Robots, Knights and Magic: Q&A with Magdalene Visaggio

Transformers vs Visionaries #1 banner, Magdalene Visaggio (Author) • Fico Ossio (Artist, Cover Artist) • David Garcia Cruz (Colorist) • Andrew Griffith (Cover Artist)

 For the past few years, IDW has been publishing comics set in what’s called the “Hasbroverse”, which consists of various Hasbro properties such as Transformers, G.I Joe, M.A.S.K, ROM and the Micronauts. The latest addition to this universe are the Visionaries, made up of two factions: the heroic Spectral Knights and the nefarious Darkling Lords.

Issue #2 incentive cover by Phillip Murphy

In 1987, Hasbro launched yet another toyline called the Visionaries with an animated series produced by Sunbow (best known for producing Transformers), as well as a comic by Star Comics. Unfortunately, the franchise was soon canceled due to its general unpopularity, resulting in the series and comics being ended prematurely. The series fell into obscurity for thirty years—until, in 2017, a creative team at IDW was gathered to produce the new comic Transformers vs. Visionaries. 

Issue #1 of 1987 Visionaries comic (Written by Jim Salicrup, Art by Mark Bagley

The new story follows the Visionaries living as refugees deep within the bowels of Cybertron after their homeworld Prysmos is destroyed from a spell gone awry by the wizard Merklynn. The good Spectral Knights and evil Darkling Lords must set aside their differences and find a way to ensure the survival of what little they have left.

In the first issue of five, we meet the wizard Merklynn and his team of Visionaries living in their guarded city, New Prysmos, deep within Cybertron. The Visionaries and Cybertronians, Kup and Ironhide, try to negotiate peace and a way for both their species to coexist on such little resources but Darkling Lord leader Virulina was not interested in making peace; in fact, Virulina hoped with the power of the mysterious Talisman, she and her Darkling Lords could seize control over Cybertron. 

The first issue took the Transformers fandom by storm, being stated as an improvement in quality amongst the Hasbroverse stories but was also smeared for the controversial decision in killing off a fan favorite. Eisner award-winner, and writer (with artists Fico Ossio, David Garcia Cruz and Andrew Griffith and presumably an unnamed letterer) of Transformers Vs. Visionaries, Magdalene Visaggio joins us here to speak about her time on the comic.

Firstly, how long have you been a fan of Transformers? Was it always your dream to write a comic for them?

I’ve been a Transformers fan to varying degrees since I was very little; they’ve always been around, and G2 was airing when I was eight or nine years old. But Transformers was never a passion of mine, nor was writing it a lifelong dream; when I was pitched this book, IDW EIC David Hedgecock asked me if I wanted to write Visionaries; the Transformers came in later. What got me excited was the idea of reviving and reinventing a largely forgotten franchise; the Transformers were the object they’d be acting against, but the actors would be the Visionaries.

The Visionaries have been silent for 30 years, did you have any say in any changes made to any characters?

Fico and I got basically all the say. Reinventing the Visionaries was very much done internally between me and Fico, and we presented what we wanted to do to IDW and then to Hasbro, and got the sign-off. We looked seriously at the characters and their situation, and then had to think, well, how do we integrate this into the IDW Hasbroverse, which is very sci-fi heavy, and have it still feel organic? We played a lot with more overtly sci-fi angles—at one point, the Visionaries, which are aliens, I might add, were much more obviously so. We decided to move away from the high fantasy aesthetic and worked to develop one that might make sense for a society forcibly removed from its technological origins. We had a very free hand.

In this incarnation, how did the Visionaries come to be?

About three-hundred years ago, the planet Prysmos was a highly technological society, and magic, what we call in-universe the Arcana Vast, was a sad, ancient religion practiced by virtually nobody except for Merklynn, the last great wizard. He was offended by this, and cast a spell that would realign the planet’s three stars, wiping out all technology on the planet so that magic would ascend again. Three centuries later, the spell destabilizes, and the gravitational forces of the stars re-aligning tears Prysmos apart, forcing them to flee, ultimately, to Cybertron. The Visionaries in this version of the universe are Merklynn’s force of magical soldiers, kind of like the Jedi, who were rent in two over ideological differences.

Were there any challenges you came across while writing the comic? Which scenes were you personal favorites?

Probably simply being onboarded with Transformers continuity and trying to get a feel for how to write them. I’ve been checked out on Transformers for a long time, so I had a lot of reading to do.

And my favorite scenes haven’t been published yet.

So why was Cybertron chosen as the new home for the Visionaries?

He’s [Merklynn] offended it even exists. He hates machinery, computers, technology.

Now this is a pretty high stakes comic. Are fans in for any more surprises in comic issues?

It’d be a pretty boring comic if they weren’t.

Now we all just have to know: how did it feel to kill off Kup? There’s been quite an uproar about it.

Darkling Lord leader, Virulina, impaling Kup in Issue #1 (Art by Fico Ossio, Colors by David Garcia Cruz, Letters by Gilberto Lazcano)

Like I said, I haven’t been up to date on Transformers. But I knew and loved Kup from the 1986 movie, and so when they told me he was going to die, I was just shocked. Utterly, utterly shocked that the responsibility for taking out friggin’ Kup was going to be landing in my hands. Kup has always been one of my favorites (Kup, Springer, Ultra Magnus, Arcee, and yes, even Hot Rod are my TF dream team), so I immediately understood this wasn’t going to be a small thing. So I never took this lightly.

That’s why I structured the first issue the way I did; Kup takes a lot of the spotlight, and I showed him as the one pushing for something better; the old seen-it-all got to play idealist at the end, and I loved being able to do that for him.

Lastly, do you have any advice for any aspiring writers out there?

Writing will never be your job until you treat it like it already is.

Kori Anders

Kori Anders

Kori Anders is a woman re-entering the comics scene after a few years hiatus. Lover of Transformers and thinks far too much about them.

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