Thanks to a new trademark filed November 7th by Hasbro at the United States Patent & Trademark Office we know that there maybe an attempt to bring back the “Rom: The Spaceknight” toyline.
To build interest in the toy, Parker Brothers originally licensed the character to Marvel Comics which created a comic book featuring Rom. The comic expanded on the premise that Rom was a cyborg and gave him an origin, personality, set of supporting characters and villains, as well as interaction within the Marvel Universe. The comic was written by Bill Mantlo and initially illustrated by artist Sal Buscema.
Ultimately, the toy failed and only sold 200,000 to 300,000 units in the US, with creator McCoy blaming the failure on poor packaging and marketing. Parker Brothers subsequently abandoned the line and returned to manufacturing board games.
Regardless and with some irony, the comic book outlasted the toy which it was created to support. The series lasted for 75 issues over a seven year period, with Rom’s regular encounters with mainstream heroes and villains establishing him as part of Marvel continuity.
Rom The Space Knight was a toy co-created by Bing McCoy, Scott Dankman, and Richard Levy (US Patent #4,267,551). It was sold to Parker Brothers, and was the inspiration for the comic book series. The toy was originally called COBOL (after the programming language,) which was later changed to “Rom” (after ROM, read-only memory) by Parker Brothers executives.
The toy set a precedent for the game publishing company, which up until that time had only ever produced board games. As this was a new venture for the company and given that electronic toys were still very new, a decision was made to produce the figure as cheaply as possible. As a result, the final product had very few points of articulation, and twin red LEDs served as Rom’s eyes instead of the originally envisioned green, which were more expensive to produce.
Not long after its debut, Rom appeared in the corner box of the cover of Time magazine’s December 10, 1979, issue. It was also featured in the interior article, “Those Beeping, Thinking Toys,” which decried Rom’s lack of articulation and predicted it would “end up among the dust balls under the playroom sofa.”