Question: What series features a boy finding a device that allows him to change into various superpowered forms, and deciding to use it to become a superhero?

If you answered ''Franchise/{{Ben 10}}'', well, you'd be right. But ''decades'' [[OlderThanTheyThink before that show premiered]], the concept was used in a Creator/DCComics series titled '''Dial H For Hero'''.

The series began as a feature in DC's ''House of Mystery'' anthology comic, in 1966. In it, a teenager named Robby Reed finds a disk with a dial like that of a phone on it (back when phones used rotary disks). It had alien letters on it that Robby managed to translate. By dialing words on it, Robby found that he would transform into a superhero. The catch: he became a different hero each time—usually completely original ones, though he once turned into ComicBook/PlasticMan. Robby used the dial to battle crime around his small Colorado hometown. The series did not last long. It appeared in ''House of Mystery'' #156-173 (January, 1966-March, 1968). Robby had a guest appearance in ''Plastic Man'' vol. 2 #13 (June-July, 1976) but was otherwise forgotten.

The concept was however revived in the 1980s in ''Adventure Comics'', another DC anthology series. The premise was now being used to showcase superhero characters that comics fans were sending to DC comics! Written by MarvWolfman (who was at the same time having great success with another teenage superhero series, ''ComicBook/TeenTitans'') the new version had two teenagers, a boy and a girl (in order to use hero characters of ''both'' genders, obviously) named Chris King and Vicky Grant, from a town in New England, who find similar devices in a "haunted house" (Chris's was a wristwatch, Vicky's was a locket) with only four letters in them (H-E-R-O) which allowed them to change into random heroes but only for a limited time period. Supposedly, a "wizard" left them there for them to find. Meanwhile, a mysterious figure known only as "The Master" kept sending super villains (also invented by fans) to try to get the Dials.

Eventually, Chris and Vicky find that (at least some) of the heroes they transform into were being invented by a classmate as a hobby! (this may have been a nod to the series' AudienceParticipation.) Further, they discover that the Master and the Wizard are actually two halves of the same person... ROBBY REED! Turns out that one of Robby's transformations caused him to split into good and evil halves, and the evil one had caused the Hero Dial to vanish. The Wizard created the new dials for Chris and Vicky so they could keep The Master busy while he looked for the original. Having found it, The Wizard used it to merge with The Master back into Robby. The series ended with Robby deciding to retire and giving his Dial to the kid whose ideas were being used in the transformations.

During UsefulNotes/TheDarkAgeOfComicBooks, the "Dial H" characters suffered a lot. Chris and Vicky lost control of their powers and Vicky joined a cult that abused her (which storyline was written by Wolfman himself over in ''Teen Titans''). Vicky's dial later showed up in the 1990s series ''ComicBook/{{Superboy}} and the Ravers'', where it was claimed by the [[AffirmativeActionLegacy gay]] [[TwoferTokenMinority Latino]] character Hero Cruz. At around the same time (in real world terms; a thousand years in the future in-story) a Hero-Dial of unknown origin was given to Lori Morning, the Threeboot ComicBook/{{Legion of Super-Heroes}}' TagalongKid, by the Time Trapper.

The original dial was lost to them and passed through many hands, usually ruining the lives of those who used it, in a 00's series titled "H-E-R-O". Eventually Robby himself showed up, having been granted permanent low level powers from long term exposure to the dial, and in the end the Dial was lost in time and space.

Robbie and the Dial both turned up in a 2009 issue of ''ComicBook/TheBraveAndTheBold'' comic book, though that story seems set in the past, as Robbie is still an innocent teenager in it.

In May 2012 a new version of ''Dial H For Hero'', titled simply ''Dial H'', and written by Creator/ChinaMieville, was introduced as one of the second wave of ComicBook/{{New 52}} titles, rebooting the canon. It introduced a new dial, this one identical to an actual rotary phone dial, and two new wielders. The first was Nelson Jent, who had lost his job, let himself go to seed, and was on the path to self-destruction, and the second was Roxie "Manteau" Hodder, an occultly trained electrical engineer who acted as his mentor. It was cancelled the following year, after sixteen issues. A postscript issue, titled ''Dial E'', followed as part of DC's "Villains Month" event.

