September 24, 2011

Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light, issue 2 - "The Balance of Power"


"The Balance of Power" picks up right where "The End... The Beginning!" leaves off, but unlike the first issue, the second deviates almost completely from the cartoon.

The wizard Merklynn sends the successful Knights of his quest back to the foot of Iron Mountain and leaves them with this...

"One final word brave knights! With the powers you now possess, you can either rebuild this wondrous world - or DESTROY IT ALL! The fate of Prysmos is in your hands!"
The warriors are confused. What are these "powers" that they possess? And what of those warriors without staffs? Confusion leads to anger which inevitably spills over into a battle between the two loosely affiliated groups. As the fight rages, something strange begins to happen. The warriors who posses staffs begin to hear a voice, like a whisper, in their head. The words it speaks are a spell that unleashes a power within them. One by one, they begin to discover just what it is Merklynn has given them.

The battle escalates. It's a free-for-all of destruction and chaos. And then a voice rises above the calamity. It's Leoric. He makes a plea for the warriors to unite and use their new powers to rebuild their world. Some of them scoff at this and Darkstorm seizes this opportunity to rally them to his cause. In the end, the knights choose their sides with neither group having a clear-cut tactical advantage. Both agree to go their separate ways. For now.

Leoric takes his knights to his stronghold in New Valarak, where they thoughtfully debate a plan of action. In the end, they agree on one thing: to unite as one against the forces of evil. Meanwhile, back at Darkstorm's lair, he and his newly minted Darkling Lords have a less... civil discussion.

A caste system quickly develops between those who posses a staff of power and those who don't. The sniveling Mortdred and the bitter Reekon are made errand boys, sent to a local community to have Darkstorm's armor repaired. There they meet Harkon, a renowned blacksmith who had been a brilliant engineer and scientist during the Age of Technology. While Harkon repairs Darkstorm's armor, Reekon discovers something hidden under a tarp. It's a project of Harkon's from before the Age of Magic rendered all technology useless: a flying vehicle with immense firepower that he calls a Sky Claw. Mortdred muses about getting back into Darkstorm's good graces by presenting him with this flying machine, a secret weapon that he can use to crush Leoric and his meddlesome knights. And then...

The Sky Claw whirs to life! Reekon feels the transfer of energy from his hand to the machine, and when Mortdred touches it, the symbol on his chest plate instantly appears on the wing. They have discovered their power. They have the ability to power this vehicle and, presumably, any electronic device from days gone by. They present this to Darkstorm and a feast is held to celebrate their new advantage. This naturally leads to a discussion on how best to use this new power and that leads to a mêlée amongst the Lords. When the dust settles, Darkstorm blames Mortdred for the scuffle and sends him from his sight. Mortdred, seeking to once again regain his master's favor, steals the Sky Claw and sets off for New Valarak. Initially intending only to spy on the enemy, Mortdred is overcome with a desire to do more, to prove his worth by destroying Leoric and his knights.

Leoric's men are roused from their sleep and a battle ensues. The Knights are horrified by this terrible new weapon, but fight back bravely. Eventually, a new power is roused, this time inside the knight Arzon. It is the power of Knowledge and with it he is able to deduce that there is a weakness to the Sky Claw. He tells his fellow Knight, Feryl, to hit the underside of the craft dead center. This causes it to spin out of control and crash. But then the Darkling Lords arrive.

Having found Mortdred and the Sky Claw missing, Darkstorm and his warriors knew they'd find him in New Valarak. The two forces battle. Meanwhile, the Sky Claw begins to repair - no, to heal itself, almost as if it's alive. Mortdred rejoins the battle and is about to blast Leoric, only to be waylaid by Arzon. The Sky Claw is sent spinning and the blast destroys Darkstorm's chariot instead, injuring the Lord in the process. The tide has turned and the Darkling Lords are forced to beat a hasty retreat, leaving the Sky Claw in the hands of Leoric and his Knights. Back at Darkstorm's lair, Mortdred is thrown into the dungeon until his master can decide what to do with him.

As I mentioned in the beginning, this issue doesn't follow the storyline of the cartoon. The only thing(s) the second issue and the second episode have in common is that Mortdred and Reekon's ability to power electronic devices is revealed and the Sky Claw is introduced.

As a consequence of this original take, one of the first things I noticed is that Flint Dille's trademark humor, more or less retained in the first issue, is largely gone here. The second issue has a more serious, straightforward tone to it. It's very well written, but the tonal change is a bit jarring at first.

One thing that hasn't changed is that it still embraces a more complex morality than most other properties of the era, such as when the still unnamed Spectral Knights have a genuine debate on how best to use their powers and deal with Darkstorm.

"Don't get carried away by anger, Ectar. Remember what Merklynn said - We're supposed to use our magic to rebuild the world, not fight a war."

"Maybe we'll have to fight the war first, Arzon."
Not exactly earth-shattering stuff, mind, but again, considering the era, it's refreshing to see two good guys disagree on a course of action without some coda reprimanding the one who was "wrong". In the real world, good people disagree. It happens every day. In fact, I'd say they disagree far more often than evildoers.

Overall, "The Balance of Power" is a less generically entertaining but more intelligent second chapter than its corresponding episode in the cartoon series. I'm looking forward to the next issue.


We're at the point where the comics and the cartoon are two fully separate continuities with different takes on the same idea that will likely continue to divide as they go on. Any fan of Transformers and G.I. Joe will already be prepared for this, but for those of you who have been following along with us: forget the tv series. From here on out, the comic will be its own universe with the characters and world and magical rules working in their own way.

Let's take the power staffs. In the cartoon, they unleashed a magical being for one shot before they needed to be dragged up to Iron Mountain and dipped in Merklynn's pool for a recharge. Here, they not only recharge themselves after a short time, but there is no magical being, the powers they represent instead being cast through the knight wielding them. Lexor's Invulnerability spell coats his armor with an unbreakable skin. Arzon's Knowledge spell instantly fills his head with perfect recollection of everything he's ever known throughout his life. Cindarr's Destruction spell tears the ground with an earthquake. I kinda miss the kooky figures that would pop out of the Staffs when summoned, but I like this shorthand of simply having the powers channelled through the wielder. And while having to trek up to Merklynn's place for a recharge was a clever twist, it's not essential.

As Tony pointed out, I love how the Darkling Lords are quick to look down on those who don't wield staffs, and the motivation this gives to Reekon and Mortdredd to prove themselves. The Sky Claw is nicely used here, going from a piece of junk in the back of a smith's shop to a wondrous sight as it takes to the air and reminds everyone of the era they've lost. I like that we get an explanation of how the holograms on the craft are tied to the user and how the Spectral Knights are still able to take it down through skill and strategy. But I do have one issue: how is Darkstorm able to pilot it? Unlocking the vehicle is Mortdredd's magical skill and it's imbued with his power, so how is Darkstorm able to take the controls and go off for a fly on his own? It's kind of pointless to give someone a special ability that anyone else can use.

I also love the conflicted ethics and motives Tony mentioned. The Knights arguing about waiting for Darkstorm to attack or making the first move. The Lords pulling together even as they break into fights and plot behind each other's backs. And I love the recurring theme of "That's not fair!", first expressed by the smith who built the Sky Claw when he's stunned to learn he's not able to fly his own creation, then again by Mortdredd when he's tossed in a dungeon for a week for trying to impress his master. It's good stuff.

And, yeah, the tone is definitely different. The tv series was almost as much a parody of medieval knight ballads as they were a modern tribute to them, but the comic is becoming much more of a straight-forward high fantasy. There's nothing wrong with that different approach, though. The characters are rich and (mostly) distinct. The central clash between freedom and dominance is played to the hilt. The magic adds to the characters and world instead of overwhelming it or making it silly. It's with this issue that Jim Salicrup handed the scripting reigns over to Gerry Conway, who's a legendary writer in the industry for a good reason. Trust me, we're in great hands with him.

