A Public Service Announcement

Over the past week, I’ve gotten a couple of emails about an upcoming event that I thought might be of interest to a few of you, especially considering that it involves… this guy:



If any of you live in the Portland, Oregon area–or plan on being there during the first week of December–then you’re probably going to want to stop by Floating World Comics on the 6th for an art show organized by Jason Leivian that could only be called SPACENIGHT: A Tribute to Bill Mantlo.

That’s right: An entire art show dedicated to ROM, featuring work by John Buscema, Al Milgrom, Corey Lewis, and even Jeffery Brown, who I assume will be doing a picture where ROM gets sad because Starshine left him for the guy who works at the local record store or something, but still!

They’ll be selling digital prints and original art, and the best part of all is that the show’s going to serve as a fundraiser for Bill Mantlo, whose legendary career was tragically cut short by an accident while he was rollerblading in 1992. And if you’re not in the Portland area, don’t worry: Leivian plans to make all the work available in a tribute book–the profits from which will also be going to help Bill’s brother and caregiver Michael.

And to top it all off, he’s still looking for artists to contribute to the show. Given that the show opens on December 6, though, you’ll probably want to move fast on that. You can contact him for details at jason [at] floatingworldcomics [dot] com, and he’s accepting high-res art for the show of ROM and the rest of his cast as .tiff or .pdf until November 16.

Long-time ISB readers (and anyone who’s seen the script for my upcoming FlashBack Universe story) will probably recall that Mantlo is one of my all-time favorite writers, and just like David Yurkovich’s excellent Mantlo: A Life in Comics, Leivian’s art show seems like a great way to give back to a guy who gave us so much in a career marked by almost always being better than he had to be.

Check it out, won’t you?

An Open Letter to Marvel Comics

Dear Marvel,

We’re pals, right? I mean, sure, we’ve had some rough times over the years, but it’s been a pretty solid relationship, so can we make like Cypress Hill and be real for a second?

What the hell, bro?

I refer, of course, to this:



Yes, it’s a solicitation for The Essential Power Man and Iron Fist, and at first glance, that looks like a great idea. It picks up where you’ve left off in both Essential of Luke Cage and Iron Fist, showcasing theiradventures as the greatest team to ever travel to another dimension and fight a guy who flew through space riding a giant green tiger.

But there is a problem here.



It skips an issue, Marvel. And as soon as I saw that, I realized what issue it was. Power Man and Iron Fist #73.



The one with ROM: Spaceknight.


Now look, Marvel, I realize that this one isn’t your fault. The rights to ROM are notoriously screwed up, and I’ve got to believe in my heart that if you could’ve published that issue, you would’ve, but seriously. Even though it isn’t technically legal, don’t you have a responsibility–no, a moral imperative–to include that one?

How can you deny your reading public a comic that opens with the greatest of the Spaceknights rampaging through Harlem and blasting hookers with his space laser?!



Really. You’re going to sit there and not publish that because of publication rights that haven’t made anyone any money in twenty years. Really.

Maybe it’s just that you’ve forgotten how freakin’ awesome this issue really is, and in that case, it’s up to me to remind you. See, while ROM’s crusing through Harlem on his Dread Mission of Cosmic Vengeance and blasting the living crap out of the shape-shifted dire wraiths who hide amongst humanity without bothering to explain to anyone that he’s not really vaporizing innocent citizens, Luke and Danny spend the first part of this Mary Jo Duffy/Greg LaRocque classic at the opening night of Day of the Dreadlox, a play starring the vaguely Chuck Norris-like Bob Diamond, wherein he fights odd little robots that roll around yelling “INCINERATE!

Yes, you read that right: Power Man and Iron Fist attend a play where Chuck Norris fights the Daleks. That alone should be reason enough for this thing to be classified as Essential, and that’s just what happens by page five.

Anyway, as I’m sure you know since it’s what happened whenever two of your characters ran into each other for about forty years, ROM and the Heroes For Hire need to fight before they can get anything accomplished, and it all comes down to A Pimp Named Solace:



Ah, the revenge of an angry man who unknowingly pimped a shape-shifting alien wizard. Like every element of this story, it speaks to all of us, even today… and yet, you would keep it from us.

You would deny us the action



…the pathos



…and the heartbreak



… of this most awesome of team-ups?

I say no! This omission cannot be allowed to stand, Marvel. I mean seriously, didn’t you guys mint up some highly-illegal quarters in flagrant violation of the law? Are you really willing to take on the U.S. Government to promote a Jessica Alba movie, but you won’t risk the wrath of Hasbro to bring us the Heroes for Hire and the Greatest of the Spaceknights, together at last?!

Say it ain’t so, Marvel. Say it ain’t so.

