Sunday, August 26, 2007

ROM: THE SPACE KNIGHT: A HALFSQUATCH EXCLUSIVE WITH ITS CREATOR LAWRENCE "BING" MCCOY

When I was a kid action figures were HUGE. I don't mean 12 inches huge, rather they were the thing to have. I remember looking through the hole in Steve Austin's head and making wishes. Wishes like "I wish I had the Bionic Bigfoot action figure!" It worked too, though because Steve Austin's head isn't an official "wishing well" it took about 30 years to get one (thanks to Craig McEwen!).

I remember endlessly depressing the back of Pulsar, the Ultimate Man of Adventure so that his exposed lungs and heart would pump blood through his veins and intestines. Like Steve Austin, Pulsar's albino-white head of hair came with a "peep-hole" where you could trip to psychedelic patterns from little disks that were inserted into his head when you lifted up his face. The packaging he came with were just as groovy as his boots. If I look through the peephole of another Steve Austin action figure I'd say "I wish I had a Pulsar mint-in-box!."


Occasionally I would go over to my friend David Marshall's place and set up all of his Justice League action figures in a 10-pin formation and then have Evel Knievel in his stunt car drive into them. Not one of them used their powers to stop the unbreakable stunt man.

If I could, I'd make my third and final wish: "I wish I never nuked my ROM: The Space Knight action figure in Davey Marshall's microwave (he was the first person I knew to have one of these new-fangled cooking devices). After ROM was pumped full of radiation, we feared for our lives so we took him outside and pumped him full of BB's. It took about 100 rounds to bring the mutated Space Knight down. I'm very ashamed of this and I apologize to the maker and creator of ROM, Lawrence "Bing" McCoy for destroying his creation. I caught up with Bing on the World Wide Web and over a cyber-coffee (a Java, if you will) to apologize and find out more behind ROM: THE SPACE KNIGHT!

Halfsquatch:
First, off I'm sorry for destroying my ROM action figure. I really regretted doing it moments after he started to spark and fizzle. Once that I saw that he was no longer the ROM I once knew and loved, but a mutated freak of nature, we pumped him full of lead. There was nothing anyone could do. I must admit, it took about 100 rounds to take him down.

Lawrence "Bing" McCoy:
It doesn't bother me. I destroyed a lot of action figures in my youth with firecrackers, gasoline, you name it.

HS:
Can you give a little information about your background and how you got into the toy biz?


LBM:
I was raised in Saudi Arabia on an oil base for Aramco
(Arabian-American Oil Company). At 13 we moved to Charlottesville Va. I spent most of my high school years touring on weekends with 'soul bands' playing keyboards. When a high school buddy's band became famous, I blew off college and moved to Washington D.C. to join the band. I did a lot of session work in D.C. and N.Y. as well as touring with people like Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt etc.

While doing session work in N.Y. I met Nathan Weiss who was a very powerful talent manager in the music business. Clients included James Taylor, Miles Davis, Cat Stevens, John McClaughlin etc. Nat got me one of the first music synthesizers and I did a lot of effects for ads etc. One day I had the idea to put sound in a game as a Christmas present for my brother and Electronic Battleship was born. One of the backers of a studio where I did session work was a toy agent and he sold the toy to Milton Bradley. Then I formed a company with Scott Dankman and Richard Levy. Scott Dankman was a prince of a guy and Richard was a complete scum ball. He went around telling everyone that he had invented my toys. He had articles published in the Washington Post, went on the Smithsonian show 'Inventions' claiming he had invented my toys etc. He remains one of most despised people in the toy business by inventors because he continues to take credit for things he never invented, like Furby etc.

HS:
I noticed on your website that ROM was originally an Egyptian thingy and then you tore it apart and remade it as a robot. What did the Egyptian toy do? Obviously it didn't have a phaser-pistol. What were the creative steps that took you from thousands of years BC to
thousands of years AD? was there a Middle ages Knight action figure that bridged the creative leap?

LBM:

ROM started out as an Egyptian mystic because at the time I was practicing meditation and I thought it might be cool to have a 'mystic' action figure. But I was the only one who liked the idea, so I changed it into a cyborg.

HS:
Yeah, a meditating action figure is kind of an oxymoron. So you changed it from Mystic to Cyborg, did you go directly to Parker Brothers with the cyborg prototype or did you shop it around a bit? What was everyone's reaction to your toy?


LBM:

Richard [the scum ball] went to Parker Brothers with the toy (and of course claimed
that he invented it.)

HS:
In the making of the official toy-line, did you have a say in how you thought the actual design of ROM should be or was that all Parker Brothers? How did you feel about the final product? Any surprises? Did Parker Brothers pull any fast ones on you?

LBM:
Generally I was happy with the final product - except the box design was pretty cheesy. And articulated limbs would have been nice. Parker Brothers has always treated me well (and still do). There are a few companies I won't do business with - and perhaps best to not name names.


HS:
Did you have any kind of fictional back-story for ROM when you pitched the toy? What was your pitch?


LBM:

My pitch was that ROM was a cyborg.


HS:
There seems to be quite a similarity in ROM and Robocop, not only physically but also in the comic's storyline. Do you think Robocop was a rip-off of ROM?


LBM:

Yes, Robocop was a rip-off or ROM. I met Paul Verhoevn a few years ago and told him I didn't appreciate that. I talked to Stan Lee about it, but we agreed it was too much trouble to sue, because those types of intellectual property lawsuits rarely do any good.



HS:
Has anyone approached you about any re-issuing of ROM either in toy or comic? Is the toy itself completely out of your hands? Do you have any connection to the toy-line/license/property or is it entirely Parker Brothers and Marvel?

LBM:

I am in the process of re-acquiring the rights. Parker Brothers signed an agreement with Paramount not to use the name anymore, because Paramount threatened to sue claiming infringement on Star Trek's Romulan. I am getting that contract nulled by Paramount. Once that is done I can move forward.

HS:
That ROM costume is amazing. Look how crappy the Hulk looks compared to ROM. The Hulk looks like he's just eaten a large shipment of psycho-drugs. I wonder where the ROM costume is? It must have made you chuckle when you saw it. I worked at Mainframe Entertainment where Transformers: Beast Wars was made and I found a Megatron costume and put it on and walked around. It smelled bad, I could hardly see was extremely hot. Do you have any idea how hot it is in one of these costumes?


LBM:
Richard ["scum ball"] Levy has the costume.


HS:
He sounds like a complete scum ball. I'd even go as far to say scum bag. Got any other bright ideas for zany toys?


LBM:
This year I am releasing glasses which turn 2D into 3D. Imagine watching Star Wars in 3D. A few others on the way as well.


HS:

Cool!! I'll look for those! Speaking of 3D, you're working on a couple of CGI features it looks like! How're they going? Who's doing the production work? What are they all about?


LBM:

The Prophet. That is animated feature that I am working with Phil Roman (the guy
who's company did The Simpson's animation). We are still in pre-production. The other feature Hellas is a live action film with the exteriors done in C.G. That one is also in pre-production.

HS:
Thanks Lawrence for your time and I appreciate you chattin with me.


video

5 comments:

Mr.Esty said...

Pulsar! He was awesome! I remember desperately wanting a similar toy that was a bat, and you could see the blood gushing through his translucent guts.

Honkbarn said...

The first comic:

http://www.honkbarn.com/breakthrough.jpg

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