|The name or term "Rom" refers to more than one character or idea. For a list of other meanings, see Rom (disambiguation).|
ROM The Space Knight was an electronic action figure released by Parker Brothers in 1979, and currently owned by Hasbro. Rom was a cyborg knight from space who fought the evil wizards called Dire Wraiths. Since 2016, the character has been featured in comics from IDW Publishing.
Inspired by the success of Star Wars, Parker Brothers wished to capitalize on the growing popularity of science fiction toys. ROM: The Space Knight was their answer. Originally created by Scott Dankman, Richard C. Levy, and Bryan L. McCoy as an Egyptian mystic character, the toy's design was later changed to a cyborg and sold to Parker Brothers. McCoy originally proposed the name "COBOL," after the programming language, but Parker Brothers renamed it "ROM," presumably after "read only memory." Rom was to be one of the first action figures with electronic components, as well as Parker Brother's first foray into action figures, having previously only produced board games. Due to the risk, the company decided to cut the cost of production as much as possible, replacing his originally green LED eyes with red and reducing its articulation. This unfortunately led to a not-too-favorable opinion of Rom featured in a TIME Magazine article released shortly after the toy hit shelves. Rom ultimately flopped, only selling between 200,000 and 300,000 units. However, despite it's low success in the Unites States, Palitoy licensed the figure in 1980 and released Rom as part of their Action Man line.
Rom's basic backstory was featured in a 1979 commercial, which introduced the ideas of Rom himself, his mission to hunt the Dire Wraiths, and that he belonged to a group of heroic knights called the Solstar Order. Parker Brothers had plans to produce a Dire Wraith figure (and presumably more Space Knights), but due to the underwhelming sales performance of Rom himself, Parker Brothers decided not to move forward with the rest of the line.
Like many toy properties of the 70s and 80s, ROM received a comic book from Marvel Comics titled ROM: Spaceknight, written by Bill Mantlo, who had previously written Marvel’s Micronauts series. It ran for a total of 79 issues from 1979 to 1986, even after the Rom figure was no longer on shelves. Like Micronauts before it, ROM: Spaceknight was fully integrated into the mainstream Marvel Universe. Because the story for Rom's toy was so vague, Mantlo was free to create much of the backstory for the character, including replacing the "Solstar Order" with the planet Galidor and introducing new, original Spaceknights (one word, instead of the toy's "Space Knight") and supporting characters. This, coupled with the terms of the license allowed for several ROM characters to continue being published in Marvel stories even after Marvel lost the license. Marvel also created their own look for the Dire Wraiths and, because Parker Brothers had never trademarked the term for use on a toy, they were able to continue publishing comics featuring them. This led to the widespread misconception that the Dire Wraiths were an original creation of Mantlo's and solely Marvel's property.
After Parker Brothers was absorbed by Hasbro, the company teased the possibility of reviving Rom over the years. When Hasbro released the promotional comic for their planned Unit:E crossover, the characters briefly mentioned the Solstar Order. A new Rom The Space Knight toy was planned to be released as a character in the Transformers: Bot Shots toyline, but it was never released. Finally, a special ROM The Space Knight Mighty Mugg was released as an exclusive item at the 2014 San Diego Comic Con.
In 2015, IDW Publishing announced plans for a new ROM series. Originally solicited as "ROM: The Space Knight," the series debuted with a special Free Comic Book Day issue #0 in May 2016. IDW later revealed that ROM would be folded into their new shared Hasbro Universe as part of the Revolution event, along with titles like The Transformers, G.I. Joe, and Micronauts.
IDW ROM Series
- Unlike the Transformers license, which gave Hasbro ownership of any characters that debuted in the comic, the Micronauts and ROM: Spaceknight licenses gave the rights to any characters originating in the comics to Marvel.