Hasbro brought forth a new age of magical might when they debuted the Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light in 1987. While Hasbro rose to the top of the pack thanks to G.I. Joe and Transformers, they continued to innovate with brand-new lines throughout the 80s. However, they took the lessons from their prior successes to reinforce the popularity of their newest brands, including Visionaries.
To create this new toy line, Hasbro used the body frame and construction of their ever-popular G.I. Joe action figures. Thus, these toys shared similar construction to the 3 ¾” action figures. However, this line needed a twist to make it stand out. Thus, the military aesthetic of G.I. Joe was replaced with futuristic armor with a magical flare.
Each of these action figures wore chest armor with a large plaque that was ready to display the Visionaries greatest gimmick: a holographic image of a beast. They also carried banners with the same holographic image. These beasts were an integral part of the line, for each represented the source of each character’s magical power. The same holographic images then appeared on the various vehicles for the Visionaries.
Understanding that toy lines now required a clear fight between the forces of good and evil, Hasbro split the toy line into two groups. Fighting for justice and freedom were the Spectral Knights led by the heroic Leoric, whose power emblem was a lion. Meanwhile, the peace of Prysmos was threatened by the Darkling Lords, who followed the lead of Darkstorm. Darkstorm’s power emblem depicted a vile Mollusk, reflecting the slimy nature of his soul.
Each side of the fight had vehicles that they could call on to help them with the fight. For the Darkling Lords, there was the Sky Claw and the Dagger Assault. The Dagger Assult even doubled as the massive prison playset for the Darkling Lords. Meanwhile, the Spectral Knights had access to the Capture Chariot and the Lancer Cycle. Each of these vehicles also came with an exclusive Visionaries action figure.
Understanding that a toy line required cross-media promotion in the 80s, Hasbro made certain to have both a cartoon series and comic books ready. To create the comics, they once again partnered with Marvel Comics, who had helped Hasbro relaunch the G.I. Joe brand. However, this time the brand went to one of Marvel’s divisions: Star Comics. Despite a solid effort, the Visionaries comics only lasted for 2 out of the 4 planned issues in the United States. However, it survived for longer in the UK, where they successfully released all four of the comic books. They then retooled the fifth and 6th issues into a crossover with the successful Transformers series.
The Visionaries did not have much more success on television. While both G.I. Joe and Transformers had the combined efforts of Marvel Productions and Sunbow working to make the shows a success, Visionaries was the sole product of Sunbow. Like the prior series, Sunbow outsourced the animation work to an overseas company: TMS Entertainment.
The series highlighted the lore of the Visionaries, displaying how the sorcerer Merklynn granted magical powers to both the Spectral Knights and the Darkling Lords. Thus, he sent both groups on quests that would benefit him. It also displayed how Prysmos was once a world of science and technology. However, a cataclysmic event deactivated all technology on the planet. With no other source of power, the people of Prysmos now gained power through magic.
Despite the creative concept of the show, it failed to gain any traction with viewers. With poor ratings, its production concluded with only 13 episodes.
Likewise, Hasbro’s toy line also struggled to gain a foothold in toy stores and aisles. Even though Hasbro had planned out some toys for a second series, they were all canceled as the line was discontinued.
The story of Visionaries did not end in the 80s, though. Beginning in 2009, the current owner of the rights to the Visionaries IP, Abrams/Gentile Entertainment, set forth plans to revive the brand. This plan gained the operation name, Visionaries Reborn. As they pitched ideas to bring back the line, they eventually optioned the Visionaries bac to Hasbro in 2010.
These efforts seemed to gain traction in 2015 when Hasbro announced a shared universe between their various brands. Despite this announcement, fans had to wait until 2016 to see the first Visionaries toys in decades: a Mighty Mugs figure of Leoric. Not only was this toy not an honest revival of the line, but it lacked the iconic holograms that the brand was known for. Instead, it used a simple foil sticker to symbolize his power.
A proper new action figure of a Visionaries character finally was produced for the SDCC exclusive box set that Hasbro released in 2017. Unfortunately, this single figure did not usher in a brand-new line for the brand.
Visionaries also returned to comics in 2017. As IDW worked to create Hasbro’s shared universe in their comics, they introduced the Visionaries within the finale issue of the First Strike series. The visionaries then returned in the Transformers vs. Visionaries five-issue mini-series.
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