A few small notes:
  • I'm impressed they didn't fall back on the ages old cliche of having the two female knights always squaring off against one another. Here, they hold their own against the males.
  • I'm surprise how little use they've made of the animal totems. I know there's only so many pages to play in, but I only counted for shifts, and each ended rather quickly.
  • In the show, Leoric would be blundering head-first into whatever fray he could find. I love the calmer, wiser version we have here. There's a great bit where the Knights and Lords break out into their free-for-all brawl in the opening scene, and he's just standing on a hill top, scowling down as the senseless conflict.
  • Mortdredd continues to be the most entertaining character in this franchise.

Tune in next Saturday Morning for another Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light adventure in "The Star Stone".

September 17, 2011

Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light, issue 1 - "The End... The Beginning!"


We open on the flourishing, technological utopian city of New Valarak on the alien world of Prysmos, where the people are soft and pampered due to their robot servants doing all the heavy lifting. Into a posh restaurant, overlooking the city from the cliffside on which it hangs, walks the wizard Merklynn, who knows of the approaching conjunction of the three suns and wants to witness the effects it will have. Sure enough, in a flash of light, all electronics go dead and Merklynn declares a new era of magic has begun as people scream and die and New Valarak is awash in flames.

As was common for many comic tie ins of the era, this debut issue is a loose adaptation of the pilot episode penned by Flint Dille. Writer Jim Salicrup plays a bit loose with his adaptation, but it follows the major plot beats as they originally played out. After several years (it's unspecified how many, but presumably a decade or less), the world has entered a new medieval dark age. Leoric, once Mayor of New Valarak, is now its King and has done his best to guide the city to peace and prosperity. But the outer lands are run by Darkstorm, who rules through the "tough decisions" of enslavement and pillagery. To both, and every other person in the region decked in the armor of a knight, appears the glowing face of Merklynn, inviting all who desire magical powers to enter his citadel on Iron Mountain where their worth will be tested.

Let's pause for a moment and go over our characters. Leoric and Darkstorm are largely unchanged, and I like the focus on their opposing views on how best to manage a struggling world. Leoric's main lieutenants Ectar and Feryll also don't stray from the pilot episode, where they were equally indistinct. Mortdredd is as big a kissass as always. Witterquick, Galadria, Arzon, and Virulina are also the same, though I like the addition of the fact that Virulina stinks from bad hygiene (though, realistically, who in this dark age wouldn't?).

Reekon and Cravex seem to have swapped places. Reekon still only works for money, but he's more a hired warrior than a thief and Cravex has lost his berserker rage as he sneaks around corners and takes people out when they aren't looking. Cryotek isn't all that different, but he apparently now has an old rivalry with Cindarr, who's lost his dim-witted innocence and is now a common thug. Lexor is still a coward, but I love that he's unaffiliated with either side and just manages to bungle into getting powers because he keeps running away in the right direction.

The traps and tests in Merklynn's shrine are a little different, but largely play out as they did on the show. Witterquick runs fast. Ectar uses a leaf as a hang glider. There's a giant scary gargoyle that's frightened off when Leoric charges it because it isn't used to being attacked. Galadria and Virulina have their fight in the water, complete with octopus. Darkstorm recruits his evil knights by trapping them. And there's a free-for-all brawl before Merklynn shows up and gives his magic to everyone who's left.

It's a good adaptation, and I applaud Marvel for the extended 38-page length because nothing feels compressed or rushed. In fact, with scenes like Merklynn in the opening, they actually get to expand on the material in little ways. I can't say most of the characters are particularly distinct, especially since most of them are hidden behind those clunky helmets, so I'm not sure how well it would work for a newcomer unfamiliar with the tv show. Even I got a little lost at times when dozens of knights are running around before they're thinned down to the lead 14. It's not bad, though, giving each character their moment to shine. There's even a great bit with a trio of knights concocting a plan to form a League of Justice, combining "my knowledge of weapons with your detective skills", before Cravex drops a beehive on them and they run away, never to be seen again.

