Two hundred years ago, the evil Dire Wraiths threatened the peace-loving planet, Galador.
In their homeworld’s darkest hour, a thousand, brave young Galadorians sacrificed humanity itself to become Cyborg Warriors, a last desperate line of defence.
Though hopelessly outnumbered, these Spaceknights triumphed, and pursued the remnants of the Wraith horde across the universe…
“By The Gates of the Golden Galaxy, what transpires here?! …The plain plandanium doors that were once so foreboding – have been replaced by golden portals emblazoned with the heroic deeds of… myself!” – ROM The Spaceknight.
The Shogun Warriors seems an unlikely source for a life-changing event, but nevertheless, on page 18 of ish #18, there is an ad for (what was then: 1980) the newest kid on the Marvel block – and what a striking page it is too (above; what else could this Post have begun with?): personally, it is one of the most important pages printed in comic book history.
Sometimes, this ish would be kept on top of the pile, just to skim over to that page! The design of ROM The Spaceknight himself turned out to be instantly electrifying.
That was it!
At whatever cost to life, limb and pocket money allocations, this moppet would stop at NUTHIN’ until ROM soared his way into my burgeoning collection.
Agonizingly, the breakthrough would not come until taking shelter from a sudden downpour in a newsagent whilst on holiday back in 1982 – and stumbling across the unlikely form of…
the ROM Summer Special 1982.
“A better question would be: who are you? I would wager that so uncertain are you about everything just now… that you even wonder about your own identity! Are you the real Rom?” – Mentus.
Essentially, this Summer Special is a Marvel UK reprint of ish #25.
After two centuries dealing with the Dire Wraith threat on a distant planet called Earth, ROM returns to his homeworld and is amazed to discover how different it looks.
But nothing can prepare him to confront his new foe: himself!
In a fiendish plot, the disenchanted spaceknight known as Terminator has been remodelled to look like the Greatest Spaceknight, thereby luring other unwitting spaceknights back to Galador… to destroy them!
Therein, we were treated to a fine and sinister turn by Mentus: one of the most menacing – and coolest – comic book villains ever to cross my senses.
With the aid of Starshine: a female Spaceknight, ROM must attempt to teach their treacherous comrade-in-arms the error of his misprogrammed ways, and persuade him to help them defeat Mentus.
After 34 years, it remains superlative stuff.
“I liked the character. And I liked what they did with it. I thought the concept was quite good. It was unique… I almost hate to say this, but it was pretty easy to draw, too” – Sal Buscema.
Originally called COBOL, he was renamed ROM (read-only memory) by execs @ Parker Brothers: the company that produced the spaceknight as a toy. To “build interest” in their product, they licensed the character to Marvel Comics.
There, an intriguing background, including his own origins, personality, not just one, but two, love interests, a set of supporting characters – and villains – were created. With emphasis on his cyborg nature – rather than being just a plain robot – someone who made the choice to sacrifice his human existence (and all the freedoms and relationships that that entailed) to help save his planet, ROM was allowed to develop into such a fascinating character, forever questioning what it means to be human.
“Bathed in the crimson glow” of his “Energy Analyser,” its rays would reveal to his cyborg eyes the wraiths in their deceitful human guise; and then ROM would summon forth his Neutralizer to banish them into Limbo.
Guess who wanted to do that when he was seven…
Although the toy was a major flop, under the wonder-team of Mantlo/Buscema, the comic developed into its own unique and innovative brand.
Ingeniously, ROM got woven into the Marvel Universe, interacting with such special guest-stars as the Torpedo, Ant-Man, The Jack Of Hearts and even the Uncanny X-Men!
Many years later, various back issues would be swept up into my gleeful clutches. Naturally, the earliest editions are the best, particular #12, in which ROM must fend off one of Marvel’s most enigmatic heroes: the Jack Of Hearts; while the next ish: #13 saw the fantastic Saga Of The Spaceknights (reprinted in the Marvel UK weekly: Future Tense).
“I cannot command that you carry on the fight, Rom – I ask! You were the first to volunteer – the first to enter the Hall of Science and go under the laser-knives of the cyber-surgeons – the first to become a Spaceknight!” – The Prime Director Of Galador.
At last! After what seemed like an eternity… he’s back.
What about this revival of ROM The Spaceknight currently appearing in a specialist stockist near you? Having perused through the debut ish, there are, unfortunately, mixed feelings.
Yes, Galador’s greatest deserves to make a comeback, but in this incarnation?
The magic that brought the original series to such phenomenal life is simply not there. Perhaps these are early days (early issues) – and this Bronze Age Boy is being a tad unaccepting – but this new series does not do anything for me… yet.
Unlike other – blatantly juvenile – brands such as Transformers and the Micronauts, ROM The Spaceknight – from his electrifying debut ish in December 1979, up until the cancellation of his series in February 1986 – transcended his simple plastic toy origins to become not only a noble and dynamic comic book warrior, but the Greatest Galador could offer.
“Our love can never die, dearest Rom. Go! Finish this war! End the threat of the Dire Wraiths forever, then return and reclaim your humanity!
“I-I will be waiting…” – Ray-na.