This comic series was also the inspiration behind ''Blog/DialBForBlog'', a comic "blogazine" in which Robby (usually [[ComicBook/TheJoker Jokerized]]) is the AuthorAvatar of Kirk Kimball.


!!Tropes featured in the series:
* AbsurdlySharpBlade: The serial killer in ''H-E-R-O'' used one of these through his [[SuperpowerLottery power to use any superpower he could think of]]. When police come across one of his victims, their first question is "How could somebody do this?" Not morally, but ''physically'', how is it possible to cut someone so evenly and neatly? Answer? Telekinesis used as an impossibly thin plane of force.
* AdventureDuo: Chris and Vicky.
** Nelson and Manteau.
* AIIsACrapshoot: The dials in all the series have a tendency to just give the worst super heroes or in some cases super villains.
* AlliterativeName: Robby Reed.
* AndTheAdventureContinues: ''Dial H'' ended halfway between this and BittersweetEnding, with [[spoiler:Nelson, Roxanne and the surviving members of the Dial Bunch having defeated their main enemies, but temporarily trapped in a devastated reality and uncertain if they'd ever make it back to their original homes.]]
* AppliedPhlebotinum: Exactly how the dial works, or its origin, was never explained in the original series. ''Dial H'' eventually explained [[spoiler:that the Dials were created by a civilisation in another dimension as a means of social and technological progression, by copying things from throughout the multiverse. The civilisation was destroyed by an alliance of cultures [[DigitalPiracyIsEvil upset at the use of their intellectual property]], and the Dials scattered.]]
** There appears to be different dials with different functions. One dial calls "H for Help" and summons sidekicks which have to answer to heroes, another can call "G for Gear." One dial copies the powers of nearby dials, and one can be used to jump from world to world by dialing "J for Jump."
** In Chris and Vicky's team-up with Superman (''ComicBook/DCComicsPresents'' #44), the dials were implied to be magical as their powers affected (pre-ComicBook/{{Crisis|on Infinite Earths}}) Superman.
* AscendedExtra: As it turns out, both Abyss and the Squid in the current ''Dial H'' series were both one-shot villains from ''Adventure Comics'' #490, which was during the Chris King and Vicki Grant era.
* TheAtoner: Bansa of the Dial Bunch. She had no idea she was [[spoiler: stealing powers from other heroes]] and most likely sought out Open-Window Man as a form of SuicideByCop.
* AudienceParticipation: Readers were encouraged to send in hero ideas, with wildly varying results. Notably, Creator/HarlanEllison sent a suggestion in (the Silver Fog, appearing in ''Adventure Comics'' #479).
* AwesomeButImpractical: The zero issue of ''Dial H'' shows an ancient Babylonian version of the H-Dial: a huge stone sundial. In order to activate it, the extremely heavy slab of stone must be moved four days in a row so (the equivalent of) "H-E-R-O" is spelled out by the characters that are shadowed at noon.
* BigApplesauce: Averted, the series were set in small towns up until ''H-E-R-O'', and even then only ''some'' of the dial's users lived in big cities.
* CaptainEthnic: Nelson spends a whole day not allowed to go outside because he dialed up Chief Mighty Arrow, a really offensive Native American caricature.
** CallBack: Robby Reed actually dialed this hero during the Silver Age (Twice, as a matter of fact).
* CaptainErsatz: Open-Window Man is one of Batman. He is specifically a man named Jed Oliver who saw his parents get killed in an alleyway and learned all about open windows for the sake of gaining a symbol.
** [[WesternAnimation Ben 10]] is this for Robbie. As is (maybe) the Sleeper from Literature/WildCards.
* CoolOldLady: [[spoiler: Manteau.]]
* DarkerAndEdgier: ''Dial H'', a revision along the same lines as ''Comicbook/DoomPatrol'', '' ComicBook/TheSandman'', ''Comicbook/BlackOrchid'', and the other DC titles which were transplanted to Creator/VertigoComics. Though China Mieville has [[LampshadeHanging lampshaded]] that this technique is not new. That said, its inherent goofiness was still a big part of its appeal in contrast to the serious nature of the majority of the New 52.
* {{Deconstruction}}: ''Dial H'' #6 features Nelson and Roxie discussing CaptainEthnic, {{Stripperiffic}}, and other superhero costume/concept tropes that would, realistically, cause more bad press than good.
* FifthWeekEvent: DC's "[[UsefulNotes/TheSilverAgeOfComicBooks Silver Age]]" comics crossover involved Robby and the Dial (transforming the Comicbook/JusticeLeagueOfAmerica into NEW heroes!)