I am impressed that the writing didn't forget to include the humor of the tv show. It's a little clunky and doesn't have the sharp satirical edge of Dille's writing, but it still works. The knights bicker, traps are often as comical as they are threatening (a cave literally swallows knights up, then spits them out with a burp), and there's the occasional great line like "What's your problem[, Mortdredd]? Did Darkstorm get mad at you for rusting his boots with your tongue?"

The art by Mark Bagley and Romeo Tanghall is also a delight. There were some moments where I was lost on who was behind what suit of armor or a face got a little wonky, but their work is very rich and flowing. The armor always has weight and keeps to the design, the action is dynamic and the humor playful, and they're just as good with moments of a dozen knights rolling around in a scuffle as they are grandiose uses of cosmic magical forces. There's two moments in this issue that are absolutely stunning: the two page spread of New Valarak in flames, and our Knights entering Merklynn's chamber and encounter a swirling cloud of the animal spirits destined to become their totems.

This book is a solid piece of work. It's not perfect, with an overly large cast still struggling to give everyone distinction, and a few rough bits here and there, but it's rousing, it's exciting, it's filled with big ideas and personal conflicts. I was instantly captivated by the first episode of the tv series, and the first issue of the comic thankfully doesn't fail to do the same.


Noel has done such an excellent job of outlining the issue that I feel an urge to take you through the various ads instead - like the one with a little boy who is basking in the admiration of a group of girls because of his model car building skills - but I won't. Instead, I'll give you a little context.

Our first issue is dated November of 1987, a year that was a defining moment in my life. It wasn't the year I kissed my first girl (that was 1986). It wasn't the year I got my first pubes (I'm still waiting on those). It was the year I turned thirteen and the last year I got toys for Christmas. I say this because it represented the end of my childhood as defined by toys, cartoons, and comic books, and the start of my adolescence. It was a year when things began to get complicated. Old friends became former friends, replaced by former strangers who became constant companions. The homework got harder, the social pressures increased, and hard choices loomed ahead. Look, it wasn't all gloom and doom and I can truthfully say that I enjoyed my teen years, but life is never quite as pure as those days of imagination when you're twelve years old. Damn, I miss them sometimes. But that's the great thing about an old comic book: it's like a portal to that moment in time. And speaking of which... Sherman? Set the WABAC machine for 1987.

"Go now! Return to your city! Your only hope for survival is to create a brave new world out of the old! I have other matters to attend... Fear not! For Merklynn shall return!"


"Anyone know a good restaurant near here?"
The thing I enjoyed most about this first issue was how it went beyond what the first episode - or even the series as a whole - was able to show us. You expect that from a novelization, but not necessarily from a comic adaptation. The Age of Science was only briefly touched on in the cartoon and never anything more than a set-up for the premise. Here, we get to see that it was really a reflection of the state of humanity in the late 20th century. Were technology and convenience making us soft? Were we losing our primal edge? I couldn't help but think of these lyrics from the song Mr. Roboto as I was reading:

The problem's plain to see:
Too much technology.
Machines to save our lives.
Machines dehumanize.
Yes, I know the song is corny, but it hits upon the kinds of questions we were asking and the doubts we had as the New Millennium loomed.

The other aspect that made reading this so worthwhile was that it strengthened the bonds formed between the Knights on both sides. I don't know that there was more focus on it, but there's something inherently more intimate about reading than simply watching. I could feel the growing camaraderie between the as yet unnamed Spectral Knights and the tangled yet tenuous bonds of the Darkling Lords. I felt a connection to the journey that was missing in the first episode.

