Showcase Presents Dial H For Hero Vol. 1

DialHforHeroFirst Published: March 2010

Contents: Dial H for Hero stories from House of Mystery #156 (January 1966) to #173 (March-April 1968)

Key Creator Credits: Dave Wood, Jim Mooney, and others

Key First Appearances: Robby Reed

Overview: Robby Reed is a typical teenage boy growing up in Littleton, Colorado. He lives with his grandfather, affectionately referred to as Gramps, as well as their housekeeper, Miss Millie. Robby discovers an alien device that looks like a telephone dial hidden away in a cave. Taking it home, Robby begins the task of deciphering the language on the device, and determines that dial the characters that would spell our HERO. When he does, Robby finds himself transformed into an adult superhero. But with each subsequent dial of the device, he becomes a different superhero, with different powers that just happen to be what he needs to defeat the current threat of the month.

Along the way, Robby’s girlfriend Suzy has need to use the device. Of course, this being the 1960s, Suzy would have to dial HEROINE in order to change into a superhero herself. One would wonder that if a alien race could develop something like this, that it would work just by dialing HERO regardless of the bearer’s gender, but we’ll table that for now.

While most of the characters are one-and-done and are unique to the situation, there was one time, in House of Mystery #160 (July 1966), when Robby was changed into a recognizable hero – Plastic Man! Maybe this was done to test the waters for the return of the character, as later that year DC started a new Plastic Man series. A decade later, when the Plastic Man title was revived during the DC Explosion campaign, Robby Reed would cross paths with the actual Plastic Man, who ends up confiscating the device from our star due to irresponsible use.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: There are parts of this concept that I really, really like. The variety of characters used in each story. Revisiting the concept of a kid transforming into an adult hero (i.e., Captain Marvel/Shazam). The beautiful covers that truly represents the best of the Silver Age as that era was starting to come to an end. I think my biggest complaint is just how short this collection is at 285 pages. Yes, it collects all of the stories from House of Secrets in the 1960s. Maybe DC could have included the Robby Reed appearance in Plastic Man #13 (June-July 1976). Or maybe DC starts the Chris King-Vicki Grant run from Adventure Comics in the early 1980s. DC priced this book at $9.99, so at least we didn’t pay the standard rate for a Showcase Presents. But I think I would almost want to pay the higher price and get more stories with this concept.

Footnotes: House of Secrets switched formats following issue #173. The Dial H for Hero feature (as well as the Martian Manhunter feature) were dropped, and the title became a horror anthology with issue #174. Those issues have been collected in Showcase Presents The House of Secrets Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the H.E.R.O. series from 2003-2004 by Will Pfeifer, Kano, Dale Eaglesham, and others. The concept of Dial H has been revisited several times over the years. In the 1980s, Dial H for Hero was revived in Adventure Comics and then later as a back-up in The New Adventures of Superboy. But with this iteration, DC allowed fans to submit character ideas to be used as the different heroes created by the dial. But this concept never had it’s own title until the H.E.R.O. series started up. But this title took a different spin, as the dial, now referred to as the H-Device, is passed around from stranger to stranger, and each person had a less-than-desirable experience, which would encourage them to get rid of the device. While this is going on, a grown up Robby Reed is on the hunt trying to find his old device, maybe in hopes of regaining the glory of his youth. The series ran for 22 issues, and the first six were collected in a 2003 trade paperback. But I think many of these issues can be found in the .50 cent bins at conventions and local stores. Go on the hunt and see if you can find all 22 issues – or your own H-Device!

Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 2

Showcase Presents World's Finest Vol. 2

First Published: October 2008

Contents: Superman, Batman, and Robin stories from World’s Finest Comics #112 (September 1960) to #145 (November 1964)

Key Creator Credits: Curt Swan, Dick Sprang, Edmond Hamilton, Bill Finger, Jerry Coleman, Jim Mooney, Dave Wood, and others

Key First Appearances: Composite Superman

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 3

Overview: Sometimes the smartest creations in life is simply combining two great things together. For example, milk chocolate is awesome all on its own. So is peanut butter. Those two by themselves are some of the tastiest sweets in the world. But in 1928, Harry Reese had the brilliant idea to combine the two together. Now, some 80 years later, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup is the most popular candy bar in United States. <Excuse me for a moment, I think I need to run to the store to pick up a Reese’s!>

So peanut butter and chocolate, two great tastes that go great together. We all get that. But you are here to read about comics, right? So let’s take two great heroes (Batman and Superman), merge them together into one title, and we get the Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 2.

The stories here follow the same pattern as the previous volume. Something happens that brings the two heroes together. Between Superman’s strength and Batman’s smarts, the heroes find themselves on the winning end of things at the end of each 15-page story. There is no continuity with these stories, so you can read them in any order. The supporting casts for both characters make numerous appearances along the way, as well as their rogues galleries.

It’s funny that I used the word ‘merge’ in the first paragraph. (Truthfully, not funny, but rather deliberate on my part!) The highlight of this volume involves the introduction in World’s Finest #142 of the Composite Superman, who might be just the greatest DC Silver Age character of all time. Joe Meach was a down-in-his-luck diver (don’t most divers head down eventually?), and Superman helps him out by getting him a custodian job at the Superman Museum. One night while Meach was cleaning up in front of a Legion of Super-Heroes exhibit, lightning hits the Legion figurines, and the electrical energy passes on to Meach. Suddenly, Meach finds that he has all of the powers of the Legionaires. Using Chameleon Boy’s shape-changing ability, Meach creates a hybrid costume that is half Superman, half Batman. Dubbing himself the Composite Superman, he appears to befriend Superman and Batman, but his long term goal is to destroy Superman’s life. Fortunately, our heroes see though his scheme, and stop Meach until he exhausts his powers. The Composite Superman, be it Meach or other characters, will return time and time again to face off against Superman and Batman.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I can think of two good reasons why these stories should be showcased. The first is Batman, and the second is Superman. Seriously, this is a no-brainer. Of course these should be collected. Sure, they are Silver Age stories, but I would contend that the best Batman or Superman Silver Age stories from this time period are in this collection, and not in the Showcase Presents Batman or Showcase Presents Superman volumes. This is a perfect volume to skip around and read the stories that most interest you. I was always fond of the Joker-Lex Luthor team-ups. (DC tried to duplicate that team-up magic with a Clayface-Brainiac collaboration. Yeah, not quite as interesting as Joker-Luthor!)

Footnotes: The story from World’s Finest Comics #141 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents Robin Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the Batman & Superman: World’s Finest maxi-series from 1999. Written by Karl Kessel, with art by Dave Taylor, Peter Doherty, and Robert Campanella, the series looks that the Batman/Superman team-ups over a 10-year period. Issue #1 takes place ten years before present day, issue #2 takes place nine years before present day, and so on. This is set in the Post-Crisis universe and reflects events that happened in their comics between 1986 and 1998. In the first issue, the two heroes team-up for the first time, but fail to save a doctor. With each issue, the two heroes re-unite on the anniversary of the doctor’s death. This collection is a solid story, with glimpses into the expanded families of both characters. We get a funny Bat-Mite/Mr. Mxyzptlk team-up in issue #6 that brings along Robin and Lois Lane. The standout issue in this story is #7. Taking place sometime after the death of Jason Todd and after Superman’s return from his space exile, Superman takes Batman to his hometown of Smallville, Kansas. The two actually spend time talking through their issues and emotions. No super villains interrupt the discussion. In fact, the heroic actions by the two stars are actions that anyone could do in their daily life; Superman assists a woman delivering a baby, while Batman performs CPR on a doctor. A trade paperback collecting all ten issues was released in 2003. I can’t recommend this title, and in particular issue #7, strongly enough – PICK THIS UP!