Dial O for Origin
The origins of Vicki’s powers stretch back over ten years, to the day a teenager named Robby Reed accidentally fell into a subterranean cavern. There, Robby discovered a strange device shaped like a telephone dial and inscribed with an extraterrestrial language. The dial had ten spaces; each labeled with an alien letter. Robby, a child prodigy, deciphered enough of the inscriptions to be able to dial the alien equivalent of the letters H-E-R-O, which instantly transformed him into a super-hero called Giant-Boy. The change wore off when he dialed O-R-E-H, and each time thereafter that Robby used the dial to fight crime, he became a completely different costumed character, each with his own strange and marvelous power.
ABOVE: Chris and Vicki find the H-Dials in LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #272 .
BELOW: Vicki transforms in ADVENTURE COMICS #479 .
Robby’s career ended abruptly when he was forced into dialing S-P-L-I-T during a case and became two people – the benevolent Wizard and the evil Master, who hid the H-dial and began creating an army of super-villains with which to rule me world. In order to combat the Master, the Wizard built two new H-dials and lured two teenagers – Chris King and Vicki Grant – into finding them and discovering their wonderful powers. Unlike the heroic identities conjured up by the original dial, Chris and Vicki’s transformations lasted only one hour, but each dial still allowed its wearer to enjoy a new and completely random super-hero form each time it was used.
Chris and Vicki baffled numerous super-villains in their hometown of Fairfax; many of them created by Robby Reed’s evil alter-ego. During their final confrontation with the Master, the Wizard – who had finally found the original H-dial – intervened and reunited with the Master, at last allowing Robby to return to normal. Though Chris and Vicki’s mission to oppose the Master was now complete, Robby allowed them to keep their dials and gave his own to their friend, Nick Stevens.
Chris King asks the Titans for help in NEW TEEN TITANS (second series) #45 .
Dial T for Titans
After their high-school graduation, Vicki moved to San Francisco and fell in with a bad crowd. She was eventually recruited and corrupted by the evil Children of the Sun, who taught her how to draw the power of the dial into herself. Now motivated towards destruction for destruction’s sake, she decided to use her powers to kill Chris. She would have succeeded had the New Titans not intervened. With their help, Chris escaped Vicki’s wrath. When she fled, he vowed to someday find her and help her reform.
Evil Vicki Grant – under the influence of the Children of the Sun –
vexes Chris King in NEW TEEN TITANS (second series) #46 .
Vicki Grant later encountered Hero Cruz, who had acquired Vicki’s H-dial by accident. Still psychologically damaged by the Children of the Sun’s experiments, Vicki savagely attacked Hero until she was reunited with her dial. Once dialing, she was able to change back into normal Vicki Grant. Shaken from her experience, Vicki recuperated with the help of Hero Cruz and Sparx.
Vicki Grant returns to normal in SUPERBOY AND THE RAVERS #13 .
Powers & Abilities
By dialing H-E-R-O on the mythical H-dial, Vicki Grant can transform into a different super-powered hero. Through the Children of the Sun, Vicki’s dial powers became internalized, allowing her to transform without the aid of the dial. This drove her over the edge.
Hero Cruz surmised that the transformations are something of a psychological manifestation of the dialer. Thus, his friendly affection for Sparx manifested as romantic feelings in one of his guises. Likewise, Vicki Grant’s horrific transformations were linked to her poor self image at the time.
Legion of Super-heroes #272  : Preview of “Dial H for H-E-R-O” First appearances of Chris King and Vicki Grant
Adventure #479-490 [1979-1980]: “Dial H for H-E-R-O” back-up features.
New Adventures of Superboy #28-49: “Dial H for H-E-R-O” back-up features.
New Teen Titans (second series) #45-46 : Chris [Dial H for HERO] King is being chased by an insane and vengeful Vicki [Dial H for HERO] Grant, his former girlfriend. It is revealed that the Children of the Sun abducted Vicki and taught her how to draw the power of the dial into herself. Now motivated towards destruction for destruction’s sake, she decides to use her powers to kill Chris King – until the New Titans intervene and save him. First appearance of the Children of the Sun, post-Crisis.
