Acquired: ROM Annual #1

Price: $2.80
Where: Future Dreams, Portland, OR

I recently made a trip to Portland, Oregon where I was able to cross a few things off the list. I've been looking for this one ever since I noticed it somehow missing from my collection.

Wow. That cover blew my 12-year old mind. Check that shit out. This is a classic, "I've gotta see what happens!" cover. A few things about it:

- That is some poorly put-together armor. It doesn't have ankles, feet bottoms, (feet bottoms? - moving on) arm protection, or under-thighs. (under-thighs?)
- Be thankful that the only piece still remaining is the crotch-guard. As an aside, I'm totally making a product called "Crotch-Guard." I don't know what it will do, but it'll come to me.
- I seem to remember that you're trading your humanity in order to become a space knight, and I seem to remember some kind of ceremony that left you scarred in some way. But, cripes! They sure fuck you up good.
- This scene, though it does happen in the comic, (I hate those "I've gotta see what happens!" covers that never take place in the book itself) happens on one panel only. But the crotch-guard is, finally, removed.
- Though I didn't know it when I was 12, this cover is by Affable Al Milgrom, an artist whom I generally despise, though I like his writing - for what it does - and he's a really funny and nice guy personally. I met him in '86 or so at some comic convention or another and he was happy to sign things, chat, and doodle for me. If I knew that he did this cover then, I would've had him sign it. This cover totally rocks, unlike say, all of Secret Wars II.

Unfortunately, the art on the inside is by Pat Broderick, an artist I cannot freggin' stand. Never have, never will. Bill Mantlo writes it, and it's a typical Mantlo "done it in one" threat that almost beats the hero but hero fights it back and we all learn something in the process script. He probably phoned this one in, but again, my 12-year old mind was blown.

Our story opens with some vast space judicial society sentencing one T'urin G'ar to "be expelled from the body," which is apparently like being in the Phantom Zone but without all that "trapped in an unbreakable prison thing." He floats around incorporeally through space for a bit until he comes across "A warm world! A living planet!" Three guesses.

He lands on Earth in some backwoods community where he upsets the local kid's baseball game. And here's an example of why I don't like Broderick's art:

We should all crave further adventures of 'Butch' and 'Pinkie.'

There's a whole lot wrong with that sequence... but let's just stick to the passage of time. This might be the worst example of dialog pacing you'll ever see. The baseball and the batter's swing are moving completely independent of the dialog. Unless they're speaking really, really fast.

Anywhoo, Mr. G'ar arrives, absorbs the kids and in the process gives us one heck of an out-of context panel:


"Merging them with his starstuff. T'urin G'ar bears the children off to a place of darkness where he senses he can be alone with his warm-things."

I once thought I had sensed a place where I could be alone with some warm things, but then the cop flashed his light into the car and scared us both shitless.

T-to-the-G decides to steal some essence from each of the kids (ewww...) in order to make another body for himself, because "The starstuff binding me prevents me only from rejoining the Body - not from stealing the essence of others!" That's some well-thought out punishment, there. That's likewise some well-thought out dialogue, there.

Meanwhile, ROM is doing his thing, looking for the Dire Wraiths, when he spots the kids' search party passing by. He detects some "other world" activity and goes off to find it. Instead, he finds the essence-less bodies of the kids and returns them to the search party.

In a scene that repeats itself in every issue of ROM, the humans assume he did something to the kids (or some other random human while hunting Dire Wraiths) and force him off. I swear, it would save a lot of time if ROM had a sign explaining things. Like this one:

Hooray for Crappy Photoskills!

The Dire Wraiths use the distraction to escape the search party and end up getting absorbed by Tig Giddy, who now goes by Stardust. ROM detects the Wraiths and follows the trail of Wraith corpses to S'Diddy's lair. Then they throw down smack like a Cracker, Jack!

Yo' mama wears mttens!

Notice ROM doesn't care about the Wraiths' life-energies. He's all harsh like that. And "Return the humans' life-energies, or suffer the wrath of ROM!" may be my new catch phrase to greet strangers with at bars. That or, "Soon you will have no desire to fight the Body!" Or, "Creature, you have defiled me with your unholy examination!" Mantlo's great with these. I'll bet he gets all the chicks. Props to the playa.

OK, I'm done with the gansta, yo. White-bread cracker like me shain't'all'n' go there. Word.

Anyway, ROM beats Stardust and uses all that extra "life-energy" to restore the children. But not the Wraiths. Cold, ROM, cold. You could restore them, then Limbo 'em, Homey! Fate worse than death or absorption by the S-Diddy, yo!

OK, I'm sorry. Last time, I swear.

He then explains the whole "I didn't kill any humans, they were really Wraiths in disguise - I'm a space knight and sorry it looked that way" thing he does in every issue and the town's cool with it. And we're all good.


There's a fun 6-page backup about another space knight named "Gloriole" - which I think is something what would cost you at least $15 in Thailand, if you knew the right hotel - betraying ROM before learning that it wasn't such a good idea and redeeming himself. More space knight mittens are involved.

This was an awesomely unexpected find during my vacation, and left me giggling the whole flight home. I loves me the ROM, and all it's campy goodness.


Adam Barnett said...

I had several ROM issues, and had this annual. I liked ROM until they got to the very end and decided they wouldn't bother drawing it well.

FoldedSoup said...

One of the comic runs on my list are the early ROMS (for nostalgic reasons) and the Ditko ones ('cause .. well, late Ditko stuff).

This one fell into the nostalgic camp - though I think it is a late ROM issue chronologically. I'd have to look that up.