A Tribute to the of

For reasons unknown, I’ve felt like diving back into an old favorite title for this edition of the Silver Age Sage. Not that I need a reason, but often something will spark an idea, as long-time readers can attest.

I know I can be a little repetitive with some of these, too, but after all, some of the titles were just simple, goofy fun and therein lies some of the appeal, at least to me. Such was often the case with the Robby Reed/Dial H for Hero series featured in the House of Mystery title for a while.

The selection this time around is issue #163 with a December 1966 publication date and an on-sale date of October 6th of that year. Jack Schiff is our editor and for a change the cover is done by Carmine Infantino on pencils with Joe Giella inks. Ira Schnapp did the lettering details. “Baron Bug and His Insect Army!” was scripted by Dave Wood with Jim Mooney illustrating. Let’s see what’s cooking in Littleville.

The splash page is another version of the cover where Robby Reed’s dialed-up hero is one of a pair of Super-Twins, enhanced with “Zodiacal powers” and facing giant insects. The caped hero is trapped on some massive fly paper. How will he ever get out of this one?

The tale opens at the Zenith City bank, where a box is being dropped into the night depository, which soon discharges some bees that somehow gain gargantuan proportions to terrorize the staff. They then collect bags of cold cash and fly out of the building with their booty, smashing through the windows.

In nearby Littleville, Robby Reed, wielder of the amazing dial, hears of the heist on his radio in his lab shack and decides this is a job for…whatever the dial cooks up. As you should all know by now, the mysterious dial causes the dialer to change into a random hero when the letters H-E-R-O are dialed. Or, in at least one case, the word “Villain” had a similar if opposite effect. It can later be reversed by, wait for it, dialing the word backward. Furthermore, Robby is never certain how long he must wait to use the dial again.

This time, much to Robby’s surprise, he’s transformed into a pair of heroes, the Greek mythology Gemini Twins called Castor and Pollux, differentiated by a “C” or “P” on their respective capes and on medallions hanging on the fronts of their matching togas. After they shake hands, the pair take flight to investigate the strange happenings in Zenith City.

Elsewhere, the huge bees are flying into a disguised criminal HQ and laboratory that appears to be a mound of sand. Once inside, we find Baron Bug and his henchmen. The criminal mastermind uses an apparatus strapped to his body to reduce the insects to their normal size and then rants that, “All my life I’ve been scorned and ridiculed because of my unnatural appearance—they called me “Bugsy”…”Fly Eyes”…their mockery drove me from society and fired me with revenge!

Okay, now we’ve got the creep’s motivation. He further elaborates that he’s learned how to communicate with the insect world and paired with his ability to manipulate their size, he can command this insect army to do his nefarious bidding.

It isn’t long before he’s deployed huge ants and mosquitoes to ransack the diamond exchange. A communication device on the ant commander’s collar instructs the employees at the exchange to cooperate. During the caper, however, an alarm is activated and soon Pollux flies up to investigate. Using one of his “mysterious belt bags” (utility belt, anyone?) he creates a stardust sky signal to his twin to summon him and then the pair engage the ants with meteor missiles and sunbeams.

Part 2 opens with Baron Bug monitoring events from his HQ and calling in an airstrike via his modified mosquito armada. Seeking to divide and conquer, Castor tackles the skeeters while Pollux continues to battle the ants. Pollux is having success employing cosmic ray bombs and has the ants in retreat. As a countermeasure, Baron Bug remotely shrinks the ants to normal size.

Elsewhere, Pollux is using supernova star grenades to attack the mosquitoes with some success, but a counterattack by the flying nuisances, knocks him end over teakettle, allowing him to be captured by the crooks. Trussed up tightly in the back of the getaway car, he is cautioned to stay put or the mosquitoes will bite with their poison-enhanced beaks.

Castor has discovered, meanwhile, that one of the now normal-sized ants still bears a collar and he deduces what has happened. “Some madman has found a means of altering the size of insects—and controlling their action!” He then speeds off to aid his twin, but cannot find him. Robby/Pollux then recalls that in Greek mythology, Castor is mortal while Pollux is immortal. He regrets his error in sending the mortal Castor after the flying insects, but must quickly work toward a solution.

Back at the bug palace, Castor is about to suffer an execution via an enlarged wasp “firing squad” while stuck to the massive and modified fly-paper trap. Fortunately, Pollux has sensed his twin’s dilemma and hastily devised a clever plan. He pulls the dial from his belt and reversed the letters, causing both he and Castor to merge back together into Robby Reed, safely out of harm’s way.

With the twins’ memories intact in his mind, Robby now knows the rest of the story and is eager to take on Baron Bug and his gang, but the dial is not allowing him to immediately transform into another hero. So, he borrows a nearby messenger bicycle to head for the hideout, hoping that by then, he can change into a new set of battle togs.

Back at the lair, at the behest of one of his cronies, Baron Bug begins to collect his insects so they can relocate before another hero reappearance. Outside, Robby has just pedaled up and gives the ol’ dial another spin to reveal the robotic hero, King Coil! Looking a bit like a slinky with a head and arms, he *ahem* springs into action. Manipulating his coiled steel body and snaking arms, King Coil goes on the offensive, scattering criminal minions left and right. Baron Bug releases an attack squad of giant insects, but King Coil uses his metal body to disrupt the communication equipment of the Baron, leaving the insects confused and ineffective.

Taking full advantage of that confusion, King Coil does a header straight into Baron Bug and then swiftly removes his control helmet and smashes it into so much scrap. The final panels show this oddball hero flying along with the borrowed bicycle and alerting a nearby police cruiser, directing them to the crook’s hideout and then returning to his lab shack for a quick switch back to his youthful self, just in time to join his grandfather and Miss Millie to go on a shopping excursion.

Such is the life of a young superhero and this latest adventure goes into the logbooks of Dial H for Hero.

Fun stuff, as always, when you spend time with Robby Reed and his dial. Even though the villains tend to be bad caricatures and the heroes sometimes a stretch, it’s pure entertainment, and always has a soft spot in my heart. A solid 7 for a fun little read.

The second installment for February will be here on the 15th, so don’t forget to swing by again. We aim to entertain here, too, and as always, solicit your input so it can be of maximum enjoyment. Got a favorite character or story you’d like to learn more about? Just give a shout and we’ll do our best! Email me at: professor_the@hotmail.com.

Back in a couple of weeks, so do come again and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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