You've probably heard about ROM -- the Marvel comic that was based on a toy. Maybe you saw the toy featured on "Comic Book Men," or maybe you overheard the local comic book guy ranting about ROM being the first of many toy properties forced into comics. But most likely, that is the extent of your ROM knowledge (or fandom).
Despite being a small blip on the pop-culture radar -- once referred to by "TIME" magazine as a toy destined to "end up among the dust balls under the playroom sofa," -- and although it's been the butt of many a fanboy's joke, ROM has gained a cult following. A quick web search shows the cult popularity, populating quite a few ROM devoted blogs. My personal favorite is romspaceknightart.blogspot.com -- "BLOG FOR ROM FANS WHO AREN'T DICKS."
So, on December 10th when IDW announced a relaunch of the property in an all-new comic book series, you and I probably skimmed right past it in the news feed, but ROM fans freaked the <bleep> out!
The new series, which debuts #0 as part of Free Comic Book Day 2016, is pure fan service.
“It’s no hyperbole for me to say that launching a new Rom comic is one of the things we’ve most wanted to make happen for fans," said Chris Ryall, "ROM" co-writer and IDW Chief Creative Officer/Editor-in-Chief. “I know this because I’m one of them. The character has been absent from comics for too long and we can’t wait to introduce this all-new version to the world.”
And the character really has been unseen for a long time. The Free Comic Book Day relaunch will mark the 1st time the character has been put into four color ink in 30 years.
"ROM: Spaceknight" #1 debuted in 1979 after being licensed to Marvel by the toy manufacture Parker Brothers. Frank Miller did the cover art for issue #1, while Bill Mantlo wrote the story and Sal Buscema penciled. ROM the toy failed with less than 300,000 units sold. However the comic book outlived its plastic predecessor. "ROM" had 75 issues, plus annuals, and was well integrated into the Marvel Universe. In fact, residuals of ROM are still affecting the post "Secret Wars" Marvel continuity (see your local comic book store for "Venom: Space Knight" #1).
In 1991 Hasbro purchased the Tonka Corp., and in doing so, obtained Tonka's Parker Brothers and Kenner units. 2015 marked the ten-year anniversary of IDW's publishing Hasbro intellectual properties (which started with IDW's first "Transformers" title). The transfer of licensure has even lead to legal issues with the reprinting of ROM's guest appearances in other Marvel comics.
The rebirth of ROM via IDW seems to hold fairly true to its Marvel roots.
"Rom the Space Knight tells the story of Rom, a member of the benevolent Solstar Order and greatest of the Space Knights, interstellar soldiers in a centuries-old war with the Dire Wraiths. The Wraiths are a race of alien invaders who’ve destroyed many planets and infiltrated Earth for nefarious purposes." - IDW Press Release
"Those that do know of his past iteration might have some preconceived notion of what this series will be," said Ryall. "And while we can promise that the DNA of the character as established with the original toy remains intact, there will be surprises galore as people experience a new universe built entirely around Rom and company."
If you're not a ROM-oholic and are sitting on the fence about picking up a property that hasn't been touched for 30 years, you should take the rest of the creative team into consideration before passing judgment. Co-writing with Ryall is all-star Christos Gage ("Avengers Academy," "Amazing Spider-Man," Netflix's "Daredevil"). Art will be shouldered by Italian artist and graphic designer David Messina ("Catwoman," "TheBounce," "Angel"). Issue #0's cover will be done by "Wild Blue Yonder" team of Zach Howard and Nelson Daniel.
So even if reading this article is the first time you've even heard about ROM, you've got nothing to lose by picking up "ROM Space Knight" #0 at Free Comic Book Day. You might even end up creating your own "BLOG FOR ROM FANS WHO AREN'T DICKS" because of it.