Saturday, July 16, 2005

Saturday Comic-Book Flashback; ROM, Spaceknight (Issue # 7)

When people talk about their favorite comic-books from childhood, they probably think about titles like Spider-Man, The X-Men, The Hulk, Superman, or Batman. But as a child of Star Wars and the 1970s, I had another favorite from that bygone era of disco: Marvel's ROM, Spaceknight.

For those who don't remember ROM, he was once a normal human denizen of Galador, but then came the Dire Wraiths, a race of malevolent invaders bent on taking his world. Many young patriots from Galador volunteered to fight the Wraith, but they did so "neurosurgically" grafted into machine suits...as Cyborgs. The battle for Galador was won, but Rom the Spaceknight ultiimately ended up on Earth, the Dire Wraiths' "mightiest stronghold," according to the legend.

The comic-book series followed Rom's adventures on Earth, in West Virginia, as - armed with a weapon called a "neutralizer" - he battled the Dire Wraiths (who looked human, like David Vincent's Invaders on the series of the same name) and their minions, including the Dogs of the Dark Nebula. Rom's friends were a secretary named Brandy, who had feelings for him, and her jealous but helpful boyfriend Steve, an auto mechanic.

ROM was actually based on a popular toy/action-figure of the day (from Parker Brothers), but as it had with another comic-book series, The Micronauts, Marvel really created an interesting universe surrounding the merchandise. The Dire Wraiths were inventions, as were the other enemies Rom fought. You didn't need to have a toy Rom to like the book, but it helped...

This Saturday morning flashback involves ROM issue # 7 (from June, 1980), featuring art by Sal Buscema and story by Bill Mantlo. Rom has just survived (barely...) a battle with a renegade spaceknight called Firefall. An electric shock received when battling dogs of the black nebula has rendered our favorite spaceknight catatonic. A policeman named Artie Packer, Steve and Brandy attempt to revive Rom, hoping he can recover. Meanwhile, a Dire Wraith scientist named Rachel Sweet and a Wraith Elder summon another foe to dispatch Rom and his allies: Thornoids. These are fast-growing purplish plants (with thorns, as you might guess...) that fall to Earth in acid rain, immediately take root, and attack. Rom comes out his coma just in time to stop the Thornoids, though there is a casualty in the battle. Rom finally defeats the Thornoids by lowering the temperature of his suit, and thereby freezing and cracking the now-brittle stalks of the Thornoids.

I like this issue in particular, because it reveals facets of Rom's companions, Steve and Brandy. Brandy has feelings for the alien in the suit, and Steve doesn't like that. Nonetheless, he helps Rom in his time of need. I like also that deaths are involved here. The war against the Dire Wraiths isn't easy or painless. ROM was a fun, great book that forecasted elements of the RoboCop film series and even the Borg on Star Trek: The Next Generation. This issue, with chapter-headings like "As I Lay Dying," "Alien Seed," and "Greater Love Hath No Man," is a prime example.

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous12:12 AM

    Yes fantastic! I'm french and this hero was one of my favorite ones in the 80's.

    It is with an absolute pleasure that I 've read the article.

    http://home.hiwaay.net/~lkseitz/comics/Rom/actionfig/index.shtml

    this is a cool link :)

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  2. I think ROM would make an excellent adaption to the big screen with the right promotion & reintroduction to comic fans & television. Rom was also one of my favorite comic characters & toys as a child he will always be an Icon in my heart. Sincerly Naut Jugga

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