on the contents of this book, I can't imagine a late-in-the-game makeover winning new converts.

I had a lot of fun with this book, and it's really a nice price, too. It's not for everyone, but it might be a kick if you're in the mood for "turn off your brain" superhero action.

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