A Tribute to the of

Sometimes it's all about having a good time.  Despite the ground-breaking work done in the Silver Age and the stellar writing coupled with marvelous art and editing there were plenty of opportunities to just enjoy some fun and entertaining stories.  I think I'm in the mood for just such a thing as I've recently had three trying weeks at my day job.  Those stressful times are when I often drift back to those long-ago and carefree times in my boyhood when a little time in the comics could cure all ills.

With that in mind, join me as I look at another issue of the House of Mystery featuring Robby Reed in the "Dial H for Hero" series.  It's issue #165 from March of 1967 and the cover by Jim Mooney gives you a pretty good notion of what to expect when Robby faces Dr. Rigoro Mortis and Super-Hood as Whoozis, Whatsis and Howzis! The story written by Dave Wood, and edited by Jack Schiff is titled, appropriately enough, "The Freak Super-Heroes!"

The story begins with a short reintroduction to Robby Reed as he pulls his wondrous dial from its hidden compartment in his lab shack in Littleville.  As he looks over the amazing apparatus he thinks to himself that as long as he has this power, no criminal will know peace as he hits them with one hero after another with the help of the dial.

Fade to an underground garage in nearby Central City (home of Barry (Flash) Allen one would presume) where a likely group is gathered to hatch some plans that will doubtless lead to no good.  The syndicate chief, Georgie Craft, has announced that he has a plan to thwart the onslaught of super-heroes, but it will cost the others assembled $100,000.00 to buy into the plot.  With that he opens a door and in walk Dr. Rigoro Mortis and the hulking Super-Hood, described as a human-like robot.  One glimpse of Super-Hood, who was obviously inspired by Frankenstein's monster and Archie, one of the criminals in attendance, observes that Georgie has been watching too many horror movies.  With that, Dr. Mortis commands Super-Hood to activate itself and obey his commands for a short demonstration of his power.  The giant utilizes a sort of heat vision on a truck atop a nearby hydraulic lift, melting it into slag.  This is enough for the other crooks to agree to buy in and further plans are soon made to begin a series of "trap crimes."

Segue back to the home of Robby Reed where the youth is playing a game of badminton with his grandfather in the yard while they listen to the radio.  A breaking announcement describes the appearance of Super-hood near the Central City bank.  Robby decides that's his cue to use his dial, but first he needs to discreetly excuse himself.  He feigns a pulled muscle and heads to the lab shack to rest up which of course allows him to turn the dial in the familiar H-E-R-O configuration to become…a ball with arms and legs.  Robby is startled to see in the mirror this black and red vision with "WHOOZIS" seemingly stenciled over the top, but there's no time to ponder matters further.  He discovers he can bounce this form like a giant rubber ball and get to Central City in record time.  By the way, those of you who follow the Justice League cartoon series may see the same similarity I do to the member of the Green Lantern Corps that resembles Whoozis.  Coincidence?  You be the judge.

Whoozis bounces into the bank vault past some kayoed guards to come face to face with Super-Hood.  As an added bonus, Dr. Rigoro Mortis and Georgie, who were lurking outside, slam the huge door shut on the twosome.  Super-Hood wastes no time and blasts Whoozis with something from his chest aperture.  It freezes the freak super-hero in place and Robby realizes it's a sort of plastic mold that has hardened around him, leaving him helpless to stop the escape of the criminals.  Struggling mightily against the hardening material, Whoozis reaches for the dial to reverse the process before he's immobilized and suffocates in the plastic tomb.  O…R…E…  Draw the curtain on Part I.

Part II opens with, surprise, surprise, a triumphant Robby as a stylized "H" shatters the plastic globe.  A thought bubble completes the story:  "I-I did it!  The sudden physical transformation shattered the plastic mold!  Sockamagee!  I'm free!"

Robby contemplates calling an ambulance for the fallen guards, but he then hears police sirens, so he beats a hasty retreat and relocates to a nearby deserted alley for another spin at the dial.  This time yet another bizarre figure emerges in the form of "Whatsis," a sort of giant boomerang with arms and legs and a head emerging from just past the point.  He soon discovers he can fly, after a fashion.  He moves in circles as he scouts the city from his aerial vantage point, searching for Super-Hood.  His surveillance reveals a rooftop crime, though, so he stops to lend aid to a visiting sultan who is being held up.  As he comes in for a landing, Whatsis is surprised to see the "sultan" shuck his disguise and reveal Super-Hood.  Quickly grasping Whatsis in his iron grip, Super-Hood flings the freak-hero between the doors of the nearby elevator shaft, which Dr. Mortis observes is currently sans elevator.

