Omni Exclusive: China Miéville on Dial H and the Superhero B-List

A winner of the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, British Fantasy, and Arthur C. Clarke awards (to name a few), China Miéville specializes in the fantastical and the weird. His literary approach to genre themes earned him a legion of fans (most recently with his novel Railsea in 2012), but Miéville remains a fan as well--of comics. The personal and professional interests collided in the best of ways during DC’s New 52 initiative, when the publisher announced a new Dial H series with Miéville at the helm with artist Mateus Santolouco. In the following exclusive essay, Miéville reveals his long history with the series and how that history led to a fresh, successful start for the book while remaining true to its core weirdness.

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I wasn't very good at canon. Oh, I got better as I got older, but as a kid, I pieced together my comics knowledge like a mudlark, scobbing together whatever titles I could find in local shops and libraries – new copies, second-hand ones, beaten-up and ripped-to-shreds remnants - without any understanding of publisher or continuity. I’d cross-fertilize them with the various exciting bits and pieces I'd picked up, all the rumours and half-truths regarding superheroes.

This led to an idiosyncratic version of the DCU. Once, many years ago, as a very young child, I was delighted to discover a pile of comics in an attic. They featured a blond, orange-shirted superhero who could speak to fish. “Ah,” I thought, settling down to read. “This must be this ‘Superman’ of whom I've heard so much.” I was intrigued that so many of his adventures were maritime.

As the years passed, I got a bit more systematic, but I never lost the excitement at the sheer chaotic variety of costumes, monikers and powers I might find fighting for justice, every time I opened a comic. It was always a surprise. This addiction to the proliferation of the superheroic is something many of us never grow out of.

In fact, inventing superheroes is one of the basic games of childhood. Tie a towel around your neck and come up with a powerset, all the abilities you think you’ll need. Justify that hot mess as coherent by some ingenious, tendentious argument. Finally, give your wonder a name. (Electrical blast and tiger stripes? Electrotiger!) This is what we do. Like countless kids around the world, I was a martyr to superherogenesis.


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