A few days ago I introduced (or for some of you, reintroduced) you to the Visionaries, one of several attempts by toy companies in the 80s to bring back the hologram as the Next Big Thing. While they weren’t successful enough to last beyond one holiday season, the toys and in particular the cartoon remain among the best childhood memories I have. Now it’s time to check our their comic from Marvel UK.
We start with a look at the four-page mini-comic given away free with Transformers and Action Force to promote the upcoming monthly back on this day, 19th March in 1988.
There was certainly a big push in the pages of this comic but from what I know that wasn’t the case in any other Marvel comic. It could be because they knew the chances of it lasting weren’t great with what was happening with the franchise in America and it would most likely end up merging. Or it could simply be because Transformers was by far their biggest selling comic at this point.
IPC/Fleetway would give away preview issues with several titles, but maybe this was just Marvel’s way, to target the the audience most likely to read the new comic. Either way, they took centre stage in #158 with an extra four pages of higher quality print making up the the middle of the comic and the main part of the Transformation editorial was given over to the Knights of the Magical Light too.
Unlike the previous Action Force (G.I. Joe) mini-comic there’s no new material here. Instead we get highlights of the origin story of the Visionaries to come in the first two issues, a look at the toys and a competition. But there is at least one thing I hadn’t seen before getting my hands on this preview and that’s the cover image.
It really stands out n the glossier paper, in fact it’s just glorious as a result. It must’ve been a real feast for the eyes for youngsters in the middle of their weekly dose of Cybertronian action, something so completely and utterly different and new compared to what they’d been reading. The strange thing about that image is I don’t recognise half of the characters. The two main figures in the middle, the ones on the bottom-left and that craft on the top-left aren’t featured in the cartoon or the toy line. Perhaps it’s an early concept piece.
Before The Real Ghostbusters cartoon was released a beautiful concept art poster did the rounds, with the team speeding along in Ecto-1 but all with the same coloured overalls like the movie and Egon’s hair was still brown and not as sausage roll-like. These things changed obviously but the image was still used in magazines and comics to publicise the series for a long time, even given away with some toys. The same thing could have happened with Visionaries.
So back to the strip itself, the thing that’s going to draw readers in to the new ongoing comic coming less than a week later. As I said, it’s made up of little snippets from the end of the comic’s first story, The End… The Beginning. It’s a bit weird to show the story’s climax before readers had a chance to read it. It also doesn’t show their powers being used, surely a key ingredient of the comic which they could’ve shown off, given how that’s the whole point behind the intro to the cartoon.
If I’d been collecting Transformers at this point originally (I didn’t start until #192 as a child), none of these points would’ve mattered though and it’s probably just me being an old fuddy-duddy today. It was all about hype so really I guess it did do its job. The bright yellow banners advertising the release date for their comic aren’t easily missed either.
No credits are given here but they are as follows: Flint Dille and Jim Salicrup (writers), Mark Bagley (pencils), Romeo Tanghai (inks), Janice Chiang (letters) and Julianna Ferriter (colours). Flint was the scriptwriter of Sunbow Productions‘ pilot episode and this was adapted by Jim for the comic.
There’s a very brief summary of the story before the strip and then several pages are edited together to make up the two-and-a-half here. We see a couple of characters get their magical totems and a reference is made to becoming them, but I’m not sure how clear this all would’ve been to the uninitiated, which the UK audience would be if they hadn’t seen the one video available here. Perhaps a few panels showing them in action would’ve been a good idea.
With the “Read the further adventures of the Visionaries…” in the yellow bars it kind of gives the impression that the summary box is all we’re going to get about their origin and the monthly would carry on after this. Thankfully that wouldn’t be the case of course.
On the fourth page we get an image of the individual Hasbro figures available, with more to come packaged in with the vehicles. There’s also an offer for what looks like a brilliant poster and some fun holographic stickers. I’d definitely have been pestering my parents for this if I’d known about it. Finally, the video of the first three episodes of the cartoon was the prize in a competition, which I mention in the introductory post.
REAL TIME MAGIC
The first issue of Visionaries appeared on newsagents’ shelves only five days later. While our weekly comics were regular Saturday releases that wasn’t necessarily the case with Marvel’s monthlies. So the following Thursday would be the day this new epic tale would commence.
It would ultimately be a curtailed epic but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth reading all over again.
Join me for the real time read which begins Wednesday 24th March 2021 and we can enjoy an in-depth look at its beginnings, meet its characters, enjoy its world building and delve into its myths and magic and what could have been.