* FormerlyFit: Nelson Jent.
* FutureLoser: Robby Reed in ''H-E-R-O'', a convict divorced from his childhood sweetheart and thought insane by everyone he knows.
* GenderBender: Turns up less often than you might think:
** In one story, Chris King became the shapeshifter "Any-Body," and then used his power to take on the shape of Naiad, a villainess, in order to trick another bad guy.
** In ''H-E-R-O'', one man is turned into a female superhero by the dial and loses it before he can change himself back.
** Again in ''Dial H'' #3, when Nelson Jent becomes Baroness Resin. The dialogue implies that [[GenderBender Gender Bending]] only happens when the dial is broken, explaining it's rarity.
* GrandTheftMe: Implied when Robby turned into the pre-existing hero Plastic Man, though the issue isn't directly addressed.
** In ''Plastic Man'' Vol. 2 #13, Plastic Man faces off against Robby, who uses the dial to turn into his previous forms, including Plastic Man himself (much to the real Plas's confusion).
** [[spoiler: Confirmed in ''Dial H''. Every hero a dialer calls actually exists on some world, though the dial only saps their powers for an unknown amount of time, and the dialer sometimes retains memories and dreams from the hero.]]
* HeelFaceRevolvingDoor: Vicki Grant succumbed to some dark urges when she left Fairfax and Chris when the two were old enough for college, joining the villainous cult the Children of the Sun in the pages of ''[[TeenTitans NewTeenTitans]]''. She later appeared in ''Superboy And The Ravers'' hunting down Hero Cruz for stealing her dial, but it appeared Hero may have been able to snap Vicki back to her old state of mind. She was reportedly recovering with heroine Sparx's family, but she later reappeared as a villain in ''WonderWoman''.
* HeartIsAnAwesomePower: A number of the powers shown seem incredibly useless initially but turn out to be really effective with a little imagination.
** Case in point, Open-Window Man. He can travel through open windows and subdues enemies with his "Defenestration Punch." He's Franchise/{{Batman}} with super powers and if he had been inspired by an open window.
*** [[spoiler: That's ''exactly'' who he is.]]
* HeroOfAnotherStory: ''Dial H'' has implied that the personas the dialers become are actually [[spoiler: heroes from other worlds. The zero issue supports this when Laodice, a Babylonian wielder of an ancient precursor to the dial, is attacked by Bumper Carla, a hero she became years ago. Carla explains that when Laodice called her away from her world, it was ravaged by an attack from a villain, and had Carla not been plucked away, she could've prevented it.]]
** [[spoiler: Confirmed as of Flash 18 and 19, and Dial H 11, where the Dial takes the powers of ComicBook/TheFlash]]
** [[spoiler: It's later revealed the dials are supposed to ''copy'' powers, not steal them, and only a few dials have actually stolen powers and memories from heroes.]]
* HiveMind: Manteau dials the Planktonian, a hero made up of millions of sentient plankton to form an energy being, and the Fixer dials what appears to be a group of sentient balloons with faces drawn on them.
* {{Homage}}: ''Dial H'' is a loving homage, right down to the art style, to DarkerAndEdgier late-eighties/early-nineties Creator/VertigoComics reworkings of old DC titles.
* HourOfPower: Robby's dial had vague restrictions on its use; there was some ill-defined time limit to how long he would remain a given hero, and how long he had to wait before dialing again after time ran out. Chris and Vicky's dials had a flat one hour time limit on heroes (deliberately imposed, among other restrictions, when Robbie's "Wizard" persona created them, trying to prevent the mistakes Robbie made with his dial). This didn't carry on into ''H-E-R-O'', where the only way to turn back to normal is to dial out.
** Averted once when Chris became the hero "Mr. Opposite", whose powers were ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin. When Vicki's hour was about to expire, which would have caused her to revert to normal in public view, Mr. Opposite used his power on her dial so that her hour was just beginning.
* InstantExpert: In some iterations the user automatically knew what their powers were and how to use them after dialing into a new hero, sometimes they have to play around with them a little to figure out what they can do, or at least the practical applications.
* TheJoyOfX: The idea probably came from the title of the movie "Dial M for Murder".
