Monday, September 7, 2015

The Return of ROM by IDW

Yes! ROM Spaceknight as a cover.
GloveStudios did this awesome.
Let's talk about what's happened to ROM Spaceknight recently, shall we?

First, Some History
ROM Spaceknight was originally a Parker Brothers toy Marvel turned into a comic book. The toy was not great, and lasted only one year, but the comic rocked. Hard, man. Hard.

The series started with a bang and had some decent turns, but as the story progressed it clearly became a war story, the story of every veteran, every person who's fought a long and vicious war and the terrible price they've paid for it.

ROM Spaceknight was not a "cool story" of a man turned cyborg now fighting bad guys. Rather, it was an epic tale of a wounded soldier who's been fighting an evil race for two hundred years and just wanted to go home - only to find the old adage was true: you can't. You can only move forward and seek allies along the way.

Written by Bill Mantlo and drawn primarily by Sal Buscema and Steve Ditko, ROM stands tall as arguably the best developed toy property Marvel did. He impacted their entire fictional universe before flying off into the sunset.

Over the years, many a soul has awaited the return of the Galadorian gladiator  to print. I loved it so much I compiled my own soundtrack for it on Spotify using various artists. Go to "ROM: Spaceknight OST" if you want to listen.

From a blog whose name I cannot,
in good conscience, repeat.
ROM - Now, by IDW
After languishing for years in the limbo of legal rights and trademarked names, which prevented Marvel from re-printing or even using his name, the rights to publish Rom have come to Chris Ryall of IDW.

Chris has chased this property for years. A true fan, he merely wants to see that classic character come to life again. I wish him the best, I truly do.

Yet as I sat down to think how Rom's story could progress forward, many elements failed.

ROM Spaceknight was published in the late 70s and early 80s, at the height of the Cold War. We had no internet and no smartphones. The fictional small town in Virginia Rom descends upon is so "retro" it still has a switchboard operator. All news of Rom, and an alien space 'robot', is easily squelched as a rumor, suitable for "The Enquirer." But all that could be a minor fix, I suppose, in a re-boot.

No, the real problem is, like any heroic character who finishes their task, Rom's original story was completed.

He finished his war, and was able, unlike any other spaceknight, to become human again and marry Brandy, the woman he loved. He's able to "start anew" on Galador, becoming...

...well, becoming Adam and Eve.

Pretty biblical ending, you know? "New heavens and a new Earth" type of stuff.

So with such a grand conclusion, to try and continue ROM's adventures requires a catastrophic denouement or deconstruction - and I'm not cool with that.

Losing Brandy, Such a Fine Girl
I've read one concept to restore ROM, but it ends up undoing the happy ending and having ROM recycle through his anguish as a cyborg all over again.

It turns Brandy into a self-centered, ignoble girl-child who didn't know what she was getting into. I can see the dramatic potential in that, even the necessity of conflict but the cost to the character is too great.

Not to Rom's character. Brandy's.

She was willing to sacrifice her humanity to be with Rom and join him in his mission to rid us of the Dire Wraiths. She's not ignoble, worried about her relationship with Rom or how they can have children. Get out of here.

No, the problem with Brandy was this: she was too sacrificial. She'd do anything for Rom.
And you thought
nuns were bad!
As the losses pile up and the Wraith War escalates, she sacrificed her humanity to become a spaceknight. She became soulless, blasting Wraiths with glee as Starshine. It got so bad, even Rom was grateful when she was forced to become human again, losing her as a spaceknight and comrade-at-arms.

He would rather that, than losing her soul.

The problem with being right is that you have the opportunity to become cruel. To go from sympathy to apathy to antipathy.

The same type of antipathy we see in the prophet Jonah, expecting the destruction of Nineveh and being angry when God did not do it after they repented. Mark that. They had repented, and he still wanted them gone.

It is a line even the disciples of Christ nearly crossed.

While doing great humanitarian works for Jesus, two of his disciples, James and John, got indignant at how a village "disrespected" Jesus, not even wanting Him to enter so He could eat and rest.

They got hot. They got really mad.
Luke 9:51-56
51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. 53 But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 
54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said,
“Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”
55 But he turned and rebuked them, [and he said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man came not to destroy people’s lives but to save them!”] 56 And they went on to another village.
Basically, these non-orthodox Samaritans, who did God their own way, put up a sign that said "NO JEWS ALLOWED." They ostracized them. If Jesus were black and it was the old South, it would have been "NO COLOREDS ALLOWED."

The insult was real. The disciples heart for Jesus was true. Their ability to actually call fire down from heaven? Was that really going to happen?

Well, if you read the rest of the chapter, you will see they were at the center of power. They might very well have done it successfully - like Elisha did when he was being bossed by an army of soldiers in 2 Kings 1.

Jesus does not say "Don't be silly. You cannot do that."

Jesus says "Don't you DARE do that! We have a mission to save, not destroy!"

Like my man Rom, Jesus came to save us from evil. A truly malevolent, deceitful, deadly plague that infests our world.

Like our lady Brandy, we want to join him in the battle and wage war. Gleefully. Without mercy and with "extreme prejudice" as the term goes.

If we do, we are in danger of losing our soul. We have to realize the sovereignty of God in all events and our personal responsibility in keeping our hearts soft and loving.

Let me show you 1 John 4:7
"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God."
Do you know who wrote that? John. One of the two men who used to want to call down fire from heaven on his foes. Same dude.

He was about 20 years old then. He wrote this when he was near 80.

I'm 50. I guess I'm halfway there.

Pray for me, saints.

I'm afraid I've been using my Neutralizer way too much.


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