“Dial H for Hero!”

A mysterious telephone dial-like device that is capable of transforming whomever dials the letters H-E-R-O on in into a superhero, or, rather, a series of different superheroes. (Of course, its a little hard to so describe the H-Dial now, as telephones don’t have dials, they have keypads.) Boy scientist Robby Reed first discovered the H-dial in a cave in Colorado and used it to protect the town of Littleville. Several years later, teenagers Chris King and Vicki Grant would discover a different pair of dials marked similarly, which they used to become superheroes. Later, others, too, possessed one of the H-Dials. Currently, the power of the H-Dial is passing among ordinary people in the New 52 DC era.

As might be expected, a few of the heroes these people transformed into had hypnotic powers.

Robby Reed

Robby Reed was a smart teenager, which is why he was able to translate the markings on the dial he found, but all it said was “Dial H for Hero”. Pressing the buttons that spelled out H-E-R-O, he was transformed into a series of superheroes, including the Golden Age hero, Plastic Man.

Hypno-Man (House of Mystery #159) ‘The Clay Creep Gang’

Hypno-Man

Hypno-Man was one of three superhero forms Robby used to battle the Clayface Gang, a group of criminals who discovered a way to turn themselves into clay-like forms that helped them commit crimes. Hypno-Man’s power of hypnosis was centered around the spinning hypno-disk on his chest, which was shattered by a bullet, stopping it (and him.) It was only because he could turn into another hero afterward that he was able to capture the criminals.

Commentary: Hypno-Man is reminiscent of many mystical Golden-Age superheroes, albeit with a tight cowl instead of a turban for headgear. Certainly his ‘hypnotic gesture’ motif is straight out of Mandrake the Magician.

References:

Addenda: The origin of the H-Dial is a mystery, but according to the mini-series, it has was used several times before Robby discovered it. It (and he) have also made a number of appearances in the DC Universe, most especially one where he helps out the Justice League when the Injustice League is able to tap into their minds and know exactly how they can fight. Robby’s H-Dial transforms the Justice League into entirely new superheroes with entirely new powers and combat abilities, frustrating the Injustice League. It has been suggested that the language on the dial was Interlac, the language of the 31st Century and the Legion of Super-Heroes. It is also known that the H-Dial survived until that era and was used then.


Chris King and Vicki Grant

Several years after the disappearance of Robby Reed and the H-Dial, Chris King and Vicki Grant, an unlikely pair of high school students, discover a pair of modified versions of the H-Dial in an old trunk in Chris’ attic. The H-Dials only had four buttons, spelling out the H-E-R-O sequence that would transform them into superheroes. (Chris would also experiment once and spelled out H-O-R-R-O-R and was transformed into a monster.)

These heroes were created or suggested (either or both concept and/or costume design) by the fans and readers of the comic, which led to a constant stereotype running through the series in which Chris’ male characters were more often the more physical characters whereas Vicki’s were more often the more mental or ranged attack characters. That certainly is in the case with Hypno-Girl, below, where her partner Star Flare was a physical character, but not so much with Hyptella, whose partner Electro-Static was also a ranged attack character.

Each character was also an adult, not only physically but also in duties, which meant that the hero transformations could also be called a tangible wish-fulfillment of any teenager, even for the fans creating the characters.

Hypno-Girl (Adventure Comics #480) ‘Thunder Over Fairfax’

Hypno-Girl had the power to project a wave of hypnotic energy that carried her telepathic command so that she did not need to vocalize one. She used it to take control of several members of a gang that had kidnapped her parents, causing them to fight amongst themselves. Vicki at this time, being very new to her powers, was initially hesitant about using them but battled against her fears and insecurity to hold her end of the battle, leaving her partner Star Flare to battle the main villain, Thunder Axe.

hypno_girl_picture_1

Hypno-Girl was unusual in that for some reason, she wasn’t able to fly as could most of her other forms, even if flight wasn’t a part of their superhero motif.

hypno_girl_picture_2

It is also interesting in that Hypno-Girl was in the second issue of their appearances, making her one of the first characters to be shown in the series. That says something about the popularity and presence of hypnotic superheroes and supervillains in the comics.

Note:According to the footnote, Hypno-Girl was created by a 16-year-old boy.

Hyptella (Adventure Comics #485) ‘The Evil Eight’

Hyptella’s hypnotic power was projected through her eyes. Even after this short of time, Vicki was now more confident in using her powers, plus more willing to use them in non-super situations, especially here. (She could also fly, which her previous hypnotically-themed heroine was unable to do.)

hyptella_picture_1

She would use her powers in two different scenes in this issue, a rarity for this fast-paced storyline. The first time was before she knew of the menace of the Evil Eight and their boss, the Master: a friend of her was being attacked by a gang and she transformed to defend him, using her hypnotic powers to make the leader of the gang act like a donkey.

hyptella_picture_2

(Vicki) “No, my stupid friend … it is time for you to pay for hurting this person.”

(Gang leader) “What? Who said that?”

(Vicki) “You’re tough when you’re taking on someone weaker than you. Now let’s see how big you are when you take on Hyptella, Mistress of Hypnotism!”

(Vicki) “You are the leader of this childish gang … you think of yourself as someone powerful, but you are not. What you are — is a jackass! So act — just like the jackass you are.”

(Gang leader) “Heehaw! Heehaw! Heehaw! Heehaw”

There is an interesting dichotomy here, in that Vicki is doing exactly the same thing to the gang leader as she is accusing of him doing to her friend. There is a definite sense of bullying and vengeance in her punishment here, as she is obviously much stronger than her opponent, forcing him to humiliate himself, whereas a less vindictive person could have simply made the gang leader and his gang forget about the entire incident. It is quite likely she was bullied in her youth, too.

The second time was when she and Chris (as Electro-Static) investigate a mysterious force field that had cut off their city. While investigating, they are attacked the Evil Eight. Electro-Static is struck by one of them, K-9, and Hyptella comes to her partner’s aid.

(Vicki) “K-9. You cannot hurt him … you do not want to hurt him. Listen to me, K-9 … Feel my hypnotic gaze burn into your mind. You will not kill my friend!

However, despite her dialog, the art for this panel definitely shows that K-9 is not looking into her eyes. The next panel, is more ambiguous though.

Note: According to the footnote to the panel, Hyptella was created by a 13-year-old boy.

Commentary: These stories were drawn by industry great Carmine Infantino.

Cobress (Superboy and the Ravers #13)

Cobress was a female serpent with a hypnotic stare. She used her power to try to force Chris into handing over his H-Dial.

History: After their series ended, Chris and Vicki went their own separate ways. Vicki wound up as a member of a cult named the Children of the Sun which seriously affected her mental state. She attacked Chris to steal his H-Dial, rapidly switching between forms during the fight, one of which was Cobress, an act she wouldn’t have been able to do when she first had the dial. However, she eventually overloaded the dial and was restored to her human, albeit quite dazed, form.


Commentary: The characters in this series were simultaneously both a study in superhero stereotypes and an exercise for the writers and editor to explore new concepts, not exactly surprising as the characters were created by comics readers. The ratio of hypnotic characters to the total number of characters involved is a bit low (in my opinion) to the overall ratio in comics but considering the sample size, not entirely invalid.

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