Spoilers ahead for this week's Dial H for Hero #12.
In this week's finale to Sam Humphries and Joe Quinones' Dial H for Hero, Summer and Miguel dial H for hope as they learn that it’s not super powers that make the hero, but it’s the hope that they endure to go up against their obstacles that help them save not just their world, but the whole multiverse.
I’m sure you have many questions following the series’ last issue, so Newsarama reached out to Humphries to talk about key moments from the finale, the importance of Summer and Miguel’s friendship, the title’s connection to Superman, and how the series’ themes connect to the larger DC Universe. But before we could ask any of that, he had a question for us.
Sam Humphries: Kat, what did you think of the issue? Do you think we stuck the landing?
Newsarama: 100%!The idea of hope, it just resonated so much. You may have started out with Miguel as your lead, but in the end this was truly Summer and Miguel’s book. It was beautiful.
Humphries: We realized early on the underlying power of the H-Dial is something that intentionally or not is baked into those core concepts of the DC universe - the beating hearts for the DC universe are hope and legacy - those things are, they're already there. We didn't have to reformulate anything about Dial H for Hero to tap into that stuff, and once I realized that it was already sitting in front of our faces, it was like, how can we not lean into that? How can we not cement Dial H for Hero as wacky as it is? It’s as true of a DC Comics concept as Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman. So, we just wanted to fully lean into that.
Nrama: It’s so interesting because your core theme is "What makes a hero?" "What does power do to you in that regard?" You really showed that beautifully because Summer and Miguel are just normal people, readers can fully relate to these kids. It was so great to see that, and that’s why I hope we get to see more of Summer and Miguel in the future.
Humphries: They're in Young Justice right now and we've seen them in some art. I haven't read it, so I can't exactly confirm, but you see Miguel in some art for I think Superman Heroes #1 - that big double-page spread where all the members of the Justice League are there around Superman.
There was a Kevin MaGuire piece where Miguel is there too, and most of these pieces are just like a who's who heavy hitters in the DC Universe, not just who's the most powerful but who epitomizes what the DC universe is today and what it's going to be tomorrow. We're just so proud that Miguel and Summer are part of that.
Nrama: Sam, one of the most beautiful aspects of Dial H For Hero is Summer Miguel's friendship. It would have been super easy to just put them into a romantic relationship. What made you want to make the book about their friendship?
Humphries: I’m tired of stories where we put a male and a female together that they're either automatically going to have sexual tension or romantic tension there. It’s unrealistic, at least in my life or what I see amongst my friends and my family and the people around me it’s just not accurate. Does it happen sometimes? Of course, it happens sometimes. I mean, love is in the air, but does it happen every time? Absolutely not. And I think that those friendships between men and women are A) incredibly valid, B) incredibly enriching in both people's lives. I would never be the same if it wasn't for the amazing, supportive, incredible women friends I’ve had and have in my life.
I think those are underrepresented in media, and I think it does give people an unrealistic views of relationships between men and women in the world. Not only did I want to celebrate that, but I just in general want people who may not know out there to just to be like, yeah, this can happen and does happen and it's fucking wonderful. It makes life better. I don't believe in that When Harry Met Sally bullshit, men and women can never be friends. So, that was always from day one that there was never going to be any romantic tension between them, and we just knew it was going to be a better book for it.
Nrama: I agree, it’s such a breath of fresh air. Another thing I really loved seeing was your reveal that Miguel is queer. Did you always know this about the character or was this something you learned along the way?
Humphries: Something that we learned along the way but also pretty early on. it's something that I don't think we've thought about it a whole lot until it was almost a question that Miguel was asking me.
In the process of writing Miguel or just as I will do often with many books or with many characters, I'll just do free writing from their point of view just to try and ground myself in their emotions and their internal life. It just popped right up and it was something that I already felt right from the beginning and it's something that we knew early on and I realized that it's something that I wanted to be able to bring up in a way that felt very natural and honest for the character.
I talked it over with Joe and Joe is like immediately on board. And I also didn't want to put like too much definition in it. He’s definitely not straight, definitely queer. Is he gay or is he bisexual? I think he's still just figuring it out. So, I wanted it to be something that came up when it was relevant.
I also just wanted to show, that these are teens. I just wanted to show some teens flirting because they saw another cute teen. Because that's what I remember a lot from my teenage years. Not that I was good at flirting, I was f***ing horrible at it. But that's something that I wanted to show as part of these two teenager lives.
Nrama: Why did you decide to bring Summer and Miguel back to Metropolis instead of their hometown? Do you think they’ll ever go back?
Humphries: I don't know. That’s a great question. Maybe it's because, I also left my hometown. I did it under much less dramatic circumstances than Summer and Miguel, and I don't hate my hometown as much as they did or I don't think I felt quite as trapped as they did when I left.
I left when I graduated high school as is natural for many people. So, having left Minnesota and ending up in Los Angeles, I guess I felt that it was an authentic heavy ending, and I really do believe in these two characters. I really do believe that these two characters are strong enough to go anywhere they want in the world and get everything they want out of their lives.
This wasn't a happy ending for the sake of a happy ending. I really do believe that because of who they are and because of how strong they are internally and because of the strength of their friendship that they will live happily ever after.
Nrama: When I originally read Dial H For Hero #1 there are two words that completely grabbed me - “Dear Superman” and how you use it as a framing device to showcase Miguel’s feelings towards the hero. This comes full circle at the end of Dial H For Hero #12. Why was it important to you to make this story about Miguel’s connection to Superman?
Humphries: Great question, I think on one level it's just that Joe and I and the whole team, probably, we love Superman. We weren't looking for a way to make this a backdoor Superman book, but we were looking to be able to connect this concept of wanting to be a hero or this concept of being brave enough to throw yourself at the mercy of the H-Dial over and over again and connect to what we as real life people have learned about courage, hope, and heroism from the concept of Superman. But being able to place that in this fictional world of DC Comics.
In the real world, we feel inspired by Superman, like a lot, like most of us. Probably you too. But what would it be like if Superman was real? What if you knew somebody, who knew somebody, who knew somebody who was saved by Superman or what if you just saw footage of Superman saving somebody from a burning building on Twitter? That’s so real, so immediate and something that we felt that we can authentically connect to. And it didn't hurt that Brian Michael Bendis is writing the Superman books because it was really easy to get the okay from him to put Superman this book.
Nrama: In your finale you reveal that hope has been the theme of this book all along. Did you want to make a larger commentary about DC’s connection to hope?
Humphries: Yeah, I'm just echoing what so many amazing creators have said before, which is that hope is at the center of DC Comics. Mark Waid, well hell, in Superman Birthright he made it the Kryptonian translation of the shield – the "S" stands for hope. It's such an iconic line because it's such an iconic concept and something that makes it so powerful and so strong is that it’s something that we can all relate to. What makes Superman powerful? Is it the strength? Is it the flying? Is it the ice breath? Is it any of that stuff? Yes, that gives him powers but does it make him powerful? No. What makes him powerful is sitting right there on his chest. It's been sitting there the whole time. Hope is what makes Superman powerful and hope can make any of us powerful. Hope can make all of us powerful.
Something that we establish early on was this moment where Superman tells Miguel I'm sorry I couldn't save your parents. I'm just one man. I can't be everywhere. I need your help. I need everybody’s help, but Superman doesn't need us all to have powers to help. He just needs us to have hope. And I think that rings true in the real world as well. We see people every day, or at least I hope that we do, to make a difference who envision a better world, they lead with their hearts, and they go out and they try to make the world a better place. These people, they're not Superman, but they have hope and something that all of us can have if we work at it. Hope it isn't given and we're not necessarily born with hope. Hope is like a muscle and something that you have to work out. But the more you work it the stronger it gets and the more you share it with other people, the stronger your hope gets and the more powerful you become.
Nrama: Here’s a tougher question to wrap us up, a big point of “Rebirth” was to deliver that same hope to the line. Do you believe hope has been fully restored after “Rebirth” or does the company have ways to go?
Humphries: I believe that "Rebirth" was incredibly successful. I was there in the early discussions, I was on Green Lanterns, one of the "Rebirth" launch book.
But you know what I would say, and I don't know this necessarily reflects any views within DC. I don't know that necessarily even reflects the line either, but hope is a concept that you can aluminate in many different ways. You can have a really bright, shining, and optimistic superhero book that can communicate hope to its readers. You can also have a really grim street level, say crime oriented book, that can have a lot of blood and dark moments, and that, as well, can communicate hope to its readers.
Hope is multifaceted. It’s what makes it such an enduring theme in the DC Universe because you can come at it from so many different ways. And it can be the core of a superhero story, a crime story, a sci-fi story, or a fantasy story, or anything. It’s something that's so relatable, it's relatable to everybody. And that's, I think, why we go back to that well so often and why it's become such a foundation of this incredible long fictional tapestry built over 85 years.