A Tribute to the of

The debut of Robby Reed and the "Dial H for Hero" series of adventures began in January of 1966 under the House of Mystery banner. In fact, that issue, #156, was the second issue ever reviewed by yours truly here at the Silver Lantern. Insperation for the concept may have come from the title of a Jerry Siegel Superboy story published in Adventure Comics #294 dated March, 1962. It must have been taxing for creator-writer Dave Wood. The series only ran for 17 issues, but owing to the fact that it was published 8 times a year, that's still a bit over two solid years of trying to cook up both threats to Littleville in the form of new villains after the Thunderbolt Gang was put away and two and sometimes three brand new heroes for each issue. There were the occasional repeat appearance of some heroes and using this title to glimpse Plastic Man for the first time in the Silver Age afforded a little relief, but overall this was a rough assignment. In issue #158 Robby was pitted against his own dial (or so I understand as I haven't read that issue yet) when someone gets hold of it to "Dial V for Villain." Well, another unorthodox occurrence with respect to the Dial happened toward the end of the series when, in #169, the September, 1967 edition, we experience the origin and 1st appearance of Gem Girl, the result of Dialing H for Heroine. The name of the story and the current nemesis is "The Terrible Toymaster!" and the cover and interior art comes courtesy once again of Jim Mooney, George Kashdan is at the editorial helm.

Things begin on the outskirts of Littleville where Robby and some schoolmates are checking out the new shopping center. Suzy, in particular, is impressed with the movie theater and bank contained in the center. At that moment someone in the crowd cries that the Toymaster has robbed the bank. Robby believes this is a golden opportunity to nab the thief, but of course the age-old problem of the part-time hero surfaces. He needs a little privacy to slip away and transform. Fortunately the panicky crowd allows him to separate himself from Suzy and to lurk by the cars in the parking lot. Unbeknownst to Robby, though, Suzy took a little tumble and as the crowd passes her by she spots her friend as he brings his mysterious dial into play, manipulating it so the letters "H-E-R-O" come up sequentially and cause him to change in a twinkling to the latest in a long line of random heroes, this one being Velocity Kid, master of speed. His uniform and powers are a little bit unique. In lieu of an emblem on his chest there rests a siren that emits super sonic waves, affording him the ability to accelerate through the air at super-speed. His head is encased in a sort of clear, bullet-like tube with a rounded tip. Soon he is airborne and in hot pursuit and he has a pursuer of his own in the form of Suzy, who has witnessed the entire scene.

Thanks to his newfound abilities, it doesn't take Reed long to catch up to the getaway car and to use the power of his speed to knock a tree into the path of the speeding vehicle. The gang members pile out with malice on their minds, but Velocity Kid clips each one on the chin before they can make a move. Then, the honcho himself, the Toymaster, emerges and like some twisted version of one of Santa's elves, he pulls a toy from his sack and flings it toward Robby. It's a toy lighthouse with a high powered beam that blinds our hero, causing him to fly right through a billboard. As he regains his eyesight, Velocity Kid takes a page from Flash's book and whips up a miniature tornado to battle the villain. The Toymaster manages, however, to put another toy into play, his deadliest. It's a target seeking missile, laden with explosives. Robby quickly goes into full evasive maneuver mode, but he can't shake the missile and it is slowly gaining on him. Finally he dives behind a rock outcropping and the missile explodes into it. An unfortunate result is that a chunk of debris strikes Reed squarely in the chest, knocking his breath out and destroying his siren, allowing the Toymaster and his gang to escape. As a forlorn Robby watches the car speed away, Suzy approaches and reveals that she knows his secret. She further concludes that he must have been the other heroes that have shown up in the past and says she's proud of him. Then, the other shoe drops. Suzy wants to give the Dial a spin. Reed refuses, insisting it's not a toy for her personal amusement. She then threatens to reveal his identity. With that little bit of blackmail in play, Robby reluctantly agrees, just this once, to allow her the experience. He guides her hand to spell out "H-E-R-O-I-N-E" and for the first time, a super-heroine is created by the amazing dial. Suzy is now the high-heeled Gem Girl, endowed with special jewel powers. Her gem encrusted spurs allow her the power of flight. Reed tells her to come back down so he can return her to normal, but the elated new heroine refuses and promptly takes off in pursuit of the Toymaster. A frustrated Velocity Kid reverses the letters in "HERO" to change to his original form prior to attempting another hero, but as sometimes happens, the dial is temporarily non-responsive, leaving Robby to wait and worry about Suzy.

Gem Girl is thrilled at her new abilities and eagerly chases down the getaway car, which turns down a side road and into a cave. Suzy descends and touches the rubies in her earrings to create a beam that in turn generates a giant buzz-saw blade to destroy the door. As she bursts into the room she quickly touches another bit of jewelry, an emerald ring that sends forth green rings that knock most of the gang silly. The Toymaster, however, is quick to respond with a toy boomerang harpoon that trusses up Gem Girl from shoulder to toe with a super strong cable. Now that she cannot reach her gems, Suzy makes an attempt to fly away, but the magnetized weights on the cable don't allow her to escape, pinning her to the steel chest that contains the gang's ill-gotten gains. The Toymaster tells the bound heroine that it just so happens they're now off to rob the mountainside jewel mine of their collection of precious gems. He leaves a guard and departs for his next crime.

An overwhelmed Suzy now has time to reflect on the rashness of her actions and she begins to despair at both her capture and the fact that the odds of rescue from this remote cave are pretty grim.

We segue now back to Robby, who is nearly frantic with worry since he hasn't heard from Gem Girl. He decides to give the dial another spin and this time it works, transforming him into Astro, (not the dog from the Jetson's, thank goodness) Man of Space. Astro is humanoid in appearance, but has an oversized cranium, purple skin, eyes that look like the tops of large diamonds and a sort of see-through skull allowing a glimpse of his brain. Astro has impressive mental powers that allow him, among other things, to conjure up the mental image of anyone he's ever seen and to find where they are at the moment. He immediately uses the ability to locate Suzy and when he discovers her whereabouts, he calls into play another skill, to enable him to instantaneously vanish from one spot and teleport to another in a puff of smoke that would make Houdini proud. Astro materializes directly behind the guard in the cave and wastes no time in deploying his galactic punch, putting the thug down for the ten count.

An overjoyed Gem Girl is freed by Astro, but before she can tell him the location of the Toymaster, Robby again uses his mental powers to discover the information. He instructs Suzy to tie up the guard and wait until he returns. He then teleports away. Gem Girl, not content to sit on the sidelines, flies from the cave and decides to assist.

Reed has appeared at the scene of the Toymaster's latest crime and has used the galactic punch again to sideline two henchmen. The Toymaster has boarded a helicopter, though and begun his ascent. At that moment, Gem Girl arrives and fires a blue freeze beam from her necklace, disabling the rotors of the chopper. After a hard landing, the sinister sack of the Toymaster is revealed again and a toy wrecking machine is brought forth. The miniature wrecking ball catches Robby by surprise and slams his solar plexus, knocking him to the ground. Next up, a spiked jack-in-the-box is fired at Gem Girl, duplicating the cover scene. Astro swiftly pops from his prone position to right in front of Suzy, pushing her out of harm's way. She attempts to fly them both back down to terra firma, but the added weight of the alien hero is too much for her spurs and they plummet downward. Gem Girl ends up knocking heads with the Toymaster, leaving both unconscious. Soon the police arrive to take the Toymaster, gang and their loot into custody. Astro takes the opportunity to teleport away with the comatose Gem Girl in his arms.

Now, on the outskirts of Littleville, Astro places the heroine's hand into the dial to reverse her transformation. When Suzy recovers, she has no memory of anything that has transpired since she stumbled following the bank robbery. Robby thinks to himself that the first tumble she took gave her partial amnesia which ended when Gem Girl took another tumble and bumped her head again. His secret is safe. Suzy asks the hero if he captured the Toymaster and Astro replies that he did with some super-help and suggests she read about it in the paper. He then teleports away to his lab shack where he reverses the dial and returns to his normal persona.

The final panel shows Suzy reading the story and commenting to Robby that this time a super-heroine showed up to help save the day and she wonders if another may show up. Robby thinks "Not if I can help it," winks at we readers and the story closes.

These Dial H stories are another of my guilty pleasures. They're usually straightforward stories with very little complexity and I think perhaps they appeal to my imagination more than anything else. I still recall vividly as a boy reading through these that if I could be a super hero through some miracle, it would almost be the best of all worlds to have Robby's dial and the ability to be any number of heroes. Even though she proved to be more hindrance than help, I got a kick out of the introduction of a heroine as a little bit of a plot twist. Although Robby only became two heroes in this storyline, the addition of Gem Girl made the total three in keeping with the general tradition. Once again, some good, clean Silver Age fun in a relatively short story (only 15 pages), allowing, once again, for a backup story about the Martian Manhunter. Not a bad deal at all for 12 cents. My rating for this story is a 7 on the 10-point scale.

You'll want to make it a point to be here for the next installation as we mark five fun years of this feature. In the mean time, I and my e-mail address are at your disposal, so be sure to drop a line any time at professor_the@hotmail.com.

Long live the Silver Age!

2000-2005 by B.D.S.

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


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