Superboy & the Ravers #13 : Ex-Dial-H-Hero Vicki Grant encounters Hero Cruz. She first savagely attacks Hero Cruz, but then reunites with her dial. She dials and is able to change back into normal Vicki Grant. After the battle, Hero finally confesses the truth to Sparx: The reason he didn’t respond to her flirtations was that he was gay.
Superboy & the Ravers #14 : A shaken Vicki recuperates with Sparx’s family.
H-Dialers Chris and Vicki by Bill Walko.
Dial “H” Chronology
Dial ‘H’ for Hero
An article from Best of Amazing Heroes #1, 1982
New Dial H Stories
Originally featuring Robby Reed, “Dial H for Hero” had run in House of Mystery during the 1960s. Marv Wolfman adapted the idea here, with a boy and a girl finding magic dials that would transform them into a different super-hero every time they dialed the word ‘hero’ – All the heroes and villains were designed by readers and were featured in short and simplistic stories. Chris King and Vicki Grant first appeared in a preview in Legion of Super-heroes #272. They had a regular back-up in Adventure Comics from Adventure #479-490. Adventure was cancelled with 490, but later revived as a 100-page digest-sized comic containing one new story and numerous reprints.
In contrast to the Robby Reed series, the new Dial “H” for Hero stories – at least the initial ones – were by a writer and artist as well known as Wood, Miller, and Mooney were obscure – Marv Wolfman and Carmine Infantino. With the exception of the basic concept, the characters and background owed very little to Robby’s; they were a lot closer to the main characters in Nova, on which Wolfman and Infantino had previously collaborated for Marvel. Dial “H” For Hero featured a teenage boy (Chris King) who lived with his parents and kid brother and was the favorite victim of the class bully. Unlike Robby, Chris didn’t seem to be near the top of his class, though he was equally shy. Even so, on his first day in a new school, one of the prettiest (and richest!) girls in his class, Vicki Grant, took the initiative and asked him out – perhaps indicative of how society has changed between 1967 and 1981. But with luck like that, who needs an H-Dial?
Nevertheless, Chris and Vicki found not one but two H-Dials in the attic of his family’s new house – one for each of them. These dials were much smaller than Robby’s, conveniently camouflaging themselves as a watch and a locket when not in use – and they have only the four letter H-E-R-O on them (no worries about any more Daffy Dagans, and Vicky’s worked just fine without the feminine suffix). Otherwise they operated just the same as Robby’s: HERO turned them into heroes, and O-R-E-H changed them back. However, Robby’s occasional weakness of not being able to dial a new hero right after dialing back became permanent for Chris and Vicki. And they were given the additional weakness of reverting back to their normal forms after an hour, even without dialing O-R-E-H.
A house ad for the new Dial H for Hero.
Perhaps these additional weaknesses were added to counter the force of two heroes rather than one, but they eliminated Robby’s occasional problem of losing the dial and being unable to return to normal, as well as the curious question of what would happen if someone dialed into a hero without any fingers…
The idea of allowing readers to suggest heroes and villains was a perfect way to ensure that the writer wouldn’t run out of ideas: it was also a logical extension of the large number of unsolicited suggestions received by the Robby Reed series.
Drawbacks and Distractions
At present, it appears unlikely that any of the characters supplied by the readers will be used again – even though Wolfman did seem to plot some of the stories so as to keep open the possibility of bringing back the more interesting ones (such as Harlan Ellison’s Silver Fog) in their own features. As Al Turniansky, a longtime comics fan, has observed, the increasing popularity of the Marvel approach seems to have led to more and more characters with relatively undefined powers. The result is that Chris and Vicki’s adventures have gone too far in the other direction from Robby Reed’s, tending to feature boring battles without the variety and suspense of Robby’s exploits.
Initially, the most serious drawback of the new Dial “H” series was DC’s insistence on dividing each issue into three short stories. Even though they may have been linked by threads of continuity, each tale featured different heroes (and usually villains). According to Wolfman, this was an attempt to squeeze as many different readers’ contributions as possible into the same issue, but in practice it allowed each hero an average of only two or three pages of action. The constricted format made it very difficult to fit in any subplots or character development. Wolfman tried, but none of Chris and Vicki’s classmates or teachers were more than stereotypes.