As the plummeting Whatsis thinks furiously, he manages to use the elevator cables to brake his descent by rubbing the ends of his boomerang body against them.  He ultimately lands on top of the elevator to a bone-jarring, but non-lethal stop.  Whatsis finds that no one is in the elevator and he climbs in through the roof access to emerge outside the building.  He observes Super-Hood flying away with the henchmen in tow, but Whatsis lacks the strength to fly after them.  Thus, the wonder dial is brought into play yet again to restore his Robby Reed identity before spinning the wheel yet again.  This time he pulls a hat trick to become "Howzis," a robot-like creature that is in essence a walking pinball machine.  Robby finds that when he pulls the firing pin on his chest, a metal ball goes into play and soon drops into a slot.  Each slot is marked and those marks indicate a weapon or power available to Howzis.  He can manipulate the path of the ball through concentration and is soon availing himself of the "airborne" option to fly after the crooks.  His flight path is aided by the use of his "radar" option and soon he is closing in on the garage hideout of the gang.

As we turn the page, the two-page pinup promised on the cover appears.  It's a nifty bonus in this issue and it shows Robby in the center with his dial and the now familiar statement below:  "The boy who can change into 1,000 Super-Heroes!"  Surrounding him are all the personas he's taken on to date, minus this issue's trio.  I'll list them off for posterity.  They are:  The Squid, Quake-Master, King Coil, Castor and Pollux Twins, Hornet-Man, Plastic Man, Shadow-Man, Radar-Sonar Man, Mighty Moppet, Giantboy, Future-Man, Cometeer, Human Starfish, King Kandy, Human Bullet, Super-Charge, Mr. Echo, The Mole and Hypno-Man.  That's quite a collection and with a few exceptions, I've read the stories where the majority of them appeared.  Hopefully before it's all over, I'll manage more.  A tip of the hat to the writer(s) of this feature who had the difficult task of coming up with two to three new heroes for each issue during the Dial H run.

Now, to the conclusion of our story.  Let's see if Howzis is any more effective than Whozis and Whatsis, who never laid a glove on Super-Hood, in bringing the Trap Crime gang to justice. 

Howzis makes a dramatic entrance as he emerges into the garage:  "Howzis, boys?  My acetylene slot did the trick—burned my way right into your hideout!"

Dr. Rigoro Mortis swiftly orders Super-Hood into action, but Howzis is prepared and drops a ball into a strategic slot for "diminish."  A ray shoots forth from the freak super-hero and rapidly shrinks Super-Hood and his powers to a much more manageable size.  As the rest of the gang tries to flee, Howzis fires off several steel balls in rapid succession so that concussion and sleep gas shots emerge from the pinball-like body to put the rest of the malefactors under wraps.

It isn't long before the boys in blue arrive and one of the officers holds Super-hood in his hand, so small has the former fiend now become.  The policeman asks the departing Howzis what he should do with the action-figure sized Super-Hood and Robby suggests he keep him as a souvenir since he no longer has any powers. 

Now it's back to the tranquil home life in Littleville as Robby enters his home.  His grandfather comments that the news on the radio reported a freak electrical storm in outer space that affected radio transmissions on earth, among other things.  Robby suddenly realizes that the space storm must have been the cause for the series of freak-super heroes the dial was conjuring for him.  He ponders what might happen in the future as the story draws to a close.

As usual, the backup story in this magazine is another adventure of J'onn J'onzz, the Manhunter from Mars: "The Deadly Martian!" by Jack Miller & Joe Certa and as usual, I'm going to skip it.  I just can't get excited about that huge-headed Professor Arnold Hugo.

Once again, the Dial H series is a fun little romp with some camp and implausibility thrown into the mix, but would you expect anything less?  I always enjoy them, though and despite it being something of a guilty pleasure I'm never sorry for the time spent.  It certainly fit the bill for me this time and brought a smile to my face.  I'll give this one a 7.

You are cordially invited to swing by this URL again in about two weeks for another journey into DC's finest hours, the great Silver Age.  The Webmaster and I will be pleased to host you and we always look forward to your comments, suggestions and feedback, so write to me at silveragesage@thesilverlantern.com.  See you next time.

Long live the Silver Age!

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