Sadly, I have just finished my latest poll, where I asked the simple question, "Who is your favorite Spectral Knight?" I added the option "What the heck is a Spectral Knight?" and that won in a landslide. So, I guess I'm going to have to fill you in on what a Spectral Knight is, and in order to do that, I'm going to have to fill you in on that classic piece of 1980s animation, Visionaries.
Visionaries was perhaps one of the most colossal action figure failures of the 1980s. The toy only lasted one series. Only 12 action figures and 4 vehicles were produced. The cartoon only lasted 13 episodes, and the comic book only 6 issues. Too bad, considering it was created by the same folks behind those two kingpins of 80s toys, G.I. Joe and the Transformers. The sad truth is, it is barely remembered, and I'm probably one of only 8 people on Earth who was, and still is, a devote.
The toy's gimmick was holograms. Each figure had a chest plate, depicting the holographic visage of some animal. The carded action figures came with staffs that had massive holographic pictures on them. The figures that came with vehicles had no staffs, but the vehicles were adorned with all sorts of holographic decals. I thought it was cool. But not as cool as our story.
Visionaries took place on the planet of Prysmos. The Prysmosians were a rather technologically advanced society, having mastered all of their planet's energy sources and were complete masters of technology for 7000 years. Then, one day, all of the technology just stopped. No one knew why. They just woke up one morning to find their lights wouldn't turn on, their computers wouldn't boot up, and planes were falling out of the sky. Essentially, it was what we all thought would happen with Y2K. It wasn't long before a more primitive society was established. It was the Dark Ages all over again, as kings were declared, knights began donning armor, and people fashioned swords and maces to defend themselves.
Wars began to rage, and soon factions of good and evil banded together. When both sides reached a stalemate, each one was approached by the wizard Merklynn. Merklynn informed each side that the Age of Technology had ended, and the Age of Magic had begun anew. If each side wished to survive in this new age, then each one would need magic. Merklynn would award magic powers to those who could complete his challenge; to those who could survive the traps laid on Iron Mountain and reach his shrine on the top. Hundreds of knight answered Merklynn's challenge, but only 14 survived to the shrine. Merklynn informed them that only they had the vision to complete the quest. They were the Visionaries.
Merklynn awarded each person two magic powers. The first, and most notable, power were the totem animals. Each knight was awarded a totem animal, which was the animal representation of their true, inner selves. When needed, these Visionaries would be able to transform into their totem animal.
The second magic power varied from knight to knight. For those wielding staffs, their staffs were infused with a magical avatar. In times of need, these avatars could be summoned forth to assist the holder of the staff. But, for those knights who had no staffs, they were awarded a power just as good. They could reactivate old technology, and use it for their own ends.
But, Merklynn's magic had a price. The staffs could only be used once, and then the Visionaries would have to return to Merklynn's shrine to recharge their staffs.
With the magic powers awarded, it wasn't long before lines were drawn in the sand. Those Visionaries with hearts of evil banded under the leadership of Darkstorm to form the Darkling Lords, those who would use their magic to command and conquer. To deal with this threat, those who had dedicated their lives to good joined forces to become the Spectral Knights. Of course, all of their time wasn't spent fighting each other. Whenever these Visionaries needed their staffs recharged, Merklynn would send them on a quest to satisfy his own personal motives. Sometimes, this forced Spectral Knight and Darkling Lord to work together, but the truce was always a temporary one.
The Spectral Knights were led by Leoric, ruler of the kingdom of New Valerik. For his raw courage and leadership, he was granted the totem of the lion. He held the Staff of Wisdom, which allowed him to summon forth the Owl of Wisdom and seek guidance in leading his Knights.
Arzon was granted the totem of the eagle, because "when necessary, he grew wings." That is, in the quest for the shrine, he was smart enough to piece together a hang glider that would make Red Green proud. The Staff of Knowledge was given to him, which summoned forth the Bearer of Knowledge to answer any and all questions.
For his incredible speed, Witterquick was given the totem of the cheetah. He claimed the Staff of Speed, which brought forth the Winged God of Light Speed that would whisk him to any destination he chose.
The good hearted Cryotek, for his brute strength, was given the totem of the bear. When the Spectral Knights were in a tough spot, he could use his Staff of Strength to call upon the Archer of Might, who would fire off a magic arrow to clear the way.
Feryl, the callow youth, was awarded the totem of the wolf for his keen tracking skills. He was granted the ability to activate technology, and used his powers to command the tank known as the Capture Chariot.
In the Age of Technology, Ectar was a lawman, and was now New Valerik's captain of the guard. For his cunning and detective skills, he was given the totem of the fox. He also had the power to activate technology, and used his powers to take possession of a one man vehicle dubbed the Lancer Cycle.
And, finally, we come to our lone female Spectral Knight, Galladria. For her grace and intelligence, Galladria had the totem of the dolphin. Sadly, in the cartoon, she was never given a second magic power, but I recently discovered that, in the comics, she held the Staff of Healing.
The Darkling Lords were led by the tyrannical Darkstorm, who was given the totem of the mollusk for his general sliminess. The mollusk was a Prysmosian creature, standing about 10 feet tall and resembling a cross between a snail and a dragon. Darkstorm had the Staff of Decay, who's Demon of Decay could turn anything into a rotted, rusted heap.
The slow-witted and unusually compassionate Cindarr was given the totem of the gorilla, for his brute strength and climbing skills. His Staff of Destruction brought forth the massive Beast of Destruction, which could level any defense.
The berserker warrior Cravex was granted the totem of the phylot, for his daring aerial attacks. The phylot was also a Prysmosian creature, resembling a pterodactyl. His Staff of Fear brought forth the Spider of Fear, whose bite would make anyone live out their fears in a hallucination.
For turning cowardice into a defensive art, the yellow-bellied Lexor was given the totem of the armadillo. When there was no safe place for him to hide, Lexor could use his Staff of Invulnerability to shield himself from all harm. I have a bit of a soft spot for Lexor, as his action figure was the only Visionary toy I got.
Stealth and treachery were the traits that got Reekon the totem of the lizard. Having no staff, he was given the power to activate technology, and used this power to command the tank known as the Dagger Assault.
Mortredd's only notable skill was his perpetual bootlicking, and the got him the totem of the beetle. He also had the power to activate technology, and used this power to pilot the jet fighter Sky Claw.
Virulina was the lone female Darkling Lord, and for her killer instinct, was granted the totem of the shark. Also in the cartoon, she lacked a second magic power, but the comics granted her the Staff of Disease.
And thus things were on the planet Prysmos. Spectral Knight vs. Darkling Lord, and all the pawns of Merklynn, in a time when magic is more powerful than science, and only those who control the magic control destiny. They...are the Visionaries.
The first and best Visionaries website has to be Merklynn's Visionaries Page. If you want to learn more about Visionaries, see some pics of our heroes and villains, read a complete episode guide, and even download the activation spells for the power staffs, then this is your one stop shopping destination.
Of course, you could also read my column Completion of the Quest, in which I transcribe the episode The Power of the Wise.
(And if you really like this, I may share the fanfic characters I created some day.)
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