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My Plan to Save the GOP with Time Travel and Rom, Spaceknight

Depending on which polling organization you follow because of how reassuring their results are to you, the American minority that remains “undecided” in the 2012 Presidential election may presently represent as much as ten percent of the voting public. I’ve not seen any recent polls that project a double-digit breakaway lead for either of the Big Two candidates, so it’s conceivable that the contemplative 10% could make or break a political career. For the sake of unfair generalization, I’m assuming that 10% won’t eventually flock to Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, or to any of the ignominious candidates from the Green, Constitution, or Justice parties. I’d never even heard of Virgil Goode, Jill Stein, or Rocky Anderson before tonight, until some online friends inspired some light reading on my end. Lord knows how many other serious candidates with more than ten supporters are out there.

The undecided have much to ponder this year. In one corner, they have the incumbent President Obama, among whose qualities is the fact that he’s not Mitt Romney. In the other corner, they have the non-incumbent Mitt Romney, whose most attractive feature seems to be that he’s not Barack Obama. For contrarians, there’s always an affable Libertarian candidate at ringside. Some people favor incumbents because they’re a safe, known quantity. Some people vote against incumbents on the principle that anything resembling lack of change is bad. If you intend to vote against someone rather than for someone, you’ll have three or more options: Not-Obama, Not-Romney, Door #3 Who’s Neither, and Messrs. and Mrs. Probably-Not-Appearing-on-Your-State’s-Ballot.

If you’re a fan of Not-Obama in general and Team Republican in particular, I believe I have an idea for you. It involves one of my childhood heroes coming to your rescue.


ROM Spaceknight #3, Marvel Comics, February 1980Once upon a time, there was a twelve-inch action figure named Rom, Spaceknight. He was a dull shade of grey, he was poorly articulated in accordance with 1979 toy standards, and he wore two-toed boots that looked really uncomfortable. His arch-nemeses were an alien race called the Dire Wraiths, who could transform into human shapes and wanted to take over the world through infiltration and skulking. Rom came with three weapons, all of which made distinct noises when you plugged them into his backpack and loaded him with fresh batteries. The Translator was a cumbersome, two-handed device that allowed Rom to speak and understand other tongues without spending hundreds of Earth dollars on Rosetta Stone CDs. The Analyzer bathed a living target in radiation and revealed whether or not they were a Dire Wraith in disguise. His primary weapon, the Neutralizer, was a 1980s non-lethal laser that banished Dire Wraiths to another dimension called Limbo that was bereft of theological implications.

The toy sold poorly, and rightfully so because it was ugly, unmovable, and never had any friends or enemies to fight. That’s why today the really smart toy companies produce action figure lines. At age seven and beyond, I thought Rom was cool anyway. Even cooler was the Marvel Comics series based on him. As written by Marvel handyman Bill Mantlo and drawn by the great Sal Buscema, Rom was a noble, flawless warrior who hailed from the distant planet Galador, where he was one of many Spaceknights appointed to the task of vanquishing the Dire Wraiths and making the universe safe for beings who can’t morph into other beings. Not merely armored soldiers, the Spaceknights were cyborgs, a noble few who elected to be bonded permanently into armor that could never be removed. Rom’s destiny led him to Earth, where he landed in West Virginia and found plenty of Dire Wraiths to track down and banish to Limbo. I’m not sure why the Dire Wraiths chose to huddle in a West Virginia town instead of, say, a population center. Apparently they liked to work in undisturbed isolation where potential victims would be few and far between. Fortunately for mankind, Rom landed right in their rural hiding place and took them to task.

Rom Spaceknight, Marvel Comics, 1980

Rom quickly made friends with a pair of Earthlings — Steve Jackson (no relation to the game designer) and Brandy Clark, the mandatory love interest. Alas, with Rom trapped forever in his smooth-shelled cyborg form, their love could never be! Fortunately the Dire Wraiths kept Rom plenty distracted, to say nothing of his occasional crossovers with other Marvel heroes such as the Thing, Power Man and Iron Fist, the Hulk, and even the now-famous X-Men, who assisted Rom in a creepy two-parter against a half-human/half-Wraith mutant grotesquerie called Hybrid. When the Wraiths became old hat, Mantlo introduced the ruling-class female wraiths that could drill their tongue through a human’s forehead. I thought it was a demented, disturbing, and energizing plot development. Even after Hasbro discontinued Rom’s one-cyborg toy line, Rom remained a fully integrated member of the Marvel universe for over six years, until he and all the Marvel heroes ended the war against the Wraiths once and for all by the final issue, #75.

