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.


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.



Surely the greatest cartoon intro of all time

For such a short-lived toy line, in both the world as a whole and in my own timeline, memories of the Visionaries remain particularly strong in my mind. I’d stumbled upon the video of their origin story, the first three episodes of their series edited together into one 60 minute adventure. I’d been renting the Transformers videos regularly and noticed this new cartoon by the same people so thought I’d give it a go. I loved it and must’ve rented it a lot because that Christmas (1987) I very gratefully received nearly all the toys.

It was a very merry time indeed, but what I didn’t know was that by then it had all come to an end already; the toys were heavily discounted in bargain bins, hence how my parents were able to get a hold of so many. Hasbro‘s new blockbuster toy line hadn’t busted the blocks. Not that I was complaining at the time because that was the reason I had three of the four vehicles and I think all but one or two of the figures. I have many happy memories of that Christmas surrounded by them all and playing with them all day, every day!

However, come January 1988 and it was a different franchise that caught my eye when UTV began broadcasting The Real Ghostbusters. In the first issue of their comic was an advert for Marvel UK‘s Visionaries but I’d already moved on, such is the fickle nature of youngsters. I received their annual that Christmas alongside my Ghostbusters toys and the next Spring I found their Spring Special on the shelves. Forgetting there’d been a regular comic I thought it was a one-off or perhaps one of a series of seasonal specials.

It wasn’t until nearly a year-and-a-half later, two years after I’d rented the cartoon pilot that BBC Two finally showed the series on Sunday mornings, long after the toys had disappeared from the bargain bins. It was fantastic. I remember the TV presenters exclaiming it had the best opening sequence and music of any cartoon ever. Hooked, I watched it every week. This didn’t go unnoticed by my parents, who again bought me the annual (which was on sale again) probably thinking it was a new one. By now I was collecting Transformers and the annual’s strip story was reprinted in it a few months later, then they disappeared.

The Spectral Knights wished to lead with compassion to save the newly destitute people, and the Darkling Lords wanted to rule with an iron fist to save the ravaged planet.

So for the uninitiated, who were the Visionaries? They were the latest attempt at resurrecting the hologram, with images on the characters’ chests, staffs and vehicles. Their planet went through a startling transformation with the coming of the latest Age of Magic and two factions arose; The Spectral Knights wished to lead with compassion to save the newly destitute people, and the Darkling Lords wanted to rule with an iron fist to save the ravaged planet.

The three-dimensional holograms were a sight to behold, even if it meant playing next to a window or with a torch to see them. The chest images represented their inner powers and in the cartoon and comic they’d turn into the animals shown. I remember wishing the figures had come with little animal toys but we just used our imaginations instead. The staffs and vehicle holograms also gave the characters super powers for a limited time after reciting a magical incantation.

I loved them, but as with Super Naturals from Tonka Toys they were expensive to produce and needed to be a lot more successful than they ultimately were.

After the toys had been released in the US a new comic from Marvel (well, their imprint Star Comics) had been released. Much like the US Transformers comic it was bi-monthly to begin with, however the first issue was double the normal size containing a whopping 40+ page origin story. Unfortunately it was cancelled after just six issues, in the middle of its first multi-issue epic no less.

In order to print the bi-monthly American strips on a monthly schedule with no gaps Marvel UK had to wait until its US counterpart was far enough ahead. Not long into the UK’s comic the original was cancelled and ours was wrapped up with #5 and merged into Transformers. The annual was released but the strip was a reprint and that Spring Special, such an exciting release for me as a kid, was actually a page-for-page reprint of #5 of their comic.

Now, decades later I own the complete UK comic series, all of which had to be bought again, my original annual and special lost long ago. As per the brief for the OiNK Blog I’ll be reliving the series in real time, beginning Friday 19th March with the special preview pull-out from #158 of The Transformers and Action Force.

The real world origins of the Visionaries may sound familiar to fans of that other Hasbro property; a new toy line is released and a bi-monthly American comic is produced to see how it fares, while 13 episodes of a cartoon are produced and Marvel UK eventually launch their own comic, beginning with the US strips. Unfortunately, unlike Transformers the American Visionaries comic didn’t turn monthly, the cartoon didn’t get a lengthy second season commissioned and the UK comic didn’t get to the stage of producing their own strips.

But what I would personally add is that the origin story of the Visionaries is more enjoyable than the Transformers one and the cartoon was light years ahead of the robotic one. There was so much potential, but if the toys don’t sell everything else is going to fall apart. Why did they fail? Were holograms just not ‘cool’ enough? Was it a case of the cartoon and comic being overly ambitious in their depictions compared to what the figures could actually do, leading to disappointment in the toys?

