This is one of the most unique publication stories in the history of comic books.
Rom the Spaceknight was originally a toy action figure from Parker Brothers. As is typical for many toylines, Parker Brothers went to Marvel Comics to produce a comic book series to help promote the toy. The toy Rom sold miserably and was off shelves in a fairly brief amount of time.
The comic book Rom lasted eight years in publication.
What accounts for this? I mean, Rom had one hell of a fervent and devoted fanbase for those years. He still does. Well for one thing, Bill Mantlo was the writer for the series. He's probably one of my favorite comic book writers of all time, a scribe who always told deep and entertaining stories but never dumbed down the language...as was common during the time for comics. Sal Buscema was the artist, a legend in his own right. Together, they came up with a unique science fiction story.
Rom was a cyborg from the planet Galador. His home planet came under attack by a fleet of spaceships manned by a race called the Dire Wraiths. To combat this threat, the leaders of Galador asked for volunteers to become "spaceknights," warriors encased in what appeared to be a robotic body. Their humanity would be returned to them once the threat from the Dire Wraiths was squashed once and for all. For weaponry, Rom and the spaceknights were given the "Neutralizer," a blast from which would send a Dire Wraith permanently to the dimension of Limbo. In an interesting note, the people of Galador chose weapons of high technology and superscience while the Dire Wraiths employed shape-shifting and black magic.
Off in his quest to battle the enemy, Rom followed the Dire Wraiths to Earth. He landed in a small town in West Virginia where the Wraiths actually assumed the forms of a few of the town's leaders. While there, Rom meets the boyfriend/girlfriend couple of Steve Jackson and Brandy Clark. Steve actually helps Rom in his struggle against the Dire Wraiths, but this relationship becomes strained in time as Brandy begins to fall in love with the noble Rom.
As the comic book series became far more popular than the toy, Rom became permanently integrated with the Marvel Universe. He encountered the X-Men, Galactus and his herald Terrax, the Hulk, Power Man and Iron Fist, and the Fantastic Four. In fact, one issue of Rom had him teaming up with the aforementioned Luke Cage and Danny Rand as they broke into the FF's Baxter Building. That particular issue would be a blog post review in and of itself. Maybe someday...
There has been talk of a Rom revival at Marvel but sadly the company no longer owns the rights to the character. Those reverted back to Parker Brothers. However, I am given to understand that the uber-talented Jim Starlin did a miniseries for Marvel called Spaceknights back in 2000-2001. Rom is never mentioned by name in the mini, however it is explained that he and Brandy went on to marry and have kids. Sadly, the human version of Rom is presumed killed off panel when his spaceship comes under attack.
Recently, in Marvel's prelude to its epic Ultron crossover that will "change everything" (again????), it was said that a "spaceknight" was hosting the Ultron artificial intelligence. Rom? We'll see.
While I owned a few issues of Rom back in the day, I am only now beginning to discover the series. Through a comedic convergence of events I have come into ownership of nearly a full run of the series furled away in boxes. So as I delve further and further into the series I'll be sure to post my thoughts.
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