Pop Culture Retrorama Podcast Ep. 013 – Visionaries Knights Of The Magical Light

Visionaries Knights of the Magical Light - Pop Culture Retrorama Podcast - Ep - 013

For this first episode of the Pop Culture Retrorama Podcast of 2020 – we are taking a trip back to 1987 to discuss Hasbro’s Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light toy line. An action figure series that managed to combine both a science fiction and fantasy setting with a line of medieval action figures who were sporting holographic stickers. As I explain in the episode itself by 1987 3D hologram stickers were quite in fashion – giving kids and fans of pop culture the ability to slap holographic images of their favorite Autobots and Decepticons or members of The A-Team on whatever they might wish. Although as I attempt to explain on this show – that popularity sadly did not extend itself to the Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light line of toy and vehicles.

Now I am obviously not saying that Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light was a bad toy line – quite the opposite – it was quite amazing, however it failed back in 1987 to find the audience that Hasbro was seeking. One other thing I feel I need to add is that compared to most of the shows I’ve done for the Pop Culture Retrorama podcast – this was one a beast to research. With the Visionaries not finding success it was like pulling teeth to find any real information on who was responsible for the creation of the toy line – as well as those stunning 3D holograms used on the toys and vehicles themselves. Thankfully I stumbled upon The Visionaries.Net – who gave me my first big piece of knowledge to work with. As promised in the episode I also must give thanks to Bot Talk.Com for a wonderful interview with one of the sculptors for said holograms – David Dann.

Also on this show I reveal that for 33 years I was under the impression that Marvel Comics had a hand in the creation of The Visionaries – much like they had with both G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero and The Transformers. Turns out I’ve been quite wrong all these years… sort of… but in the show I share how Hasbro and Marvel Comics did become successful partners – a story shared by Jim Shooter with the Graphic NYC site.

If you have any suggestions for topics you would like for us to cover in a future episode – or possibly you have comments on the current show itself, email them to me at VicSagePopCulture@gmail.com You can also contact me on Facebook or even Twitter. Or perhaps check out the Pop Culture Retrorama Facebook page? There you can find posts a couple of times a day – featuring vintage commercials, comic book ads and toys.

The theme used at the beginning and ending of this episode was provided by Earl Green, if you enjoy his work, make sure to check out his exceptional spot on the internet – TheLogBook.com – let him know we sent you.

As always I have done my best to give you information on those behind the scenes who made the Visionaries a memorable brand – in particular with the excellent animated series. That includes letting you know the ridiculous amount of talent they had with the voice actors – such as Roscoe Lee Brown, Jonathan Harris, Jim Cumming, Neil Ross, Chris Latta, Peter Cullen, Susan Blu and more.

All right then, I want to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to listen to the show – now come with me to the Planet Prysmos and learn of the Visonaries: Knights of the Magical Light!

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1982’s The Incredible Hulk Has One Of The Greatest Animated Openings

The Incredible Hulk - Greatest Animated Opening - 1982

The Incredible Hulk animated series debuted on NBC on the Saturday morning of September 18th of 1982 – although I was already well aware of the raging green Goliath courtesy of the 1978 live action The Incredible Hulk TV series on CBS. The latter featuring the late and great Bill Bixby as the tortured David Banner who is forced to continuously wander the United States in an attempt to rid himself of his monstrous alter-ego played by Lou Ferrigno. The Hulk had appeared in animated form before by the way – as part of the lineup of Marvel characters in 1966’s The Marvel Super Heroes – in a series of 13 seven-minute long episodes. It appears however that the waters were first tested in the ’80s for a return to animation when both Bruce Banner and the Hulk appeared in the November 7th, 1981 episode of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends entitled Spidey Goes Hollywood. In this episode, it was the legendary Peter Cullen (The Transformers, Predator) who voiced both Bruce and the Hulk as well as the villainous Mysterio!

Just a little less than a year later and The Incredible Hulk was set to debut following the popular Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends show. I remember excitedly waiting for the show to begin and after that incredible opening I was totally ready to watch the series every Saturday morning. To me the opening for The Incredible Hulk raised the bar on the intro to the impressive Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends – one of those reasons as I would later learn was the art style was based on the work of Sal Buscema. Which considering Buscema illustrated The Incredible Hulk comic book series for Marvel for ten years, that was probably a very wise choice indeed.

