Wednesday, September 9, 2015


I need access to both a time machine and some spare cash to give to my younger self.

The proliferation of trade paperbacks over the last few decades has been a good thing in one key area--it means that classic comics are often reprinted. So stuff I didn't buy the first time around or no longer own is now once more available to read..

But there is some stuff that may never get reprinted--something that has hit Marvel Comics particularly hard. A few of their licensed products from the late Bronze Age--such as G.I. Joe and The Transformers--have been picked up by other companies, who are then able to reprint Marvel's issues. An decade or so ago, Marvel was able to get the rights to Godzilla back just long enough to publish an Essential Godzilla, containing all 24 issues of the big guy's incursion into the Marvel universe.

But there are a few things lost to copyright limbo. A few issues of Spider Man and Marvel Two-in-One are left out of their Essentials run because they guest-starred Doc Savage. Early Master of Kung Fu stories don't get reprints because Marvel can no longer mention Fu Manchu.

Perhaps most tragically, we will likely never see the Micronauts or Rom Space Knight reprinted.

Both these series were written by Bill Mantlo--an excellent writer who always infused a sense of fun and wonder into his tales. He took the two respective toy lines, made them into characters within the Marvel Universe, and created intricate and self-consistent backgrounds for them.

I didn't read either of these when they were first published. Recently, I've acquired a few back issues of both series and reviewed a Micronauts story a few months back.  But time and budget restraints will prevent me from getting full sets. Gee whiz, I've really missed out.

Because Rom Space Knight #22 (much like the Micronauts story I read) is great fun and hints at a larger, intricate story arc that sounds awesome.

Rom comes from another planet--one of a number of Space Knights who volunteered to become cyborgs to fight the evil Dire Wraiths. Now the Wraiths are on Earth, borrowing from the Invasion of the Body Snatchers playbook to pose as humans and infiltrate our society.

The issue I have is set in the small town of Clarion, which Rom has previously saved from the Wraiths, so most or all of the townspeople are now his loyal friends. Also living in town is former NFL star Brock Jones, who has acquired a Wraith-built battle suit and now fights alongside Rom as the superhero Torpedo.

So when a bunch of Wraiths wearing rocket suits invade Clarion, they have two opponents to face. What follows is a cool fight scene that also involves Torpedo doing some interesting musings about about the sort of moral issues that only exist within the confines of a comic book universe. Is it more merciful to simply kill the Dire Wraiths, as he does, or to condemn them for all eternity to Limbo, as Rom does?

The fight moves to the local school, where OF COURSE Brock's kids get caught up in the battle. The good guys win, though, and the kids are saved.

I like Sal Buscema's art. I like the exciting and well-choreographed fight scene. I like the characters--many of them average people who are just trying to act with decency and protect those they love.

I also like the hints in the story about the large story arc. A story arc I am not likely to ever be able to read in its entirety. That's why I need to go back in time--to make sure my younger self buys complete runs of Rom and Micronauts. Otherwise, I'm doomed. CURSE YOU ONCE AGAIN, COPYRIGHT LAWS!


  1. Heartbreaking but informative post. I did not know Doc Savage and Fu Manchu were still under copyright. They must be on the cusp of going public domain? It's a crime not to reprint thos MoKF issues when they boasted beautiful Paul Gulacy and Gene Day artwork. Same for Micronauts, which was a Michael Golden showcase in its early run, with talented guys like Butch Guice coming in later.

    We finally got the classic 1966 BATMAN series on DVD, which was for so long tied up in legal knots that hopes of an official release were flagging. Let's not lose hope that we'll see a ROM and MICRONAUTS omnibus in our lifetimes.

    PS: Bill Mantlo was a criminally underrated writer, so I was really heartened to see you sing his praises. He had a tragic end and never got the respect he deserved.

    Gary in Omaha

    1. Gary, Doc Savage was created in 1933, so misses being in the public domain by a decade. I've never been clear on Fu Manchu's status. He was created in 1913. As a general rule, 1923 is the magic cut-off date for Public Domain--anything prior to that should be free to use. But apparently, he's still under copyright or trademark to someone.

      It would be nice if Marvel took the initiative and made arrangements to reprint ROM and MICRONAUTS. Since neither toy line is active, I would think that it would not be expensive to get the appropriate permissions.

      I agree, by the way, that Mantlo is a fantastic writer. Thank you as always for your great comments.


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