Tag Archives: Flint Dille


This gorgeous Andrew Wildman cover (Transformers, G.I. Joe, Venom: Carnage Unleashed) opens the second issue of Marvel UK‘s new Visionaries monthly, released on this day back in 1988, showing some of our heroes and villains surrounded by the magical totems that’ll become part of their very being. We’ll get to that further down the review, but is that a price increase already? It’s only 5p but back then that was quite the hike, especially for a second issue.

Not only is the price increase a bit strange, so is the Vision On editorial which doesn’t mention anything about the issue’s story, instead focussing solely on other Marvel releases. The recap of the previous chapter is then pasted on top of the next page, excising the top third of the strip! It is atmospherically written though.

Last time, Reekon pulled on a lever as a large stone gargoyle rushed towards Leoric, Ectar and Feryl but what the lever did could easily have been missed because of where the story stopped. The metal gates that trapped them with seemingly no hope of survival would have come down at the top of this page. So not only could it have been missed last issue, this time it’s been deleted by editor Steve White.

An even higher grade of paper really does justice to Andy’s cover and the opening pages of the strip

Thankfully the strip itself more than makes up for any shortcomings in repackaging it for UK readers plus the outer eight pages are made of an even higher grade of paper than last time. A shame the rest is of the usual stock because these glossy pages are lovely and really do justice to Andy‘s cover, as well as the opening pages of the strip from penciller Mark Bagley, inker Romeo Tanghai, letterer Janice Chiang and colourist Julianna Ferriter.

Adapted by Jim Salicrup from Flint Dille‘s animated teleplay it’s all action this time around, with the knights from across planet Prysmos now inside Iron Mountain facing the trials of Merklynn the ancient wizard. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t time for humour, as we see when the startled gargoyle runs off like a yelping dog, and then there’s this panel featuring Darkling Lord leader Darkstorm and (the voice of) Mortdredd, his snivelling follower.

In fact the first several pages contain some comedy gold. Below, Cravex hears some apparently noble knights talking of forming what sounds very similar to Leoric’s vision of the Spectral Knights. It’s all talk though, humorously told with mention of their skills and expertise but their actual plans amounting to nothing more than monthly meetings. It reminds me of some office managers I’ve had to work with in the past.

Then, after being surprised by an animated skeleton pushing him over a crevasse, Darkstorm’s superior climbing skills and cool head save him and he finds himself beside a vat of milk from a giant spider, which ominously looks on overhead. Realising that in order to fulfill his ambitions he’ll need underlings he traps three knights in the sticky goo and forces them to pledge their allegiance. Cindarr‘s sole requirement had me roaring.

Hmm, a League of Knights dedicated to Justice? One with a bird-like mask? Could this be a little joke at the expense of the DC Universe? (Thanks to blog reader David Teller for this snippet of information.)

We see some personal rivalries begin here too. The Cryotek-versus-Cindarr fight is interesting as it’s actually the Spectral Knight who loses his temper. Showing a fearsome, darker side and swearing to kill his enemy, his magical totem in the final pages is revealed to be the grizzly bear for his incredible strength and endurance, so I’m interested to see how these two aspects of his personality develop in tandem in future issues. But I want to concentrate on one particular grudge match here.

At the time, having only one or two female warriors was deemed enough in everything from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe to The Transformers. The former at least had a female-centric spin-off but the latter had only one female robot in a cast of hundreds. This has been remedied in the intervening years but we can see now just how woefully inadequate it was at the time. Galadria and Virulina, shown here in a thrilling underwater fight scene, weren’t even toys and were instead creations of Flint’s. I hope they’ll get as much coverage as their male counterparts in future issues.

While the comic’s origin was based on the cartoon’s, there were already key differences. Something that irked me about the same story in the cartoon was the fact only the characters who’d receive the magical powers in the end had the hologram-shaped chest panel. It kind of gave the game away, but in the comic they’ve shown several background characters with the same design. It’s not overly done, we’re always aware of who’s going to make it and who isn’t, but it’s a welcome change.

It may be over three decades later and it may be based on a toy line, but this is still a thrilling read.

Something else a comic can do is expose the inner thoughts of the characters and it’s used here in abundance, and not in that annoying way of just describing what we can plainly see is happening to them. Instead, it’s used to add depth to reactions and portray their inner doubts and fears.

