A Tribute to the of

I recently took in the Fantastic Four movie and while I don't know a quarter of the information about the competition that I do about our beloved DC Silver Age, despite a few fast and loose liberties taken, it was a pretty fun little show.  Even I knew that the exposure the foursome faced in space didn't also produce Dr. Doom.  At any rate, seeing The Thing on the big screen reminded me of a favorite cover by Jim Mooney from editor Jack Schiff's House of Mystery Dial H for Hero series that had a creature depicted that reminds me of The Thing.  With that in mind, let's look at House of Mystery #158 from April of 1966 when Robby Reed faces a real dilemma in the story titled "Dial V for Villain!"

The story, authored by Dave Wood, begins in Granite City on a typical morning when the routine is shattered, quite literally, by a customized vehicle with a built-in siren system that is emitting a shrieking wail, smashing windows on the street and causing paralysis in the townspeople.  Before a policeman succumbs he comments that it's Daffy Dagan and his siren gang.

Segue now to nearby Littleville, home of our old friend Robby Reed, who is indulging in some roller-skating with friends when he hears a bulletin from a nearby police car about the siren gang and their raid.  He quickly slips away and goes back to his lab shack where, in a secret panel, he pulls his incredible dial, allowing him to follow the familiar sequence of dialing H-E-R-O and waiting for the transformation to a new and unknown hero.

Soon the wait is ended when he transforms into the character on the cover, in a rather brilliant costume in shades of yellow and green with a huge "Q" on the chest.  In moments he discerns that he is Quake-Master, "…with enough built-in energy in my body to shake a mountain down!"  The small tremors he emits are nearly enough to level the lab shack, so he harnesses them in and then hears another alert on his radio.  This time he is informed that the sound thieves are escaping on Route nine.  Quake-Master soon discovers that he can concentrate and direct the vibrations and is able to propel himself swiftly along, sending the energy through his feet.  Off he flies on a mission to intercept the criminals.

Our writer tells us that Quake-Master is able to travel swiftly via the Earthquake speed of P-waves or Primary Waves that travel between 4.3 to 8.5 miles per second.  Quake-Master soon encounters the gang and orders their surrender.  You didn't really think they'd do it, did you?  Dagan fires on the colorfully-garbed hero, but Robby raises his hands and once again carefully directs the quake force through his palms, handily deflecting the lead projectiles.  He then goes on the offensive, arcing his body and sending the shock waves from his feet, effectively shaking the car to pieces around the crooks.  Two of the henchmen rush him, but Quake-Master merely uses a shock-wave kayo punch to put them away with very little effort.  The head man, meanwhile, has grabbed the satchels and run toward a nearby concealed escape jeep when Quake-Master sends a stun wave toward him.  Unfortunately, the hero misses, so to ensure his success, he sends vibrations from his entire body, rippling out like the waves from a pebble thrown into a pond.  While the desired effect is achieved, another unplanned effect is that the nearby tree is also snapped off at its trunk and falling toward young Master Reed.  Robby tries to quickly set up a counter wave from his hands, but is only able to slow the descent of the tree, which knocks him out and pins him beneath it.

A few minutes later, Daffy revives.  He doesn't look much like the typical criminal in his spectacles, brown suit and bow tie along with the old bowling-ball-wearing-a-hula-skirt hair, but he wastes no time in examining the fallen hero.  He then notices the dial protruding from Quake-Master's belt.  He seizes the dial, wondering if it has something to do with all the heroes who have appeared in the area in the recent past and begins idly working the dial.  Robby begins to revive at that moment and observes what happens.  In the next amazing moment, Daffy is transformed into a huge, hulking super villain.  In a freak, one-in-a-billion chance maneuver, he's dialed "V-I-L-L-A-I-N" and achieved the reverse of what Robby had been doing with the dial.  The startled Dagan lurches forward and fires some sort of force from his hand, uprooting a nearby boulder.  He then realizes what has happened and is thrilled at his new abilities and the fortuitous find of the wondrous dial.  As he gathers the loot and walks off toward the jeep he talks of his plans, oblivious to the fallen but conscious hero nearby:  "My first super crime—I'll pick up Smike and I'll plunder the Federal rail car transporting new money to the city banks!"  Helplessly, Robby looks on, still too weakened to do anything but worry about how he'll retrieve his dial and return Daffy and himself, to normal.  Close Part I.

As Part II begins, an hour has elapsed and Quake-Master's strength and powers are finally restored, so he's able to shake off the tree and launch himself in pursuit of the super-powered Daffy Dagan.  His destination is the rail yard in Granite City.

Sure enough, at the rail yard, Dagan and his accomplice, Smike, are using his new abilities to topple the car with a force beam.  "Daffy the Great" then follows up with a heat blast that cuts out a neat opening in the bottom of the knocked down car.  It is then that Quake-Master arrives, intent on quickly ending this new chapter in Dagan's criminal career.  He quickly forms a powerful and concentrated shock wave, only to discover that the glow around Daffy's new form is a shield with properties allowing him to not only repel the force, but bounce it right back at the hero.  Soon Quake-Master is flying backward from the concussion of his own power, directly toward a nearby water tower.  At the last possible moment he's able to emit enough vibrational force to make an opening in the tower's side, allowing a soft landing in the interior water.  Once he emerges from the tower, the thieves are gone, but the police have arrived.  Robby is now pondering the fix he's in.  His powers as Quake-Master are apparently ineffective against the super-villain and he cannot become another hero without the dial.  He may be trapped in his current form for good.  He reasons that his only chance is to reclaim his dial somehow and become another hero.

