Thee Comic Column #25: China Mieville’s Dial H for Hero

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Ever since I came across China Mieville’s short story “Reports of Certain Events Around London” in McSweeney’s Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories, circa 2004, I’ve been in love with the man’s writing. “Reports” is kind of half-Lovecraft, half-Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol and it led me to seek out King Rat, Perdido Street Station, The Scar and Iron Council – basically all of Mr. Mieville’s published novels at the time. Since then he’s a buy-it-the-day-it-comes-out favorite of mine, so when I found out last spring that Mieville would be writing a comic for DC’s New52 I was excited. I’d never heard of Dial H for Hero before although this was being touted as a re-launch, and frankly it sounded a bit second or third tier. However, I figured that was probably a good thing. More room for the man to do what he wants than have to live up to a rabid fanbase’s demands via a strict editorial demands.

Well, it’s been ten issues counting number zero and Dial H is getting stranger and stranger with every page. And that’s a good thing. It’s currently one of the only New52 titles that doesn’t feel like it’s being strangled by an editorial staff. Mieville appears to have free reign and the end result is fantastic and fun – you can see Mieville is a comic book fan from way back, as there’s a definite classic comic book feeling wrapped up in a lot of ingenuous tech stuff, conceptually speaking. And again, I can make a bit of a comparison to Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol in the way that Dial H mingles the DNA of flawed, perhaps even ultimately tragic characters with the absurd. The basic premise is this: while trying to call for help an out-of-shape slacker discovers a phone booth where dialing H-E-R-O turns him into one of an endless assortment of otherworldly entities, all strange and slightly ridiculous superheros. Take for example a few of my favorites:

Boy Chimney

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Pelican Army

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And my favorite thus far, the inimitable Cock-A-Hoop:

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See what I mean about absurd? This is half the fun of the book, seeing what completely insane characters result in a dial. And there’s a HUGE backstory only hinted at thus far, something that Mieville has tied into the historical event of Edison’s first call on his invention. I’m also guessing there is also old Dial H canon tying in at least a little, though again I’ve never read any other incarnation of the book and realistically I don’t think I’m going to – I’m sure whatever is used (if anything) will be laid out in a new context.

Speaking of context there’s another great concept going on inside the book and it’s very much in the context. Our main character, the aforementioned out-of-shape Nelson has a bit of an addiction to the super powers he dials up. He cannot go very long without using the dial, and when he loses his dial he begins to do things he wouldn’t normally do. His default “partner” is an elderly woman who also has a dial and between the two of them they’ve encountered some completely insane scenarios as the dial itself begins to affect the fabric of their reality.

Dial H for Hero appears to be doing well in sales (judging by the fact that it has not suffered the same axe-drop that many of the non-flagship character titles New 52 titles have of late). The first story arc is currently avaiable in a soft-cover trade from DC, so if it sounds good that’s a pretty convenient way to begin.


Can’t find a comic shop? You can always use old reliable Comic Shop Locator at 1-800-COMIC-BOOK. Or you can take some of my recommendations. If you live in the greater Chicagoland area I recommend any of the wonderful four locations of Amazing Fantasy Books. In Los Angeles it’s The Comic Bug. Las Vegas it’s Alternate Reality Comics. San Francisco? Try the Isotope Comic Lounge and if you happen to venture a little further North I’d say you have to visit The Escapist Comic Book Store in Berkley (with the wonderful Dark Carnival Books next door and owned by the same folks). Read on!!!

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

2 Responses to Thee Comic Column #25: China Mieville’s Dial H for Hero
  1. […] Also, there’s a great interview with Mr. Remender HERE that talks about the new series, the cr...
  2. Jayan Reply

    *chantsmasturbation now beginning see if you can keep in rhhtymWhy should a woman be deprived of pleasuring her self in private when the man is not there?I simply adore the feminine glow she exhibits post orgasm. It makes me jealous if I wasn’t the one to provide it.editWhy was my sexual drive at it’s peek decades ago and the women my age are closer to their sexual prime now? Is this a prank f/ the Man above, or his way to provide a form of birth control?

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