Thursday, April 9, 2009

IDOL PURSUITS :
ROM: SPACEKNIGHT is HERE!
- or -
It's my (birthday) PARTY, and I'll ROM if I want to.

Yup.
I'm the birthday boy today (although, this won't be posted until much of the day has passed), and I'm here (at the ripe old age of er...*phmorrty-tume*...*cough**cough*...) to share with you, in another "IDOL PURSUITS" * entry, my love of an action figure er... doll...uh... "Electronic 'Action' Toy" from 01979.

ROM : SPACEKNIGHT
ROM is here!
(As if the teasers I ran over the last two days didn't give it away...)


I'll even give a video tutorial "expose' " of sorts, at the end of this blog entry wherein, I, PTOR, speak to you and show you how the ROM figure works.
With several videos, some audio clips, plenty of photos and my usual verbose written word-count, this could very well be the most monstrously media oriented post I've ever attempted.

So, sit back and enjoy.
And remember... clicking on images makes them Galadorian in size!

*******

Now... ROM, for those of you who either are unfamiliar with the character - or - who only knew of him from his self-titled Marvel Comic series, was an electronic "interactive" toy, from a time when such things were only starting to be introduced into the marketplace.
However, since most of those electronic toys were usually hand-held games (anyone remember the Coleco handheld sports games?) or first and second generation console games (Pong! and the likes of Atari), an electronic "action figure" was a bit ahead of it's time.

*******

ROM was the brainchild of inventor Bing McCoy **, who, first seeking to invent an "Egyptian Mystic" doll, found that no manufacturer was interested, and so he transformed the core concept into a futuristic cyborg instead.
(I mean, that's the natural progression, right? Actually, fans of the original Battlestar Galactica might agree. The human pilots wore helmets that resembled Egyptian headdresses and the Cylons were robot/cyborgs of a sort, right? Toss in some red L.E.D. lights for eyes and you're halfway there.)

Parker Brothers, well known for their board games, was looking to get into the action figure and electronic toy market and what better way than to combine the two?


(You've got your kung-fu grip in my microprocessor.
No. You've got your microprocessor all over my kung-fu grip!)

Parker Bros whipped up a promotional video complete with a basic back-story for ROM in order to present it for the buyers at that year's Toy Fair.

You'll note that the Dire Wraiths were "created" as was their shape-shifting abilities, however, sadly, their figures were never released, making ROM a one-figure "line".


They mixed up the Translator and Analyzer, but this was just a video sales pitch to buyers,
who really wouldn't care less which was which.

A few tidbits were dropped; like the whole "Solstar Order" angle, but really, it was just renamed as the general term "Spaceknights".

That, and a few other crucial touches were added by Marvel Comics, when Parker Bros asked them to produce a comic to promote the toy.
Then-Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter, and go-to writer Bill Mantlo came up with much of the rest of the story and the hit ROM : Spaceknight comic was born.

Sadly, the toy was neither well promoted nor attractively made. This contributed toward it's failure on the marketplace. The comic, however, lasted 7 years, 75 issues, 4 Annuals and several guest starring roles in other comics, with a story line that touched and changed many corners of the Marvel Universe. Still, BOTH the toy and comic maintain a cult status to this very day.

******

ROM's attraction, for me, was multi-faceted.

I was introduced to ROM by the comic, but the toy had an allure about it, and it was my fervent desire, as a lad, to get it as a birthday present when it was first released.

ROM; the comic and the toy, both hit the marketplace in late 1979.



(Which, incidentally makes this ROM's 30th Anniversary!)



I had started buying the comic, from the spinner racks of my local stationery store, starting from issue # 3, and right then and there, I was hooked.


The dynamic artwork of the teaser ads kept me drooling and desirous for the figure that was the inspiration for this wonderful comic!






Now... imagine if this was drawn by Jack Kirby.
That would've been awesome!


While Bill Mantlo's sweeping melodrama and Sal Buscema's evocative artwork gripped me and pulled me in, what really held me in it's power was ROM himself. The design and look of the Spaceknight was familiar enough to a fan of sci-fi robots and yet new and innovative enough to be something else entirely.
Something special.

Sal Buscema was no slouch with his dynamic artwork!
ROM was certainly my favorite Sal Buscema vehicle.

So, it should come as no surprise that I expressed my desire for the figure for my birthday (April of 1980, since by the time I really was deep into ROM I was too late for the figure's first sales of Christmas 1979).

