Sunday, January 11, 2015

Lesser known licensed properties of the 80s

A big thanks to Michael Mantlo for sending me this photo from this weekend's visit to Bill. As you can see I sent a copy of my ROM Micronauts holiday fan art to Michael just in time for him to have it for what was then the upcoming visit to Bill. It's so cool to think that the same guy who wrote the entire ROM series along with so much other great stuff for Marvel during the 80s is enjoying something I drew that's based on his prolific career. As you all know Bill had a knack for writing comics based on toy lines but let's have a look at a couple of toy based titles Bill didn't write that are worth having a second look at . . .

Another big thanks to the lovely and ever charming Randomnerd for loaning me her Crystar series. I've already read the issues I used to have and it's been a real joy reading them now as opposed to when I kinda sorta did in my early teens. They're actually pretty well written and ofcourse in general it's great to now be able to read all 11 issues of the series. Written by Jo Duffy by the way, you all should know of her aside from her career in Marvel Comics I've also posted about her here because of her editing work on ROM spaceknight.

And on the same day I got Random's Crystar collection so also arrived the 3 issue mini-series of The Power Lords from ebay. Ever since I coincidentally found issue one at a flee market last summer I've been wanting to read the other two issues again.  Back in the day (1983) I used to have issues 2 and 3 and shortly there after as a random gift selection my mother had gotten me a few of the figures for X-Mas. I think as far as the comic goes the big selling point for me back then was the inherent intriguing visual nature of the characters which I think Mark Texiera's dynamic pencils really brought out the best off.

In terms of the story and dialogue it was largely what one might expect from a toy based mini-series of the early to mid 80s but it wasn't a bad read in the here and now and it still brought back some good memories. But at the same time I think Mantlo and Duffy would have done more justice to it. The Power Lords franchise has earned a place in the 80s vintage toy arena despite it having been some what less then a success back then but like with Crystar I'll always have a bit of a soft spot for them.

Jan. 12 update: Gary, I don't know how you find this stuff! What a fantastic article this 2009 #32 of Back Issue magazine has about the Al Milgrom alternate ROM #1 cover art as well as on Bill Mantlo and the business of comic book titles based on licensed properties. So now we know where that "mock up" in my Jan. 1st posting came from.You can read a digital copy online at the link below . . .

But here's just a sample to whet your appetite . . .

But regardless of which cover you prefer thank the Gods of Galador the cover art for ROM #1 was never this version it almost makes the cover art for the ROM remix project look good . . .


  1. It is insane. And there's no other word for it. I'm not even going to rail against the insanity anymore. I don't believe the insane deserve the attention. The victims of the insane do.
    Je Suis Charlie.

    You're welcome for the comics. I always thought they were surprisingly well written for a short lived toy based comic. I realize that most of that thought comes from nostalgia and the remaining brain cells of my 8-15 year old self. But still, I can't help but love the entire series. The art, the covers, the ridiculously torn but loyal uncle (who, btw, must be seriously uncomfortable in both winter and summer) and the plotlines that skewed into the desperate with the regular Marvel universe crossovers. I WISH, oh how I wish Crystar, or even a molten man could show up somewhere, someday. But I'm pretty sure that's not going to happen. I'm just glad you're reading it and it's living in another's memory and imagination. Because really, that's more important.

    Like making sure Mr. Mantlo and his family know and feel how much all of us out here still love his creations and keep them alive in our minds and hearts. Not just by reading them, but by continuing the creative process with them. Because it's not enough with creations like his to simply create them and see them sit on a shelf. They need to grow. And expand. And move from one imagination to the next. Perpetuating the story for the mind's eye for each generation in its own way, and keeping the core true to the ideal.
    Make mine Mantlo.

  2. Always nice to see Bill enjoying art from they fans that his work has impacted. Very cool. I must again thank you shlomo for getting that card my son to him some time ago. He was beyond happy that he could tell him personally how much he liked his works.
    Power lords? So that's what those things were called.I never had a clue there was a comic. I had one toy that bug thing akrus or something.
    What if Bill wrote Crystal hmm thats a intriguing thought. Honestly only later in life did I understand how much Bills work affected me. ROM and Transformers were my first comic book addictions. Had no clue then both issue 1st were written by him and so much other stuff I had. Later I came to understand just how much he did I enjoyed.

    Paris and it's people we stand beside and with you .
    Je Suis Charlie

  3. thank you both for those thoughtful and heart felt comments. . . . .

    Random, witty writing as always in your comment. i'm in the middle of issue 8 so far and for the most part the series is holding up ok although i'm surprised Duffy didn't write the dialogue in a more old English style as Bill Mantlo did for Rom's dialect. one of my favorite moments was with how awed Crystar was in Doctor Strange's home in issue 3. apparently there aren't many trees on Crystalium so books and polished wood furniture are rare and expensive luxury.

    Joseph, yeah it was my pleasure to as far as getting your kid's fan art to Bill. aside from that i've had the same experience as you in the last few years of that startling realization about how much stuff i've read from the 80s that turned out to be written by Bill. by the way the Power Lord figure you had (just as I did) was the main bad guy named Arkus.

  4. I loved the bit with the wooden chairs. It did make me wonder how hard it would be to pick up Warbow.

  5. *blows on front of knuckles*

    Back Issue #32 is a must-have, there's a total of 15 pages dedicated to ROM. #34 has a response letter from our own Lee K. Seitz. #16 is another great one for a lot of ROM goodness (in the Sal Buscema & Jackson Guice interview), and many other issues contain interesting tidbits. I've got a stack of them I haven't even gotten around to curating yet.

    1. just got done reading the Buscema and Guice interview in issue 16 that was also great. so now we finally got to hear it from Sal himself why he left ROM. what a damn shame that was because we all know what came next! getting back to issue #32 among other things i thought that was interesting to find out that Al Milgrom did that awesome cover for The Human Fly #1. in recent months i've started to have a greater appreciation for Milgrom's work the more i learn about what he's done over the years that i was previously unaware of. although i still feel like his work on Secret Wars II was somewhat mediocre but it would have still been preferable then the cookie cutter hack job that ditko did on ROM.

  6. Always good to see Bill!

    Guess you don't need that Power Lords comic anymore...

    I have all the Crystar comics as well. Good stuff.

    I love the way ROMs feet are drawn in that unused cover, by the way!

    Nice entry- lots of cool stuff for the New Year!

    1. well in regards to your copy of Power Lords #2 i didn't know what the deal was on your end if you just didn't want to give up your copy or if you were taking your sweet time getting back to me about it so when i came across a pretty good deal on ebay for all three i just said fuck it.

    2. You asked if you could get it when I was finished with it- I replied done, and done à la Homer Simpson! Soon as I actually got around to reading it, I would have sent it your way, but no worries.
      Cool you got the whole series.

    3. well it's something of a moot point now that i have all three issues but i certainly wouldn't have minded you just simply letting me know you hadn't gotten around to reading your copy of issue #2 yet. even when it's the news you weren't hoping for the not knowing is far more irritating.

  7. Wow mate - he's holding your art - that's got to be pretty freakin cool right there.