So…today’s post is about the comics industry, at least a little. The big book to ship today was Dark Knight III: The Master Race, which sees Frank miller once again metaphorically urinating on his finest piece of work. Still, I can’t begrudge the man a paycheck. As a result, though…I’m not talking about that book.
Instead, Marvel Comics is putting out “Venom: Spaceknight” today. Not a book that carries much fanfare, although it does show a resurrection of the “Spaceknight” subtitle, which is the whole point of this post. That comes from a much older comic book entitled “Rom: Spaceknight,” which has an interesting backstory to it.
“Rom The Space Knight” was a toy co-created by Scott Dankman, Richard C. Levy, and Bryan L. McCoy (US Patent #4,267,551). It was sold to Parker Brothers, and was the inspiration for the comic book series. To build interest in the toy, Parker Brothers licensed the character to Marvel Comics which created a comic book, obviously. The comic expanded on the premise that Rom was a cyborg and gave him an origin, personality, set of supporting characters and villains, as well as interaction within the Marvel Universe. The comic was written by Bill Mantlo and initially illustrated by artist Sal Buscema.
Let’s be clear here…Marvel created every single idea that wasn’t Rom. Everything. The ensemble cast, the other spaceknights, the bad guys…everything. They just didn’t own the idea of Rom.
Ultimately, the toy failed and only sold 200,000 to 300,000 units in the US, with creator McCoy blaming the failure on poor packaging and marketing. Parker Brothers subsequently abandoned the line. The comic book, on the other hand, far outlasted the toy which it was created to support. The series lasted for 75 issues (not including the four annual issues) from December of 1979 to February of 1986 and Rom’s regular encounters with mainstream heroes and villains establishing him as key part of Marvel Comics continuity.
A part that we are no longer allowed to reprint, or depict, True Believers.
Legal issues regarding the reprinting of Rom guest appearances in other comics have led to complications. Brief cameos such as a holographic version of the character appearing as a distraction in Uncanny X-Men #187 have remained intact as have the Rom entries in the Essential Marvel trade paperbacks for the original Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe and its deluxe edition sequel. The cover of the Essential Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe removed Rom from the artwork used for the cover of the collection.
Several appearances by Rom have been outright omitted. Power Man and Iron Fist #73, which featured Rom was omitted from Essential Power Man and Iron Fist vol. 1, and similarly Marvel Two-in-One #99 was omitted from Essential Marvel Two-in-One vol. 4, while The Incredible Hulk: Regression trade paperback features a heavily edited version of The Incredible Hulk #296, removing Rom’s entire appearance in the issue. Furthermore, Rom #72, which was a tie-in to the Secret Wars II series, was omitted from the Secret Wars II Omnibus.
Right? Complex issues…although let’s remember…Marvel owns every single idea except Rom. Why not step forward and try to do another Spaceknight?
Well…they tried that. It was a limited series, it wasn’t very good..the less said about that the better. Jim Starlin wrote it, and said in an interview that he didn’t care too much about it, he was just taking the page rate to make payments on a boat or something of that nature. Now, apparently, IDW has the rights to Rom…but presumably nothing else that Marvel created. Whether that means I get Rom reprints…I don’t know. I do know that there will be a Rom comic book in 2016, by IDW.
The thing is…Rom himself, outside of his context created by Marvel, might not be enough. He didn’t have that stellar a personality on his own…a sort of lone, tormented cyborg knight…blah, blah blah…you know? It was his interaction with the familiar Marvel settings, the idea that he was the only one of the superheroes who knew about this mega threat…that was compelling.
I’m thinking that the “Spaceknight” sibtitle was recycled for Venom’s current book entirely to cement certain rights, and fan recognitions. This isn’t the first time former Spider-Man villain Venom has starred in his own ongoing solo series. It’s not even the first book to feature Flash Thompson in the lead role. But this new series is certainly unique in that it focuses on the symbiote-powered hero as an intergalactic adventurer rather than a grim and gritty defender of the common man. I’m not that sure that I really buy the premise, in fact…I associate the Venom symbiote with a murderous thug that want’s to eat brains, an alien that is best left in the Baxter Building. I can’t say that I look to the character in the same way as Rom…a figure of supremely noble cosmic self sacrifice.
Review by Jesse Schedeen
Venom: Space Knight / 25 Nov 2015
Venom: Space Knight #1 Review
From Guardian of the Galaxy to Agent of the Cosmos.
By Jesse Schedeen This isn’t the first time former Spider-Man villain Venom has starred in his own ongoing solo series. It’s not even the first book to feature Flash Thompson in the lead role. But this new series is certainly unique in that it focuses on the symbiote-powered hero as an intergalactic adventurer rather than a grim and gritty defender of the common man. This shift in focus results in a fun new platform for Flash. But like most of the Guardians of the Galaxy spinoff comics, Venom: Space Knight is a bit lacking in depth.
The one real problem with this new series is that it doesn’t have a strong, defined sense of purpose. Rom did, and the contrast is pretty clear. Other than his desire to answer the question “What is an ‘Agent of the Cosmos’ and what do they do?”, there’s not much conflict at play here for Flash Thompson/Venom. Who cares about the different between an Agent of the Cosmos and a Guardian of the Galaxy? I don’t, and I obviously care about that kind of thing.
So…there we have a bit of commentary on the byzantine history of Rom the Spaceknight, and a book that came out today, which looks beautiful, but lacks plotline. I hope that the IDW book next year has some new context for the Rom character that helps him to survive as an interesting figure outside of his ensemble cast.
About the art…I really waffled about what to draw today. This week has been about drawing things that matter to me a great deal, and challenging my skill set, since I have a great deal of time. I wanted to do a few things, and couldn’t decide what to do…but for the week, I don’t need to stick as hard to the Edu-Mountain setting. I can let our protagonist freely wander to the things that concern her (and me) outside of that setting. At the end of my thought process, Rom seemed like a good idea…an excellent character and comic that are almost forgotten, except in fan sites and fan art.
I’m going to pat my “Mighty Muggs” chibi Rom figure on the head now, so that he feels loved.