As Noel said, it does get hard to keep track of characters at times. Even as the roster of would-be Knights gets whittled down, I still had difficulty keeping track of who was who. For instance, both female Knights are inexplicably clad in purple and silver, and in one scene, Cindarr and Cryotek square off, each wielding an identical sword and both clad in blue and red armor. That's like having a movie where Michael Madsen fights Tom Sizemore. Granted, these are more a problem of concept than the execution of the artists, but the Knights should've been designed to each have bold, distinct armor. And maybe throw in a black guy or two while you're at it. Just don't match them against one another or you get that whole Michael Clarke Duncan/Ving Rhames thing and we're right back where we started.

And, as in the cartoon, the character's personalities are still just as interchangeable. Especially the good guys. While each villain has his or her own little section of character turf to occupy, the good guys, for the most part, are all pretty much the same. When faced with conflict, the villains stop to ponder how it will affect them. They scheme. They plot. They double-cross. When the good guys face a challenge, they draw swords and charge headlong, yelling "Justice! Honor! Courage! Eat your vegetables!"

Issue one gets us off to a good start. It's fast paced without ever feeling rushed and it takes big themes and boils them down without losing the nutrients.

Tune in next Saturday Morning for another Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light adventure in "The Balance of Power".

September 10, 2011

Bonus Review: The Dragon Strike Video

There's been a slight delay in us getting our hands on every issue of the Visionaries comic, so we're taking a break this week and are instead treating you to a tasty little gem written and directed by none other than Flint Dille, the mad genius behind our Knights of the Magical Light.


"Now, don't forget, a great Dragon Master isn't afraid to ham it up. Sure, the monsters just want to beat the heroes up, but it's a lot more fun when they do it with style."

In the late 80s, Flint Dille found himself canned from Transformers and at the head of the quickly cancelled Visionaries and Inhumanoids (the latter of which we'll be covering next year), he started to back out of tv animation and put more focus into his work at TSR, where he'd been writing interactive game books and the occasional novel. As the 80s came to a close, the company best known for Dungeons & Dragons tried branching out into new realms, including a wide attempt to relaunch Buck Rogers, or their interactive audio adventure, Terror T.R.A.X.. Dille was involved with both, but the grand poobah of his time there was 1993's Dragon Strike, a board game designed as an easy way in for those new to table-top role playing. I've never played the game and can't attest to its success or failure, nor do I know what his level of involvement was with the game itself, but I have seen the half-hour introductory video Dille put together, and boy is it something.

The main thrust of the story is that the dark lord Teraptus has gotten his hands on a Sunstone, which he uses to coat the land in eternal night. This information is delivered to the spoiled King Halvor II by a dying Wizard, and the King half-heartedly assembles a fellowship of adventurers who just happen to already be present when his throne room comes under attack by Teraptus' undead legion. You've got the boasting knuckleheaded giant of a Warrior played by Malibu from American Gladiator, a skimpily clad Thief who's after treasure whenever she isn't cracking things with her whip, an overly dramatic Elf who's shown to be ancient by his powdered grey wig (and he's an archer, no surprise), and the Wizard, who was healed by a Cleric, who won't be tagging along with the crew should they be near death again.

They head off to Teraptus' castle, battling trees and their own internal bickering. Once they reach their destination, they have to fend off against a really bad CGI dragon before scaling the walls. Inside, they encounter an Owl-Bear (literally a talking bear with a giant owl head) who's griping to an Owl-Owl about how much his job sucks, a pair of Orcs that bellow with laughter as they give each other noogies, a blind minotaur, and a surprisingly badass Man-Scorpion. They eventually free the captured Dwarf who built the Sunstone and, with his help, take on Teraptus and his dreaded Fire Elemental (a ballet dancer rotoscoped to look like fire).

