As much as James Gunn loves ROM, the failed toy turned beloved sci-fi superhero, the writer and director of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” isn’t interested in bringing the Spaceknight to the big screen without his Marvel Comics trappings.
Mentioned in 2015 as part of Paramount’s plans for a Hasbro cinematic universe that would include such other toy properties as G.I. Joe, Micronauts, Visionairies and M.A.S.K., ROM debuted in 1979 amid a wave of sci-fi popularity that followed the success of “Star Wars.” Unlike George Lucas’ brainchild, however, the cheaply made ROM figure was a commercial failure that “Time” magazine predicted would “end up among the dust balls under the playroom sofa.”
ROM’s future in comic books was far brighter, with Marvel launching “ROM: Spaceknight” by writer Bill Mantlo and artist Sal Buscema, who were free to create an entire universe around the hero, who under their direction became a cyborg from the utopian planet Galador who battled invading Dire Wraiths before heading to Earth to continue the fight. The series ran for 75 issues, during which ROM interacted with many characters of the Marvel Universe, before it came to an end in 1986, long outlasting the ROM figure’s life on store shelves.
Although IDW Publishing launched a ROM comic book revival, many of the story elements and characters that made the original series a favorite with fans — including Gunn — remain with Marvel. Asked whether he has any interest in an adaptation, the filmmaker cited the entanglement.
“I don’t, because this is the problem,” he told Screen Rant. “ROM, the story, is owned by Marvel Comics. So the Dire Wraiths, you know, all that story is owned by Marvel Comics. The character and the toys are owned by Paramount, so you can’t have both. Now you can’t have the Spaceknight, at Marvel, and you can’t have the Spaceknights without the story. What always interested me was more the story of the Spaceknights. People who gave up their humanity to save their planet was always very interesting to me, so there may be something to do with that, but it won’t be with ROM.”
Opening May 5, Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” stars Chris Pratt as Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer, Vin Diesel as Baby Groot, Bradley Cooper as Rocket Raccoon, Michael Rooker as Yondu Udonta, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Pom Klementieff as Mantis, Elizabeth Debicki as Ayesha, Chris Sullivan as Taserface, Sean Gunn as Kraglin, Glenn Close as Irani Rael and Kurt Russell as Ego.