As we approach the final pages a huge climactic battle between the knights is interrupted by a booming voice as a huge wooden door nearby contorts into the shape of Merklynn‘s face. Daring them forward, they’re faced with horrors on the other side.

It’s actually Darkstorm who feels a certain level of familiarity with the screaming souls in front of them. They march on and Merklynn explains this was their final test, the spirits really being mystical reflections of their deepest, darkest fears and in conquering them they’ve conquered their inner demons. It’s quite startling to turn the page over and see this image. It may be over three decades later and it may be based on a toy line, but this is still a thrilling read.

It’s at this point we finally get some more background into the previous Age of Magic. It’s played out over a page previously shown in the preview mini-comic but essentially Prysmos was a planet with a strong-willed race of humans, able to achieve anything they set their minds to for the good of their neighbours. The strongest were the Knights of Prysmos and from these arose the Mages of Prysmos. Only a few were able to predict the cataclysm when the Age of Science came, of which Merklynn was one. By secreting his power inside the mountain upon which his castle once stood he was able to ride out time until the suns aligned again and the ages were reversed.

“Be not afraid, Knights of Prysmos! Accept these totems as your just reward! Only you had the vision it took to succeed in finding this chamber! Truly thou art Visionaries!”

Merklynn the Great Mage

Then it’s on to the finale and the part I, as a fan of the toys and cartoon, had been waiting for. It was time for the new Knights of Prysmos to receive their totems, their magical emblems that would encapsulate each individual character, granting them unique special powers, regardless of their intentions beyond the mountain.

Looking over these particular images sparks happy memories. I had so many of these toys it’s like being reunited with old friends. It’s been a great start and we haven’t even seen any of their powers being used yet. But given what we’ve seen them all achieve as people grasping for the power to rule or rebuild, it’s already a compelling story and I think this is mainly thanks to the way the characters have interacted with one another. They feel real, which is no small feat given they’re based on action figures.

Judging by these beginnings, if Visionaries had proven more popular and had had the chance to develop over the course of a few years, I would say these human characters could’ve risen through the ranks of comics to sit proudly alongside the likes of Larry Hama‘s superlative G.I. Joe creations. I’m well aware I’m saying this after only one story, but I’ve a feeling the remaining issues are going to back that up.

For now The End… The Beginning finishes with everyone safely transported back to the entrance of Iron Mountain, where a rock formation in the shape of its soul occupant’s face (he does like doing stuff like that) ends the proceedings with some ominous words for all those assembled.

After this initial story the comic would diverge completely from the cartoon and I’m looking forward to seeing what direction it goes in, what with the animated series being one of the best of its time. I really do get the feeling all is set for a story unlike any other. The comic team should be proud of their adaptation (I usually can’t stand comic adaptations of films and shows) and now we’ll have to wait a whole month to see what they bring to the world of the Visionaries.

To round off here’s a quick look at the only two non-strip pages in the comic after the editorial. I know how much people love these retro advertisements. This month there’s another Marvel UK monthly looking for attention, then that small promotion in the preview comic for what I’m sure was a superlative poster gets the full back page treatment.

I can remember the whole family sitting down and watching ALF together on the TV every week. We’d giggle along with the canned laughter as we watched the adventures of the Alien Life Form, real name Gordon Shumway from the planet Melmac, taking shelter in the home of the Tanner family after his planet was destroyed when everyone turned their hairdryers on at the same time. I think I can remember buying an issue of the Marvel comic, which was a basic repackaging of the American title along the same lines as Visionaries.

It’s been great fun revisiting this story on the planet of Prysmos so far. I’m eagerly awaiting the next edition and I hope you’ll join me too, #3 of Marvel UK‘s Visionaries‘s review shall be here from Wednesday 19th May 2021.


They were the latest toy line from Hasbro, the latest cartoon from Sunbow and now the latest comic from Marvel. With Transformers and Action Force (G.I. Joe) still riding high what could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately this sure thing wasn’t to last, but while it did the Visionaries brought with them one of the greatest 80s cartoons, some of my favourite childhood toys and what could’ve been one of the greatest comic book epics.

But we’re not here to dwell on what could’ve been, this site is all about celebrating these classic comics by reading them in real time and on this day back in 1988 #1 of a brand new Marvel UK title appeared in the shops. While it does have a lovely glossy cover it only contains 24 pages, the same as the weekly Transformers which seemed strange for a monthly. Inside it was cover-to-cover strip action too; no extra features, no fact-files, letters page, back up story and no sign of a Lew Stringer humour strip. (What kind of comic was this without the latter?)

