Stubby the Rocket has already written up a rundown of the important stuff that happened at SDCC this year, so I’m not going to rehash the cool announcements that were made. Instead I want to tell you about a thing I hoped to hear, but didn’t.
It’s quite possible that I may be alone in this wish, but the one thing I really had my fingers crossed for was the return of Rom, the greatest spaceknight of them all.
You might, at this point, have two questions on your lips: who is Rom and why should I care. I’M GLAD YOU ASKED.
Rom, for the uninitiated, started out as a really awful toy in the 1970s. It looked like someone put frog legs on the chrome grille of a 1947 Chevy Fleetmaster, gave it a few weird accessories, an art deco espresso machine for a head, and called it day. Its eyes lit up, it made sounds, and it included a universal translator device that as a child I thought actually worked, although it’s worth mentioning that the only thing it could translate to was a cheap electronic beeping.
There were no enemies for Rom to fight, no allies for Rom to fight with, just: Rom. And Rom stunk.
Marvel Comics wound up with the license rights, and in 1979 began to produce an ongoing series based on the toy, which long outlived the miserable toy itself. The comic wasn’t set in a separate Rom-universe, like Marvel did with a lot of their licensed properties (e.g. G.I. Joe, or one of my other obscuro faves, The Starriors), but was actually as a part of regular Marvel continuity, which meant Rom would occasionally hang out with the Fantastic Four or the X-Men. You know, the way superheroes do.
The comics were written by Marvel’s resident 1970s genius weirdo Bill Mantlo, and if you’ve never read a Bill Mantlo book (Cloak & Dagger, Micronauts, Jack of Hearts, that comic where Iron Man fought Frankenstein), you are in for a treat my friend. And next summer, when you’re packed into a megaplex at midnight on July 31 to see the Guardians of the Galaxy movie and you think to yourself, “Oh weird, there’s a talking raccoon with a gun in this movie?”, remember that Bill Mantlo is the writer responsible for that raccoon.
In the comic, Rom was a space cyborg who sacrificed his humanity — or, er, his Galadorian-ity — to become the first and greatest of the Spaceknights, and protect everyone from his mortal enemy, the alien Dire Wraiths, whom Rom had kindasorta unleashed on the universe. Unlike most cyborgs where I guess they just put all your guts in a Hefty bag by the curb, Rom’s former parts are being kept in a jar somewhere, and once he succeeds in ridding the universe of the Dire Wraiths, he’ll reclaim the rest of his old body, fly back home, and make out with his old girlfriend again, big time.
He was selfless, heroic, and cool. Standard hero stuff.
Now, two things. First is that the Dire Wraiths are TERRIFYING. Like, pee-your-pants scary. They are shape-shifting Cthulhu aliens with weird squid-drill tongues who will suck out your brain, turn you into a pile of goo, and just start living your life. But evilly.
The other thing is that Dire Wraiths are really good at staying hidden. Pretty much the only person who can reliably tell if someone is a Dire Wraith is Rom. And when he finds a Dire Wraith he blasts it into hot ashes with his Neutralizer ray. Job well done, Rom! It’s Miller Time.
Important: since virtually no one else can see the aliens’ true form once they’ve body-snatched you, no one ever knows what the hell Rom is doing. He might bash in the church doors on your wedding day and blast your fiancé to ashes, and while you’re changing your honeymoon-suite reservations to be under “Mr. and Mrs. Pile-of-Ashes”, he’d probably just be like, “Oh yeah, that dude was an evil alien doppelganger of your fiancé, trust me. Gotta go! ::drops microphone:: ROM OUT.”
There are so many comics in which Rom shows up and, apparently, to the casual observer, just starts straight-up murdering people right and left.
WHY, ROM, WHY.
Then people misunderstand his actions, treat him like a monster, attempt to intervene. Hijinks ensue.
So what happened? You might ask. If Rom is so cool, why isn’t he in comics any more?
Legal stuff, is the answer. Marvel doesn’t hold the license any more. But, what with the Guardians of the Galaxy getting made into a movie, I’d hoped against hope that there’d be news Rom would return. Last year Marvel published a tiny picture of Rom in the ads for their Age of Ultron storyline, and it did not escape my attention that the new Avengers movie would be called Avengers: Age of Ultron. The movie, however, will be an original story and not, confusingly, an adaptation of this very recent Marvel storyline that has the exact same name. Go figure.
So for now I’ll just cackle at jokes cracked at the expense of Rom’s legal limbo, add my “like” to the Bring Back Rom Facebook group, and cross my fingers that Guardians of the Galaxy is a hit and shows audiences just how rad Marvel’s space stories and characters are, and they’ll have no CHOICE but to bring Rom back.
Find him… before he finds you, Marvel Comics.
David Moran has nightmares about Dire Wraiths sometimes. Please Rom make it stop.