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® He was the original techie from another planet. A failed action figure inspiring a 75-issue run (1979–1986), the gadget-dependent cosmic superhero ROM: Spaceknight may have had the most unique backstory in Marvel Comics history.

HE CAME NOT FROM THE PLANET GALADOR … BUT FROM YOUR LOCAL TOY STORE

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It was a riddle that even the Great Sphinx of Giza could not answer: ROM originated as an Egyptian character pitched to the burgeoning electronic toy market. In 2004, Lee K. Seitz posted an interview with ROM creator Bing McCoy on his website, ROM: Spaceknight Revisted. The toy creator, a former touring musician who once backed Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, created the action figure ROM. But McCoy’s name is not the only one registered to the ROM patent. According to McCoy, he started a toy company with Scott Dankman, after McCoy’s success developing Electronic Battleship. Marketeer Richard Levy came aboard, and, said McCoy, he “let them sign on as co-inventors so that they could [claim] capital gains status on their tax returns. Scott and I dissolved the partnership after a few years. “No toy company would want to sell an Egyptian mystic,” McCoy explained, “so I made it into a cyborg after all the toy companies passed on the ‘Egyptian’ concept. Parker Bros. picked it up because they [wanted] to try something outside the board game business.” Originally named COBOL after the computer programming language, “Parker Bros. changed the name to ROM,” McCoy recalled. “‘Read Only Memory.’ My only backstory was that he was a cyborg. Marvel came up with the main story concept.” There’s a good reason why Dire Wraith figures never invaded toy store shelves. “ROM pretty much flopped as a toy, so Parker Bros. didn’t want to make any more stuff,” said McCoy, who gambles that only 200–300K units of the 12" action figure were ever distributed due to poor marketing. “On the box was a terrible graphic design. It just didn’t look very sexy.”

Michael Aushenker

Marvel To Milgrom: “It’s Miller Time!” Al Milgrom’s original cover for ROM #1. Compare it to the Frank Miller/Josef Rubenstein version used instead, seen in the inset. “Frank was the hot artist at the time,” says Milgrom. “I actually thought my version was better. I would rarely have said it because Miller was a star, and who was I? But I think it worked better.” ROM TM & © Parker Brothers.

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Profile for TwoMorrows Publishing

Back Issue #32  

BACK ISSUE #32 (100 pages, $6.95) downloads comics’ “Tech, Data, and Hardware,” beginning with The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe,...

Back Issue #32  

BACK ISSUE #32 (100 pages, $6.95) downloads comics’ “Tech, Data, and Hardware,” beginning with The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe,...

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