ROM Week: The Space-Witches Of Central Park West!

Under normal circumstances, I’d probably kick off a week about a particular character by writing up one of my patented (and ironically named) Brief Histories to catch everybody up, but really: It took me three days just to get through Team America, and trying to apply the same kind of process to eighty issues of Mantlotainment would probably take a Dave Campbellesque eighteen-day “week” and leave my senses irrepairably shattered.

Besides, all you really need to know about ROM can be summed up in about one paragraph:

 

In order to turn the tide in a long, losing war against the sinister shape-shifting Dire Wraiths (who were also Skrulls, and also had magical sorcery powers), the planet Galador called for its citizens to volunteer themselves to become cyborgs. Thus, in the flower of his youth, Rom made the decision that would leave him looking like the odd offspring of a toaster and a ’50s-era concept car to become the first and greatest of Galador’s Spaceknights. Inspired by Rom’s sacrifice (and the fact that his name would henceforth be written only in capital letters), more people joined up and the tide was turned, but instead of regaining his lost humanity, ROM decided to devote the rest of his life to… well, to pretty much traveling around the galaxy commiting genocide on the Dire Wraiths, to the point where he actually leads Galactus to their Homeworld:

 

 

“You want to know how to do it? Here’s how: They bring their space-magic, you bring the Devourer of Worlds. You give up your humanity, they’re scoured from the face of the galaxy.

That’s the Galador way.

 

But don’t worry: In accordance with Drizzt’s Law¹, the entire race–with the exception of one guy ROM meets in a backup story by Steven Grant–is inherently and unrepentantly evil, and Wraithworld gives Big G heartburn anyway.

Still, the fact that ROM even spent two issues hanging out with Galactus is one of the things that’s so interesting about him. It might just have something to do with the fact that the entire ROM toy line consisted of one (1) action figure–and let’s be honest, it was not very good–but while other toy tie-ins like GI Joe and the Transformers stayed pretty firmly in their own universes, ROM was all over Marvel. When you get right down to it, the only thing Bill Mantlo had to work here was that ROM was “from space,” so why not just throw him into the Marvel Universe and make it all work?

And that’s why my favorite ROM stories are the ones where he teams up with Marvel characters to beat the crap out of space witches. Case in point: Marvel Two-In-One #99:

 

 

Marvel Team-Up might get all the press, but for my money, Two-In-One is right up there with the best Haney/Aparo Brave and the Bolds for sheer team-up excitement, owing mostly to the fact that it was an entire series based around Ben Grimm +1 beating people up for 22 pages a month. So really, a plot summary is barely even necessary here.

But I’m going through it anyway: The whole thing (a Bill Mantlo/Bob Hall joint) gets started on a dark and stormy night in Manhattan with what is, without question, the most adorable picture of Aunt Petunia’s favorite nephew ever put on paper:

 

 

Awww, look at ‘im! And see, it’s funny because he’s scared, but he himself is… you know what? You can probably figure out the subtleties of Bill Mantlo’s humor without me pointing the way.

Anyway, Ben’s getting the creeps reading through a book of ghost stories when up on the roof there arises such a clatter that he springs from his chair to see what’s the matter. And what to his wondering eyes should appear, but…

 

 

…ROM the Spaceknight, and–holy crap he’s on fire.

Or at least smouldering. At this point, I feel that I should point out that the Thing and ROM actually know each other by this point in their careers, having met after that time ROM Neutralized a hooker and then borrowed a space-ship from Reed Richards. A space-ship, I hasten to add, that he never got back. But really, that’s water under the bridge, and it’s not like Reed didn’t have five or six just laying around anyway, so it’s safe to say they’re on friendly terms.

At least, they’re friendly once ROM’s taken a short nap on the FF’s Auto-Doc and regained consciousness, at which time he studiously avoids explaining where Reed’s twenty billion-dollar spacecraft went by explaining his new problem:

 

 

SPACE WITCHES.

 

For future reference, almost all of ROM’s problems revolve around Space Witches. These particular ones, it seems have moved into Central Park, completely escaping the notice of New York’s largely oblivious citizenry. Specifically, they’ve set up shop in Belvedere Castle–which, surprisingly, actually exists, where they’ve set up shop using their sorcerous powers to resurrect a fallen spaceknight named Firefall.

So, to review, this issue features ROM teaming up with a cosmic-powered orange rock monster to fight…

 

 

A GHOST CYBORG MADE OF FIRE.

 

If you find yourself Freaking Out, do not attempt to seek medical attention: This is a perfectly normal reaction to the work of Bill Mantlo.

Clearly, this aggression will not stand, and with ROM burned half to death from his first encounter with the Cyborg Ghost of Firefall, the ever-lovin’ Blue-Eyed thing decides to lend a hand. Predictably, ROM flies off to take on his old pal (solving his problem by blowing something up, another recurring Mantlo theme), while the Thing heads into Hogwarts to deal with the Dire Wraiths, who quickly manage to put him into their thrall.

