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?


39 thoughts on “ROM Week: Horror Is The Hybrid!

  1. He also showed up in X-Man, as well. I always wondered what that was about, but for some reason I don’t think anyone involved wanted to mention what ROM had to do with it. Such a shame.

  2. Ahh, good ole Sal Buscema styled ROM action. Good times, good times…

    Athough I have to point out you completely left out the Rom story where Hybrid returns and Rom teams up with Still-Evil-Mutant-But-Already-Kinda-Good-Rogue to beat him.

    And Rogue hits on Rom and punches him in the gonads….

    Good times, good times…

  3. Rom, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought, or why we died. All that matters is that two stood against many. That’s what’s important! Valor pleases you, Rom… so grant me one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to HELL with you!

  4. Surely the most hideous comic book characters ever are those drawn by Rob Liefeld?

    …aah, a Rob Liefeld joke. Good times, good times.

  5. Surely the most hideous comic book characters ever are those drawn by Rob Liefeld?

    Hybrid’s footless design seems tailor-made for Liefeld and his shortcomings.

  6. “You, with the raking, razor-edged claws! Wait, I must speak with–AGGHH!”

    This line delivers on LEVEL after LEVEL.

  7. Don’t forget that waaaay after X-MAN # 31, HYBRID made a cameo appearance in NEW AVENGERS # 18.

    He was listed as one of the mutants whose powers were absorbed by the “Collective” (or whatever that guy was who later became the new Vindicator in Omega Flight).

    ROM’s legacy is still felt in the M.U.


    I remember first seeing “The HORROR known as HYBRID” when ROM # 17 first hit the stands.

    It was so freakin’ off the wall hideous that I. WAS. FREAKING. OUT.

    Sims chooses his freak-outs well.


  8. Why isn’t there a ROM collection out there? Or is there and I just can’t find it?

  9. Hybrid’s footless design seems tailor-made for Liefeld and his shortcomings.

    What do you think inspired him to enter comics in the first place? One horror spawned another, greater horror!

    Now, if only ROM could have punched HIM out…

  10. Yeagh! I’m glad I missed encountering Hybrid in a Marvel comic. If I had, I’d probably never have bought a Prius.

  11. What do you think inspired him to enter comics in the first place? One horror spawned another, greater horror!

    I belive, in the early-to-mid-90s, that the Image bullpen was infested with Dire Wraiths. Fact!

  12. After that last panel, I hereby dub ROM … the SVAMINATOR.

    Best believe I’m freaking out.

  13. Ralph Burns (a few posts further up) loaned me that issue, along with a big pile of ROM, last year. It’s wonderful stuff that never fails to entertain. Every issue is just so gloriously nuts. However, that shot of ROM sitting calm as you like in the way-too-small armchair has to be one of the best single panels in the whole run. Top ten, easily.

  14. Patrick Martin Says:

    Why isn’t there a ROM collection out there? Or is there and I just can’t find it?

    Licensing issues. Marvel doesn’t have the license to publish ROM anymore…even though the comic outlasted the toy by years. Shame really, between that and Marvel not having the Micronauts license, most of Bill Mantlo’s best work can’t be reprinted.

  15. Wow, and here I thought those rants about racial mixing were all hooey. Thanks, ROM!

    Excuse me, you there with the raking, razor-edged claws,have you heard about the dangers of — AGGHH!

  16. Oh, you don’t want ROM to lay the SVAM down.

    Does ROM has to SVAM a bitch?

    I think I have to name my firstborn “ROM Svamabitch” now.

  17. Has there ever been a character who was made for the team-up format more than ROM? I mean, the problem is never the actual team up, it’s always “Why is Luke Cage trying to beat up Spider-Man for five pages before they face the real bad guy.” And then you get some idiotic scene of Power Man reading an editorial in the Bugle and thinking maybe he could get a reward… But ROM looks like a robot who is killing people! First act: SOLVED.

    P.S. I also love when Wolverine gets punched over the horizon. And it’s not just because I’m sick of his crap. The guy’s superpower is that he can take an ass-whipping. It just seems like that would feature more prominantly sometimes.

