Greetings from the Odinson,
You guessed it, boys and girls, it’s time once again for the Odinson’s annual shout-out to a sorely missed character with all the potential to be a great comic and one of the best in history. Once a year I try to talk up one of my all-time favorite heroes from the past in hopes that Marvel will dust him off, work out whatever copyrights they need to, and bring him back to the fold. I am, of course, speaking of ROM the Spaceknight, whose series ran 75 issues and 4 annuals from 1979-1987.
ROM (1979-1986) #1-75 and ROM Annual (1982-1985) #1-4 depict an epic tale of love, loss, redemption, and, of course, scary alien monsters. Deep in space two centuries ago a decisive battle between the forces of good and evil was fought. The brave Spaceknights of Galador defeated the evil sorcery and super-science of the wicked Dire Wraiths, and scattered them to the furthest reaches of the galaxy. Now, in present day their eternal struggle has spilled over to Earth. ROM, greatest of the Spaceknights, has landed in a small West Virginia town. Frightened by the arrival of a seven-foot alien, the people of Clairton call in the National Guard. ROM is then forced to defend himself against those he has come to save.
Now that’s the kind of set-up that sets the stage for a truly classic sci-fi adventure.
ROM was a very important character to the early eighties Marvel Universe. For example, in ROM #32, Rogue – who at this time was still with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants – attempts to absorb ROM’s abilities. ROM’s innate nobility awakens her own goodness, thus helping her on her path to seek out the X-Men (as seen in Uncanny X-Men #171). The rest is history. Also, Richard Rider’s story did not actually end with the cancellation of his first series (see Nova Classic). It concluded in Fantastic Four #208 and ROM #24. After ROM helps Nova defend the planet Xandar from a Skrull invasion, Richard Rider decides to give up his Nova powers and return to Earth. These issues bridge the gap between Nova #25 in 1979 and New Warriors #1 in 1990 where Nova made his triumphant return. In Incredible Hulk #296, when the citizens of a small town are mutated and begin to die from Gamma radiation poisoning, it’s ROM that swoops in and saves the day. The drama of this tale is part of what sets the Hulk on his spiraling path to his remarkable meltdown in the now classic Incredible Hulk #300. You can see this tragic episode in its entirety in the pages of Incredible Hulk: Regression; however, Incredible Hulk #296 is only paraphrased in the graphic novel with all of ROM’s parts edited out, to the Odinson’s displeasure.
ROM is definitely a force to be reckoned with. He has stood toe-to-toe with Marvel heavyweights likes Jack of Hearts, Terrax the Tamer, Gladiator, the Savage Sub-Mariner, and he has even survived a harrowing encounter with the mighty Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds. All across the globe, the greatest of the Spaceknights has fought side-by-side with some of Earth’s mightiest and most stalwart heroes including: the X-Men, New Mutants, Torpedo, Power Man and Iron Fist, the Thing, Shang Chi, Doctor Strange, the Soviet Super Soldiers (now known as Winter Guard), and Alpha Flight. And, talk about epic events, there is nothing more epic than the final battle between ROM and his sworn enemies, the Dire Wraiths, with the fate of mankind hanging in the balance.
As the tale unfolds and builds toward its breath-taking climax, ROM is defeated and victory is within the grasp of the evil Dire Wraiths. However, one last thing stands in their way and total victory…all those pesky super-heroes ROM spent the first 64 issues of his series recruiting to his cause. ROM is joined by the Avengers, West Coast Avengers, X-Men, Defenders, Soviet Super-Soldiers, Beta Ray Bill, and all of the heroes of the world in one last ultimate battle to rid the Earth of Wraithkind forever. To put it simply, it’s awesome, and it all takes place in Avengers #244-245, Uncanny X-Men #187-188, ROM Annual #3, and ROM #61-66. This is a Mighty Marvel Classic that is begging to get the Epic Collection treatment.
ROM’s original series features superb writing by Bill Mantlo (Cloak and Dagger, Rocket Raccoon), some of the best artwork from the illustrious career of Sal Buscema (Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man), plus some fantastic covers by Mike Zeck (Punisher, Captain America) and Frank Miller (Daredevil, Batman), and pencils by the legendary co-creator of Spider-Man, Steve Ditko. I can’t recommend this comic series enough. If you love Science Fiction and stories of passion and bravery, cool guest appearances, and, of course, scary alien creatures, then ROM is for you.
I know ROM received a satisfying and well-earned ending at the conclusion to his series, but surely the Greatest Spaceknight can be enticed to come out of retirement to instill some much needed justice in a chaotic universe. ROM’s last appearance in comics was at Rick Jone’s wedding in Incredible Hulk #418. According to the events of the 2000 series Spaceknights, ROM had taken the name Artour (remember his encounter with the ghosts of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table in ROM #37). He is missing and presumed dead. As we all know, good heroes die hard. At the very least this guy has earned the right to get either the Essential or Marvel Masterworks treatment. I know Marvel no longer possesses the rights to the character, but now, with the power of Disney backing them up, surely they can muster the funds to pave the way for ROM’s return to the House of Ideas.
In recent years in pop culture, ROM made a cameo appearance in the instant classic 3-part South Park epic Imaginationland. What a triumphant moment that was for the Odinson to see one of his all-time favorite heroes be recognized like that. ROM also made a not-so-triumphant appearance in an episode of Robot Chicken. Several times in recent years, ROM has been referred to and mentioned in all but name (see Annihilators and Avengers #12.1).
STOP TEASING US, MARVEL! Please, work out the rights with Parker Brothers or whoever holds the rights to this awesome hero and return him back to the fold. Marvel is suffering similar copyright woes with collecting the classic adventures of the Master of Kung Fu because Shang Chi’s origin story ties in so heavy with Fu Manchu, a character not owned by Marvel. However, in the aftermath of the upcoming Secret Wars 2015 event, Marvel will rewrite Chi’s history to omit the Fu Manchu ties. Perhaps the same can be done with ROM. Though I’d prefer to see his classic stories collected unabridged.
My point is this. I’m obviously not the only ROM fan in the world. There are websites dedicated to ROM. This is an important character in Comics History. This is a fantastic creation and dearly needs to come back. This is my 10th Annual proclamation for ROM’s return, and I’m prepared to do it every year until the end of time until the powers that be heed my call.
Marvel, hear my plea. Work it out and bring ROM back!
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell