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Character Spotlight: ROM: Spaceknight

Written by Zenguru on Thursday, December 22 2011 and posted in Features

Read about one of the Outhousers' favorite characters in the weekly Character Spotlight! This week, we look at ROM: Spaceknight!

In an Internet filled with overwhelming negativity and pointless hatred of frivolous stuff, it's sometimes necessary to take a step back, take a deep breath and remember why we enjoy comics in the first place. Character Spotlight is a weekly feature showcasing some of the Outhouse's favorite characters that epitomize why we read comics. Maybe you'll learn something, maybe you won't, but regardless we hope you enjoy the Outhouse's Character Spotlight!

Origin Story:  Before ROM appeared in comics, he had his origins in the toy market.  ROM, the toy, was designed by Bing McCoy, who sold the patent to Parker Brothers.  The name ROM originally stood for "read-only memory."  It sounded better than the previous acronym.  Which was COBOL.  I don't think I would have bought COBOL: Spaceknight.  Would you?

To promote the toy, Parker Brothers licensed ROM to Marvel Comics.  In the comic, ROM hailed from a faraway planet called Galador.  It was a futuristic world steeped in an almost Arthurian-type legend and lore.  ROM was one of hundreds of citizens who volunteered to undergo a process from human to super-space-cyborg.  The Spaceknights were clad in a metal called plandanium.  Not only could it withstand the rigors of space, it could also stand up to Wolverine's adamantium claws.

Each Spaceknight was given a weapon which they used to defend Galador from the evil Dire Wraiths.  The Spaceknights fought the Wraiths and eventually defeated them.  Forcing them to scatter their forces throughout the universe.  The Spaceknights were honor bound to pursue them.  Only when the Dire Wraiths were wiped out could the Spaceknights reclaim their sacrificed humanity.

After chasing Wraiths for 200 years, ROM landed on Earth.  He had his weapon, Galador's greatest WMD, the Neutralizer, which he used to banish Wraiths to limbo.  He also was equipped with a translator and energy analyzer.  All three devices were stored in subspace, from where ROM would summon them when needed.

ROM's mission often brought him into conflict with various characters inhabiting the Marvel Universe.  Some of them sided with ROM and helped him.  Some couldn't or wouldn't understand what was going on.  They determined that ROM was as much of a threat as the creatures he was pursuing.

Character Appeal:  Just the name "Spaceknight" evokes images of a noble hero fighting for truth, honor, and justice.  There is the appeal of a pure and chaste warrior who will not stop in his pursuit, and punishment, of evil.  There are also elements of romance.

Just after arriving on Earth, ROM encountered a human woman, Brandy Clark, who would develop into his greatest love.  However, they were kept apart due to Brandy being human and ROM being a cold, metal-sheathed cyborg.  As much drama came from their unrequited love as ROM's battles with the Wraiths.

Both characters would, at times, go to great lengths to be able to be intimate for the briefest of moments.  Such motivations were nearly fatal for either one.

Personally, I enjoyed the never-ending variety of situations in which ROM found himself in the stead of his quest.  Not everything was resolved with him blasting the heck out of stuff with his Neutralizer, but it was freaking cool when he did.

Top Storylines:  ROM lasted 75 issues with 4 annuals and various appearances in other Marvel books.  The series was not divided into sagas per se.  It was all one big ongoing grand scale epic.  However, there are several periods in the run that are noteworthy.

ROM #17-18:  ROM and the X-Men team-up to fight a human/dire wraith mutant hybrid who threatens to destroy everything.  This is where ROM's armor stands the test of Wolverine's claws and Colossus' fists.  It's also one of the few times ROM gets blasted with his own Neutralizer.

ROM #26-27:  ROM meets Galactus.  'Nuff said.

ROM #36-39:  A personal favorite where ROM teams up with Shang-Chi to solve a mystery of missing children in Scotland.

ROM #42-43:  ROM finds a way to be free of his armor.  To be with Brandy.  But this wish come true comes at a terrible cost.

ROM #49-51:  Brandy has since become a Spaceknight to be closer to ROM. They take a much needed break in her hometown.  But something is wrong.  All the people seem . . . different.  One of the saddest chapters in ROM and Brandy's life.

ROM #58-59:  With Ant Man's help, ROM and Starshine fight the wraiths on a microscopic level!

Can ROM beat up Superman?:  It depends on which Superman he's fighting.

Golden Age Superman:  ROM can whip him. 

Silver Age Superman:  ROM is crushed like a dixie cup.

John Byrne's Superman:  They would both be heavily damaged by the battle.  Both fly off in different directions after delivering a Shakespearean soliloquy.

Late '90s Superman:  ROM would suffer a bunch of dents and be venting sparks and gas from his armor.  Supes would be bruised up a bit.  Not really suffering any real harm.  Not until he's hit by the Neutralizer, which negates the solar energy in his cells.

DCNU Superman:  ROM would blow Superman apart while having a threesome with Starfire and Lois Lane.

Where the character is today:  Sadly, ROM is languishing where he sent many of his Wraith enemies.  Limbo.  The rights to the character are apparently still held by Parker Brothers.  Until they license it to a comic book company, ROM may not ever appear in his armored form, or be called by name.

That's not to say he hasn't appeared in one form or another from time to time.  Jim Starlin and Chris Batista did a Spaceknights mini series some years ago.  ROM was not named, nor was he seen.  He was apparently killed off-panel and his children took up his quest.

Avengers #12.1 showed a nameless Spaceknight, which housed Ultron's intelligence.

The Genis-Vell Captain Marvel series showed Rick Jones owning a toaster in the shape of ROM's helmet.

In an issue of the Incredible Hulk, Peter David and Dale Keown showed a toy suit of ROM's armor spilling out of Rick Jones' closet.

There is also the issue of ROM's lasting effect on the Marvel Universe.  Remember when Storm lost her powers?  That was due to Forge trying to replicate ROM's Neutralizer.  Uncanny X-Men #187 even shows Storm running away from Wraiths.

About Bill Mantlo: 

The writer of ROM's entire run is in dire straits these days.  On July 17, 1992, Mantlo was struck by a car while he was rollerblading.  He was in a coma for some time.  While he is awake, he still has severe brain damage.  He requires full time medical care.  Which is provided by his brother Michael at a facility.

There is a movement to bring about the publication of new ROM stories.  Or at least publish collections of the old stories.  A group on facebook is committed to generating interest in Marvel and Hasbro (who now own ROM's rights) publishing the character once again.  This group accepts no money.  Their intention is that proceeds from the new material to go towards continuing Bill Mantlo's very expensive medical care.

The group is called "Rom's Spaceknights to Benefit Bill Mantlo."  It's an open group.  Anyone can join and post about their love for ROM and his ancillary characters.   If enough people show they are interested in the return of ROM to comics, they may be able to convince Marvel and Hasbro to cooperate and bring this to fruition.

NOTE:  Some of the factual information in the beginning and end of this article is also on wikipedia.

Written or Contributed by: Zenguru


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About the Author - Zenguru

Zenguru has been an Outhouser since the days it was blue. He's the Rick Jones of The Outhouse. Not always in the mansion, but always around in a pinch. Just don't pinch too hard, okay? He's written a few articles, notably $k!d M@rks, and has published several books of poetry. Lately, he's been writing poems and fiction about diners. He's been reading comics since the mid-70's. He dreams of one day traveling between dimensions to be Jonah Hex's sidekick.

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