07 November 2012

The Rights to Rom: It's Not Just Parker Brothers

Did you hear the one about the guy who had a tantalizing bit of information in front of him, but he didn't recognize it?  That was me up until last year.  All Rom fans know the comic book hero was licensed from Parker Brothers.  What most don't know — until now — is that the toy's creator, Bing McCoy, retained all the rights to secondary merchandise.

Think about that for a minute.  That means it was Bing McCoy, not Parker Brothers, who was making money off Marvel's Rom comic book.  That means Parker Brothers, now owned by Hasbro, doesn't have a whole lot of incentive to let Marvel use Rom any more, although it's unclear just how much say they have in the matter.

About six months after publishing my interview with McCoy, in early February 2006, I received another e-mail from  him.  It read in part:
 I am completing negotiations with Hasbro and Marvel over some minor details relating to the copyrights and then I will begin work on developing an animated series based on ROM.

Marvel also planning to include ROM in a new anthology of Marvel superheros - just a couple of pages.
My thoughts at the time were along the lines of, "wow, it's kind of weird that he's so interested in reviving something he sold to Parker Brothers."  McCoy didn't tell me he'd kept the rights and it didn't occur to me to ask him!  As it turned out, the second bit about a "new anthology" was really just the reprintings of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe in the Essential format.  If you ever wondered why Marvel included Rom in those, but didn't include Marvel Two-in-One #99 and Power Man and Iron Fist #73 — both featuring Rom — in the Essential collections, that's why.  Apparently only OHOTMU was covered by whatever negotiations took place.

Time went on.  McCoy was busy with other projects, but every few months he'd either e-mail me an update or I'd ask him for one.  McCoy was trying to buy back all the rights to Rom.  In the end, McCoy said in September 2008 that Hasbro backed out at the last minute.  This might have something to do with them no longer holding the trademark to Rom, but that's only conjecture on my part.  When I told McCoy about that, he told me he intended to sue.  That was in 2009.  He reiterated it in 2011, but I'd received some sad news in the meantime.

In late 2010, I was contacted by McCoy's younger brother.  He'd happened to Google McCoy's name and come across a post from way back when I was still trying to confirm McCoy's identity.  We continued corresponding and in early 2011 McCoy's brother dropped two bombshells on me.

First, he told me about McCoy retaining the secondary merchandise rights.  Suddenly, everything made much more sense.  And it just happened to be confirmed later by former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter when he recounted Rom's comic book genesis.  But no one seemed to notice!

Second, he revealed that McCoy "suffers from a rare degenerative disease that is destroying his brain and gradually robbing him of his ability to function on his own."  McCoy is now living in a medical facility.  His younger brother and his brother's wife are his legal guardians.  McCoy still get out some, as I was told he enjoyed going to see Wreck-It Ralph recently.

I told McCoy's brother about the push to reprint the Rom series to benefit Bill Mantlo and explained Mantlo's condition.  Although the causes are completely different, it's scary how much McCoy's and Mantlo's conditions now resemble each other.  McCoy's brother was sympathetic and said, pending review by a lawyer as McCoy does have an adult son to consider, he was authorized to sign on McCoy's behalf and didn't believe McCoy would want to stand in the way of such an effort.  Let's hope this is the breakthrough needed to get Rom reprinted.  But let us not forget Bing McCoy.


  1. Gods of Galador!

    That's a BIG bunch of bombshell news you revealed here!

    Some sort of joined benefit should be launched for these two creators.

    Thanks for the info, Lee!

  2. i'm sorry to hear about McCoy's condition. as for the rest of the news i guess only time will tell.

  3. It's sad that some of the most talented creators of our most beloved characters are dealt such a hand by cruel fate. I wish nothing but the best for these guys.

  4. Thank you for this piece of news. I hope to see ROM in stores again one day.

  5. This news exploded my brain. I wept for the humanity and the hope; much as I had before for Bill. Special thanks for sharing here, Lee.