  18. Chris Sims, you are a dire wraith! You forgot on purpose the second encounter beetween Hybrid and ROM before Rom annual 3: Rom 31-32 in which Hybrid wanted to have sex and make babies with the sisterhood of evil mutants (+ the scarlet witch, don'”t ask why, she was in the panel!)!!! double yerk!

  19. 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.

    Well, if I remember my Marvel Universe correctly, wasn’t Rom a poet on Galador before being turned into the universe’s most bad-ass walking toaster? Least he keeps up his chops, despite being reborn as an engine of Dire Wraith destruction. Most poets I know (and I know a disturbingly large number) spend most of their time bitching that no one appreciates poetry anymore.

  20. Never read much ROM – but it appears he can take and/or deflect a direct hit from Wolvie’s adamantium claws and then proceed to SWAM him right back to Canada. Awsome.

  21. A good run-down of a classic comic, as always. But I kind of object to the implicit mockery of Rom’s inner monologue while he fights Colossus.

    Like you wouldn’t be thinking the EXACT SAME THING if it were you in that situation? Be honest.

  22. See, regarding Wolverine’s power to take an ass-whupping and keep on um, tupping… that might not be the exact phrase I want there. Anyway, that was always one of the things that I never quite got about Wolverine. As far as I can tell, basically everyone who knows anything about him thinks of him as a badass close-combat fighter. Which is fine. I suspect being three hundred or however many years old and fighting for all but the first twelve of them (because his nice linen shirt would’ve gotten wrinkled) would by default make you a pretty good fighter. But every other master-level martial artist in the MU does their thing via not being injured constantly. Captain America? Has the shield, sure, but even without it you really have the impression that the guy just doesn’t take a lot of punches. He’s good enough to not be in the way of the punch and tough enough to shrug it off on the occasion that he does take one. Iron Fist? Also toughs his way through fistfights and dances around 90% of it in the first place. Wolverine? Takes every single punch or bullet or sword blade or blob of napalm within sixty feet of his personal combat. Healing factor shrugs it off, but gives me the impression that he’s only a scary fighter by virtue of not caring if he takes the hit. That has to give you a pretty sloppy fighting technique, to be honest. I think that’s why Mariko’s dad schooled him so hard in the original LS. I also think that I don’t recall when his healing factor became so amped up to rebuild him from being reduced to a skeleton (and that X-Men Annual doesn’t count, that was magic-boosted and just went to show that Wolverine was also the bestest and most noble person in all the universe. Kinda surprised Storm didn’t get to do that, since Claremont was writing, after all.). In the fight with the real blades with Shinjo (that was his name, right?), he took a katana through the abdomen and took a month to heal from that. Nowadays I feel like Thor could drop the hammer straight between his eyes and he could just walk it off.
    Bah. Now I feel like I’ve cranky-old-mannishly spoiled everyone’s ROM enjoyment. For that, I am sorry– although I have to admit I had no recollection that he was that big. He looks around nine feet tall.

  23. I absolutely love ROM’s sitting pose there. I can’t imagine anything stranger to come home to.

    “Greetings, Earthman. With the Dire Wraths preparing to destroy your planet, it has come to my attention that your home is not properly insured. How will you keep your loved ones safe during these dangerous times? With these simple forms…”

  24. Part of me agrees, but it really comes down to a matter of effort. Why should Wolverine avoid getting hit? It’s not like it really matters for him in the long run, and you’ve got to admit that it’d make him seem pretty badass.

  25. I think it would interfere with his samurai code or something. It would be dishonorable. Or whatever. I just have issue #3 of the Miller miniseries (reprinted in the Marvel Visionaries: Chris Claremont hardcover).

