The first issue of Dial H for Hero goes on sale March 27 from Wonder Comics, the new DC Comics imprint that showcases teen heroes on the cusp of adulthood in stories that the bittersweet shadings unique to that life chapter. The Wonder imprint is a high-profile initiative that arrived with longtime Marvel Comics star Brian Michael Bendis relocated his writing desk to the DC Universe in 2018 the imprint was a core part of his splashy deal.
The Wonder Comics notion appealed to DC Comics co-publisher Dan Didio because he loved the idea of Bendis (the co-creator of Miles Morales of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse fame) bringing his affinity for coming-of-age stories with to a long-overdue DC revival of Young Justice. Bendis loved the idea on a number of levels (and may be cooking up a game-changing concept for DC with the enigmatic Wonder series Naomi) but reserved a special glee for the fact that Wonder’s mission statement made it the perfect excuse for a Dial H for Hero revival.
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For the uninitiated, Dial H for Hero was a feature that debuted in January 1966 in the pages of DC’s House of Mystery anthology series. Even for DC (which would also give the world Bwana Beast, Matter-Eater Lad, the Human Calculator and Streaky the Supercat) the premise of Dial H for Hero was an eccentric one. A youngster finds a mysterious rotary device and when he dials “H” he is transformed into a superhero — but instead of changing into the same superhero each time (as Billy Batson does in Shazam! or Donald Blake once did in Thor comics) the dial was a variety pack of costumed crusaders. In the 1980s (even as rotary-dial phones were being phased out after a century of spinning service) there was a clever revival that let readers submit characters of their own creation to be used in upcoming issues with a published credit and its notoriety as the reward.
Wonder Comics are aimed at young readers now, why give them a throwback device evoking the analog era? My guess is that the retro element actually adds mystique at this point (or maybe it just evokes quaint memories of Ralphie of A Christmas Story using his Orphan Annie decoder to unlock a secret message). Either way, Bendis made a point to keep the dial intact instead of updating it to something Bluetoothy or Fitbit-ish.
“It’s my favorite DC idea maybe in the history of DC ideas,” Bendis explained at New York ComicCon last October. “I love Dial H For Hero so much. When I pitched the idea to Sam Humphries he was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, this is about something, this is about our world. But I want an actual dial. I don’t want like Dial App For Hero. I want an actual dial.’ So that’s what we did. It’s an actual dial in the story.”
Here’s the DC Comics synopsis of the first issue of the six-issue series: “Miguel, a teen daredevil, becomes the newest wielder of the Hero Dial — a rotary phone-like device that grants the user superpowers for one hour when they dial H-E-R-O. Will he rise as a new hero in the DC Universe or crumble under the weight of responsibility the dial thrusts upon him? This blistering new six-issue miniseries joins the Wonder Comics line-up with stories by award-winning fan favorite Sam Humphries (Harley Quinn) and art by Joe Quinones (Howard the Duck).”
A preview of Dial H for Hero No. 1…
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