If you have a comic book fan in your life, then chances are that they will have a very particular childhood memory of a single edition of one comic book that held their attention for the whole of a glorious, endless summer (or season of your choice). This single edition will be old, but not too old, and found in a dusty corner of an old newsagent or secondhand book store, and will have been read without context or understanding of where or why this comic book came to be where it did. It will have enthralled them, this single comic book, providing a wild and untamed playground for their imagination which spun a world of its own to fill the vacuum surrounding it. In the pre-internet age they will have had no way of finding or buying the next issue. So this single comic book sits alone, lost but still loved, the imprint of it on their imagination still as sharp as ever.
And ROM, the greatest of the Space Knights, was mine.
During a family holiday in the little Brittany village of Fouesnant (I must have been eight or nine at the time), I saw that a local newsagent had a batch of old American comics, roughly bound together with string. There was an issue of the Marvel Universe series (an A-Z compilation of every character in Marvel’s panethon of which, I think, this was the ‘L’ installment) and a couple of other superhero titles that I cared little for…
And a copy of ROM #1.
I won’t bore you with tales of how ROM, a comic book published a year after I was born, utterly changed that family holiday in the late ’80s, how I must have read the thing a thousand times, and of the heights to which my imagination went as I devised new adventures for him. I knew nothing about ROM beyond what was in those pages – not even finding out till years later that it was a product tie-in. All I knew was that ROM was brilliant. Even the name of his sworn enemy, the demonic Dire Wraiths, was enough to get my Spidey Sense tingling (see also terms such as forlorn hope).
So it was to my great delight that artist Matt Timson mentioned that a huge on-line auction is currently underway, the proceeds from which will go towards the care of Bill Mantlo, the writer behind the ROM comic books, who suffered severe brain damage after being the victim of a hit-and-run accident in 1992.
Matt’s piece showing the creation of ROM is (and he’s never going to let me hear the end of it for saying this) one of the best in the auction, but there are many other amazing artists contributing unique interpretations of this iconic character. I’ve been outbid on every piece I’ve tried to buy, but don’t let that put you off – it’s a great cause and a great character of which I am very fond.
I must have scoured every newsagents I ever saw in France after that, but family holidays were never the same again.
Oh, and do let me know in the comments section if there was a comic book that had a similar effect on your childhood – always nice to know one isn’t alone 😉
(*Title courtesy of a lyric from “Impossible” from the Wu-Tang Clan’s ‘seminal’ – Wikipedia’s words, not mine – Wu-Tang Forever album)