Dial F…for finale! On February 27, DC’s Dial H For Hero’s conclusion officially hits comic book stands. In this last story,the fate of the multiverse hangs in the balance as Miguel must face his biggest enemy yet…himself. It’s an issue that will explore the very definition of heroism not just in the DC Universe, but the comic book medium as a whole.
(No pressure, right Sam Humphries and Joe Quinones?)
How will our heroes, Summer and Miguel, save the multiverse and will they survive the experience? All questions will be answered in this issue, and ahead of that, Newsarama had the chance to talk to Humphries about Dial H for Hero #12. We discuss what fans can expect from the series’ finale, how Summer became a co-lead, and take a deep dive into the creative process behind exploring the many comic styles displayed in the series.
Newsarama: Sam, Summer and Miguel had a confrontation about what it means to be a hero in Dial H For Hero #11. What can we expect from their dynamic with your finale?
Sam Humphries: When we first initially started planning this book, it was Miguel's book, right? He was going to be the main character, and then just in the process of the planning we were like, well, he should have a friend, even just from a craft perspective - just somebody to talk to when we needed Miguel to articulate something, even just for the reader to understand what's going on.
We created Summer as a supporting cast member, but the more that we developed this book, even before we started working on the first issue, we realized that Summer was so strong and her presence. She brought so much to this book that elevating her character made the book even better. It was probably midway through the first arc where we realized that it really is a book with two main characters. That this is not just Miguel’s book. It’s Miguel and Summer's book.
That's something that we ended up retooling from the direction we were going in, some scenes that we had imagined from the very beginning we retooled those so it had both Miguel and Summer on equal footing together. A lot of those scenes are in #12 and I think once people read those scenes there will be no doubt in their minds, or hopefully, they’ll just feel it on some level that both Summer and Miguel are the main characters of this iteration of Dial H For Hero.
Nrama: Originally Dial H For Hero was a six-issue series, how did you have to change your approach to the series when the title was expanded to 12 issues?
Humphries: Oh, it really fucked us up. [Laughs[ It really did. I mean it's fantastic news. We got that email from our editors, and they're like, "Oh my God, congratulations. You've been renewed. You're doing 12 issues now." And that was such a thrill because that never happens, right? That never happens in comics. I can't think of the last time that it’s really happened on this level. So, that was just so gratifying.
And then I was excited. It meant that we're all going to get to work together again for six more issues. We’re going to be able to keep the party going. When we knew we had six issues, we really put everything into six issues because we were like we may never get to do these characters again. We may never be able to do this formulation of Dial H For Hero again. So, we got to do it all. I think that made for a really great six issues. But we got renewed pretty late in the game. There's definitely that sense of panic of like, "How can we top that? What are we going to do?"
There were some things that we were only really going to be able to hint at in the first six issues, and one of those things was the fact that the multiverse is in the H-dial. So, that was one of those reveals that we were able to hint in the first six issues, and I go, "Oh my God, we can really expand on this in the next six issues." Also, the backstory of Robbie Reed - how did Robbie Reed go from being the gee wiz kid from Colorado to being not just one, but two, of the most powerful people in the DC universe? So, we were able to do that.
Then we really wanted to show what the experience of using the H-Dial was like for quote, unquote normal citizens, people who weren’t the subject of a book, and we got to do that beautifully with issue seven with our guest artist, who really just did an amazing job. It was a double edged sword. It really forced us to make the first six issues as amazing as possible, and then it really allowed us to take what we did and elaborate on it.
Nrama: On that note, what made you want to explore the multiverse and other H-Dials?
Humphries: We had a lot of conversations very early on, especially with our initial editor, Andy Corey and Mark Doyle, about what is the H-dial and where does it come from. That's the one thing that has never really been solidly addressed in any of the many iterations of Dial H For Hero. We knew what we didn't want it to be. We were like, well, we don't want this to be like part of the family of Green Lantern rings and yellow rings. We didn’t want it to come from specifically - let’s say Thanagar. We wanted it to be something that could be all encompassing. We want to be something that people of Thanagar can be in awe just like people from earth are in awe of it.
The nondenominational might be a great way to put it. Right? So, we started thinking really big. Two things happened: one, maybe it's better to not show, at least for now, who created the H-Dial, whose hands created the H-Dial. I had some ideas and there was one idea in particular that in my book, that's who made it, I'm not going to say who it is because I think this iteration of Dial H For Hero is stronger not going into that. But it also just made us think about the nature of heroes and what does it mean to become a hero, whether or not you use a H-Dial or your parents are killed an alleyway and you become a hero. What's the difference between those two methods? What's the same between those two methods? What are the moments that really count?
That got us thinking really big and embracing the underlying structure, the unknowing power that the H-Dial is just the underlying power of heroism, which is bigger than one country, one planet, or one reality within the multiverse. So, once you go there, then you start looking at the map of the multiverse, and then it hit me like a fucking ton of bricks, the multiverse is already shaped like the H-Dial. And once I saw that, I literally just took like a stupid little paint program on my computer and drew the circle, the letter, the numbers and sent it to Joe. He was like that’s it, that’s what we got to do.
Nrama: What can you tell us about the last issue of your run?
Humphries: I hope the one thing that people will say about our last issue is that it sticks the landing. We've done a lot of weird, crazy stuff. I think in my opinion, Joe, Jordan Gibson, and Dave Sharpe have never done better work. Like nobody slacked off at the very end, everybody had their A-plus, plus, plus game all the way through. So that last final page is one of my favorite pages we've all done together in the series.
Nrama: What do you think fans will enjoy the most about it?
