For fans of 80s era cartoons and toys it’s hard to argue that we’re truly living in a Renaissance that is seeing so many of our beloved properties being celebrated. Not only are a lot of these brands being re-envisioned with upgraded “classics” style product launches like the new Mattel Masters of the Universe figures, Transformers Classics, and the recent 25th anniversary G.I. Joe line of action figures, but there are also a lot of outlets focusing on the original toys and animation who are producing some amazing stuff like the 3D-Joes Carded Figure prints or the recent Masters of the Universe and Transformers art books. If you’re a fan there are literally thousands of cool and eclectic collectibles on the market to quench your nostalgic thirst.
Sometimes it even feels like there may be too much new stuff, like there’s a tidal wave of products about to come crashing down on the fandom, drowning us all in an ocean of cool stuff. I know that probably sounds a little dark, but it’s honestly how I feel at times while trying to keep up. That’s why I often find myself tuning out and just try and focus on one interest at a time. It’s why I was never all that interested in treating Branded as a hub for 80s fan news as it’s just too much work for one person to stay on top of everything. Hell, even focused sites (like the ones concentrating on singular 80s era brands like YoJoe.com or or any of the million Star Wars sites) must have a hell of a time keeping up. Luckily though I’ve met a lot of amazing people over the years through Branded, and they’ve been super cool tipping me off to cool new relaunches and products. One of these folks has always gone above and beyond, the witty, kind and super gracious HooveR, and I feel lucky to call him a friend.
Hoov recently sent me a couple copies of the official, unofficial Visionaries Collectors Guide that was published this past April by Punch Party Press, a small two-man outfit out of the UK. Though I was a huge fan of the cartoon as a kid I only manged to get my hands on a single action figure, Witterquick (I wrote a piece about re-acquiring him after 25+ years), and I’ve always been a little surprised that the Visionaries seemed like they didn’t have the same sort of fan love that other similar b-level properties have (like the ThunderCats and the Silverhawks.) So when Hoov told me that there was a small press company working on a collector’s guide I was pretty darn excited.
The book was crowdfunded on Kickstarter this past year and somewhere along the way Hasbro (who produced the original toy line and own the rights to the property) stepped in and sort of changed the focus of the book in terms of how it would be marketed and released after publication. Christopher Ibbit and Gemma Tovee came to an agreement with Hasbro that would let them print and distribute the book, but they were only allowed to sell it for 1¢. I don’t know the specifics of the deal, but I’d have to assume that they were allowed to keep and use the money raised on Kickstarter to fund the bulk printing and shipping of the books to the backers. Since the books were also available for a time after the crowdfunding ended, I’m also assuming that the pair had more books printed than were needed to fulfill the backer pledges.
The volume itself is really cool and focuses strictly on the 2 waves of the original toy line, the 1st originally released in 1987, and a second that was designed and marketed but ultimately never released. Clocking in at 54 pages, the full color guide is printed on heavy matte cardstock and is about the size of a standard DVD case, almost like a pocket guide. The book also features a couple of cool single-color neon ink cover illustrations by Bob Hall, that are really bright and vibrant. All of the action figure photography in the book is excellent with a mixture of views for each figure including action poses as well as front and back shots with the accessories. The pages are also complete with all of the bio and flavor text from the back of the toys, which was a really nice addition.
For me the book works as a collector’s guide (as intended), but it’s also sort of an unofficial art book as well as Ibbit and Tovee took pains to find unaltered versions of the packaging artwork for the majority of the toys in the book, even the unreleased second wave of figures. I have to wonder if they had access to this via the connection to Hasbro or if there were other sources for the action figure card art. They even managed to devote a two-page spread to the original hologram illustrations for this second series as well, which was a really awesome added bonus. There’s even a scan of a later comic book-style ad featuring some of the unproduced toys as well.
Though I would have loved to see the book be a little more comprehensive and also tackle other Visionaries merchandise like the short-lived Star comics series or the Marvel Big Looker Storybooks, I know that for a small press run of books like this that was probably impossible.
In fact my only real gripe would be that there are a couple of major pieces of card art missing from the first series of toys. I’m not sure if this was a mistake or if it was a challenge to nail down nice artwork, but the cards for Leoric & Darkstorm are missing. Considering they were able to provide nice imagery for the rest of the line (including vehicles and the second unreleased wave), these missing pieces stand out and keep this volume from being a perfect guide for the line.
All in all, considering the issues with Hasbro limiting their ability to sell the book, and the relatively obscure nature of the line it’s simply amazing to see a book this nice being released. For Visionaries fans this is a must have collectible and unfortunately if you didn’t manage to get a hold of one via the Kickstarter or through their site after the campaign, it’s now out of print. Well, as I mentioned above, my good buddy HooveR was super awesome for sending me not one, but TWO copies of the book! So I’m going to give away my extra copy to one lucky Visionaries fan.
So, what do you have to do to win this awesome book? Well, for starters it would be really cool if you follow me on twitter (@smurfwreck), like the Branded Facebook page, and follow me on Instragram (@smurfwreck), but I’m not going to make those mandatory. Instead let’s make this a fun exercise. Below I’m going to post a very cool piece of Masters of the Universe artwork by the amazing Earl Norem (who sadly, just recently passed away.) This painting was featured as a puzzle in an issue of the Masters of the Universe magazine and contains 16 intentional errors in the artwork (in the original magazine there were 17 errors, but one of them is kind of ridiculous so I’ll use it as an example below that doesn’t count.)
What I would like you to do is to send me an e-mail listing all 16 errors, your name and the name of your favorite Visionaries character. The contest will end on 8/2/2015 at Midnight est, and I’ll pick a winner at random on August 3rd and notify them via e-mail.
So the example of an error in this painting (that doesn’t count for this contest), the Land Shark is literally depicted as being in the water (and we all know it’s an evil land vehicle.) So, find the other 16 things wrong with this picture and win a copy of the Visionaries Collectors Guide!