Wednesday, March 9, 2011
I have told this story before but it bears re-telling now that I see this great piece of Rom - Spaceknight art. Rom was a comic book in the late 70s that was cross-marketed as a light up toy. As the story went, he and his fellow space knights gave up their humanity to have their souls placed into powerful robots in order to face dow their most evil enemies, the Dire Wraiths. Rom carried with him a universal translator and a ray gun that allowed him to identify the shape changing Wraiths and send them off to Limbo. The comic last more than 50 issues and found Rom interacting with most of the heroes in the marvel universe during his time as he hunted down the Dire Wraiths. Soon other Space Knights joined Rom on earth for one final battle.
During the time before the Internet there was such a thing as PEN PALS. Often people who wrote to Marvel would leave an address where someone could make contact with them. I did this to and had two of my letters printed in Iron Man and Rom.
A couple months later I got a letter from a VA hospital in Washington D.C. from a guy who was a patient there. He loved comic books and we wrote back and forth weekly for the good part of a year. He told me about is experiences in 'the jungle' and I mostly talked about the cold and comic books. We even worked on a comic book story together. He only asked me for the time it took to write a letter back to him.
I had talked about wanting to collect all the issues of Rom several times and how I scoured the boxes at flea markets and the weekly farmer's market. After about 15 months of this back and forth I got a box in the mail with a letter from the hospital telling me that my friend had passed away from cancer. They said that he really enjoyed the last year of his life because he has a 'buddy from Canada' who wrote to him every week. The box contained some old pictures of him in the jungle and the first fifty issues of Rom in mint condition. I don't know if he had them already or found them special for me.
I really appreciated the time I got to spend with him even though we were many time zones away from each other. He was dying the whole time he wrote to me but only wanted to discuss superheroes and doing the best with the time one had left. Seeing the above picture by Jonathon Chase reminded me of my friend today. I like to think he looks out over me from time to time. He taught me to 'pay it forward' because you never know the impact you may have on another person.
Rom the Spaceknight
Rom The Space Knight was an action figure co-created by Bing McCoy and Richard Levy. It was sold to Parker Brothers, and was the inspiration for a Marvel comic book series. The toy was originally called COBOL (after the programming language), which was later changed to "Rom" (after ROM, a.k.a. Read-Only Memory) by Parker Brothers executives.
The toy set a precedent for the game publishing company, which up until that time had only ever produced board games. As this was a new venture for the company and that electronic toys were still very new, a decision was made to produce the figure as cheaply as possible. As a result, the final product had very few points of articulation, and twin red LEDs served as Rom's eyes instead of the originally envisioned green, which were more expensive to produce.
ROM was licensed to Palitoy in the UK to extend the 'Space Adventurer' line of Action Man, appearing in their 1980 catalog. To build interest in the toy, Parker Brothers licensed the character to Marvel Comics who created a comic book featuring Rom. The comic expanded on the simple premise that Rom was a cyborg and gave him an origin, personality, set of supporting characters, villains, and one other vital ingredient - interaction with the rest of the Marvel Universe.
Unfortunately, the toy failed and sold only 2-300,000 in the US, with creator McCoy blaming the failure on poor packaging and marketing. Parker Brothers subsequently abandoned the line and returned to manufacturing board games.
The comic book outlasted the toy which it was created to support. The comic was written by Bill Mantlo and initially illustrated by artist Sal Buscema. The series lasted for 75 issues over a seven year period, with Rom's regular encounters with mainstream heroes and villains firmly establishing him as part of Marvel continuity.
Posted by Kal at 2:22 PM