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Miguel Montez Dial H For Hero

Contributed by Francois Peneaud

DC is well-known for publishing short-lived, quirky series which often manage to rise above its regular super-hero fare. Case in point, the various Dial H For Hero series, where characters use an old-fashioned rotary dial to turn themselves into improbable superheroes for one hour. Over the decades, it went from charmingly weird in the late 60s to Morrisonesque bizarro in the series written by China Miéville in 2012-2013 (with a title shortened to Dial H). I personally have a soft spot for the 2003-2005 H.E.R.O. series written by Will Pfeiffer, which boasted a very neat temporal loop as well as moody art by Kano, in its first year.

The latest Dial H For Hero series, which finished a few months ago with its 12th issue, was written by Sam Humphries and drawn by Joe Quinones. The main characters are Miguel Montez and Summer Pickles, two teenage friends from a small Californian town they can’t wait to leave. When Miguel, who’s been a bit of a daredevil ever since his life was saved by Superman years ago, sees a red, glowing phone dial appear as he’s plunging toward his death, he seizes the opportunity – and the dial – to change into a grinning, muscle-bound man right out of the 90s, drawn by Quinones in the style of the early Image artists. Each time Miguel or Summer change into a new hero, we get a specific art style and a short origin story playfully using comics tropes. Masamune Shirow, Chris Ware, Frank Miller, Moebius, etc. are referenced, as well as the specific ambiances of their works. We even get an Al Jaffee-inspired fold-in! The impressive variety of art styles is mostly and impeccably handled by Quinones, with some guest artists such as Colleen Doran, who draws a beautiful sequence in issue #7 where an unhappy gay man finds the courage to change his life thanks to his hour-long powered turn. Add to that vibrant colors by Jordan Gibson, and you get one of the best-looking mainstream comic I’ve seen recently.

But back to Miguel: he’s the kind of young guy who’s constantly pushing himself, taking risks without really knowing what he wants, while severely lacking in self-confidence. In short, he’s a typical teenager. One thing is obvious: both him and his best (girl) friend Summer want – need – a change, and the Dial is all about that: constant, never-ending change. What’s interesting about Miguel is that his being gay is never a big deal. It’s not even a large part of his story. In issue #9, Miguel is approached by another young guy who seems interested in him, but he equivocates and doesn’t pursue it. There will be a payoff to the situation right at the end of the series, which I won’t spoil.

 

It was rather nice to see a young character whose main problem in life is not being gay, but rather how to defeat his chief opponent, the mysterious Mister Thunderbolt, who wants to use the Dial for, you’ve guessed it, nefarious purposes. Humphries and Quinones have managed to tie this series to the history of the H dial, without making it feel like it’s intended only for long-term readers. I won’t spoil it either, but let’s just say that Robbie Reed, the original teenaged 60s user, now looks good with a stylish white beard.

It would be interesting to see Miguel integrate his burgeoning love life with his hourly powers. This new Dial H for Dial maxi-series seems to have been well-received, so there’s hope we’ll Miguel and Summer again, maybe even with boyfriends in tow.

Miguel Montez created by Sam Humphries and Joe Quinones. All art by Joe Quinones except upper right image drawn by Colleen Doran.

All rights reserved DC Comics

François Peneaud has read too many comics. For over a decade, he ran The Gay Comics List, a blog dedicated to LGBT-themed comics and their authors. He’s written a few comics in English and now concentrates on a series of books in his native French for the label Les Saisons de l’étrange.

June 28, 2020
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