Tuesday, December 21, 2010
That was pretty dang good. Last summer I gleefully collected up the Showcase volume of the Dial H for Hero stories from House of Mystery starring Robby Reed, and I at last got around to reading them. These vivid covers had been in many a evocative DC house ad when I was stumbling around comics in the late 60's. The covers spoke of wild villains and even wilder heroes mixing it up.
The reality was a bit tamer than the covers sometimes suggested, but by and large I found the read satisfying. It's great to finally put substance to all those images which have been dancing in my memory all these decades.
Robby Reed can become any hero he wishes by dialing a mysterious device he found. It's effectively a phone dial and likely such an antique image that modern readers don't even get the symbolic notion of using the phone to reach out beyond the humdrum immediate local world. Sure the phone is an even more powerful device in our time, but the dial is long gone as a symbol of its potency.
These stories are about wish-fulfillment pure and simple. You're a teenager and you get your mitts on a magic device that transforms you into just about any superhero you can imagine. You might become an offbeat freak, you might become a handsome prototype, or you might become Plastic Man even. You never know and neither does Robby.
The artwork through the vast majority of the stories is by the sturdy Jim Mooney. He does his usual quality storytelling job here, effective and straightforward. But I was left wanting something a bit more dynamic after a few tales and it was interesting to see Frank Springer step in to do a few issues toward the end of the run. Sal Trapani did the artwork on the last installment.
Dave Wood wrote all the stories, and they are a clever blend of classic superheroics and plain goofy zany fun. You can almost tell sometimes what sparked a particular group of heroes, like the Freaks who are based on toys.
One surprise in the series was that some of the heroes repeated and one time even blended. It's a fun goofy series firmly rooted in its time. Subsequent treatments of the Dial H for Hero concept have been more "serious" but none more successful and none remotely as fun.