What it did have for kids in the 80s was a free holographic sticker. Featuring two images of Merklynn the wizard, one a 2D outline and the other a 3D image of his face, I can’t begin to describe how bloody difficult this was to photograph.

Inside, Transformers colourist Steve White is the editor and welcomes us to the premiere issue with Vision On, an editorial page which looks a lot like the one from The Real Ghostbusters. Other than that, the comic is made up of 19 pages of strip, two Marvel UK adverts, another for the toys and that’s yer lot. It’s still an excitable introduction though and hypes the strip very well. As a young teen I read this story later in the annual so seeing these opening pages transports me right back to Christmas 1988.

The End… The Beginning is adapted by Jim Salicrup (Jurassic Park, Transformers, Spider-Man) from Flint Dille‘s (Transformers: The Movie and G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero cartoons) screenplay of the cartoon’s first episode. In the States, Marvel’s Star Comics released Visionaries bi-monthly (much like their parent company had with Transformers originally). The premiere issue had been a double-length edition, but here in the UK the origin story was split into two and spread over the first two months. This means none of our characters actually become ‘Visionaries’ this issue.

Set on the planet Prysmos, Merklynn the wisened old wizard brings portents of doom as the three suns begin to align, signalling the end of the Age of Science and the beginning of a new Age of Magic. Angered at their reliance on technology, Merklyn states he’s watched humans grow weaker for eons, so he’s obviously a lot older than we think.

He has a point. It would appear that from birth to death technology is on hand to answer to these humans’ every whim. Even in this restaurant, sitting on the side of Iron Mountain, we see people being fed their food by robots, after the robot chefs have cooked it and the robot waiters have served it. They don’t even have to bother their brains with the task of choosing what they want to eat, instead their dietary requirements are scanned by the maître d’.

Then the suns align.

In an instant the world is plunged into darkness. The restaurant crumbles and falls, no longer held in place by the advanced machinery, destroyed completely as it hits the ground far below. To prove to the people around him this is truly the new Age of Magic, Merklynn teleports the diners to safety. All around them their world has changed forever in the blink of an eye.

A brief moment of humour before the horrors on the next page

Completely out of their depth, unused to thinking for themselves, the first words anyone utters as the world ends around them is, “Anyone know a good restaurant near here?”. A brief moment of humour before the horrors on the next page. It doesn’t take long before the human race is fighting for survival in this powerful double-page spread.

The Age of Science has ended and the beginning of the Age of Magic is a terrifying and violent place. The once peaceful people of Prysmos, who didn’t want for anything, soon descend into barbarism. But as society crumbles a new order slowly rises up “cobbled together from bits and pieces of the old”.

“Great magic awaits those willing to take it!”


The useless technology all around them is melted down and used as protective armour and weapons, a necessity in these new times. From the villages emerge knights, some ruling with iron fists and led by Darkstorm, others aligning themselves with Leoric, the former mayor of New Valarak who witnessed first-hand the scene in the restaurant.

There’s some great imagery throughout this issue, with pencils by Mark Bagley, inks by Romeo Tanghai, colours by Julianna Ferriter and lettering by Janice Chiang. In particular the fight scenes are exciting and during one particularly brutal confrontation the skies light up with a familiar face (inside a familiar free-hologram-like shape) and a booming voice.

Merklynn tells the knights of his Iron Mountain, where the destruction began. Inside, great power resides, power enough to rebuild the world and take command of this new age, to rise up and become strong again. It’s obviously too much of an opportunity for someone like Darkstorm to pass up so he and his men (the grovelling but loyal Mortdredd and the brutal mercenary-for-hire Reekon) take off to claim the power for themselves.

They believe these times call for a tough leader, someone unafraid to make unpopular choices in order for their planet to survive, no matter the cost to the people. On the other end of the spectrum Leoric, Ectar and Feryl believe only by working together can the populace regrow their communities and flourish. In the background we also meet characters like Cravex who wishes to use the political climate to his advantage (he had the voice of Starscream in the cartoon, appropriately enough) and during the final pages we’re also introduced to Galadria, Arzon and my favourite, Witterquick.

“Anyone know a good restaurant near here?”