 

 

 

Fortunately, ROM’s got an ace up his sleeve in the form of his Neutralizer. See, in addition to looking like someone hot-glued a pudding cup to a tea tray, the Neutralizer has the ability to… well, neutralize energy, as well as being able to blast Dire Wraiths into Limbo². It’s the former power that he goes with here, putting a quick end to the fight by neutralizing the Cosmic Energy in the Thing’s body and turning him back into Ben Grimm.

Who promptly goes apeshit on the Dire Wraiths.

 

 

 

Thus, an entire coven of Dire Wraith witches is defeated by the power of the Yancy Street Chin-Check. Which, really, is the way it should be.

Unfortunately (and expectedly), the cosmic rays are so strong that the neutralizing effect is only temporary, and Ben Grimm’s regular rocky complexion reasserts itself by the last page. But still, everything pretty much worked out for the awesome.

 

The Dire Wraiths Are Defeated!

But What’s NEXT For the Greatest of the Spaceknights?!

Find out TOMORROW as the ISB Brings you an ALL-NEW SHOCKER that you have to SEE to BELIEVE!

“What Will Become Of ROM, Spaceknight?” Only WE Know!

BE THERE!

 


¹: First defined on ISB Classic, Nov. 9, 2006. It’s science.

²: Not to be confused with the Limbo where Belasco lives, except in that Annual guest-starring the New Mutants where… you know what? I’ll get to it later.

45 thoughts on “ROM Week: The Space-Witches Of Central Park West!

  1. Y’know… I avoided buying this issue for the longest time. I love the idea behind Marvel Two-In-One (Thing + Somebody Else x 22 pages of Clobberin’ Time = AWESOME) but have always found Ron Wilson’s art to be distractingly bad. Luckily, ROM’s single MTIO appearance was Wilson-less.

    Mantlo, on the other hand, is the cat’s tits. We need an entire blog to celebrate his work.

    ROM week is the best.

  2. “They bring their space-magic, you bring the Devourer of Worlds.”

    Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaam.
    *can’t think of anything more to add*

  3. A single tear ran down my right cheek as I read this post. I collected all the issues of ROM as a twenty-something dude. That makes me old. Thank you for preserving the legacy that is Mantlo. I took all his awesomeness for granted at the time. But no more! Life is too short.

  4. Hey, until Transformers and G.I. Joe, all of Marvel’s toy/tv cartoon licences took place in the Marvel Universe proper: Godzilla, Shogun Warriors, Team America, Rom, Crystal Warriors, MICRONAUTS!

    Interestingly enough, all written by Bill Mantlo.

  5. Excellent stuff, Rom is indeed the business.

    Interestingly enough Mantlo did plot the first two issues of Transformers (was he taken off the title at the behest of Hasbro) who didn’t want Transformers mantlo-ised?

    I smell a conspiracy!

  6. The first time Bill Mantlo reached my country of Sweden was in the pages of the HULK comic-book. Mantlo wrote several awesome Hulk stories.

    Mantlo Smash!

  7. There should be a letter campaign to Marvel about bringing back ROM Spaceknight because this is way better than any issue of Civil War. They could stop making comic versions of classic novels to free up the production costs.

    I really need more ROM in my life.

  8. Hell yes, ROM week is already awesome and we’re only one day in!

    By the way, if anyone would actually like to get up-to-speed on the Greatest of the Spaceknights, Comics 101 did a comprehensive review of basically every single time ROM’s shown up.

    Part 1

    Part 2

    Part 3

  9. It only lasted one issue, but issue three of Transformers was set in Marvel continuity, with a one panel Nick Fury guest appearance, and Spider-man going mano a roboto against Ravage, Frenzy, Rumble, and Megatron.

    Later, after they were divested of all things Marvel, the writers introduced a few new superheroes led by a Tony Stark lookalike.

  10. While, I too would LOVE to see the return of ROM, without that MANTLO magic, in todays Marvel, it would most assuredly suck.
    Thus tarnishing the wonder.

    So, as sad as it may seem, in an instance like this, it might be best to be content with what we have.

    I do, however, think that if Bill’s brother (and caregiver) would to whisper in Bill’s ear that he has been called back to write ROM… a miraculous recovery might occur.

    The previous awesomeness of MANTLO’s writings have made me believe in such things.

    With Mantlo… all things are possible.

    ~P~
    P-TOR

  11. Oh, man.

    I always thought that the title for this issue was:

    GHOST STORIES for a RAINY NIGHT.

    But, after just popping over to MileHighComics’ website, they have the title listed as:

    “SSHSSS”

    Chris Sims for the WIN!

