Dial H for Hero Returns to the DC Universe

Dial H for Hero is no longer a relic of the Silver Age! Sam Humphries and Joe Quinones fill us in on the details.

Ever since DC Comics published House of Mystery #156 (1966), Dial H for Hero has been a fascinating, if relatively unexplored, part of the DC Universe. Created by Dave Wood and Jim Mooney, the H Dial is an artifact that allows its wielder to transform into a random super hero when he or she dials H-E-R-O on the anachronistic phone dial.

A number of talented writers and artists have revived the Dial H for Hero concept over the years and the results have always been loads of fun. Now, as part of the Brian Michael Bendis curated Wonder Comics imprint, writer Sam Humphries (Harley Quinn) and artist Joe Quinones (Howard the Duck) bring the H Dial to the modern day DCU. On Wednesday, March 27th, Humphries and Quinones will introduce the world to Miguel and Summer, the latest wielders of the H Dial. So far, Wonder Comics has been an absolute delight with such critically acclaimed titles such as Young Justice, Wonder Twins, and Naomi. Dial H for Hero is the latest comic joining the Wonder Comics fray and it was our pleasure to sit with the creators to learn the scoop…

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How did you get the Dial H for Hero project? Did DC or Bendis approach you or did you pitch for it?

Sam Humphries: I got approached by Bendis. He and I talk a lot since he went to DC. He told me there would be an imprint that would focus on younger heroes, and I thought that was such a fantastic, knock-it-straight-out-of-the-park idea for all involved. I wanted to be involved.

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Bendis came back to me and said, “Dial H for Hero!” I was like, “For real?” because I had very little exposure to Dial H for Hero and I didn’t really get it right off the bat. He was like, “Go back, read the back issues, you’ll get it.” Once I did, once I went back and read those old runs, I became instantly inspired by the limitless creative potential that was right at the core of the concepts of this book.

Joe Quinones: For me, I was brought on by editor Andy Khouri. He helped usher in Wonder Comics with Brian. We were talking about finding a place for me at DC. We were talking about me coming back. When Wonder Comics came about, it sounded like a really cool idea. Brian and he came up with Dial H. Andy brought it to me and I thought it was cool. Then Sam came on, and I thought it would be great to work with Sam and, by proxy, Brian again.

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Why do you think so many creators have returned to Dial H for Hero again and again?

Joe Quinones: It’s a book of pure creativity. You’re kind of a blank slate every issue, whenever someone uses the Dial. You have as much creative license as you want.

Sam Humphries: Dial H for Hero, like Joe says, is a license. It’s like DC giving you a driver’s license, but instead of driving the car and playing on the streets and the highways, you get a four wheeler or a monster truck, pun intended. You can take that monster truck in all sorts of different directions.

Just one small example, you can create a new superhero for any company, you have to have a lot of consideration in thinking long term. You’ll have to ask, “What’s the long term story potential for this character? What’s long term character development? What makes sense? What will be interesting to read for more than couple of pages?” We don’t have any of those silly little restrictions; therefore, we can create and run with some of the most ridiculous superhero concepts we can come up with because they only last for an hour. Each one lasts for an hour. So, you know, superhero concepts too beautiful to live for more than an hour, we get to them and put them in a comic.

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There have been so many great creators that worked on Dial H for Hero over the years. Dave Wood and Jim Mooney, Marv Wolfman had a fantastic run. Will Pfeifer had a great run with the artist Kano. China Miéville. We’re very excited. Mark Waid is a huge Dial H for Hero fan. We feel very proud to carry that tradition.

Joe Quinones: Mark Waid has an actual H Dial at his house.

Sam Humphries: He does!

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DoG: Is it a working one?  Tell us about Miguel and Summer, who are they, what are they looking for, and how will they fit into the modern day DC Universe?

Sam Humphries: One of the great parts of the Dial H for Hero legacy is that anybody can pick up the H Dial and become a super hero. You see that reflected in all those different runs we talked about. Each run has a new protagonist and you see their adventure with the H Dial through their eyes. This is another proud Dial H for Hero tradition we are continuing with Miguel and Summer. Both of them are yearning for escape and transformation.

