Comic books based on toys. It sounds stupid. But sometimes it works. Others it didn’t. Rom worked. Let’s discuss why.
First of all, it launched with an A+ writer and artist team who were both at the tops of their games. Bill Mantlo created Rocket Raccoon, the U-Foes, Cloak and Dagger, and many others. And artist Sal Buscema is nothing short of an industry legend.
And look at that splash page, above, the first page from the first issue. After months of hype in margin ads and full-page spreads, we finally get the comic. And despite the fact that the toy was ridiculously stupid, the comic is actually….Good!
Another reason it succeeded is that it stood on its own for the first year: No appearances by Spider-Man or Wolverine or any Marvel character. In fact, it wasn’t even clear whether Rom took place in the Marvel 616. But by #12, on the book’s first anniversary, that lack of connection was shattered in another dramatic splash page….
Yeah, it’s only Jack of Hearts, but it’s also SHIELD. And by #14, Mantlo brought in The Awesome Android and Mad Thinker. And soon after, the X-Men came along and we got to see Rom punch out Wolverine.
By the time the series ran its course, with issue #75, Bill Mantlo had written them all. And he’d even gotten to work with the legendary Steve Ditko for the last few issues, which gave Rom a happy ending…
We even had a great story (issues #31-32) in which Rogue was actually (gasp) kind of a good guy! (This was before she showed remorse for wiping out Carol Danvers’ memories and powers in Avengers Annual #10.)