RETRO REVIEW: Rom # 1

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.

Rom # 1 Dec. 1979

Rom # 1 Dec. 1979

 

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?

The Rom toy

The Rom toy

And the toy, with the front of the box, as well:

The Rom Toy with box front

The Rom Toy with box front

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:

Rom Spaceknight from Mighty Muggs

Rom Spaceknight from Mighty Muggs

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.

 

 

About Greg Turner

Greg Turner (@gregturner16) is Back to the Past’s archivist and an auctioneer. He writes the columns “Fabulous Finds” and “Retro Reviews” on alternating weeks for the website and spins classic 45′s each week for Vinyl Tuesdays.

Comments

  1. Dwayne Roszkowski says:

    If I am not mistaken, ROM was the comic that had Rogue switch from an evil mutant to a good mutant. The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants came across Rom and battled him. During the battle Rogue had a life-changing encounter with a Dire Wraith and did a 180 to pursue justice instead of destruction.

    Also, I still have my ROM, in a box, and it still works. I HAD 2, but sold one to Andy a loooooong time ago (1993 ?).

  2. I did not know that, sir! So thanks for sharing that fact about Rogue! Also very, very cool that you still own a working Rom. I’m jealous!

  3. Dwayne Roszkowski says:

    Issues #31 and #32 – here is the description from another site (sadly, I no longer own the entire comics series – I sold them to Classic Movie and Comic Center back in 1989) –

    This is, in fact, Rogue’s second appearance. Sort of. I say sort of because this story came out the same month as Uncanny X-Men #158 and seems to take place at the same time and roughly the same place; one story is at the Pentagon and the other is at a prison that is also set in Virginia. If you read them both, it’s kind of hard to reconcile the stories as they seem to be mutually exclusive, so we’re going to use this bit of logic to solve the question: we’re going to ignore it. Who cares!

    What’s interesting is that this story is extremely important to the development of Rogue. After Rogue and Mystique break the rest of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants out of jail, they run straight into Rom, who proceeds to pummel them hardcore. He quickly whacks Avalanche, Pyro and Blob, so the female members of the team come up with a new plan: run like hell. Unfortunately they run right into the lair of the disgusting mutant wraith known as Hybrid.

    Hybrid and Mystique, though, soon realize they both hate the X-Men and Rom, so they agree to team up and Mystique and Rogue set a trap for Rom. This essentially has no effect, because Rom is pretty badass, but it does lead to a key exchange between Rom and Rogue. During Rogue’s attack, Rom questions her motives:

    Rom: “Why do you do this, child? Unlike Mystique, I sense no evil in you.”

    Rogue then kisses Rom in an attempt to steal the power from his human side. However, this fails completely because the only part of Rom that is human is his soul. Instead of draining his power, then, she ends up connecting directly to his soul, leaving both stunned and suddenly giving Rogue a new outlook on things, as shown by these captions:

    “What is there Rogue can say? She attempted to absorb Rom’s power, only to discover that that portion of humanity grafted to the cold spaceknight armor possessed no power… but only a kind of decency which Rogue, in her young life, has never known.

    “She finds that she likes it.”

    At this point, Hybrid reappears and starts crushing Rom big time. Mystique decides this is a good time to run away, especially considering Destiny has realized that Hybrid’s plan is to enslave mutant women and use them as breeding slaves for his own pleasure (um… yeah). Rogue, however, refuses to abandon Rom and, ignoring Mystique’s commands, she jumps into the fight to help save Rom.

    In the end, just as Hybrid is about to overpower and slay Rom, Rogue grabs Hybrid and drains some of his power at great cost to herself since he’s a disgusting alien sex convict. Rom is able to destroy Hybrid once again thanks to Rogue’s help. The Brotherhood then leaves, with both Rom and Rogue wondering if they will ever meet again, each secretly hoping they will, for they have sensed in each other a kindred spirit.

    It’s interesting that this takes place at the same time as X-Men #158, where Rogue is still hardcore, trying to kill Carol Danvers again and thrashing the X-Men. My assumption is that Mantlo was aware of Claremont’s long term plans for Rogue and this influenced his depiction of her, but I’m not sure. Whatever was going on behind the scenes, though, this encounter seems to be a major turning point for Rogue as she begins to question Mystique and instead embrace her heroic side.

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