Greetings from the Odinson,
It’s time once again for the Odinson’s annual shout-out to a sorely missed character with all the potential to be one of the best comics in history. Once a year (for over a decade now), the Odinson talks up one of his 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 Spaceknight, whose series ran 75 issues and 4 annuals from 1979-1987.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, after a bombshell of an announcement from IDW, a whole lot has changed in the past few months, and the future of our favorite Spaceknight is looking bright indeed. But, more on that in a moment.
First, for those that do not know who ROM is, here’s a quick overview of his story.
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 originally started out as a toy distributed by Parker Brothers. However, it was through the comic series helmed by the brilliant writer Bill Mantlo (Cloak and Dagger, Rocket Raccoon) with fantastic art by industry legends Sal Buscema (Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man) and the co-creator of Spider-Man, Steve Ditko, that the character’s story truly got fleshed out. It cannot be denied that ROM was a very important character to the early eighties Marvel Universe. His interactions with the super hero community helped shape not just the direction of his story, but also the direction of some very important characters that would go on to become Marvel legends. I cannot recommend this comic series enough.
The Odinson’s Top 10 Issues of ROM Spaceknight
10 – ROM Annual #2 – So, what do you do when the galaxy’s greatest Spaceknight goes missing? You assemble an elite strike force of super cool, super tough Spaceknights Dirty Dozen style to go looking for him. We’ve seen other Spaceknights besides ROM in the series to this point (i.e. Firefall, Starshine and Terminator), but this was Spaceknights doing what they do best, being heroes. It’s definitely a suicide mission as this small team of Spaceknights must venture into the very heart of their enemy’s empire to rescue their comrade. It will take all their skill, a lot of teamwork, and the various special abilities each Spaceknight brings to the table in order to survive. Long before Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, there was this hair-raising tale.
09 – ROM #10 – When those sinister shape-shifting Wraiths steal ROM’s weapon, the invincible Neutralizer, the stalwart Spaceknight pursues them to the nation’s capital. However, it’s not a stretch to see how a gleaming alien streaking across the sky over Washington D.C. could be perceived as a threat to national security. So once again, ROM is forced to defend himself against the very people he has come to Earth to save.
08 – ROM #69 – This issue is true sci-fi/horror at its best. Roaming the cosmos, ROM comes across a very strange rogue planet. As he investigates the bowels of this strange world, he soon discovers fellow Spaceknights and enemy Wraiths imprisoned within. It’s a trap! And, now ROM must try and survive an adversary that even mighty Galactus could not defeat – Ego the Living Planet!
07 – ROM #65 – All the drama, all the action, all the blood, sweat, and tears of the previous sixty-four issues has led up to this mega payoff. It is so completely awesome when years of buildup finally have a satisfying payoff. From the Avengers to the X-Men, Alpha Flight to the Soviet Super Soldiers, all across the globe, the heroes of the Marvel Universe stand united with ROM in the final battle to decide the war with the alien Wraiths, and the fate of planet Earth itself.
06 – ROM #45 – Now, this is an issue that just captured my imagination. When I was a kid, tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States were high, and that tension along with sci-fi paranoia is the backdrop for this classic tale of misunderstanding. Russia’s greatest heroes are sent to wrangle in a traitor, a traitor working alongside ROM Spaceknight. As you can imagine, tempers flare and a classic super hero battle ensues. As the Gremlin makes his escape, the Super Soldier known as Ursa Major follows him into the Forbidden Zone. When the Russian hero returns, he is battered and quaking with fear. This is a guy who has stood unblinking in the face of the Presence and battled the mighty Hulk. So, what could possibly be so horrible as to shake this valiant young hero to his very core and cause such fear? A cliffhanger last page reveals the answer. This issue illustrates that the Wraith invasion is not just an American problem, but a global one.
05 – ROM #27 – In his journeys, ROM has faced down some of the toughest and mightiest beings in the Marvel Universe – characters like Jack of Hearts, the Sub-Mariner, Terrax the Tamer, Gladiator, and the Hulk! However, in this epic adventure that not only sees ROM returned to his homeworld of Galador and facing down the full strength of the Dire Wraith legions, but ROM faces down the Devourer of Worlds himself – Galactus! It’s a poignant chapter as the space titan punishes ROM’s victory by using his power cosmic to prevent the Spaceknight from ever being able to return to Galador again.
04 – ROM #32 – This is the issue that started Rogue on her journey from a life of crime to becoming one of the most enduring heroes in the X-Men mythos. In Avengers Annual #10, Rogue, as a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, attacks Ms. Marvel with her mutant draining power and steals the hero’s abilities seemingly forever. In this issue, Rogue attempts to do the same to ROM. However, her contact with the noble Spaceknight awakens an inner goodness within her. Questioning her dark path, this leads Rogue to seek out help in Uncanny X-Men #171. And the rest, as they say, is history.
03 – ROM #75 – His war over, his humanity restored, and his planet saved, ROM gets to walk off into the sunset hand-in-hand with the woman he loves by his side. It is so rare in the annals of comics that a hero gets such a wholly satisfying and happy ending.
02 – ROM #50 – This was a major turning point in the saga of ROM, and a startling one. With ROM and Starshine imprisoned, the shape-shifting Wraiths invade the small town of Clairton and in true Invasion of the Body Snatchers style begin a night of terror those people will not soon forget. Many major and minor characters that have played a role in ROM’s saga since the beginning meet with gruesome endings at the hands of the Spaceknight’s foes, not the least of which is the super hero Torpedo. Also, in this pivotal issue, we learn that there is a connection between the Dire Wraiths and another shape-shifting alien race, the Skrulls.
01 – ROM #1 – It’s the one that started it all and set the stage for one of the Odinson’s All-Time favorite comic book series.
For years I would end my ROM column with a plea to the Powers that Be at Marvel Comics to bring back this sorely missed and much beloved hero. Well, ladies and gentlemen, our prayers have been answered. IDW is bringing ROM back! Starting with an introductory issue in May on Free Comic Book Day and followed this summer by an ongoing series – ROM SPACEKNIGHT IS BACK, BABY!
The Odinson is very, very happy and I look forward to reporting in future columns about the progress of the Greatest Spaceknight’s triumphant return.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell