A Tribute to the of

Welcome to another edition of the Silver Age Sage. For those kind folk who sent me messages and feedback, I thank you, and hope you're back for more.

The Silver Age of DC comics was filled with wondrous characters that became icons of popular culture. Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Robby Reed... Huh? Robby who? Yeah, you know, Robby Reed. He first came on the scene in House of Mystery #156, the January 1966 issue. Still don't remember him, eh? See if this sounds at all familiar: Dial H for Hero. The young Mr. Reed, complete with his spectacles and egg-headed tendencies (we all knew the kid who played with chemistry sets in school, didn't we? Waitaminute! I had a chemistry set. Anyway...) debuted in this issue and became the custodian of a mysterious dial from another world or perhaps another dimension that allowed him to transform himself into a superhero at random. This was quite an ambitious project for our writers at DC as the first several issues had Robby transforming into a minimum of three heroes per issue. Let's take a closer look at his first appearance.

I can't decide if they were trying to recreate a winning forumula or if they were just hitting a dry well for ideas, but a few things in this issue sound somewhat familiar. The setting for Robby, who lives with his grandfather and housekeeper, Miss Millie, is "Littleville." Am I the only one who is suspicious of similarities to a certain tiny town that young Clark Kent used to frolic in called "Smallville?" As a matter of fact, the first hero that Robby becomes, Giantboy, looks remarkably like an oversized Superboy in a different costume. [Webmaster's Note: The art for this story was supplied by Superboy/Supergirl artist Jim Mooney Story by Dave Wood.]Despite that, this is a pretty original idea, as far as I'm concerned, and what young boy reading a comic book hasn't dreamt of being the one in the colorful costume, battling the forces of evil? Well, here was an avenue, if you could just get your hands on the dial. The dial. Possibly the centerpiece to this series of tales. It looks like a little round phone dial, and Robby the egg-head manages to decipher the strange characters engraved on it that instruct the holder to "Dial H-E-R-O." Robby does so and becomes Giantboy, who can fly (ahem) and has superhuman strength (cough, cough) but no sign of heat vision or x-ray vision. (Phew.) He goes forth to battle the criminal organization that calls itself "Thunderbolt." Thunderbolt seems to have some pretty solid financial backing based on their machines of destruction, matching costumes and the fact that they have their own company logo, Thor's hammer, emblazoned on their gear. Subtle, they ain't. In broad daylight, these criminals for hire are wreaking havoc on a chemical plant. In fact, due to their attack, the cavern is revealed where Robby finds the dial.

So, Robby battles the villains and sends them scampering, but suddenly remembers he's late for dinner. There are some major handicaps to being a juvenile hero. He operates the dial in reverse and returns to his usual identity. Later, when Thunderbolt is at it again, he grabs up the dial and surprise! No Giantboy. No, this time he's a semi-transparent being called the Cometeer. Cometeer travels with a tail behind him just like a comet's, which also gives off heat. Thunderbolt fells him, but not until he'd undone some of their deeds, so he quickly dials O-R-E-H to escape them.

In the finale, Robby becomes yet another unusual hero, The Mole, whose fingers and top of his headresemble augering devices. He manages to capture most of the gang and crack the case of who had hired them for their crimes. The final panel shows Robby musing about which character he might become next when he employs the mysterious dial. The editors also take the opportunity to invite readers to write in and tell them which heroes they like.

The second feature in this issue is the venerable Martian Manhunter. J'onn J'onnz had been a feature in the House of Mystery since #143, and while he's also a member in good standing of the Justice League of America, to my recollection he's never had his own magazine other than being in Detective Comics & The House of Mystery.

I give this issue an 8. It has an engaging storyline and a very original character, one which was sure to spark the imagination of the young readers (certainly this one) and fan the hopes that they, too, could become heroes if only they could find that darn dial.

I again invite any comments to my e-mail at: professor_the@hotmail.com. Thanks for reading, and the next installment will be here at the Silver Lantern in about two weeks.

Long live the Silver Age!

2000-2002 by B.D.S.

This feature was created on 05/01/00 and is maintained by


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