Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bill Mantlo and his toy inspired Marvel titles, ROM Spaceknight & The Micronauts

I wonder why Bill Mantlo never had a cross over between these two titles. Both of which were inspired by toys that stirred Mantlo's fertile imagination. Each title has crossed over with numerous mainstream Marvel characters and teams through out the 80's. An early issue of The Micronauts even had the Man-Thing make an appearance as a nemesis. That always struck me as an odd cross over. I just think some sort of adventure that had brought ROM and The Micronauts together would have been cool at some point. Written by Bill Mantlo with art by none other then Mike Golden. What a classic that would have been! Not to take anything away from Sal Buscema cause you all know how much I love Sal's work. But having ROM featured in an issue that Mike Golden penciled would have been a nice change up. Golden was the regular cover and interior artist for Micronauts 1 - 12 and continued as the cover artist for the next dozen issues or so. He was also the cover artist for 9 of the first 19 issues of ROM. The ironic thing is that I loved The Micronauts toy line and thought the comic book wasn't bad for the most part. Where as I was/am a huge fan of ROM the comic book (obviously!) but outside of the electronics not really all that into the doll. Where as the Micronauts were shiny, articulate, detailed and even had interchangeable parts where as the ROM doll had none of these features. But I can certainly understand how in each case a guy like Mantlo would have looked at these toys and started to see personalities, a background story and adventure. I've been wanting to blog about this for a long time now but never felt like I had the ideal visuals to go with it until I came up with a sketch a few days ago which I digitally colored. Although not inspired by a toy line, Bill Mantlo was also the creator of the Marvel superhero duo Cloak & Dagger.


  1. I always wondered why they didn't do a crossover too. Maybe they prohibited it for some reason? I cannot imagine why, but they've done stupider things. Like say, the DC vs Marvel Universe crossover? And I loved Cloak and Dagger. That's an idea that has stuck in my head forever. It was beautiful visually and conceptually. Unlike...say...some of the art we've seen recently.

  2. This answer will enlighted and possibly "excite" some...
    especially the end.

    As for any comic team-up / crossovers back in the day...
    I would have to assume it had to do with each toy property being the rights of different toy companies.

    ROM was owned by Parker Bros.

    Micronauts were owned by MEGO.
    (Although, the rights are even more complex... Micronauts is the North American name for the Microman toy line created by Japanese toy company Takara (later absorbed by TOMY). First released in Japan in 1974, Microman toys were imported to the United States by the Mego Corporation in 1976 under the "Micronauts" name.

    Oddly enough, I'd imagine after awhile, a cross-over MIGHT have been more acceptable - especially since by 1980 BOTH toys were pretty much done and over with; ROM being a dud from his mid-1979 release.

    By mid-1980's neither company would probably have cared overmuch.

    But... that said, Marvel STILL can't use either property (except for elements and characters that were created FOR the comics) even though no toys are on the horizon for either (well... Micronauts DID have a re-release by Palasades Toys several years back in 2002 - 2003).

    Now, even though a few other companies have TRIED or PLANNED to re-release / redesign Micronauts after the 2002 Palasades line) none have managed to pull it off.
    However, and this is the part where we can all conjure forth some conjecture...
    HASBRO has plans to re-release Micronauts with the cooperation from Takara.

    HASBRO... who ALSO currently own the rights to ROM.
    HASBRO... who ALSO currently produce all of MARVEL's action figures.

    Let the rampant, unsubstantiated rumor-creating commence!
    (started, of course, by ME)


  3. holy shit Ptor! i should have commissioned you to write this posting for me :)

  4. Cloak and Dagger are awesome and I hope Marvel does something cool with them soon. I'm thinking of a commission piece soon for these two.

  5. welcome to my blog Antonius. now you've got me thinking about a ROM/Cloak & Dagger cross over art piece. that would have been a good concept for a contribution to the recent Floating World Comics Auction for Mantlo.

  6. Thank you Ptor! Wow! I'm just going to call you Answer Man from now on. In fact, I think you need a costume. Dave, I would love to see you do a piece with Cloak & Dagger. Get on that. Now. This instant. Put down that placard.

  7. Ptor is right on the money. Fans were asking for a Rom-Micronauts (and Rom-Hulk, Mantlo's other title) crossover back in the day. They said on the Spacenotes letters page that they couldn't do it because of the separate toy companies. Now if only I remembered the issue number....

  8. Dave, it's me, Tony. I changed my posting name and added my second favorite spaceknight as my avatar.

  9. Randomnerd - i've always been a sucker for a pretty face so you might get what you wish for

    Lee - seems i can always count on you to know even the most nuanced and obscure info. on ROM.
    much appreciated thanks and good to hear from you again.

    Tony - you missed a prime opportunity to run an ongoing practical joke on me. i'm glad to see you've got your self a real profile icon (avatar) instead of that default blogger one.

    i have something for you all that came from a source that shall remain anonymous for now you might all find interesting as to why so much of the auction art that sucked got the highest bids. also, i'm starting tomorrow a series of art critiques postings for "found ROM art" on the internet and in general have a lot of great stuff lined up to start publishing in 2011. ok anyways here's what was emailed to me this morning. it's because of shit like this is why even as an artist myself i hate the "art world" sometimes:

    I can't rightly state that I understand the levels of bidding, however.
    Some pieces, which, to me anyway, seemed slightly lesser than others, made off with large final bids, while other, artistic masterpieces of design, color and technique went by with only a scant (if any) bids.

    I have two theories:

    1. Pieces created by famous (or underground) professionals went for higher values - due to their fan-bases and potential high investment potential.
    2. Pieces with any nudity and/or sexual connotations went for even higher levels - well... because sex sells.

  10. And isn't that a sad commentary on the state of the comic book/ art world today? At least we still have Alex Ross.

  11. Alex Ross is immortal! i'd give up a kidney or push my best friend off the Golden Gate Bridge for an Alex Ross rendering of ROM.

  12. Remind me, again, not to stand next to you on the Golden Gate. EVER.

  13. Hey I like the DC/Marvel crossover titles.

  14. Terrific article, David! Thanks for letting me know about it! Really digging your "Wizard" Rom cover too! Very clever! Love your work!

  15. thanks Argonaut X, i left a more complete reply to your comment That Figures blog.

  16. He might have thought he couldn't pull it off well enough for the readers.

  17. great article,
    your comparison between the ROM and Micronaut comics vs toys is EXACTLY how I always felt.
    Micronauts=excellent toys, ok comic
    ROM= excellent comic, ok toy
    I still have the comics and some of the toys from BOTH of them from when they first came out in the 70's.
    Oddly these were my two favorite toys/comics, I never knew they were related.