It also ran a serious risk of alienating the vast majority of readers who didn’t contribute – and irritating even the minority-within-a-minority of those, who did and got their concepts accepted, by failing to use their creations to anything near their full potential. Some issues had heroes appear for only a single panel.
Chris transforms in ADVENTURE COMICS #479 .
In later issues, the originators Wolfman and Infantino were able to use longer stories, but by this time the strip was clearly on the wane. Carmine Infantino’s art quickly gave way to that of Don Heck and Trevor Von Eeden. Nor did Marv Wolfman remain with the strip for very long: he was replaced by Bob Rozakis and E. Nelson Bridwell, who experimented with several different styles of collaboration before settling down to their current arrangement, where Rozakis provides the dialogue for Bridwell’s plots. There was also greater experimentation with the format, and several issues of Adventure featured longer stories, but by then it was too late. Adventure Comics Featuring Dial “H” for Hero simply was not selling and was actually cancelled after four decades of publication, before sentiment brought it back in its current format of a largely-reprint digest.
That would have been the end for the Dial “H” revival too, except that Jenette Kahn still wanted to keep the strip going, especially since there had been serious talk of a Saturday morning cartoon based on it. The cartoon, like the comic book feature, would have used characters created by readers and viewers, although if the idea was to be used to its fullest advantage, its production schedule would have had to vary from that of most new cartoons, which generally make 14 or fewer episodes at the very beginning of a season and then rerun the same episodes for a year. or more.
So Dial “H” for Hero survived as a very short back-up feature in The New Adventures of Superboy. Its page page count has been steadily decreasing, and it’s rarely had any opportunity to live up to its full potential in a mere seven pages. The unspectacular but often innovative art of Heck and Von Eeden has in turn given way at first to Alex Saviuk (a staple of Julius Schwartz’s backup strips), and then former Richie Rich artist Howard Bender. With back-up features being increasingly on the decline at DC, and no further word of a cartoon adaptation, it would seem that the revival’s days are numbered.
Yet Dial “H” for Hero, in both its versions, was an original and clever idea, In the [Marv Wolfman] version, it also has the welcome side benefit of encouraging readers to use their own imagination.
Vicki transforms in ADVENTURE COMICS #479 .
Submitting Those Dial H Heroes
There’s been a great deal of derision in fan circles toward the only compensation the creators of all these “potentially lucrative” characters appearing in Dial “H” For Hero receive: a T-shirt with a stylized dial bearing the DC symbol and the sentence “I dialed ‘H’ For Hero.”
It may not seem like much in these days of arguments and lawsuits over creators’ rights, but it’s more than the creators of the bits of Legionnaire business and Katy Keene’s clothes ever got. The real thrill to most contributors lies in the use of their creations in print. The T-shirt in merely a bonus.
More relevant criticism has been directed at the release form all contributors are required to sign, which grants DC total and permanent rights to such contributions. However, some of the terms of the release (such as those granting DC rights even to unused submissions, for which no consideration – either publication or a T-shirt – is given) are totally unenforceable, as would be obvious to anyone with a background in contract and copyright law. The other terms are no more than the same releases every professional creator must sign – and which aren’t always enforced as written. The company does pay royalties on reprints and on any outside merchandising income received on characters created after 1976 or so (one reason several former Marvel writers have given for being more willing to create new characters for DC).
Wolfman has stated that DC Publisher Jenette Kahn’s original intent was to treat the creator of any Dial “H” submission that becomes successful enough to warrant reuse or merchandising the same way as any other professional creator. Wolfman has further said that DC is seeking “to be fair” and draw up contracts to “re-buy” characters for more than one use, even though the company seems to feel assured it has full rights of ownership to all the Dial “H” characters it uses.
Sources for this entry: DC Who’s Who Binder Series, The New Titans Sourcebook [Mayfair Games, 1990], DC Secret Files, supplemented by titanstower.com