And they all lived happily ever after, until Marvel lost the publishing license and learned they could no longer mention Rom’s name or display his armor in print ever again, because Hasbro is mean. The character has returned a few times in very coy ways, under an assumed name and without his distinctive armor or weapons that made him Someone in the first place. He should not have to be forced to remain incognito. Such usage is pointless and needs to be fixed.

Remember the idea I mentioned earlier? The one I mentioned in Act One of this entry, the part that was about politics and not about misfit toys? This is where my master plan begins. If everything happens according to my vision, this is what someone needs to make happen:

1. Invent time travel. Yes, I’m aware that the Step One in a typical master plan should not be gigantic, but this is kind of crucial. It’s also not the most difficult step on the list. Enlist your favorite science-geek buddy to give it a try.

2. Travel back to sometime before 1986 and become a high-ranking Marvel Comics editor. You may have to start as early as the mid-1970s and work your way up through the company.

3. Convince Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter to allow you to edit the series and continue it past #75. Part of me wants to suggest that you go back a few years earlier so that Steve Ditko never took over as artist after Buscema moved on, but it seems unfair to alter his timeline by depriving him of that income. Nevertheless, Shooter stated on his blog in 2011 that Rom never really burned up the sales charts, but floated consistently above the cancellation line. You need to find a reason for Rom’s comic to live. Come up with a fascinating new direction. Throw large sums of your own money at one of Marvel’s hot writer/artists of the era, such as John Byrne or Walt Simonson, to sway them to take over the series and steer it to the sort of visionary status and tremendous sales that it never knew in our original timeline. Rom needs to hit the big time by any means necessary. Take over as editor on several other titles and find ways to turn them into garbage so that Rom really sticks out. Whatever it takes.

4. Go back a little further in time and buy Hasbro so they can’t bury the Rom trademark in their backyard. Perhaps I should have mentioned up front that this plan will require you to be rich. Make that Step One-and-a-Half. See to it. Pick a Forbes billionaire, stalk their timeline, and fill your pockets at the right moments.

5. Fast-forward a few years and persuade Steven Spielberg to make a Rom, Spaceknight movie instead of Hook. This is the hardest step of the entire process. Basically, the lynchpin of the master plan is that we need Rom, Spaceknight: the Movie to exist, to succeed, and to become the biggest summer action blockbuster of all time. First you made it a viable, licensable intellectual property; then you become the angel on Spielberg’s shoulder that nudges him toward it, possibly by noting its vague similarities to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in terms of a strange alien bringing its super-powers to Earth and making small children happy. If you think another director can turn Rom into a $500 million sensation in the early 1990s, feel free to improvise, but I can’t guarantee results. My way has the added benefit of Hook being ignored out of existence. Food for thought.

6. Once Rom is a household name, jump once more to sometime between 2003 and 2007, and convince the Internet that the governor of Massachusetts should be nicknamed “Rom” Romney. You need to hit this step hard. By this point in the new timeline created by your constant meddling, everyone should realize that Rom, Spaceknight, is the hero to end all heroes — forthright, unstoppable, 100% Lawful Good. How much of these same qualities Willard Mitt Romney possesses is an academic debate best left to partisans, but those percentages can be overcome by a staggering marketing campaign that rebrands him as “Rom” Romney. It’s right there in his name. Point that out to people. Mention it one or two million times through every possible communication medium you can access. Hire others to mention it even more. Buy a Madison Avenue firm with the skills and resources to help blur the lines of perception between the politician and America’s favorite Spielberg hero. If you tell enough people enough times that “Rom” Romney is the same kind of forthright, unstoppable, 100% Lawful Good — again, assuming you can repeat Step One-and-a-Half enough times to keep the funding in place — eventually the legend will become the man.

This may all sound horrendously complicated, but I’m pretty sure this is how high-level PR works for the average evil multinational corporation. Net benefit to you: your 2012 Republican Presidential candidate has a vastly improved public image, one evocative of heroism, sacrifice, warrior spirit, freedom, and massive movie explosions. Regardless of any gaffes he originally made, the “Rom” Romney who stars in your new and improved timeline should stand a much better chance of knocking the incumbent out of place.

Personally, I don’t much care about that part of the plan. If it helps you, the Not-Obama supporter, to achieve your objective of wresting power from the Not-Republicans and discovering enlightened contentment as a result, I’m happy for you. My personal objective in all of this was to live in a new world where a Rom, Spaceknight movie is one of the all-time box office champs. If your intense, over-the-top vendetta against Obama accomplishes that, then I’m willing to live with the consequences.

And if you think my plan is flawed, just imagine: in another timeline, my evil twin is writing an overlong essay about how to sabotage the GOP by convincing the public to connect Romney with Quark’s mewling brother Rom from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Too bad the nefarious Mr. Silver’s essay is terrible and his life is sad.

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