After a nearly 20 year drought, Hasbro's Rom the Spaceknight returned in 2015 with a new series at IDW Publishing - and this week, his origin is finally being told.
In this week's Rom Annual 2017 by Christos Gage, Chris Ryall, and David Messina, Hasbro's spaceknight veers away from his Marvel Comics' origin to a new one which cements him in what the writers describe as the dark, horror corner of the Hasbroverse.
Newsarama spoke with both Ryall and Gage about this annual, the ongoing series, as well as hints about what's to come in Rom's long-running war with the Dire Wraiths.
Newsarama: Chris, Christos – tell us about where Rom stands going into Rom Annual 2017.
Chris Ryall: The most recent storyline brings Rom the Spaceknight into contact, and conflict, with two other members of the Solstar Order - two fellow soldiers with whom he's well-acquainted, but of course this isn't a friendly reunion by any means. And a couple G.I. Joe members also come into play in the storyline. This one is called “Reinforcements,” but so far, the different people drawn into Rom the Spaceknight's circle aren't actually reinforcing him.
And then things get much worse, for Rom the Spaceknight, for the human characters around him, and generally for the world, too.
Nrama: What was the most important thing for you to establish about the character in your initial storyline, both in terms of recapturing what made the character memorable in the past and updating for the modern day?
Ryall: I think giving people a sense of who Rom the Spaceknight is, what his character is like and how he approaches this centuries-long war, was as important as setting up the conflict itself.
Gage: We wanted the essential personality of Rom the Spaceknight to be recognizable to fans of the character, but also make it clear it's not as cut and dried as “Rom the Spaceknight = Good, Wraiths = Evil.” I mean, that is the case, but Rom the Spaceknight is a veteran of 200 years of war, and like most war veterans, he has some scars, in his case more mental than physical, and he's had to make some tough choices. And may again.
Nrama: In terms of the shared Hasbro universe, what specific role do you see Rom the Spaceknight playing?
Ryall: I think Christos and I both agree that Rom the Spaceknight should occupy the dark corner of this burgeoning Hasbro universe. Let the Transformers have the big, epic battles and G.I. Joe and M.A.S.K. can deal with the usual kinds of threats they're forced to contend with; meanwhile, Rom the Spaceknight will be doing his best to patrol the paranoid, creepy side of things.
Gage: Agreed. Rom the Spaceknight sort of has the horror corner of the Hasbroverse.
Nrama: And what relationship is Rom going to have with the other Knights of the Solstar Order? They seem less Earth-friendly...
Ryall: It certainly seems that way, doesn't it? They might be a bit more pragmatic about the Wraith invasion than Rom the Spaceknight but we'll see.
The start of their relationship together is explored in the Annual, which delves into Rom the Spaceknight's full origin.
Gage: One of the things we established in passing is that Knights of the Solstar Order generally work in pairs, but for some reason Rom the Spaceknight is alone. We'll be getting more into why.
Nrama: What do you want to establish with the threat of the Dire Wraiths?
Ryall: The fact that anyone could be a Dire Wraith is the most interesting thing about them. How do you know who to trust? How do actual humans know that Rom the Spaceknight is only taking out Dire Wraiths with his Neutralizer? And what impact does it have on humanity when they learn that a shape-changing race of aliens is walking among them?
It's like we're able to do an ongoing version of the Twilight Zone episode “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,” with alien cyborgs tossed in for good measure.
Gage: Yes, it's that paranoid fear of films like They Live and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Nrama: Obviously something that falls on the artist, but was curious as to how as writers you face the challenge of visually indicating character for someone with no mouth or eyebrows.
Ryall: I say, “Hey, David and/or Paolo, make Rom the Spaceknight, who is expressionless/faceless/mouthless, look worried or angry or pensive” and they manage to pull it off through just a tilt of the head or a flash of Rom the Spaceknight's eye-beams.
Gage: What he said!
Nrama: What is the scope you are looking at for your story, in terms of how far out you have it planned and what you can tell us about how far-reaching the story will prove to be?
Ryall: I have approximately 650 issues fully planned out. Granted, many/most of those have been plotted since I was 10 years old, and the whole Hasbro universe inclusion has necessitated some changes be made, but I'd love to somehow match the great Bill Mantlo's run of issues...
Gage: We have a lot of ideas, both for future stories and looks at the Space Knights' past.
Nrama: What are some other books/creators you've enjoyed recently?
Ryall: I really love the new wave of solid crime comics out there now: Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' latest, Kill or Be Killed, is a wonderful horror/crime hybrid; 4 Kids Walk into a Bank and The Fix are wonderful; and The Black Hood is also great stuff – as is another Archie title, Sabrina (which is maybe the best horror comic out now). I still dig Paper Girls and Saga, of course, and a great many other comics too long to list here.
And, close to home, I have to say I'm still able to read and enjoy our Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic as a fan as well as the person who sees it all come together. That series has consistently been the best superhero comic in the market for years now and those guys constantly impress me with the way they keep that book interesting and fresh. Sure, I'm biased there but I do look at the way Tom Waltz and company has developed that book as a model for the way I'd like to see Rom develop.
But I've also been going through Alan Moore's Swamp Thing run again, just studying the way he balanced horror and romance in that run. The issues before Swamp Thing heads into space are some of the best comics ever, and stand as a model for how far I'd like to push Rom as we develop here.
Gage: Questions like these have a way of making me immediately forget what I'm reading, but I am also a big fan of Saga and whatever Brubaker/Phillips are doing at the moment. I like Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows' Providence a lot, but I suspect those who aren't into H.P. Lovecraft might find it impenetrable. I think Dan Slott and Mike Allred are doing a wonderful job on Silver Surfer, which everyone who wishes comics were more fun should read. I enjoy Walt Simonson's Ragnarok a great deal. That's just off the top of my head.
Nrama: And finally – with the variety of artists contributing variant covers, any chance we'll see some alternate Rom comics from IDW, such as an anthology?
Ryall: The annual sets up a way to do some back-up stories, which may happen before long.