Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bill Mantlo and Rom


http://i51.tinypic.com/2gv3qfc.jpg Bill Mantlo
C/O The Mantlo Family
1995 Miller Place
Merrick, NY 11566

Listen, if you have a soft spot for ROM---whatever your Mantlo connection---
I hear he appreciates fan mail to this day. Everyone seems familiar with his car accident in '92,
but as far as I know, letters are still welcome, okay?

We'll see if Jo Duffy replies with a story of how ROM went from 50's style alien invader story complete with "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" enemies to the song it became...which was not bad for a former state-of-the-art toy that managed to move between 200,000 and 300,000 units before cancellation.



So why am I thinking of "I Will Fly No More" off Toy Story, huh?


Her editorial interest is thanked personally by Bill in a later issue; I'll finish commenting on #1, with less expectation of cracking many of his thoughts via his electronically preserved memories. Publius Enigma keeps finding memories of the memory ensconced in the lattice work, but Rom's personality didn't seem fully engaged as yet during the first days following Earth Fall---perhaps a dehumanizing effect of extended space travel?

I did not have a review of #1 that was better than what Scott Tipton says here:
http://www.comics101.com/comics101//?mode=project&action=view&project=Comics%20101&chapter=83




While I actually found the script serviceable but not full of original lines, I did find the plot a very functional way to bring Rom to Earth and set him down a path of interest. I think I always enjoyed the conceit of his existence as a cyborg; seven year old me was fascinated at the repellent thought of my humanity being diced from my body but my life still continuing inside the robot shell. (At 7, with talk about sex notably absent, I had yet to realize how maddening that would be in a romantic relationship with a human! Brandy doesn't factor into #24, the only ROM I had until #65 as I began collecting later.) Soaring through outer space in such a body, coupled with an enemy that harnesses every child's fear that the adult with which they must interact will not turn out to be nice, already I heard for him a distinctive voice and eventually drew him in battle with something reminiscent of the Alpha android I'd spied quickly in MTU #129, but with wings. Those few pages began with Starfox, of all people, reading a paper in the living room of Avengers Mansion, soon victim to the creature's attack. Now soared Rom into battle! For only 20 cents, I believe; if it sold just one copy, I'd promised to make more, and so began my subscription service pitch at both family households.


If you can fall into the coolness of revisiting 1979 and its TV antennae (Brandy's car is a make with which I'm unfamiliar, but it looks very upscale for Clairton), and feel the tension of the misperceived alien menace that could land anywhere at any time, with an unknown agenda and monstrous power, Rom #1's for you. It has all the flaws of products of its time, production wise, and a rushed approach to the faces for a comic no one knew would stick around as a series. If you're a fan of the character, it's awesome to return to a time when the mystery first began.


Jim Shooter, according to "The Greatest of Spaceknights" site, took a plot Mantlo himself called "horrible," and re-wrote the story, apparently between him, Duffy and Bill. They, along with our pal Sal (who only shared the run with...Steve Ditko) got us to a first issue with all the hallmark Marvel traits, yet no comic relief, which remained true of its tone throughout. I speculate Shooter came up with the cyborg army of Galador, but in the process of talking, you can't be very sure who spun out which idea. This single character, however, was the one Mr. Mantlo would most make his very own, even considering the typical storytelling engine expectation to find Dire Wraiths (and who took D.W. in the singular and decided on the Skrull-like invaders?) at the bottom of each rotten barrel.

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