The age of magic begins! And it sort of sucks.
There’s something strangely bleak about Visionaries. Like most Eighties toylines-slash-cartoons, they presented two opposing factions with opposing gimmicks – the world of Visionaries was an upsetting post-apocalyptic future.
Set on the Earth-like world of Prysmos, technology fails and the Age of Science is brought to a thunderous conclusion in the Great Cataclysm. Where science bleeds out, magic returns and the knights of Prysmos are called upon to battle for powers promised by the wizard Merklynn – powers that will lead humanity (or Pryamity) through this throroughly miserable time.
14 succeed, and those who use their powers for selfless ends become the Spectral Knights under the command of the avuncular do-gooder Leoric, the former Mayor of the unnamed city, while those who use their powers for their own gain become the evil Darkling Lords, under the control of the so-obviously-sinister-he’d-be-played-by-Charles-Dance Darkstorm.
Where Visionaries’ key gimmick comes in is by pure co-incidence where the toys’ key gimmick also comes in – our knights have a totem, both spiritual in the sense of some sort of mystical creature from which they draw their power, and literal in the sense of massive staff thing with a picture of said critter.
Reciting a verse allows them to deploy their signature power – or in the case of the toy, reciting the verse allows their hologram of the totem critter to continue to be a hologram, and your parents to think you’ve joined some sort of cult. In the case of the aforementioned, Leoric summons his lion totem to grant him wisdom (this being the Eighties, that wisdom comes down to knowing when to share or not to do drugs) by striking a legs-akimbo hero pose, holding his staff skyward and barking “Whispered secrets of a shattered age, I summon you: renew this sage!”
Obviously, the bad guys were best, because the designers and concept artists were forced to scrabbled around for ‘evil’ animals – given time and another four series of the cartoon, someone would have doubtless been summoning the powers of the tapeworm or pangolin.
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The toys, produced by, Hasbro were predictably poor quality – all shapeless plastic accessories like their better known cousins in GI: Joe and clattery, generic vehicle playsets. With most of the effort gone into the needlessly expensive holograms, the line barely lasted a year.
The cartoon, produced by Sunbow, Hasbro’s favourite animated advert collaborators, having worked on GI: Joe and Transformers, similarly ran for a dispiriting 13 episodes, and the comic limped along for six under two publishers: first Star Comics (a Marvel imprint for rubbish cartoon tie-ins like Star Wars: Droids) and then Marvel Comics proper, but featured scripting credit from long-running Spider-Man and Batman writer, creator of The Punisher, Killer Croc and Power Girl, and SciFiNow favourite comic-book veteran Gerry Conway.