The first words uttered after the apocalypse

With the world building complete we move on to the main part of the origin story and the quest for their magical powers. Iron Mountain’s labyrinthine interior is home to tests of intelligence, fitness, strength, wisdom etc. Just as the toys had set out each figure’s specific ability, these tests are our chance to be introduced to them in a more natural way than resorting to the kind of long winded exposition we got in the earliest issues of Transformers.

For example, Galadria uses her keen senses to stop herself falling for a trap like the men ahead of her, Witterquick uses his speed to avoid deadly fast moving spikes and Arzon’s love of flight sees him gliding away to escape danger. But not before we’ve had a cheeky wink towards their Hasbro stablemates; as a ladder transforms into dozens of intertwined snakes Arzon exclaims, “There’s more than meets the eye here.” Brilliant.

Our original six characters from earlier in the story round things off for this issue when they discover a giant stone gargoyle, curled up in a corner and snoring loudly. It’s alive! But at least it’s asleep. Sneaking past it, Mortdredd puts on a weakened voice and tricks Leoric’s team into coming to the aid of an apparently fallen comrade.

There’s actually a nice bit of humour here too. Mortdredd’s character sucks up to Darkstorm constantly, eager to please him by carrying out any sinister task no matter how horrible, keen to have his protection. Darkstorm is constantly exhausted of the grovelling but recognises Mortdredd’s diabolical talents are crucial to his plans.

It’s at this point the story, which has been building momentum nicely from its atmospheric beginning, gets unceremoniously cut in half.

Below is the final strip page. If you look closely at the penultimate panel you’ll see a metal portcullis and this is what Reekon is controlling with that lever. This could be easily missed so its effectiveness as a cliffhanger is debatable. From memory of the annual, showing the next panel or two at the top of the next page would’ve been much better, with maybe a ‘Next Issue’ box filling out the rest of the page.

The overriding feeling I get from this issue is how these are already well developed characters, grounded in a magical kind of reality, their reactions and relationships with each other feeling very real. All-in-all a well thought out world full of possibilities for future storytelling and all before we’ve even concluded the origin tale. It’s great fun reading something so full of far-fetched magical elements, action and adventure, yet with such believable characters at its centre.

This gives real meat to the bones of the story and something to care about and draw you in. By the end the lack of anything other than the strip itself isn’t an issue anymore, the story having been very satisfying in its own right. It certainly wouldn’t be the last Marvel UK comic to go this route either. Slimer, Alf, Inspector Gadget and others simply repackaged their American comics on larger paper with a new editorial and maybe a letters page.

Speaking of other Marvel comics.

Apart from the cover and editorial, the only non-strip pages are a toy advert (which you can see in this previous post) and two promotional pages for other comics which I’ve included above, because why not? The Real Ghostbusters had just launched this same month and Thundercats was celebrating its first birthday by this stage. The ‘Cats had also been launched as a bi-monthly in the States by Star Comics, proving popular enough to warrant going monthly from #8 onwards that side of the pond.

Despite knowing in advance a series won’t last long when I’m covering it for the blog, I won’t let that take anything away of the enjoyment of reading them in real time. I’ve certainly loved reading this one. A whole month feels like an agonisingly long time right now though. But I shall follow my own rules and wait.

Issue two shall be read and reviewed on Wednesday 21st April 2021. Join me then, won’t you?


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 make for some wonderful childhood memories. 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 title. 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 and another Hasbro franchise.

IPC/Fleetway would give away preview issues with several titles at once (beginning with OiNK), but maybe this was just Marvel’s way of targeting 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 paper 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 shown above there’s no new material in the one for the Visionaries. Instead we get highlights of the origin story to come in the first two issues, a look at the toys and a competition. But there’s at least one thing I hadn’t seen before and that’s this cover image.

It really stands out on 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 that 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, Egon’s hair was still brown and they were ‘busting the ghost from the movie who would be known as their pet Slimer in the cartoon. 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 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.

We’ll delve into myths, magic and what could have been

There’s a very brief summary of the story before the strip and then several pages are edited together to make up the mini-comic. 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’ve been if they hadn’t seen the one video available here at the time (it wouldn’t be shown on TV until some time later). 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 action figures available, with more to come packaged in with 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, that video of the first three episodes of the cartoon was the prize in a competition.


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 was the day this new, potentially epic tale commenced.

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 through which begins Wednesday 24th March 2021 when we can enjoy an in-depth look at its beginnings, meet its characters, enjoy its world building and delve into myths, magic and what could have been.