  26. I agree he looks pretty awesome standing up after a hit that plants him three inches deep in a stone wall. I think my problem is that they keep referring to him as a samurai and a martial artist left and right. I have zero problem with him doing the keeps-getting-up thing and being consistently referred to as a brawler. That’s how I thought of him until the LS and Classic X-Men told me he was a samurai all along. It’s like the difference between Luke Cage and Iron Fist: either one can hit you hard enough to make your unborn great-grandchildren suffer whiplash, but until they choose to thump you, one just stands there and lets you break your knives on his very flesh, the other is never quite where you’re stabbing. Luke’s a mechanic, Danny’s an artist. Dixon delineated the differences nicely in the first Robin LS.
    I guess I just see Wolverine as a mechanic, no matter how many times other people say he’s an artist. I thought the issue of Uncanny where he first met Captain America illustrated the difference well, too. IIRC, Cap provides some of the narration boxes and says something like, “He’s a brawler — no plan of action, no strategy, just a whirlwind of destruction. Everywhere he hits there’s someone to take the punch, because he won’t get out of the middle of the fight.” This of course said while Cap was waist-deep in Hand ninja as well, but he apparently had a plan. Although I’m sure he would’ve had caption boxes for that as well and I don’t remember those.
    It still hurts for Wolverine to take the hit, it still has to affect him, at least in the cases where he takes a hit like the one above, which sends him flying back a dozen yards (that has to throw off your berzerker frenzy a bit when you have to run back for twenty seconds out of every minute of battle). It just seems like he’d get sick of it after a while.

    That said, I do remember a backup story written (I think) especially for a HC collection that featured Logan sneaking into Mariko’s castle (some other Yakuza were threatening her and had taken over the place), bypassing dozens of guards and dogs and lasers and moats — until he gets inside the main wall. Then he deliberately breaks a laser tripbeam, figuring it’ll set off all kinds of alarms and he’ll get taken into custody and get it over with. He breaks the beam, lights up his position like the Fourth of July, and is immediately shot with three-round bursts from no fewer than twenty guns. He drops thirty feet to the ground and his carcass is dragged to the boss Yakuza, who tells his thugs to toss the corpse in the river. At which point Wolverine wakes up, throws the thugs off him, and does the two-claw-to-the-jaw thing he loves so much. The Yakuza back off and Mariko never hears from them again.
    Geez. Didn’t realize how passionate I apparently was about this subject. Sorry to take up all the blogspace.

  27. Flint Paper– you are spot on. Having been a student of martial arts, they always teach you to avoid being punched and keep distance so your punches mean more. And isn’t Wolverine supposed to be all covert ops? Why wouldn’t he just drop from the celing and slice some fools up then vanish. I mean some times he can look like an unbeatable tank but it is very played out in Wolverine fights.

    ROM on the other hand carries a big $%^&-off shiny gun. . and that makes him a bad ass.

  28. It’s the real reason why ROM hasn’t been revamped – he makes Wolverine look lame. He can take the “raking, razor edged claws” hit, backhand him so hard he’ll be blowing his nose out of the back of his head for a week, and STILL carry on for another five dozen-or-so issues. That just wouldn’t fly in today’s Marvel…

  29. pbares…

    Actually, Sal Busceme (the ROM artist) was one of the FOUNDERS of the “Gak-mouth” style.

    Anyone with their mouth open (and fingers spread in anticipation of a “jazz-Hands” festival) had the “gak”.

    Don’t get me wrong… I LOVED “Our Pal Sal” on ROM, but found myself VERY, VERY happy once IAN AKIN & BRIAN GARVEY came on as inkers.

    They REALLY turned ROM into a “BUY IT THE FUCK NOW”-book.

    I drool at it every time I take a look at any of their issues.


  30. Ah Ian Akin and Brian Garvey, who made Jose Delbo’s first issue on Transformers palatable. Unsung heroes. Whatever happened to them?

  31. Great thread! Just enjoying a couple dozen ROMs from EBay. On our honeymoon we found about that many for a dime each and read them on the floor of the place we stayed…we were there about three weeks, actually looking for Jobs, so honeymoon it was, by default…

    Akin and Garvey’s issues look amazing and I’m surprised the concept came through Buscema’s self-inked early issues.

    Yes, you can tell Wolvie had not yet become venerated by fandom, here…
    Hybrid was AWESOME in his horribleness…

    The Santa shop was great…

    and thanks, Chris, for all the ROM, who you are helping save from licensing oblivion. You are a true Rom Emmanuel.