My parents, although they love(d) me, had never embraced my love of comics or such childish things as "action figures", and so, they shot down any hope of buying me a "DOLL" for my birthday.

Especially, a doll that cost somewhere around the $20 mark.
And even more especially, a doll for a young boy who was now into a double-digit age-bracket.






Instead, I hid my mild disappointment when I opened up my gift to reveal that it was a new tape recorder.
Sure, I knew that my chances for scoring ROM was slim-to-none, but I held out some slight hope that it was all a fake-out ploy, and that there really would be a ROM waiting for me that day.

Now, I'll admit that it was a nice recorder, and I used it - a LOT.

(NOT the actual model, but close.)

However, while I would use the tape recorder for what it was worth... it was still a let down, for I knew that the one thing that I had hoped for was lost to me.
Possibly, forever.

Not to seem as if I let die the dream of having a ROM of my own, I did indeed venture forth one day - a month or so later, to a store (most likely Woolworth's at the Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, Long Island), to search for the object of my desire --- to no avail.

No one had it, or knew if they would have it again.

So, I would have to contend myself with the comic, and the ad for the toy, that I would probably never see in real life.



Ads from inside back cover & inside page of Marvel Comic issues.


Many years had passed, and eventually, I forgot about the ROM figure. Heck, I'd even had practically given up on the ROM comic on and off - especially toward the latter end of it's run.

Still, as fate sometimes plays with us, after a decade or so, ROM would once again hold me fast in his plandanium grip - and this time... he wouldn't let go.

*******

As I had mentioned in my previous "meme" post [seen HERE], I once lived in New York City across the street from the "physical address" of Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum; his address supposedly at 177A Bleecker Street, and I was living at 160 Bleecker Street.

Just down the block on the corner of Bleecker and Thompson Streets was an old antique toy / collectibles shoppe.
One day while I was revisiting the old haunt, primarily for a painting job, I stopped into that old toy shoppe to browse the arcane wares.

And there, in one corner of the store, near the front window stood ROM.
It might have been one of the first times I had even seen one in person.
The fact that it was a dull grey instead of any type of silver was a little off-putting, but not too much so. In the first few issues of the comic, ROM was colored and referred to as grey.
There was no box, and I doubt that he was complete with all his weapons, but still... it stood proudly.

I was there with my best and oldest friend, Adam (appropriately named, eh?) and mentioned to him the backstory of my 1980 birthday and my love of the comic, and my desire to perhaps spend the money that I was about to make from the painting job on that ROM. If my memory serves, I believe it was around my birthday then, as well, so it seemed fated to be.

My friend implored me not to make such an impulsive purchase. Or at least to give it a day to think about it, since the shop wanted a high price tag for the incomplete item.

As hard as it was to do so, I promised, and went back to my task, my thoughts filled with images of that gunmetal grey guardian of the galaxy.

The next day, after I had completed my work, Adam picked me up and as we drove around the city, he nonchalantly placed a shoe box in my hands.

Opening the box, pulling aside the tissue wrap, there looking back at me was ROM; SPACEKNIGHT.

After much back and forth, my friend swore to me that he did not purchase the figure that we had seen in the store, instead giving me HIS OWN which he stated that he had when HE was young. I still don't know if I believe that story... knowing what a truly good and selfless person (not to mention the high quality of friend), I wouldn't doubt that he went back to the shop and bought the ROM for me himself (although, I'd have hated for him to spend that kind of money on me for something like this).

Even though it was missing the box and Neutralizer * - it was perfect in every way.
*AWESOME UPDATE of April 9, 2010 - at END of this POST*
Still, it was unexpected, so very appreciated (even though I kept telling him that I couldn't accept it), and treasured from then onward.

The NEUTRALIZER this one is holding is from a different set
- as I'll detail below.


*******

However, that's not really the end of the story.

*******

A few years later, I was in the same toy shoppe, on Long Island, where I purchased my first "MARVEL WORLD PLAYSET" [as chronicled HERE], and up on the top shelf behind the register was ROM... in Box. Complete.

I was hesitant to even think of inquiring about it, since it felt like a disservice to my friend and his kind gift, but then I thought that I'd be able to more actively use the gifted ROM (as I would unpack it on occasion, place the 9 volt battery in it and fire it up) and keep the boxed one on display.

However, that was even if I would (or could) buy it - I hadn't inquired the price as of yet - and feared doing so.

Taking a deep breath, I asked what the price would be, and once again, much like the Marvel World, I was given a very good deal.
My being a loyal (and frequent) customer there was certainly paying off.