Humphries: Right at the climax of issue #12, which of course is the climax of the whole series, there's a double page spread that is something that I've never seen done before in comics, and it has a lot of great DC Universe history and Easter eggs but it's not just for the sake of Easter eggs. It's a prism almost through which we can connect with the emotional breakthrough, the emotional realization that Summer and Miguel are having on the page.
That’s something abstractly we knew we wanted to do for a long time. Like I had a very amorphous idea of this in my head and Joe and I had talked about it and we knew what we wanted to achieve and we knew what we wanted to feel. But I didn't know quite how we were going to pull it off on a page. And once I did, it just hit me like a ton of bricks and I got so excited I could not text Joe fast enough. "You want to do this? You think you can do this?" I'm just like crossing my fingers that he says yes because you know, across the board, I have a lot of crazy stuff but if Joe didn't want to do it or if he didn't feel like he could be at his best at doing it then it wouldn't go. He has full veto power over anything we're trying to do on the page, but he was immediately so excited and so into it.
It was really those moments where both Joe and I got that like – we were bouncing up and down in our chairs on opposite sides of the country. Like, when we had moments like that together, that's when I knew that we were really on to something.
Nrama: One thing I absolutely love about this book is how you truly dive into the medium. You went into so many different styles: manga, 90’s comics, etc. How did you and Joe figure out this diverse palette?
Humphries: Yeah, well we said this before elsewhere is that Joe and I have been friends for a few years and Dial H for Hero is kind of like a fancy, elaborate version of a conversation that Joe and I have had forever. It’s Joe and I sitting there going like, "You remember when Tezuka did this in Astro Boy?", "Oh yeah, that was cool." Then just repeat for whatever comic were on our minds. That was basically the foundation for doing this book.
We knew we wanted to celebrate DC Comics and superhero comics, but we knew we wanted to celebrate everything that comics have then, are, and could be. We knew we wanted to cast as wide of a net as possible, not just in terms of different regions of the earth and different comic traditions around the world, but also different styles, genres, and approaches to the page.
We had a lot of crazy ideas that some of them were just physically unfeasible. We would have loved to have a comic transform from like a normal DC Comics format into like a French graphic album format, like in the middle of the book, but that is totally physically impossible. Really what we did was we had a Google Doc where we would throw down all sorts of artists that we loved, books that we loved, traditions that we loved, style that we wanted to just embrace/highlight, and comics that we thought were important and we wanted to celebrate them with our, I guess you’d call a pantheon, that we're building with Dial H For Hero.
But it's far from complete in our eyes because there's so many artists that we loved, styles that we loved, and traditions that we loved that just never made it into the book because like I said, Joe had the final veto. If he didn't want to do it, wasn't interested, or think he couldn’t do it well than we weren't going to do it.
The final hurdle for any of these to make in the book was did it make sense emotionally for what would happen in the book. So, something like Captain Underpants, we thought was something worth including, but it had to make sense in the emotional context of the book. It couldn't be gratuitous. So, we used Captain Underpants to highlight a moment where Miguel felt talked down to, felt like he was maybe being treated as the baby of the group, felt like he needed power outside of himself to be a quote unquote grownup.
Likewise, there’s just so many like - Raina Telgemeier, she was one that we were just burning to include and never found the right place in our story for that. Tons of Japanese and Euro artists, tons of South American artists, tons of webcomic artists and we just had a long, long list of artists. Back before the invention of the modern comic, The Yellow Kid, is one that we wanted to include, but just never quite found that right moment. We packed a lot in there and we're so proud of it, but there’s also a part where it’s like damn I wish we could have gotten the Yellow Kid in there.
Nrama: What was your favorite part about working with Summer, Miguel, and the rest of the characters in Dial H for Hero?
Humphries: My favorite part was the collaboration, getting a chance to work so closely with my friends: Joe Quinones, Jordan Gibson and David Sharpe. I've known Joe and Jordan for a long time, and it was amazing to have the whole crew together.
Dave and I have been working for a long time. He did some work on my Green Lanterns run, and we really started clicking on Harley Quinn. When Andrea Shea recommended him for Dial H For Hero I knew he was the guy to pull this off. He was the letterer who had so many styles to explore, and then our many editors over the course of these 12 issues like Mark Doyle and Andy Corey at the beginning - their insight really took us in a strong direction and it was their willingness. I said the characters are going to change and the whole comic book is going to change. They didn’t push back at all. They said you have to do this, you have to do that.
Alex Antone and Andrea Shea really kept us honest, kept this book and Miguel and Summer's emotions really grounded. They very gently, but firmly stopped us from going off in crazy directions that wouldn't resonate emotionally.
And then Brittney Holzherr had the unenviable task to jumping onto a crazy book that was so far out of the norm with only two issues to go, but she just embraced this book so fully and wholeheartedly and really landed this thing, and kept the book so strong where at the end of a run like this it’s common and understandable for everybody to kind of fall apart, but she kept us so strong and was such a firm believer from the start. When you have such a talented and smart like that who comes in and is still I get this, I get this, keep going it really gives you so much confidence.
Then, of course, being able to do this in conjunction with the mom and dad of Wonder Comics, which are Alisa Bendis and Brian Michael Bendis. Their confidence and their belief in us from the start, their encouragement really meant everything to us. We went into some pretty far, flung directions, and all it took was a nod from them, from our editors, for that confidence to keep going, to let us know what we were doing was right for the book, and worthy for exploration. So, my favorite part has to be the people, collaborating with the whole team top to bottom. Everybody brought so much to this book. I'll miss working with the whole crew.