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Monday, September 7, 2020

Hey!! Kids Comics: ROM Spaceknight 1 (1979)

ROM, Vol. 1, No. 1


Cover date: December 1979

Cover artists: Frank Miller & Joe Rubinstein

"Arrival!"

Writer: Bill Mantlo
Penciller: Sal Buscema
Inker: Sal Buscema
Colorist: Bob Sharen
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Editor: Jo Duffy
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot: The brave Spaceknights of Galador defeated the evil sorcery and super-science of the Dire Wraiths, scattering them to the furthest reaches of the galaxy. For over two centuries, ROM, the greatest of these Spaceknights, has pursued the Dire Wraiths across the cosmos. Now this eternal struggle has spilled over to Earth as ROM has arrived in Clairton, a small West Virginia town.


Our story begins with ROM crashing to Earth, where he safely emerges from a blazing inferno. Nearly struck by a car, driven by Brandy Clark, ROM keeps the car from crashing. Later ROM uses his energy analyzer to determine Brandy is a female of a race known as Homo Sapiens, then he immediately rockets away.

Going into the town of Clairton, West Virginia, ROM uses his neutralizer to apparently kill two of the townsfolk, frightening the others, who flee in terror. Brandy arrives in town at this moment, horrified at what she has just witnessed! However, she wonders why ROM would murder her neighbors but leave her unharmed. ROM, recognizing her, grabs her and takes off. Meanwhile the National Guard is called out to help stop the "killer robot!"

Reaching a quiet place outside town, ROM uses his translator to speak with Brandy. Those two people weren't humans at all and he didn't kill them, they were banished to limbo. He then tells her the Legend of the Spaceknights of Galador. Of how he had surrendered his humanity to become a cyborg Spaceknight in order to defend Galador from the evil of the Dire Wraiths. While initially successful in the defeat of the Dire Wraiths, the Wraiths scattered all throughout the cosmos. ROM continued to pursue and fight them for over 200 years, tracking them now to Earth.

A number of the townsfolk (disguised Dire Wraiths) have led the National Guard to ROM and a battle erupts. The National Guard is no match for ROM, however one of the soldiers is a Dire Wraith who produces an alien weapon and fires on ROM, wounding him. But before he can complete his task, Rom neutralizes him. Brandy then attempts to retrieve the alien gun, but the townspeople grab her and attempt to fire on ROM!

But Brandy is able to shout a warning in time for ROM to dispatch them as well! His job now done, ROM jets off, leaving Brandy standing amongst the smoldering remains of the Dire Wraiths.

The story concludes by showing that one of the Dire Wraiths, an evil looking woman has managed to survive. After radioing a warning to the other Dire Wraiths on Earth that ROM will be after them next, she morphs into a bird and flies away.

What a great introduction to this character! The uncredited cover was done by none other than Frank Miller himself! The interior art is by Sal Buscema and the story is by Bill Mantlo with a bit of plot help from the great Jim Shooter.

ROM would go on to be fully integrated into the Marvel Universe, crossing paths with many of its main characters over the intervening years becomeping a fairly popular character with pretty solid comic sales.

However, what many fans may have failed to realize is that ROM was a licensed character from a failed toyline by Parker Brothers! Yes ROM was a toy, in fact it was actually one of the very first electronic toys ever produced. The inside back cover of this issue even features a pretty neat ad for the ROM toy. I actually have a ROM figure and plan to do a future adventure showing it off in greater detail, but for now lets briefly discuss the history of toy:


ROM actually began life as a toy, designed by Bing McCoy, which he originally called COBOL (after the computer language). McCoy sold his idea to Parker Brothers, a company which up until this point, only manufactured board games. Now they wanted to expand into other toys beginning with McCoy's design. Parker Brothers' executives decided to rename the toy, ROM (after read only memory, another computer term) before production began.

Being a new venture for the company, and with electronic toys still very new, the decision was made to produce the figure as cheaply as possible! Featuring severly limited articulation and red LED for eyes instead of the originally envisioned green (which were more expensive to produce), reduced the playability of the toy. The novelty of the electronic features just wouldn't be enough to make up for all those cost cutting measures or save it from an early demise. The resulting poor sales caused Parker Brothers' to immediately cancel production of the toy, abandoning the project, returning to manufacturing just board games.

However at the beginning, Parker Brothers licensed ROM to Marvel Comics in order to have a tie-in comic to help drum up sales for the new toy. Ironically, the comic would prove to be much more successful than the toy itself, continuing on with an impressive 7 year run of 75 issues. The last issue was published in 1986, long after the toyline had been cancelled and forgotten! Proving that ROM wasn't a bad idea at all, just poorly designed. It didn't help that the ROM figure never actually looked as cool as he did in the comics either!

Here is the whole comic for you to download and read as a CBR file, just follow the link on the left.

CBR files hold comic book pages as images in a compressed archive format enabling them to be viewed, sequentially, from within a comic book reader program or app such as CDisplayEx.


What are your thoughts on today's adventure with ROM Spaceknight? Did you ever own a ROM toy? Did you collect the comics? Tell us all about it in the comments below.

2 comments:

  1. I remember when the toy came out. Can't believe the comic ran for 75 issues. Impressive. Most impressive.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stay tooned, the next adventure will feature the toy action figure!

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