Best of the Best,
Chris Sims



BONUS FEATURE: Join The Revolution!


If you’re like me and you believe that we comics readers deserve and demand the return of Galador’s favorite son–at the very least in the team-up issues–feel free to take up the cause yourself:



ROM Week: This Creature Men Call… The HULK!

One of the things that might not have been made abundantly clear over the past week–what with the fact that he usually disposes of his problems by shooting them with his giant, unweildly square hunk of sheet metal Neutralizer–is that ROM also comes with a pretty standard array of super-powers.

After all, you don’t go out and trade your humanity to the Prime Director of Galador for a suit of cyborg armor that looks like an NES with legs without getting some pretty serious perks, and for ROM, said benefits far outweighted the drawback of not having any fingers. The cyborg armor gave him the ability to fly and–as we’ve seen–withstand even the raking, razor-edged claws” of Wolverine, but most importantly, it made him crazy strong.

Case in point, ROM #26, wherein ROM punches his way into Galactus’s spaceship.



I don’t know if you guys know this, but not everybody can do that. In fact, ROM’s strength was so remarkable that over the course of the first few years of the comic, other characters often compared him to the Hulk, at which time ROM would inevitably look off pensively and think to himself that one day, he would have to encounter this creature that men call… The Hulk.

Clearly, these two had to get together. Thus, Boisterous Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema’s Incredible Hulk #296.



Sadly, despite the fact that it features ROM shakin’ that ass on an awesome Bill Sienkiewicz cover, this one isn’t the all-out slugfest that I think everybody wants it to be, and falls slightly short of the issue of Power Man and Iron First where ROM Neutralizes a Dire Wraith hooker on the grand scale of ROM guest appearances.

The whole thing opens with what essentially amounts to a three-page advertisement for ROM’s own comic, catching up 1984’s impressionable youngsters on on ROM’s origin with handy shots of our hero totally chokeslamming a Dire Wraith and informing us that he’s using his Energy Analyzer to track down a strange source of radiation.

Said source is, of course, ol’ Jade Jaws, who has enough problems of his own to be getting on with. At the time, for those of you who don’t remember Secret Wars, Bruce Banner’s mind had finally gained control of the Hulk’s body, as long as he didn’t flip out and go BANANA.

And at this point, you should’ve already figured out what’s going to happen in about fifteen pages.

Anyway, it all comes down to a guy with the almost-unbearably manly name of Max Hammer, who responded to a terminal illness by blackmailing Bruce Banner into subjecting him to Gamma Rays, apparently forgetting how that actually works out for everybody except Doc Samson. Result: Crazy Old Man Hulk Monster.



As you might expect–what with the fact that this is a mid-80s Bill Mantlo issue of Incredible Hulk we’re talking about–this quickly leads to bone-shattering fight scene, and despite the fact that he manages to land a haymaker right to… well, to about a foot and a half below the old guy’s crotch…



…Banner quickly finds himself outmatched by the savage fury of a cranky old man. So let this be a lesson to you, kids: For the love of God, stay off the man’s lawn.

So severe is the ass-kicking that the Hulk receives from his geriatric counterpart that Banner’s mind retreats deep within the Hulk’s psyche, and, as predicted…



…the Savage Hulk returns with an uppercut that sends Hammer through the roof and pretty much out of the story.

And that’s about the time that ROM shows up, greeting the Hulk’s then-girlfriend Kate Waynesboro with the kind of modesty he’s known for.



Quite the charmer, that guy.

Before long, ROM’s managed to Neutralize the Gamma Radiation that’s killing Hammer’s test subjects and heads off for the confrontation everyone had been waiting for since ROM first set foot on the planet five years previous.

Needless to say, it doesn’t quite work out that well for the Greatest of the Spaceknights, and even the time-honored comic book tradition of ramming yourself head-first into your opponent’s breadbasket can’t stop this from happening:



And that pretty much settles that.

The Hulk, of course, ends up accidentally catching Kate on the backswing and runs off, and–despite the fact that it’s continued directly from the end of this one–ROM is nowhere to be found in the next issue, apparently having decided that chasing down lumpy, hooded space-witches is probably more his speed.

And considering that the Hulk ends up beating the living crap out of the Avengers two issues later in Hulk #300–still one of the most mind-bogglingly awesome comics known to man–I think we can all agree that was a pretty wise decision.

ROM Week: Horror Is The Hybrid!

Despite the fact that he was one of the most prolific writers of Marvel’s Bronze Age who took on oddball titles like The Human Fly, Bill Mantlo’s comics were always entertaining, and often a heck of a lot better than they had to be. They were not, however, anything resembling subtle.