Quake-Master begins patrolling the city, looking for some sign of "Daffy the Great," when he happens upon his getaway jeep.  Suddenly Daffy and Smike emerge from the nearby hospital with a haul of Radium.  Robby conceals himself behind a statue and draws a strange-looking pistol.  With it, he fires a vibration disk that adheres itself to the rear of the vehicle.  Utilizing a device in his belt, he tracks the disk and tails Dagan and Smike to their lair outside the city in a great cavern.

Inside the cavern, Daffy is frustrated.  He can't enjoy his ill-gotten gains if he cannot transform to his natural state, but he doesn't understand the workings of the dial.  Smike reassures him that in due time he'll figure things out.  Meanwhile, they need to finish up plans for their next heist.  Distracted, Dagan drops the dial on a nearby table, which is just the opening that Robby, who has followed and is concealed nearby, has been waiting for.  Swiftly leaping forward with the help of the P-waves, Quake-Master makes a desperate leap for the dial.  The force of his leap, however, has alerted the crooks and Daffy promptly fires upon the hero, nearly striking Reed as he scoops up the dial.  Really pouring it on now, he manages to get to the exit while still dodging the blasts from Dagan.

Outside the cavern, Daffy switches tactics and begins spraying a choking haze over the area, causing Quake-Master to have to descend to earth.  Apparently that wasn't the design, though, as he scans the area and discovers that Dagan and Smike have slipped away and that his device is no longer transmitting, so it must have been discovered and removed.  Quake-Master discovers after the mist has cleared that the criminals have hastily removed their plunder and plans from the cavern.  Robby quickly heads for home, hoping his long absence hasn't caused too much consternation with Miss Millie and his grandfather, but quite grateful to again have custody of his dial.

Soon Reed is in the safety of his lab shack and at last is able to reverse the letters on the dial and return to his normal form, just in time for dinner. 

Afterward, back to the shack and again dialing for heroes he soon becomes…a squid.  No, not a literal squid and not a sailor, but a hero with four different colored tanks on his back, sort of like a scuba diver with a helmet that has nozzles around it that allows him to shoot liquid mixtures.  At first Robby is dismayed, wondering how this hero will be any match for Daffy, but on further consideration thinks this might be just the ticket.  Once outside, Robby takes this new hero for a spin, pressing a button on a panel on the front of his belt and it issues a liquid that quickly forms into a solid flying sled, allowing some quick aerial mobility.  It isn't long before he again locates Dagan, this time firing at the local law enforcement and keeping them at bay while he uses his other hand to sort of magnetically transfer gold bullion to his vehicle.  The Squid flies in and immediately squirts some of his specialized liquid material onto Daffy.  The smug super crook just laughs as the liquid is turned into a miniature fireworks display by his protective aura.  Nonplussed, the Squid issues a warning with another squirt, this time of a green liquid.  He tells Daffy that the liquid is a deadly poison that will kill him in minutes if he doesn't turn off his aura and surrender.  Dagan doesn't believe him, but is then startled to hear a whirring noise from the liquid.  Fearing for his life, Daffy drops the protection and continues to blast the flying squid, who rapidly maneuvers his flying sled about and fires the "yellow lightning" liquid, that knocks "Daffy the Great" out cold.  Wasting no time, the Squid comes in for a landing and takes one of Dagan's fingers, operating the dial so that "Villain" is spelled in reverse, consequently reversing the change.  It is a chagrined Daffy who revives, particularly when he realizes he's been had.  The supposedly toxic green liquid was merely an alarm system used by the Squid.

The final panel shows our youthful hero finally calling it a night as he listens to the news report on his bedside radio that Daffy Dagan and his loot have been successfully rounded up thanks to the efforts of The Squid.  We're also tipped that in the next issue Robby will take on the Clay Creep Clan.

As usual the follow-up story is an adventure with the Manhunter from Mars, this time with "The Origin of the Diabolu Idol Head," and as usual I'll pass on going through it.

This was the third appearance of Robby Reed in the Dial H for Hero series and the formula was taking hold nicely, though this particular adventure involved his changing into only two heroes.  Despite the fact that my last Dial H review was several issues later, the two are very nearly identical in a few ways.  In each case the bad guys were hanging out in a cave and Robby's Dial, while always a major component of these stories played an even more crucial role in that it was being used by someone else as well.  In the case of the former, the H-E-R-O-I-N-E of Gem Girl and in this issue, the unnamed V-I-L-L-A-I-N.  Robby only underwent two transformations in each tale, too.  Also, just for fun, these two issues contain the favorite covers in the series of both the webmaster and me.  Pure, colorful action in each case.  This story did have a little additional tension, though, when Robby lost his dial for awhile and had to wonder whether he'd ever see his normal life resuming again.  Another fun romp with Robby and company and my rating is a 7.

Remember to return in the usual two weeks for another journey into our favorite era in comics.  In the interim, I'd love to hear from you, so address any comments, questions or requests to professor_the@hotmail.com

Until next time…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2005 by B.D.S.

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