ROM And The Power Of Nostalgia

I can only hope my kids one day get gobsmacked by a toy commercial the way I did when I first saw this TV spot for a toy I had never heard of:

Ever since the toy’s debut in 1979 — it was such a breakthrough for the time it even made the cover of TIME magazine — ROM has been one of those cult characters you either get, or you don’t.

romfirstissueThe Marvel Comics series that spun out of a licensing deal between Marvel and Parker Brothers (who owned the ROM property) ran for 75 issues and, like many of Marvel’s licensed properties, was much better than it had any right to be.

Funny thing is, the ROM toy was actually a flop. I had no idea about this until recently, because as a kid you don’t know or care about sales figures. You just want the blasted toy. But the comic book series that was created to sell more toys turned out to be much more successful than the toy itself.

Now, after years of residing in a limbo between corporate purgatory and the nostalgic dustbins of time, ROM is making a major comeback. IDW, that savior of long-lost pop culture properties, has launched a new comic book about the character. It’s familiar enough to bring a smile to older readers’ faces, and fresh enough to likely grab the attention of newer readers. In other words, it’s EXACTLY the way you should revive and relaunch an old favorite.

IDW even plans an epic crossover featuring all of its comic books based on Hasbro toy lines — ROM, Micronauts, G.I. Joe, Transformers — in one monster fall event called REVOLUTION.

romcover

I’ve read the first issue, and it felt right to me. I like my nostalgia in mild doses. A trip down memory lane is fine, but you better have something interesting to say, or I won’t be adding your book to my regular reading list. Reminiscing only carries so much weight with me when it concerns how I spend my entertainment dollars.

ROM #1, which is out at comics shops now,  does what any new spin on a familiar property should do: Finds a new way in to the story, and moves it in a new direction. And not in a way that would turn off original fans, either. It’s a bit … darker, but the premise and ROM’s purpose remains true.

Actually, this approach would work not just in comic book revivals but also with the current wave of classic TV reboots. It’s OK to turn to the past for ideas, as long as your path takes you to the future.

I had a great time interviewing the creative team behind the new ROM comic book at Comic Con. One thing that’s apparent right away is that these guys love the character. And it shows on the page.

 

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