The most enduring comic book character of the 1970’s, Parker Brothers’ Rom the Spaceknight remains one of the stranger cross-promotional projects from Marvel Comics (next to Dazzler, originally conceived as a deal with Columbia Records).
The mainly stoic and immobile protector of the space-ways arrived with a set of noise making electronic sound producing instruments that would assist him in his war against his enemies… not included. The story goes that Rom, a Lord of the Solstar Order, was on a life mission to seek out the shape changing wizards from another dimension, the Dire Wraiths. The trick was that the wizards were shape shifters capable of deceiving anyone of their true nature.
Luckily Rom had a device that could sniff them out with a gong sound, alerting him to quickly switch devices and zap the nasty wraith to nothingness.
Seeing as how there were no Dire Wraith action figures, it left Rom as a kind of exterminator sniffing out and hunting down your other toys as the devious shape shifting monsters they really were.
Rom sounds a little crazy, doesn’t he? Not a bad crazy, but… okay, maybe a bad crazy.
Created by Bing McCoy (interviewed here), the toy remains one of the most fascinating electronic action figures ever made. While the final product differs some from McCoy’s initial ideas, the Rom toy is something that I imagine many electronic music gurus had on their shelves at one point or another.
Marvel Comics, in participation with Parker Brothers, launched a long running comic book series that took Rom on deep space adventure. The series by Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema remains one of the most commonly complete titles in any comic book fan’s collection. While you may meet a few fans with only a handful of Spider-Man or Batman comics, it usually falls that if a collector has one Rom comic book, he has all 75.
The fallout from Rom has not exactly been much. Marvel Comics assimilated the Dire Wraiths into their comics (they even appeared in Uncanny X-Men!) and attempted a relaunch of ‘the Spaceknights,’ but it didn’t really stick. Jim Krueger included an older distraught Rom in his Earth X trilogy where the one of Rom‘s devices was revealed to be an important cosmic power device.
According to a recent interview with Johnny Darrell at Halfsquatch, Bing McCoy is in the process of acquiring the rights to his creation, perhaps for a relaunch. That might be something to see.
In the meantime, we have this video below to marvel at:
ROM 1979 Toyfare promo video