Another thing that I loved about The Incredible Hulk opening is how it captures the raw power… and rage of the Hulk himself. Whether that be the mighty foot stomp that causes the ground to crack in the beginning of the intro or pushing against the closing steel walls, watching them buckle against his impressive strength. Plus there is that very memorable theme music in the opening provided by Johnny Douglas – whose work I guarantee you’ve heard before if you are a fan of ’80s animated series. Just a few of the notable shows that Douglas worked on include Spider-Man as well as Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, The Transformers, and Dungeons & Dragons!

Video and Article Image Provided by Jedi Juggernaut.

When Disney+ went live I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was an amazing selection of the Spider-Man animated series to watch… but for some reason only the 1996 The Incredible Hulk show is available. I am not sure if there is a rights issue that needs to be cleared or what but I hope in the near future I can enjoy the 1982 animated series once again.

35 Years Later And The Transformers Are Still More Than Meets The Eye!

It was on September 17th of 1984 that the co-produced Marvel and Sunbow three-part mini-series entitled “More than Meets the Eye” hit television screens – introducing a generation to The Transformers. That was 35 years ago yesterday and judging from the continued production of comic books, toys, games, and of course movies – The Transformers show no sign of experiencing stasis lock. Now that three-part episode is not how I first experienced “More than Meets the Eye” – that was courtesy of a five minute clip from The Bozo Show. I had been told by a fellow schoolmate about these clips airing on that WGN show – so the next day I suddenly came down with a mysterious illness… and caught my first glimpse of the animated Transformers universe – what would set me on the path of becoming a lifelong fan of the toyline.

Video and Screenshot courtesy of The Transformers Official YouTube Channel.

Now to be fair it isn’t like that clip was the first time I had heard of The Transformers, that was all covered thanks to the numerous television commercials that aired during the likes of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe after school. In past articles on the former Retroist site I shared how during that time – a line in the sand had started to be drawn, whether you were for the GoBots or The Transformers. Even though Tonka’s GoBots had beaten Hasbro to the punch by about a year – thanks in no small part to the story and characters created by Jim Shooter of Marvel Comics as well as Bob Budiansky – The Transformers quickly dominated the market. It was Shooter it has been said that came up with the concept of two warring factions of sentient robots, in addition to coming up with names of the two factions – the Autobots and Decepticons. Although it should be noted that the legendary comic writer and editor Dennis O’Neil had a pass in the character creation too.

Thundercracker leading the Decepticon charge… as it should be!

I truly do feel that it was thanks to these individuals and show writers like David Wise, Flint Dille, Buzz Dixon, Michael Charles Hill, Douglas Booth and others that The Transformers not only just celebrated its 35 anniversary but shows no signs of slowing down. I fondly recall taking over an hour to pick my out my first Transformer… agonizing over the many choices, carefully reading and rereading those character bios on the back of the toy packaging – until my Father was almost pleading with me to make my final decision. A bit later those type of choices on which toy to pick up would be made much easier after The Transformers series began to air regularly on TV, beginning on October 6th of ’84. As I would naturally start to choose new toys… or ‘recruits’… based on the characters that I began to know and love from the cartoon and even the Marvel Comics series. And while it is obviously true The Transformers animated series was created to help sell toys – it is equally true that the writers and voice performers put a lot of effort into it as well. Scooby-Doo‘s Frank Welker as the supremely evil Megatron or Peter Cullen as the absolute epitome of a leader with the noble and compassionate Optimus Prime. The series also benefited from the voice talents of Scatman Crothers, Susan Blu, Charlie Adler, Corey Burton, Chris Latta, Don Messick, and dozens of others. Together they truly helped to forge a mythos that has led to a multi-billion dollar film franchise – which all began 35 years ago with the first part of “More than Meets the Eye”!

Video courtesy of The Transformers Official YouTube Channel.

So Happy 35th Anniversary to The Transformers – thank you for over 3 decades worth of entertainment and memorable characters and stories. I look forward to seeing what new animated series, toys, comics and games that will be released in the future. Until all are one!