While looking through the third box of comic books last night, I hit a veritable treasure trove. I found about two or three dozen issues of The Mighty Avengers, a hefty pile of The New Mutants and probably a dozen and a half issues of What If…? ((I loved What If…? The series required that the reader have a pretty good knowledge of the history of the Marvel universe. Uatu, the all-seeing Watcher who made his home on Earth’s moon would focus on a key event (or, in some cases, a seemingly trivial event) in the Marvel universe and show us how different things would be if that event had played out differently. What if Spider-Man had never married Mary Jane? What if Susan and Reed Richards’ second child had lived? What if Rick Jones had become the Hulk? One of my favorite issues is “What if Spider-Man’s clone had lived?” Why? Because it turns out that Spider-Man’s clone never died. In fact, the Spider-Man that many of us followed for years and years is the clone! Not every spiderfan is happy about his development, by the way.
At any rate, I remember explaining the concept of What If…? to my brother, Keven, many years ago. “Yeah,” he said, “and what if superheroes were real?” I guess he thought the idea of alternate histories for a fictional universe was kind of silly. And it is. It really is. But it’s entertaining, too.))
I even found an issue of Crystar, The Crystal Warrior as well as an issue of the DC equivalent, Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld. Good grief.
But the real jackpot was a near-complete collection of Rom, Spaceknight. The series ran for seventy-five issues (plus four annuals) between 1979 and 1985. I’m guessing it’s 80-90% complete (including three of the four annuals. Some issues in the collection may have belonged to my brother, David, but the bulk of them were given (or perhaps sold, the details are somewhat fuzzy) to me by Mike Butcher. ((Mike Butcher was my aunt Susie’s boyfriend. When my younger siblings and I went with my mother to visit my dad (working in lower Michigan at the time) one summer, we also visited Susie and Mike. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Mike was an avid comic collector. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I (or maybe it was Adam and I) wound up with a hefty chunk of Mike’s collection, including not only Rom, Spaceknight, but the first twenty-five issues of The Savage She-Hulk. Mike, unfortunately, is no longer with us. He suffered a fatal heart attack several years ago, while attending church. I didn’t know him all that well, and only met him on a few occasions, but I always thought he was a cool guy.)) For the most part, they’re in decent shape, but ten-plus years of sitting in a box in the attic have taken their toll. Even sitting in a box specifically designed for them, comics degrade over time. If they’re not bagged and boarded (and these aren’t, though I’m thinking about correcting that), gravity works its evil magic and the bottom of the comics start to curl.
Condition aside, this is an amazing find. I knew the series was there, but I had no idea how close to complete it was. It might even be possible to fill in the gaps without putting too much hurt on my wallet. Maybe. I have no idea what the comic book market looks like these days. Apart from the occasional issue of Captain America or Ultimate Spider-Man, I’m pretty much out of that particular loop.
What’s the big deal about Rom? Well, he sacrificed his humanity to save the planet Galador from the Dire Wraiths. After defeating the Wraiths on Galador, Rom—who was the first Galadorian to volunteer to become a spaceknight—followed them through the galaxy for 200 years, eventually arriving on Earth. Using his Neutralizer, Rom banished Dire Wraiths (who had disguised themselves as humans) to Limbo. Unfortunately, whenever Rom banished a Wraith to Limbo, it appeared that he was killing a human being. This didn’t sit well with the populace of Earth, and Rom was treated as a murderer and pursued by the U.S. Army.
Marvel did something incredible with Rom. They took a Parker Brothers toy and created a fantastic, compelling story. Rom wants little more than to regain the humanity he sacrificed to save his people, but he cannot rest until the threat of the Dire Wraiths is eliminated. Deep within the awesome armor of the spaceknight is a man who longs to be a man once more. The Rom, Spaceknight comic book far surpassed the toy upon which it was based, becoming a story that explored the depths of what it truly means to be human.
Plus, that Neutralizer kicked ass.