The H dial is like a crazy ticket out of town on steroids and laden with danger. Both of them are stuck in terrible family situations in the middle of nowhere. Both approach the world and life from very different angles. It’s kind of like if the coolest kid in your neighborhood had this Mustang, and you’re like, “Man, if I only had that Mustang, how cool my life would be.” Instead of the cool kid it’s Superman and instead of a Mustang, it’s actual real life super powers. So to them, this represents not just everything they’ve been waiting for, it represents power and potential, but also peril and potential destruction.

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Any chance of Robbie Reed or any of the former H Dialers showing up?

Sam Humphries: We can’t talk about that.

Joe, talk about the design of the book, every issue you are going to have to create new heroes; how are you prepping for such a task?

Joe Quinones: Early on, when Sam called me, and talked about what he was thinking for me, we started bouncing ideas back and forth about what we wanted to do. He had come up with the idea of doing style changes in the book. So whenever Miguel or whoever would dial a new hero, we would be peeking into a new area in the world of comics. So it could be manga, or European, or something cartoony or more realistic. So whenever someone would use the Dial, the writing of the comic, the dialogue, the layout, the panels, the way they were handled, the colors would change. This was something new and fun. It was an artistic challenge. Once we decided on the concept… we were sort of fanning out over what we wanted to do. We threw out a bunch of titles, a bunch of artists, and sort of picked and chose from there. A lot of our heroes come from books that inspired us, some are sort of composites.

Sam Humphries: The real answer is that we both have been preparing our entire lives to do this comic. Every choice we’re making, every homage we do, they are all full of love and it all reflects each of our journeys as fans of comics. We are mixing the bags of all the comics we loved over the years. Also, people have the idea of how Joe Quinones draws; it’s a beautiful style. But he has so many styles. He’s sitting on all these styles waiting for that right moment, and this is that right moment. People are going to be blown away when they see what a chameleon Joe is. I’m excited for people to experience, to feel the power. When the H Dial transforms a character, the experience for the reader will transform as well.

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In a preview, you revealed there is a Rob Liefeld homage of sorts, any other artists you would like to give a shout out?

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Sam Humphries: We’re upping the ante every issue. We’re starting with Monster Truck, and each issue will have more characters we are remixing and colliding into each other. Joe, do you want to tell about issue two?

Joe Quinones: We’re doing a manga homage in issue two. We’re combining a couple of different things… we’re drawing from a breadth of different styles. It will be a surprise for people. Early on, we are going through an early ’90s boom; that’s when I came up as a reader. I went to my parents’ house and went to my long boxes. I was poring over X-Men books and Superman, Image books that I had. I was internalizing the feel of the books. There’s Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane.

Sam Humphries: There’s some Mark Silvestri, some Whilce Portacio. It’s a complete and total transformation of the comic.

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Talk about the collaboration with Mister Bendis, what is his role in the book?

Sam Humphries: He’s playing the role of Miguel (laughs). This is his imprint, and he came up with the North Star we operate with. We get to approach super hero comics in some new ways, but we are also firmly ensconced in the DC Universe. So we get to play with new ways but we’re connected in continuity. Brian has done a great job and contributed ideas in issue one. But when it comes to actually making the book, he stepped back and let us do our thing.

Talk about the threats Miguel and Summer will face.

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Sam Humphries: One of the ideas we are playing with is that the H Dial has been around the DC Universe for a long time. The Dial has had many, many encounters with all sorts of people. Thinking about how that everyone that used it had super powers for an hour; for some people, their lives were downhill from there. Some of those people will do anything to get the H Dial back to relive that one glorious hour, including attacking and killing two teenagers who are on a road trip.

In an old issue of Dial H, Robbie Reed transformed into Plastic Man. Is that type of thing in play?

I mean, you see in the first issue a page of a bunch of people that used the H Dial before, and they can feel when someone else uses the H Dial. It’s like a ringing in their heads. We’ve seen a lot of people throughout the DC Universe react to this. In the first issue, we see Lobo; we see Alfred. I want to know what happens to Lobo when he uses the H Dial.

If you Dialed H, what would you transform into?

Sam Humphries: Oh my God, I would probably transform into a cat so I can talk to my cat for an hour. And I can chill the F out in a sunbeam and live the best life.

Joe Quinones: I was literally going to say the same thing.

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Dial H for Hero #1 arrives on March 27.