Robot 6

Is a return of ROM: The Space Knight on the horizon?

For years comic-book and toy fans have been clamoring for the resurrection of ROM: The Space Knight, cyborg enemy of the Dire Wraiths, star of his own Marvel series, and poor-selling action figure. Now it appears his return may be imminent.

Toy Ark catches that Hasbro has filed to trademark ROM for “toy action figures and toy robots convertible into other visual toy forms,” signaling the manufacturer’s plans to rescue the clunky, and noisy, silver doll from late-1970s obscurity.

Released in the United States in 1979 by Parker Brothers (now a Hasbro subsidiary) amid a wave of science fiction popularity that followed the success of Star Wars, ROM was a commercial failure, fulfilling Time magazine’s prediction that the cheaply made figure would “end up among the dust balls under the playroom sofa.”

“Rom is a spaceman doll whose computer memory gives it a disappointingly narrow range of behavior,” the magazine wrote. “It breathes heavily (one of its better effects), buzzes, twitters and flashes its lighted eyes, and sounds ominous gongs, one for good and two for evil. The trouble with this Parker Bros. homunculus is that it looks as if it should be able to use its arms and legs like a true robot, and it can’t.”

However, ROM’s future in comics was brighter and more enduring. Launched in December 1979, Marvel’s ROM: Spaceknight permitted writer Bill Mantlo and artist Sal Buscema have free rein with the character’s universe. After all, there was nothing to the Parker Brothers toy beyond what you saw on the box; no backstory, no enemies, just noise-making accessories and flashing lights. ROM now was a cyborg from the utopian planet Galador who, after fending off an invasion by the Dire Wraiths, traveled to Earth to continue the fight. (Chris Sims recently provided a solid rundown of the character’s comic-book history.)

The series ran for 75 issues, with our cyborg hero interacting with many characters of the Marvel Universe, before it came to an end in 1986, long outlasting the ROM figure’s life on store shelves. Despite that respectable seven-year run, former Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter wrote last year that, “Sales of ROM were never great.  For years it hung in there, in the lowest tier, but above the cut-line.”

With the loss of the license, ROM has all but faded from Marvel history, and because of rights issues, archival collections have always been a pipe dream. But with Hasbro’s apparent renewed interest, is it too much for fans to hope that Marvel might revisit the greatest of the Spaceknights?

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14 Comments

You know who clearly loved it? Bendis. Loved it so much he rewrote it and called it Secret Invasion (Dire Wraiths are actually part of the Skrull race).

Please let this be true, ROM was a fantastic little comic and I’d love to see his adventures reprinted and made available digitally. I’d also read a new series with the right creators on board.

“ROM” was actually the first series I read regularly as a kid! It was through “ROM” that I was introduced to the X-Men and started picking up that book. (talk about the reverse effect of a crossover!) The series itself was a great riff on ’50′s paranoia films set in the Marvel U. My fav character was the Spaceknight Terminator, who was even more bad-ass and tortured than Wolverine, imo.

While it looks like Rom might be resurrected, it doesn’t necessarily look like it’s Marvel’s version or that Marvel will have anything to do with it, does it?

Hasn’t Marvel been hinting they’d like to do something with this for ages. Don’t know if this simplifies things or makes things more complicated. Don’t IDW have most of Hasbro’s licences?

Maybe those rumors of Disney acquiring Hasbro have more weight to them than we previously thought. Resurrecting ROM properly would hinge on him being brought back to Marvel. Otherwise it’s just another transforming toy from Hasbro.

Lazarus Pit Foreman

November 14, 2012 at 10:02 am

This would be cool, but I’d much rather see the retrn of the Micronauts! Or at least a trade collection of all the marvel issues.

Rom and the Dire Wraiths are a part of the Marvel Universe that were prominent in alot of Marvel Comics when I was a kid that get nary a mention now. Funny how that happens over the passage of time.

Of course, we’ve seen the Space Knights in some of the Annihilation stuff but there was a period where Dire Wraiths were showing up in the Avengers and the X-Men.

Ed (A Different One)

November 14, 2012 at 11:40 am

And the Dire Wraiths were some of the most badass villians to ever come out of Marvel’s bullpen. Those putty-like features, the barbed tongues “thock”ing you right between the eyes only to reduce you to a protoplasmic goo while the Dire Wraith took over your physical appearance, your thoughts, your identity, nay, your very soul. WHA HA HA HA HA HA HA ! (Evil Cackling).

Ahem, er, excuse me there. Got a little carried away. But it goes to that old adage that great villians make great heroes and Rom sure had some doozies in the Dire Wraiths. Real nightmarish stuff there. And I didn’t even get to the sorcery.

I wonder if Hasbro has the copyright/trademark to those as well, or if that’s considered exclusively Marvel property?

let me just add: Bill Mantlo! He is why we remember the character so well.
Any reprint would have to provide some royalties to him for it to feel right to me.

Dekko, your story matches mine. Same deal for me.

I actually also had the ROM toy. I thought it was cool.

One interesting thing, they re-issued the horrific Spaceknights series from 10 years or so ago (?) on Comixology in the last couple months. The one where they had to replace ROM with someone that kind of looked and sounded like ROM but was not named ROM. Man that was an awful series.

I was wondering why the heck they released it as a new comic on Comixology, but in TPB form. This kind of plan would suggest a reason for it. But they should ditch that entire series as if it never happened.

Marvel does own the copyright on the Dire Wraiths. One appeared as an ally to the DOA in the recent Fear Itself Fearless mini-series. A Wraith queen used to battle the New Warriors off and on. and Hybrid -one of Roms enemies -recently appeared in the Avengers Academy series.
Unless Marvel does a new series with the character whoever does end up doing it can’t use anything Marvel created to fill in his back story and we would have a Rom series with nothing else we remember and loved about him. I’d probably still give it a shot, but Marvel really needs to do it to be done right.

Makes sense now that Marvel reprinted Starlin and Batista’s Spaceknights (which was AWESOME, btw). There were even a number of Rom referrences in that series. Bring Rom back properly, with a solid creative team, and I’m all over it!

I’m w/Dekko and LionMan, ROM SPACEKNIGHT is what also what got me hooked on reading comics and was in intro to the MU. Rom #10 was one of my first comics I bought on my own, w/my measly $1/week allowance, at the time! :-p

Its still one of my favorite series….

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