* KilledOffForReal: [[spoiler: Boy Chimney, as revealed in issue 13.]]
* LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters: Wiki/TheOtherWiki's page lists every transformation the dials were ever used for, totaling over 200!
* MetafictionalDevice: The Dials allowed comic fans to see their creations in a comic, if only once.
* MostCommonSuperpower: {{Lampshaded}} in ''H-E-R-O'', when a man is turned into a female hero. He tries on his girlfriend's clothes and finds that none of her shirts or bras fit.
* MugglePower: ''H-E-R-O'' opens with Jerry Feldon talking about how worthless he felt after he saw Superman in person. "He's everything and I'm nothing!"
* NewPowersAsThePlotDemands: [[JustifiedTrope Justified]], given the concept of the series.
* NotWearingTights: The Centipede is pretty unhappy when his original government handlers try to get him to act like a superhero, with a goofy and sinister arthropod helmet. Although he does find some of the technology built into it useful.
* NothingIsScarier: The entire first arc of the latest series focused on this trope. It expands on one-shot villain Abyss, explaining that it's a living void which feeds off light and matter. Also, it's one of an entire species of voids that are studied and trained by Squid's people. The villain Ex Nihilo is a mage who studies nullomancy, as in the magic of nothingness. She ''literally'' works with nothing, and had been studying coma victims for the power of their empty minds by manipulating the void within them to try and contact Abyss. She's also been hunting down the witnesses who were there the day Abyss and Squid appeared in Fairfax, and wipes out their minds by filling their heads with Abyss's residue.
* OurDemonsAreDifferent: Unbled of the Dial Bunch is a literal red-skinned devil from Hell who found a half-broken dial.
** Chris King once dialed Red Devil, with the power to turn into any classical demon.
* PersonalityPowers: In ''Dial H'' #1, it appears the superhero identities which manifest through the dial act as personifications for aspects of the dialer's personality; Boy Chimney represents Nelson Jent's cigarette smoking, Captain Lachrymose his depression. This doesn't appear to be the case later on, though the briefly-seen Holepunch may have been based on Nelson's former career as a boxer.
* PowerIncontinence: Dwan of the Dial Bunch is stuck on auto-dial.
* PowerLossMakesYouStrong: [[spoiler:When Nelson has to rescue Roxie but his dial has stopped working, he creates the identity of "Rescue Jack" with a CheapCostume, Molotov cocktails, and a big wrench to hit people with. It's pointed out that it only works because he was fighting non-powered mooks who were already nervous about having to face superheroes.]]
* ProductionThrowback: In the first issue of ''Dial H'', Robby Reed, Chris King, and Vicki Grant are glimpsed through Boy Chimney's smoke vision. WordOfGod from China Mieville has explained that the series will have numerous EasterEgg references to the previous stories, but has neither confirmed nor denied whether the previous dial owners will have a bigger connection to the series.
** While never mentioned by name, the third issue features X.N. and the Squid attacking a man named "Mr. King", whose brother was responsible for witnessing an event involving the Squid's partner in the town of Fairfax. It's blatantly clear X.N. is referring to Chris and Vicki.
** Dialer Yaaba makes mention of a dial user who won a battle as an immobile rag doll, which may be a callback to Vicki Grant.
* [[{{Tsundere}} Punchy Love]]: Vicky's personality.
* RefusalOfTheCall: When asked by Robby to join him in hunting down the Dial's current, serial killer user, Jerry's initial reaction is to blow him off. That is, until Robby shows him he still has powers and that he's still a part of this. "Are you going to be a guy with superpowers, or are you going to be a ''hero''?"
* RecycledINSPACE: With Ben 10.
** Ben 10 would be more like a classical example of JustForFun/XMeetsY: Dial H for Hero meets Franchise/MenInBlack
* SelfDuplication: The Centipede has this as his superpower, after a failed time-travel experiment made it possible for multiple slightly-different quantum possibilities of him to simultaneously exist.
* ShoutOut: One of the Dial Bunch channels a hero who is able to create distracting illusions which say "odradek" in a seeming homage to Creator/FranzKafka.
* TheSmurfettePrinciple: Adding Vicky to the series.
* SplitPersonalityMerge: Commented on as a danger of excessive dial use in ''Dial H''.
