Sam Humphries & Joe Quinones Answer the Call of Dial H for HeroArt by Joe Quinones Comics Features DC Comics
The last time the Hero Dial had its own series, readers were treated to a delirious acid trip from weird-fiction megastar China Mieville and artists including Mateus Santolouco. Sam Humphries and Joe Quinones’ Dial H for Hero takes a much different, but no less exciting approach. Teased in Brian Michael Bendis’ Action Comics and published under Bendis’ Wonder Comics teen-focused imprint, Dial H for Hero introduces Miguel, a teen daredevil and the newest wielder of the Hero Dial, capable of becoming a different weird hero every time he spins the rotary-phone-like contraption. Humphries has recently found renewed success at DC as the new Harley Quinn writer, and Quinones has been a fan-favorite cartoonist since he piloted Hal Jordan through the skies in the pages of Wednesday Comics. Humphries and Quinones have six issues full of dialing to entice readers—and if the genius artistic surprise in the first issue is anything to go by, readers will find themselves answering eagerly each and every issue. With Dial H for Hero hitting stands this week, Paste exchanged emails with Humphries and Quinones to find out more about their rolodex of new heroes, what differentiates Miguel from prior dialers and the last time either of them saw or used an actual rotary phone.
Paste: Dial H is the final launch title under Brian Michael Bendis’ Wonder Comics imprint. Can the two of you talk a bit about how you became involved in kicking off Wonder Comics, and what sort of role Bendis has played in conceptualizing Dial H and the overall tone of the imprint?
Sam Humphries: I had been talking to Brian a lot when he was coming over to DC, and he told me all about his imprint and how is going to focus on young heroes, and I remember thinking what a brilliant idea that was. So when he approached me with the project, I was psyched. I had never read much Dial H, but Brian was so excited about the limitless creative potential, I knew this was something I had to pursue. Brian has been involved in the development of the book from the very first conversations. Some key concepts and ideas came straight from him. But he’s also stepped back and very much let us do our own thing.
Joe Quinones: I’d been talking with Andy Khouri, an editor at DC who helped put together the Wonder Comics imprint alongside Brian Bendis. Andy told me about the direction of the imprint and it sounded great. Then I heard Sam would be taking the reins on the book and I got really excited. Sam and I have been friends for a bit now and had been searching for an opportunity to work together. So when Sam called me early on to talk about plans for the book, it was instantly clear how well we vibed and it’s made for a great collaboration.
Paste: Sam, you’ve worked on all-ages books for BOOM!, superhero serials for DC and Marvel and mature content going right back to the very beginning of your career. How are you adapting your voice and approach for a series meant to appeal to the teens of 2019? Is it even a conscious consideration?
Humphries: This is the closest thing I’ve done to Jonesy since Jonesy. [Laughs] It’s like a blend of Jonesey and my Green Lanterns run.
Paste: Joe, I don’t think I’m alone in having discovered your work thanks to DC’s Wednesday Comics years ago. You spent a long time at Marvel before Dial H—how does it feel to be back drawing DC’s stable of characters? Are there fundamental differences in how you approach the two universes?
Quinones: Not necessarily, no, though every book I work on I try to approach with fresh eyes. That said, it’s so great to be back playing in the DC Universe. The first comic I ever read was a DC one, so their stable of characters forever hold a special place in my heart. Not only that, but my first professional comics work was at DC as well. Though I’ve done intermittent work with shorts, covers and a graphic novel, it’s great to back.
Paste: I don’t want to spoil the surprise for readers, but there’s a scene in the first issue that calls for a major stylistic departure for Joe. Is that going to be a recurring gag throughout the series? And if so, can you tease any other famous (or infamous) creators and eras who might get the tribute treatment in future issues?
Humphries: Oh, it’s way more than a gag, is a brand-new comic book reading experience. [Laughs] Whenever a character on the page is transformed by the H-Dial, the comic itself is transformed too. You see that in the first issue, when Miguel transforms into Monster Truck, Joe’s art style is transformed. Jordan Gibson’s coloring is transformed. Dave Sharpe’s lettering is transformed. The narration is transformed, the storytelling is transformed. The reader is going to get to feel the power of the H-Dial themselves, they’re going to get to directly experience the magic of that device. In issue #1, we see one style of transformation. In issue #2 we’ll have multiple styles. In issue #3, even more styles. Every issue we’re upping the ante. We’re combining and remixing and colliding comics in a way we don’t think we’ve ever seen before.
Quinones: What Sam said! It’s a new storytelling mechanic we both got really excited about employing early on. I love the idea of this comic being a love letter to the sheer breadth of styles comics can offer, both in terms of storytelling and artistry. Each hero transformation brings the reader into a new headspace, echoing the new reality that any H-Dial user finds themselves in.
Paste: The Hero Dial has been at the center of some wildly different series—the zany original, an early-oughts version with a serial killer plot and the Vertigo-esque China Miéville run from a few years ago. What sets Miguel’s story apart from the Dial H series we’ve seen before? And what does Miguel himself bring to the DCU that we haven’t seen from other characters yet?
Humphries: Miguel is a character who yearns for escape and transformation. He’s trapped in a terrible family situation and in a small town in the middle of nowhere. Then the H-Dial comes along and transforms his life. He teams up with a character named Summer, who approaches life in a very different way—she’s also looking for escape and transformation. The H-Dial is like—it’s like when you were growing up if the coolest kid in the neighborhood was driving around in a hot rod. And you’re sitting on the front lawn thinking, If only I could drive that hot rod for an hour. But in this comic, the cool kid is Superman, and the hot rod is superpowers. It blows the world wide open, and they embark on a road trip across America.
Paste: This first issue features brief cameos from an eclectic bunch of DC Comics familiar faces. Will Miguel find himself interacting with the wider DCU right away, or is he carving out his own weird little corner first? And will this iteration of the Hero Dial occasionally call up existing characters, or solely new creations like Monster Truck?
Humphries: In Wonder Comics, we get to the best of both worlds. We get to approach superhero comic books with a new point of view, and we get to be firmly ensconced in the DC Universe. You’ve seen this already in Young Justice, Naomi, Wonder Twins…each book brings something special to the table, and they’re all in continuity. That page you’re talking about in issue #1 shows a group of DC characters and we reveal them to all have used the H-Dial in the past. These are all unknown stories that we’re teasing. It’s very exciting. I mean what happened to Lobo when he used the H-Dial?? I wanna see that!
Paste: One last two-part question: do you have any final teases for Dial H readers? And when was the last time either of you saw or touched a rotary telephone?
Humphries: Every issue has at least—AT LEAST—one brand-new superhero. And every issue is going to be a reading experience you can’t find anywhere else. I think the last time I touched a rotary telephone was at a yard sale in Palm Springs. They wanted $100 for it. They’re collectibles, now.
Quinones: Lovers of comics are in for a lot of fun. It’ll be a challenge to piece together the influences that form each hero.
As for rotary phones, I actually have two friends who each own one. They aren’t functional in the slightest of course. They have them as collectibles that they keep on shelves. I DO remember the last working one I’d seen/used: a Mickey Mouse rotary my grandma owned in 1992. If Sam and I have accomplished anything here, we’ve made a rotary phone functional again in 2019.