The most distinctive aspect of this short is the way in which it's shot, using live actors against green screen in front of fully digital background. It sorta works and sorta doesn't, looking like a middle ground between the old Chroma Key effects of Land of the Lost and more modern efforts like Sanctuary and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. It looks crude, but it's consistent, and thus really works for me in terms of capturing an exaggerated fantasy world. Mixed with the overly clean costumes, it actually looks like figurines coming to life and wandering around a three dimensional board game. On the other hand, you get some really cheap looking rubber masks, flatly animated splashes of gore, CGI that was probably dated even for the time, and the ridiculous coyote pelt on the Wizard's head. But then there's the Man-Scorpion, which was a surprisingly effective mix of techniques. From the waist up, he's a snarling live actor in red body paint with little horns around his face. From the waist down, he's the CGI body of a scorpion. It blends together beautifully.

The feature I loved even more was the same tongue-in-cheek sense of humor Dille used to give Visionaries it's warmth and distinction. Our fellowship is constantly at each other's throats throughout their trek, only coming together at the last minute. The Warrior praises the King because the King is King and keeps everyone marching forward with a sword thwacked across their bottoms. The Thief is told to distract a guard by flattering him, so she shouts "Hey, handsome!", then lashes her whip around his neck and yanks him off a tower wall to his death. The Elf is constantly crouched in overly dramatic battle poses and always senses danger on the air just before it pops up behind him and still catches him by surprise. The Wizard... well, I've already mentioned the Coyote pelt on his head, but we also get his spells constantly misfiring and a great bit where he devises a plan to split up, only to turn around and realize the others have already gone their separate ways.

Now, as with the occasional episode of Visionaries, there are times where the humor hops over that line of going too far, to the point where it becomes forced camp. The pompous King and Queen gloating over their riches and opulent feast, even after most of their court has been slaughtered (though I do like his speedy trap door exit). The Dwarf's entire shtick is to shout a constant stream of insults at the top of his lungs until the others get around to doing what he wants them to do. Then there's the goofball creatures of Teraptus' castle, yuk yukking their way along with a level of ineptitude that calls their master's evil power into question, the worst of which is the Owl-Bear. Seriously, the Owl-Bear.

Oh, and we haven't even gotten to the Dragon Master yet. This short is introduced, narrated, and occasionally annotated by voice actor John Boyle, who, in his black turtleneck against a dark background, is essentially a floating head and hands guiding unseen players through the rules and mechanics of the game. At times, he captures the ethereal power of fantasy storytelling. At others, he's glaring and barking at us in ridiculous speeches about imagination, teamwork, and doing things at perilous risks.

In the end, this is definitely one of the strangest viewing experiences you'll ever witness. There's some bits where they admirably rise above their limited means through sincere innovation and imagination, and others where they come crashing down, either through budgetary restrictions or bad choices in terms of writing, acting, and visualizations.

Seriously, the Owl-Bear.


"Congratulations. You've just infiltrated your first castle."

Friends, I don't have to read about the 80s and early 90s in some history book. I was there. I lived it. I drank New Coke. Saw Howard the Duck at the theater. I actually owned a Milli Vanilli cassette tape. And I was a witness and participant to the unholy marriage of board game and VCR.

There were VCR board games like the Clue VCR Mystery Game that ditched that outdated notion of using your imagination and let hammy actors do the heavy lifting for you. And game systems like Action Max and the toy line Captain Power that tried to turn your TV and VCR into a first person shooter with mixed results. The video for Dragon Strike is more of a how-to for a board game that seems designed primarily as D&D for beginners. They were all attempts to capitalize on the home video boom that happened when nearly every household in America - and, likely, the Western world - owned at least one VCR.

Having played some D&D in my time, I can say with some authority that the campaign presented in Dragon Strike is the worst ever. Worse than any episode of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon series. Worse than that time you let your Uncle Ned DM for you. Worse even than one of those churchified versions of AD&D that popped up in the early 80s as an evangelical counter to the "Satanic" influences of the original.

"Okay, Tommy. Do a saving roll against your impure thoughts for the minotaur."

No real D&D player would be caught dead playing Dragon Strike, but I can see how it could've been a gateway to the real thing for 12-14 year olds. In theory, anyway.

