There's nothing like the delight on a child's face when they unwrap a present and behold the wonder of an extremely cool toy. Unfortunately, Rom the Spaceknight wasn't one of them. He looked like a bulimic Cylon who couldn't bend his arms or legs, and came with three clunky accessories to help him in his quest for lameness. And that's just the beginning of the the retarditude. Wait 'til you hear the backstory on this 1979 stinker.
Rom was bought by board game company Parker Brothers from creator Bing McCoy. They wanted to try their hand in the booming action figure business since Star Wars figures were helping Kenner rake it in, and electronic toys were becoming all the rage. Why not combine the two?
McCoy originally created Rom as a meditating Egyptian mystic, because he was studying meditation at the time. Thankfully that action figure didn't make it to store shelves. Although it could be argued that Rom's expressionless robot face and non-moving limbs are perfect models for meditation.
Rom was pitched as a "cyborg," with no backstory, but he eventually got a micro-history, courtesy of the Parker Brother marketing department. Rom was a "Spaceknight" sent to the Earth to destroy "Dire Wraiths" who could assume any form.
Rom came with an Energy Analyzer that could see if something was a Dire Wraith, a Translator that could allow him to talk to any "intelligent being" and a Neutralizer that could blast things into smithereens. Talk about clunky. "Hi, hold still while I use my clunky analyzer on you and then please don't move if I draw my neutralizer. Thanks!"
Rom could "breathe" through his Respirator, which produced a raspy sound when you hit one of the buttons on his backpack. It allowed him to sound like he had asthma on multiple alien worlds.
Rom's "rocket pods" allowed him to fly around via your hand. If you pushed another button on his back, these would light up red, just like his eyes, the respirator, the analyzer, the neutralizer, and the translator. They sure loved sticking red l.e.d.s on this guy.
Marvel Comics later produced a Rom series of books that lasted 75 issues, far longer than the 1979 holiday period where Rom was introduced as a toy.
McCoy approached Stan Lee in an effort to get Marvel to sue Robocop as being a Rom knockoff, but Lee decided it wasn't worth the money or effort. Probably because Robocop was much cooler.