Much like with Jack Kirby, who once created a villain named Baron von Evilstein and named the personification of Ultimate Evil “Darkseid,” you get the feeling that Mantlo just doesn’t have time for it: The longer you spend on luxuries like nuance and innuendo, the fewer pages you have where the Hulk rampages across Manhattan fighting everybody.

We know, for instance, that within ROM’s cold steel body resides a noble soul because he stops to deliver a vaguely-Shakespearean soliloquy to that effect from the time he lands on earth for the next eight years. You can almost set your watch by it. Is ROM out in a field proclaiming his love for Brandy Clark and bemoaning the loss of his humanity, light-years away upon golden Galador again? Must be four o’clock already.

Heck, he even does it while he’s fighting Collossus:



…but I’ll get to that in a second. The point is, in the world of ROM: Spaceknight, populated as it is with monstrous space-witches, it’s generally not very hard to figure out who the bad guy is. They just look bad.

And that’s how we ended up with something like Hybrid.



Making his debut in the pages of ROM #17, Hybrid is, without question, the most hideous comic book character ever created. I actually first heard about him from my friend Scott–whose love for ROM sparked my own interest in the title a few years ago–who once spent an evening describing him to me over dinner. The fact that we were devoting a solid two hours to discussing a villain from the pages of ROM was quickly overshadowed by a hasty napkin sketch and an all-too detailed description. I mean, just look at him. That guy’s not really a picture that aids in digestion.

It’s like Mantlo said he wanted the ugliest creature ever put on paper, and Sal Buscema was all too happy to oblige: The bulbous head, blotchy purple and pink skin, weird beak-thing, protruding ribs, and legs that end in oozing stumps rather than actual feet are just… just awful. Seriously, Mission Accomplished, guys.

As for who he is and how he came to be, here’s the short version. It starts, as all great stories must, with ROM kicking it in some dude’s living room.



Said living room is, of course, located in the town of Clairton, a small town that served as the beachhead for the long-simmering Dire Wraith invasion of Earth and was thus ROM’s base of operations for the first few years of the book. Oddly enough, it’s never really made clear why they picked West Virginia, although one can pretty much assume the Dire Wraiths were big John Denver fans.

Anyway, thanks to their inborn shape-shifting powers, the Wraiths were able to blend in largely unnoticed, to the point where a few of them even went so far as to take human wives to further their cover. One of them, who went by the name Jacob Marks, even fell in love, gave up his witchity soul-eating ways, and decided to raise a family.

Normally, this would be good news, but as it turns out, when a mommy and a daddy do some special hugging to make a baby, and one of the parents is actually a spellcasting deviant Skrull, their kid turns out like this in about fifteen years:



Teenagers. What a handful.

As one might expect from the mind-bogglingly ugly spawn of human and Dire Wraith, Hybrid is totally evil and possessed of profound mental powers, and therefore should probably be blasted into a fine mist at ROM’s earliest convenience. But while subtlety isn’t really the watchword, things are rarely that simple, even for ROM.

See, in accordance with the laws of the Marvel Universe, the offspring of two different species–like, say, Prince Namor–are mutants, and when it comes to a cyborg hunting down a mutant and blasting it to atoms, there’s a small, little known group that usually tries to stop that from happening: The X-Men.

Thus, Fight Scene!




So, the X-Men beat up ROM, ROM beats up the X-Men, they all realize that they should be beating up Hybrid (and that maybe mutant life isn’t so sacred when it’s quite that revolting), and Kitty Pryde’s able to grab ROM’s neutralizer and send Hybrid to Limbo, from whence he shall never return.

Or at least, not until ROM Annual #3 (guest starring the New Mutants), wherein he escapes from Limbo, becomes a small-town pastor, and does his level best to force ROM’s girlfriend to have sex with him in a scene way, way too grotesque for me to post here.

And I think we’re all better off without it.



Thus Ends the Heart-Hammering History of the Hideous Hybrid!
But ROM Week Soldiers On!

Tomorrow Night on the ISB:

The All-Out Action takes a break, as I turn my attention to this week’s comics for the Week In Ink!
But will ROM show up?
You BET he will!
And How?


ROM Week: And Now…

The ISB Presents:


ROM, Spaceknight: Scratch DJ



DJ Rom, yellin with his mitts
Givin’ sucker Dire Wraiths epileptic fits
He’s got two red eyes, not one like a Cylon
He’s in a danger zone so bust out the pylons
And the yellow tape ’cause it’s a crime scene
When he waxes and he scratches on the record machine

DJ Rom
Ricka ricka rock (x4)


Lyrics by David Campbell, “art” by Chris Sims. That’s right: ROM Week is so powerful that it brought us both together.