Thanks for checking back in. This week it’s time for a new RETRO REVIEW, featuring a Marvel Comics book. Drum roll please … From 1979, it’s Rom # 1, or if you prefer, Rom Spaceknight # 1, cover dated December 1979. Before I get to the actual comic itself, maybe I should share a little backstory about Rom.
Rom was a toy designed by three gentlemen by the names of; Scott Dankman, Richard C. Levy and Bryan L. McCoy. They then sold the idea and plans to Parker Brothers, the game company, if you’re keeping track of all this. Parker Brothers had never before produced a toyline, but thought this was their entry into that business, as they wanted to expand from just producing games. Originally the toy was named Cobol, after the computer language, but Parker Brothers renamed the toy, Rom (after read only memory, another computer term). The toy itself was to be electronic, but this just meant it had light up eyes. The eyes were suppose to light up green, but that proved to be to costly, so they went with red. Actually one of the toys downfall was that Parker Brothers opted for a cheaper toy than originally envisioned. This included very limited articulation, which hurt the toys sales and ultimately spelled it’s doom. Parker Brothers then licensed it to Marvel, to produce a tie-in comic book.
But back to the comic. The comic outlasted the toy itself, as it was published by Marvel for seventy-five (75) issues beginning with the first issue, cover dated, December 1979, to issue number seventy-five, cover dated, February 1986. Not a bad run actually. But I will admit to not sticking around for the whole run. In fact, I bailed after issue number twelve (12) which featured a cross-over by the Jack of Hearts, another character that has had limited success at Marvel.
The thing most people will be surprised at, is that the cover is drawn by Frank Miller, with the inks provided by Joe Rubinstein. Yep, that Frank Miller, of Daredevil and Sin City fame.
The story in the first issue is entitled; “Arrival” and it was written by Bill Mantlo with both the pencils and inks by Sal Buscema. The story opens with the splash page showing Rom crashing to Earth and safely emerging from the blazing inferno of the crash. He immediately is almost struck by a car, driven by Brandy Clark. He prevents her from crashing. Utilizing his energy analyzer, he determines Brandy is a woman of the race called Homo Sapiens. He then rockets away.
The scene shifts to Clairton, West Virginia, where Rom has arrived, he quickly seeks out two people and using his neutralizer, kills them. The remaining people run screaming from Rom. It’s at this moment that Brandy once again enters the picture. Rom recognizes her and takes her to the outskirts of Clairton. Meanwhile the officials of Clairton call in the National Guard for assistance in battling this “killer robot”!
Once alone with Brandy, Rom uses yet another devise, his translator, to communicate with her. He explains that those two people he “neutralized, were not humans, but were space shifting, Dire Wraiths. Then Mantlo has Rom explain his origins to Brandy on the next four and a half pages pages. He comes from the planet, Galador, where he and others were transformed into cyborgs to fight the Dire Wraiths. After a great victory, Rom says that their “mission isn’t over until the last of the Dire Wraiths have been hunted to the very ends of the galaxy and cast into limbo.” So he’s now tracked some of the Dire Wraiths to Earth. He further explains that his neutralizer doesn’t kill the Dire Wraiths, but casts them into a phantom dimension of limbo.
As he finishes his origin story, the National Guard attack Rom and for the next four pages Rom battles and defeats the Guardsmen. At this moment, Rom once again turns his neutralizer on three of the leaders of the townspeople after they have grabbed Brandy. It turns out that these three were disguised Dire Wraiths. But the first issue ends with one other Dire Wraith escaping and contacting other Dire Wraiths on Earth, warning them that Rom has arrived and is hunting them.
The first issue was actually pretty good. Well written by Mantlo and with decent art by John Buscema‘s little brother, Sal. Mantlo provided Rom’s origin during the flashback sequence and explains why Rom has come to Earth. And the ending leaves you wanting more. Not a bad beginning at all for a toy tie-in comic. Hey it’s no Spider-Man, but well worth owning.
Before I leave, here are a couple of pictures of the toy itself. Did anyone out there own one?
And the toy, with the front of the box, as well:
You would think that Rom would pretty well be forgotten today, but you’d be wrong. Semi-recently, Mighty Muggs came out with their version of Rom Spaceknight. I’m not sure, but this might have been a 2014 San Diego Comic Con exclusive. Take a look:
Anyway, that’s all for this RETRO REVIEW. But please come back next week for new Fabulous Find. Till then, hope you all enjoy the Spring weather and I’ll see ya back next week.