One thing is certain and that’s just how much I’m looking forward to reading through these comics and becoming reacquainted with the world of Prysmos.



I admit that back in 1988 when I finally got to open my copy of The Real Ghostbusters‘ premiere issue I was a little confused. I’d been looking forward to something like Transformers but with the ghost busting team, with a lengthy multi-part story and certainly no text stories which I associated with comics aimed at much younger kids. However, any confusion, or indeed initial disappointment, evaporated as soon as I started to read.

By the end of its 24 pages I was hooked and didn’t regret placing the order with my newsagent before even reading it. In fact, I stayed with the comic for the majority of its run. Now, 33 years later I’ve just finished reading issue one for the first time in decades. How does it hold up to reading today?

That front cover is nothing short of iconic, often copied by my young self back in the day on several school exercise books. Andy Lanning (The Sleeze Brothers, Superman, Majestic) and Dave Harwood‘s (Action Force, Swift Sure, Conqueror) introduction to this new title perfectly captures the light-hearted tone of the comic. Unlike the aforementioned Transformers I’d enjoyed reading at my friend’s house, The Real Ghostbusters would focus on smaller, complete tales aimed at getting a chuckle out of its readers. A unique approach, brave even, but they pulled it off and created a comic like no other.

The first issue has no less than three strips and a text story, fact-file, activity page, ghost guide, request for readers’ letters and of course a Lew Stringer strip. What Marvel comic was complete without one? It’s all introduced on the HQ page which starts off the whole shebang by reciting the movie, setting the tone perfectly for this comedy comic (a term I’ll clarify later). The overall design of the comic wouldn’t change, there’d be no ‘new look’ every 50 or so issues, instead the cover and feature pages would remain the same throughout.

There’s certainly a confidence about this comic from the very start.

All of the strips here are written by John Freeman (of Down the Tubes). Editor of Doctor Who Magazine at the time he was asked by editor Richard Starkings to supply stories for the first issue. John told me this was literally his first regular writing gig, which is incredible since this was the launch of a brand new comic based on such a hot property. Needless to say, John knocks it out of the park.

As with the other stories, “There’s a Ghost in my House!” takes place with the team already on the job and gives us an idea of the pacing we can expect, as well as acting as an introduction to the Ghostbusters’ equipment, interactions and most importantly their humour. That’s all it really needs to do, but there’s still a twist. The ghost itself is a buggane, a house ghost and harmless if treated right. The homeowner ends up feeling sorry for it and keeps it as a pet!

Dave’s inking added ample shadow work to gloomy, haunted scenes in the annuals

The strip is drawn by Anthony Williams (Judge Dredd, Fate, Sinister Dexter) with Dave Harwood on inking, lettering by future Slimer! artist Bambos Georgiou (Knights of Pendragon, Spectacular Spider-Man, James Bond Jr.) and coloured by Steve White (Transformers, Xenozoic Tales in Jurassic Park, editor of Visionaries). One of the other stories, The Ghost Under the Hood is also drawn by Williams but with Dave Hine (Detective Comics, X-Men, Night of the Living Dead) inking and there’s quite the difference. For the previous blog site I’d read a couple of the annuals and Dave’s inking added ample shadow work to gloomy, haunted scenes and made for some very eye-catching, atmospheric frames in them. Finally, this strip is coloured by Paul Jacques (Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers).

Again, it’s full of action and humour and plays out like one scene has been plucked from an episode of the cartoon. This was Richard’s intention, he wanted each story to take place right in the midst of the action whenever possible. Here, Ecto-1 is out of control, Egon unable to steer or brake. You can see from the page above the plan isn’t to Peter‘s liking. In the end the car suddenly stops, sending him flying. Now parked outside a Chinese Takeaway, Slimer appears from under the hood.

To establish a scene and scenario, pack in some action, wit, character and a funny conclusion all in three pages is quite the achievement. Indeed, by the time I finished reading the comic I was a little breathless (metaphorically speaking) with the fast-paced nature of the stories and gags.

The humour in their interactions was always well developed and genuinely very funny.

The covers were mainly used to illustrate the text stories, doubling up as their title pages. So yes, basically we’d be getting two identical pages in our comic but we didn’t care, some of the front covers would have us frantically flicking straight to that story. This was especially true later in the run with some simply stunning artwork on the covers.

I’ll admit it took me a handful of issues before I read one of the prose stories as a kid because of a false perception they were aimed at younger children than me. But I remember discovering just how good they were and reading all the ones I’d glossed over one very enjoyable afternoon. From then on they often became the first thing I would read.