As for the video, Noel did an excellent job describing what it is. The disembodied head. The crude effects (except for the aforementioned Man-Scorpion, which is actually rendered better than the similar Rock/Scorpion in The Mummy Returns). The cheesy keyboard music. Dragon Strike is well intended, but ambitious beyond its means. What holds it all together is Dille's trademark humor and the conviction of the actors, shitty though they may be.

Owl-Bear says "It's a hoot! Grrr!"

September 3, 2011

Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light - The Action Figures

Once upon a time, basing a cartoon series on a toy line was a no-no. But in the early 80s, President Reagan effectively deregulated children's television and it ushered in a new era: the age of the toy based cartoon.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is generally recognized as the first property to benefit from the relaxed rules. In a bold move, toy company Mattel and Filmation studios, under the leadership of co-founder Lou Scheimer, created sixty five episodes of an animated series based on Mattel's new toy line and sold it into barter syndication. The result was an explosion that saw both the toy line and the animated series flourish. By 1984, the franchise had reached a peak annual revenue of (cue Dr. Evil) $400 million dollars. That kind of success is going to draw imitators, and it wasn't long before everyone was getting in on the act.

Fast forward to 1987. Toy maker Hasbro and animation studio Sunbow had copied the Mattel/Filmation formula and achieved similar success with their G.I. Joe and Transformers cross-promotions. One of their later projects was Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light. As we know, the cartoon only ran for thirteen episodes, but what about the toy line? Well, it was similarly short-lived and under-appreciated.

The first and only series consisted of twelve figures, eight sold individually and four that came with their matching vehicle. No playsets or other accessories were made. The solo figures were Leoric, Arzon, Cryotek, Witterquick, Darkstorm, Cravex, Lexor, and Cindarr. Four good guys, four bad guys. The vehicles and drivers were Lancer Cycle with Ectar, Sky Claw with Mortdred, Capture Chariot with Feryl, and Dagger Assault with Reekon. Two good guys, two bad guys. Balance.

Note the lack of the two female characters, Spectral Knight Galadria and Darkling Lord Virulina, and, most peculiar, the Wizard Merklynn. Most toy companies at the time were skeptical that female characters would be appealing in a line marketed to, and consisting mostly of, boys. Ironically, it's the female characters that are often the most sought after and command the highest dollar in 80s toy lines in today's collector's market.

The figures were about 4 1/2", a little larger than Hasbro's G.I. Joes, but had the same level of articulation and bore an excellent likeness to their animated counterparts. Each figure came with its own weapon, powerstaff, and an animal totem in the form of the line's most noteworthy feature: a removable chest hologram. It was that hologram, in fact, that helped lead to the line's demise. Though the animated series had ended, a second run of figures was still being developed. Ultimately, it was decided that the hologram feature was too expense to produce and the toy line was cancelled as well.

The vehicles weren't as detailed as Hasbro's G.I. Joe line, but then again, the designs on the show weren't very intricate, either. Like the figures, the vehicles perfectly captured the look of their animated counterparts and featured large, eye-catching holograms of their own as well as "action features" that added to their playability.

As I mentioned, a second series was planned before the plug was pulled. It's unclear how far along Hasbro got in the process, but it was rumored that eighteen figures were to be produced, including the six Sun Imps from the final episode, as well as a large playset.

My research turned up precious little else in terms of Visionaries merchandise, other than the short-lived comic book series which we'll review in the coming weeks. I did find a plastic lunchbox on eBay going for a modest $14.99. If anyone knows of anything else I may have missed, please contact us and let us know, and we'll update this review.

Like the cartoon, the Visionaries toy line is seemingly buried beneath its more successful contemporaries. eBay auctions show little activity and prices are generally low, though complete figures are hard to find outside of eBay store auctions and there were no vehicles listed. It's a shame, too, because though short-lived, Hasbro's Visionaries line captured the spirit of the show and its characters as well as any of its better known contemporaries.

Tune in next Saturday Morning for the first Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light comic book adventure, "The End... The Beginning".