    ~P~
    P-TOR

  12. Mantlo, like any sensible creator, got out of writing Transformers at the first opportunity. In fact, I think TF had about six different writers for the first twelve issues before Bob Budiansky, Marvel editor and writer of the box-back character profiles, got the job. Surprisingly, nobody else wanted to write an ongoing series featuring a starting cast of 36, not counting human characters, with a toy company leaning on them to introduce an average of four new characters PER ISSUE for the next five years. Frankly, it’s a miracle uncle Bob was able to write a coherent story at all, let alone one that kept kids coming back till Furman took over the reins in ’89.

    Ahem.

    In other news, Ben Grimm reading Ghost Stories For a Rainy Night is quite possibly the most adorable thing I have ever seen. At the opposite end of the scale, Ben Grimm uppercutting a Wraith Witch with sunburned legs is one of the most face-rocking things I have ever seen. All this for only 60 cents?

  13. Surely the time has come for that Rom advert with the vintage Ron Smith art? Somebody had a copy but they may have died of pure awesomeness while gazing on it since then.

  14. Is Belasco that guy who showed up in an early Punisher Jigsaw story with the Rev and *wink-wink* was totally NOT satan *wink-wink*?

  15. But minus several million for the Red October one. Sir Sean on the brain lately?

  16. The most awesome way this comic could end is to have the Thing leave to get pie or something after beating up all the space witches. And then Alicia Masters shows up and says, “But Ben, aren’t you going to finish your book of ghost stories?” And the Thing stops, looks back over his shoulder, and we get a big juicy closeup as he says “I don’t NEED to read it … I’ve LIVED it.” Then we get a freeze-frame and the S*W*A*T theme plays over the credits. Holy God, that would be awesome.

  17. Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaam.
    *can’t think of anything more to add*

    I would add an “n” to the end of that. But that’s really it.

    I think that “ROMtouchables” quote may be my next screen saver. ROM does not shiv.

    On Two-in-Ones and Clobberin’, any chance of a future look at the first appearance of The Champion? One of my favorite issues of anything. I would like to see Champion beat the ever-loving piss out of The Enforcers’ Ox, as well, so the “just add Enforcers” principle works out nicely.

    Have a Great Day,
    Gary E. Poisson

  18. ROM week. The cure for what ails you.

    I’ve read about half of ROM (the latter half) but I had no idea that he appeared in Marvel Two-in-One. (Which is REALLY weird, because I love that book, more so than Marvel Team Up. Go figure.) Now I have something new to look for the next time I go back issue hunting.

  19. I really REALLY need to complete my ROM run, and find this issue, as well. I had no idea Firefall returned, even for a short duration like this. Must buy!

  20. Holy crap that list has a lotta Mantlo! And look at those runs: 75 of Rom, 70 Hulks, 60-odd Micronauts, 40 Alpha Flights…I had no idea he was that prolific!

    Is that Mantlo book available yet? I think I need it.

  21. Did ROM and Conan ever team up? Because I imagine the latter’s oaths would lead to some interesting conversations with the former.

  22. I love the fact that the Thing’s briefs turn into Ben Grimm’s boxers instead of just falling off – sort of a reverse Hulk principle, there. Unstable molecules really can do anything…

  23. Wait… Dire Wraiths? Pale space people in blue-black robes?

    Okay, then. So Wraith isn’t ROM.
    He’s just going to be blown up by ROM.

  24. You know, when I woke up this morning, I really didn’t think that by 8:15pm I would be planning on spending $50 at the local comic shop buying back issues of ROM.

    But hey, that’s just what I’m doing.

  25. My two favorite characters as a kid were The Thing and ROM. I still think that cover is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. Hopefully I can find my copy so I can read it again.

  26. So, Space Witches have white claws and pale fanged faces, but Caucasian-pink legs under their robes?

    That’s really disturbing.

  27. D’you think Ben ever sits around and thinks “Wonder whutever happened ta ROM? Wonder if he can’t be legally seen in public no more fer contract and copyright law restriction reasons?”

  28. Two observations:

    !. “The space-scum is correct!” as a phrase is used nowhere NEAR as much as it should be these days (example: “Sir, you were going 10km over the speed limit”.”The space-scum is correct!!”); and
    2. “Twice tonight I have been forced to hurt a friend – in order to fight a foe!” Like he gives a shit, what with all the space-scum just begging to be panelled mercilessly. That just floats thy boat, on Galador.

  29. I suppose I could have been projecting my own bad taste in movies when I assumed “pinging” referred to the underwater secret communication between the Red October and the Dallas submarines. Or I’m just too old to understand what pinging is these days.

    Sorry.

  30. A.R.Yngve wrote:

    The first time Bill Mantlo reached my country of Sweden was in the pages of the HULK comic-book. Mantlo wrote several awesome Hulk stories.

    Again we hear of this “Hulk,” who is held in awe from the American South to Sweden. Will Rom’s path ever cross that of the Hulk … ?

    And, honestly, I can appreciate the joke, but what breakneck typist originally mistook the title for “Sshsss”? (It’s listed that way on the GCD, as well.)