And so... I bought it and now have the two ROM figures.

"Met him on a Monday and my heart stood still...
the TWO-ROM-Rom-Roms, the TWO ROM-Roms..."


*******

On prominent display in my Sanctum, I do, every now and again, pull out the one given to me by my friend, and admire it for the cheesy beauty of it all... and play around with it.

The ROM figure is sadly, devoid of much in the way of... action possibilities.
It's a stiff, ungainly, gangly figure, top heavy and lacking the ability to be posed in any but the most basic of ways - due to the utter lack of articulation.

Still, with ample imagination to fuel the play, there are no limits to what adventures you... and ROM could experience.

To aid in that endeavor, ROM comes with several accessories and has the ability to emit several electronic sounds.

His various accoutrements and "bells-&-whistles" are delineated on the package:





His Electronic Accessories include:

TRANSLATOR - With this accessory, you can make ROM understand any language.

ENERGY ANALYZER - With this, ROM can detect energy readings and also detect good and evil.

NEUTRALIZER - Able to disrupt energy patterns, armed with this, ROM seems almost invincible.

With his Built-In Electronic Features:

ADVANCED ELECTRONICS - Microelectronic systems control all of his functions.

LIFE-LIKE RESPIRATOR - Built into his protective armor, with this ROM can survive in any environment.

ENERGIZED ROCKET PACK - At the touch of a button, twin pods "ignite", enabling you to imagine ROM flying through space.

*******

Here I'll post the sound files individually (unlike the two "teaser" entries, that I posted over the last two days - which were merged sounds) for you:

- ROCKET PODS
video

- RESPIRATOR
video

- TRANSLATOR
video

- ANALYZER
video

- NEUTRALIZER
video

*******

The Instruction sheets detail how everything works.




*******

However, seeing it in action is a much more satisfying experience.
Join me now, as I showcase my ROM figures and show how they operate.

NOTE: I've uploaded a Higher Quality video here, replacing the previous lower res version. The same video. Just better quality.
Press the "Play" button and if you wish to see in HQ, then click the RED "HQ" button that will appear on the bottom control bar.





Please pardon my haggard appearance and strained voice, but I was pretty tired after a long stint of major house work - on top of a late evening of work the night before. Rambling as quickly as I could, to get it all in under the 10-minute time-limit for YouTube, I garbled half of my words speaking rapidly. Next time I try a video post, I'll speak a little slower.
Also, my apologies for the quality of the video.
I am trying to upload a high-quality video, but YouTube is giving me hassles with it, so I loaded the lower res one as a back-up.

***UPDATE***
I managed to upload the higher res version of the video here. 04-10-09.

*******

* AWESOME UPDATE *
April-09-2010
As told in a new post
(found [HERE])
the NEUTRALIZER from my friend's ROM has been found!
The story can be found at that link.

20 years later... found.

* END UPDATE *

---


And so, I hope you are happy with this extensive overview of ROM.

If you desire any further information about ROM, either the toy or the comic, there's no better resource than the ROM SPACEKNIGHT - REVISITED site [HERE]. I frequently contribute information there, but Lee Seitz, the site master there, needs little help in producing a top notch information resource.
SPECIAL THANKS to Lee and his site for providing the sound files featured above.
If you go to his site you can actually DOWNLOAD them to keep for your very own.


*******


*
"IDOL PURSUITS" is the name of the line of posts wherein I showcase assorted FIGURES.
Be they "action figures", "standees", Statues, Model Kits, etc...
Check out the previous entries in the "IDOL PURSUITS" line of blogposts.

- To check out just the previous ROM; SPACEKNIGHT entry:
(the statues/model kits) - go HERE.

- To check out ALL of the "IDOL PURSUITS" entries - click HERE.


**
Don't forget to visit Bing McCoy's website - [HERE].

4 comments:

Lee K. Seitz said...

Great job! But I take issue with one thing:
"Lee Seitz . . . needs little help in producing a top notch information resource."

Sez you! Look for an e-mail headed your way.

Howard Hallis said...

BRILLIANT. Happy birthday P-tor!

Watching this post was great. I never got to see ROM in action before!

~P~ said...

I've just uploaded a HIGH RESOLUTION (High Quality) version of the "How-To" video, so it's worth watching again in that quality.

Just press the "Play" button and then click the RED "HQ" button to watch in HIGH QUALITY.

ThanX for the kind words, guys!

plok said...

Happy birthday, man!

...Will read this later, good heavens there's a lot of detail in this post...

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