Space constraints might have been a factor here, but they would often focus on just a couple of members of the team per story. This would give each individual character time to shine, and in doing so the humour in their interactions was always well developed and genuinely very funny.

None were funnier than the Winston’s Diary series which ran in alternate issues, with Brian Williamson‘s (Doctor Who, Totally Primeval, Batman) panels repeated each time. In this issue, my favourite character takes us through a typical day in the life of the team. In this issue’s story, over the course of a few busts Winston’s cool head provides a hilarious contrast to the others. Here’s just one example, where a rock star is hearing strange noises in his apartment:

“The apartment was newly decorated and equipped. Egon took PKE readings in all the rooms. Ray spectra-scoped the walls and balcony. Peter explained that he must carefully examine the rock star’s expensive Hi-Fi and video in case the ghost was lurking there. We all heard weird noises, groans and whines. I bled the air bubbles from the newly-installed radiators and the noises stopped.”

Winston Zeddmore (Dan Abnett)

This repeats throughout the day, Egon and Ray going to ever more extreme methods of ghost hunting, Peter finding something to distract himself and Winston solving the problem with common sense. It’s deadpan humour at its best.

Another text feature would also be a highlight every issue.

Spengler’s Spirit Guide appeared in every issue until just before the end. In the film and cartoon Egon would make reference to ‘Tobin’s Spirit Guide’ and this ongoing series was his own version of the tome. These were all written by Dan Abnett (Knights of Pendragon, Death’s Head II, Sinister Dexter), which is no small feat when you think about how the comic went weekly from issue 14 onwards and he created well over 150+ altogether! In an issue which featured The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse the Guide detailed the other half dozen or so Horsemen that don’t get talked about. I can remember laughing hard at that one in particular.

What I’ve found out recently is that little illustration of Egon was drawn by none other than future Marvel US, DC Comics and 2000AD artist Cam Smith (Supergirl, The Incredible Hulk, Gen13). This means Cam’s work appeared in more issues than anyone else’s of course, technically speaking.

This issue also contains the first fact-file. As a child I drew a combined figure of the Ghostbusters based on that final sentence. From what I remember Egon was the brain, Winston the heart, Slimer the stomach (obviously) etc. It was a real Frankenstein’s monster which I decided not to send in to the letters page because, well, some things just aren’t meant to be seen.

Once in a while the comic would include what it called Ectoplasmic Activity, such as this membership card, and masks in a couple of future issues but it didn’t appear much, unlike Blimey! It’s Slimer. While it wouldn’t be too long until Bambos (letterer on our first strip) took over, at the beginning the little green blob was in the hands of OiNK’s very own Lew Stringer. With Lew at the helm, of course Slimer is going to make his way to Britain for a slap up feed.

Lew has written a blog post about his time on the comic, which you can read here.

A look at a classic comic wouldn’t be complete without a look at the advertisements within, especially when they’re connected to the subject matter. I welcomed these figures into my toy collection Christmas 1988, along with Ecto-1, Slimer, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and a few other ghoulish monstrosities, and I recall I ate far too many packets of these crisps that summer too. They were surprisingly nice for a tie-in.

So how did this 33-year-old comic hold up for this 43-year-old? One word: brilliantly. I was surprised at how many times I chuckled while reading it, even though I’m not exactly the original target audience anymore.

I called it a “comedy comic” above, a term I’ve never used before. The definition of “funny comics” conjures up images of OiNK itself, Beano, Buster etc. But while this is indeed a comic which sets out to be as funny as it can be (something it succeeds at incredibly well) it’s more the sitcom to OiNK’s sketch show. I also think calling it some combination action/adventure/funny comic would sell it short. The Real Ghostbusters was a unique comic and remains so to this day.


Just as it happened 33 years ago today I have an urge to collect this comic all over again. This issue has been immense fun and the comic just kept getting better and better. In fact, as brilliant as it began my favourite time with the comic wouldn’t be until around issue 80 onwards.

It’s just such a fun comic there’s only one thing for it.

Now of course this will take a while, it was Marvel UK’s most popular comic at one stage and lasted a whopping 193 issues, alongside four annuals, specials, poster magazines and more, even a puzzle spin-off. It’s going to be quite the task so don’t expect real time reviews after this one for quite some time, but I am officially announcing they’ll be joining the OiNK Blog posse as soon as possible. The daunting thought of covering a series of its size on a weekly basis has put me off in the past, but after reading an actual issue there’s no way I could do anything less.

Finally, just look at this little Easter egg I found while doing some research, from the pages of IDW‘s Ghostbusters Crossing Over comic from 2006!