* {{Squick}}: Invoked in canon in the issue where Nelson turns into Chief Mighty Arrow, in which Manteau explains that she's outright rejected and not used certain "heroes" created by the dial because they had UnfortunateImplications (such as, presumably, the unseen Golliwog and [[{{Nazisploitation}} SS Ilsa]]), or because their nature or powers were downright unpleasant (such as, presumably, the unseen Dr. Cloaca and Kid Torture).
* StarfishCharacter: Robby Reed.
* StoutStrength: Nelson Jent is fat, but strong, though unlike many examples he was once fit and has since gained a lot of weight. He's self-conscious about it and embarrassed to go to the gym.
* SuperEmpowering: The dials turn normal people into superheros by default, in ''H-E-R-O'', everyone who uses the dial is left with some kind of permanent powers, including Robby.
* SuperPowerLottery: The dial usually gives you cool powers of some kind, but, as Robby says in ''H-E-R-O'' #15, "every so often, the device coughs up what I call a '''jackpot'''."
* SuperZeroes: Sometimes the heroes aren't quite up to snuff. Robbie suffered from lame transformations the most -- on one occasion he thought the Hero Dial was actually making fun of him after it turned him into three ridiculous heroes in a row.
** Chris and Vicki's BigBad, The Master, discovered that their friend Nick, a budding comic book artist, was subconsciously influencing the Hero dial's transformations. So, The Master had Nick kidnapped and strapped into a machine that would force the dialers' next identities to be the most ineffectual characters Nick's mind could conceive of--changing Vicki into the immobile [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin "Raggedy Doll"]], and Chris into "Puff Ball", a living version of an in-universe CaptainErsatz for ''VideoGame/PacMan'' with no offensive capabilities but the ability to jump. The two manage to turn the tables on The Master when one of his minions, a power-draining villain, accidentally absorbs some of their perceived weaknesses and makes them effective enough to free Nick and escape.
** In ''H-E-R-O'', Jerry specifically razzes the heroes Robby would turn into. Granted, Robby gave examples like King Kandy and the Mighty Moppet.
** In ''Dial H'' Nelson and Roxie both received some odd-ball heroes both past and present. Nelson still puts one to really good use despite the dial being broken and his [[PartialShapeshifting failure transformations]] during the battle.
* TakeOurWordForIt: Some of the heroes Manteau dialed but never used because they were so offensive.
* TakeThat:
** One of the offensive or creepy heroes mentioned by Manteau but not shown, Golliwog, is almost certainly a shot at Creator/AlanMoore for his use of a Golliwog character in some later parts of ''Comicbook/TheLeagueOfExtraordinaryGentlemen'', and his somewhat dubious claims to be "reclaiming" what was good about the character from racists.
** ''Dial H'' #13 includes a criticism of [[Franchise/{{Batman}} Bruce Wayne]] for beating up criminals instead of using his power to change society positively.
** The Exchange was destroyed by cultures from other dimensions who were unhappy with the Exchange copying their stuff. They formed up into two armies called the '''M'''aterial '''P'''rotection '''A'''lterity '''A'''rmy and the '''R'''apid '''I'''nterreality '''A'''ssault '''A'''lliance.
* TechnologyMarchesOn: Is there any device today that uses rotary disks? Other than combination locks.
** Lampshaded in ''Dial H'' #2, as Nelson wonders about this.
* TitleDrop: The first trade paperback for ''Dial H'' is titled ''Into You'', which appears in the actual comic during a scene where Nelson's Dial is broken and he protests to Squid that he can only change into himself; Squid replies, "Into you? That'll have to do."
* TheVamp / IceQueen: Interestingly played with the heroine Frosty from the ''Adventure Comics'' era. She has the power to make things turn brittle and shatter like glass just by giving an icy glance. However, her costume is made up of warm colors and don't give the impression that her powers are ice-related. She seems to be a play on the concept of a beautiful woman that can destroy things just by looking at them.
* WeaksauceWeakness: In his second adventure as Giant Boy, the first hero he ever turned into, Robby was poisoned. He turned back, but feared that if he turned into Giant Boy again he would die.
* WholeEpisodeFlashback: The #0 issue of ''Dial H'' is an entirely self-contained story set in ancient Babylon, with none of the usual regular characters.
* WildMassGuessing: Is the Omnitrix an AlternateContinuity Hero Dial?