Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
No, it’s not a dream. That’s actually set of four hardcover volumes of Marvel’s Rom: Spaceknight. Unfortunately, however, your chances of getting one remain slim.
Despite a cult following, it’s been nearly 30 years since any Rom: Spaceknight has been published. The issue comes down to licensing, and Marvel’s agreement with Parker Brothers (now a Hasbro subsidiary) expired 1986. Certain elements created for the toy-inspired comic, originated by Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema, remain with Marvel, but the name and signature armor are off-limits — to both new work and reprints.
Although Marvel’s ROM: Spaceknight comic, created by Bill Mantlo and artist Sal Buscema, had a long and well-remembered run, the same can’t be said of the Parker Bros. toy on which it was based. A commercial failure, Time predicted the cheaply made figure would “end up among the dust balls under the playroom sofa.”
So who would’ve thought that Hasbro would commemorate the 35th anniversary of the toy’s release with a Mighty Muggs collectible version of ROM: The Space Knight? MTV has the first look at the 5.5-inch figure, which will debut for $22.99 at Comic-Con International. A limited number will be available later through Hasbro’s website.
Bill Mantlo didn’t create the titular star of the much-beloved ROM Spaceknight, but he did help define who ROM was and what he was about in the early 1980s. A group of supportive comic creators and fans have come together to bring new attention to Mantlo’s work in light of his recent medical troubles. How? By recreating, page-by-page and panel-by-panel, ROM Spaceknight #1, originally illustrated by co-creator Sal Buscema.
This new project, titled the ROM Remix Project, has 20 individual artists each drawing a page of the original story, from the 18 story pages to the Frank Miller cover, and even the Hostess ad in the back of the original comic. Organized by Rob Harrington, it’s intended to be a public art project as well as a way to bring renewed attention to Mantlo’s situation.
Thirty-six questions. Six answers. One random number generator. Welcome to Robot Roulette, where creators roll the virtual dice and answer our questions about their lives, careers, interests and more.
Our special guest today is Jimmie Robinson, creator of the just-released Five Weapons, as well as Bomb Queen, Amanda & Gunn, Evil & Malice and more.
Now let’s get to it …
Every month or so, J.K. Woodward (Fallen Angel) shares his process on a piece of art. This month it’s this fake cover to an imaginary crossover in which everyone’s favorite Spaceknight teams up with the rebooted Enterprise crew to fight some attacking Martians. Woodward says that the piece is mostly about expressing his desire for IDW to acquire the ROM license, which is something else a lot of fans wish was real.
If it seems like only last week that we were looking back on Marvel’s 1980s sci-fi series ROM: Spaceknight, that’s because we were. Spurred by Hasbro’s new trademark filing for ROM, we summed up the inauspicious history of the Parker Brothers action figure, and the more successful — and more fondly remembered — comic book it spawned.
But no sooner had we left Galador and the Dire Wraiths behind than Comic Book Resources debuted art from Marvel’s Age of Ultron #2, by Brian Michael Bendis and Bryan Hitch. And right there on the massive two-page cork board, squeeze between photos of Doctor Strange and Wiccan, is none other than ROM, greatest of the Spaceknights!
Are the two things related? It’s certainly possible — after all, Marvel and Hasbro have had a long (and presumably profitable) relationship that continues to this day with Avengers and Superhero Squad action figures, giant plastic Hulk hands and the like. So who better than the House of Ideas to help revive that plastic relic of 1970s toy chests? However, it’s unlikely Marvel would plunk another company’s character into a major story event, particularly after it’s had to untangle its own creations from licensed properties over the decades (ROM, Micronauts, Godzilla, et al). It seems more probable that Bendis and Hitch are having a little fun, dropping a figure from Marvel’s past among some of its more prominent players. Still, though, an Easter egg like that is usually tucked away along the edges of a panel or a page, not smack-dab in the middle …
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.”
Hello and welcome to Shelf Porn, where we give fans the opportunity to show us their collections, both big and small. Today’s submission comes from artist and collector Jens Lund in Denmark, who sent in photos of his shelves, statues and art studio.
If you’d like to see more Shelf Porn, I can’t do it without you–so send your pictures and write-up to email@example.com. Let’s make it happen!
And now here’s Jens …
I mentioned last month that Floating World Comics was putting together a second art tribute/fundraiser for writer Bill Mantlo, asking various artists to draw ROM, Spaceknight. The auctions are now live in eBay, and you can find more info by going there directly or by going to the Spacenite 2 blog, which has links to all the auctions.
Floating World Comics in Portland, Ore. is hosting another art tribute/fundraiser for comics writer Bill Mantlo, who was paralyzed after a hit-and-run accident in 1992. The event, a “sequel” to the event they held in 2007, includes an art show that features various creators drawing ROM, Spaceknight, which Mantlo wrote back in the 1980s.
Participating creators this time around include Mike Allred, Jeffrey Brown, Michael DeForge, Tan Eng Huat, Ben Marra (above), Luke Ramsey, Jon Schnepp and Matt Timson, among many others. You can check out some of the artwork over on the event’s blog. They’ll be selling digital prints of each piece at the show on Dec. 2, with plans to auction off the originals on eBay afterward. You can find more information on the Floating Worlds site.