There are two ’80s toy lines that come to mind in regards to Tonka where they beat a competitor to the punch but ended up with the less popular franchise. The first one is 1983’s GoBots, that series of transforming robot toys that managed to beat The Transformers to the toy shelves nearly a full year before their competition. That first year was obviously quite profitable for Tonka, the company rightfully reaping the riches of being first to market. Then in ’84 The Transformers were released by Hasbro and soon it quickly overtook the earlier toy line – although I feel I should point out that new GoBots toys were being produced until 1987. That same year was the second time that Tonka beat everyone to the punch with their Super Naturals line of hologram toys – although let me be clear in that I BELIEVE they were released first… at least that is how I remember it. There is actually hardly any information on the internet about the Super Naturals themselves – which is pretty odd in this day and age. Hasbro was once again Tonka’s competitor on the toy shelves with their own action figure line that sported holograms – I assume that Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light came later as the animated series for the toys premiered in September of that year.
Like I was saying, as I recall it the Super Naturals toys showed up first in my neck of the woods before the Visionaries arrived. I would most definitely become a fan of the latter though – collecting a good number of the action figures and a few of the vehicles during the Holidays of ’87. In my heart of hearts I feel that Hasbro’s Visionaries just had more going for it than the toy line that Tonka had produced – for one thing the heroic Spectral Knights and villainous Darkling Lords were more akin to G.I. Joe toys. To be fair though as the size of their figures were quite a bit larger than the Visionaries – the Holograms used by Tonka were even better than what Hasbro was offering!
Now when all was said and done both of the hologram sporting toy series failed to be a success – one of the reasons I’ve read online for neither series making it was the cost of producing the toys were a little higher due to said holograms. Visionaries had not only that animated series though to help drum up interest in their toy line but a limited comic series produced by Marvel Comics too. Super Naturals apparently did have a comic book series of their own but it appears to have only been produced in the UK – although the toys were packaged with mini-comics, like with Mattel’s Masters of the Universe.
The story for Tonka’s Super Naturals is that both the Heroic Warriors and Warriors of Evil have been locked within the Tomb of Doom and these ghostly combatants have been waging a secret war for centuries in the Ghostworld. The Tomb has been discovered and opened – releasing the forces of good and evil into our World to continue their long-standing war. The Heroic Warriors are led by Lionheart – a knight that can transform into a mighty lion man – Eagle Eye is a Native American chief who can become a half man and half eagle, and last but not least is Thunder Bolt – a viking that can control lightning and thunder in his lightning warrior form.
The Warriors of Evil are led by the walking corpse known as Skull who can unleash his inner power to become a skeleton to frighten his foes into submission. There is also Snakebite, a snake charmer who can become a snake man and then we have Burnheart – an evil knight who hides a spirit of fire.
These were not all however as Tonka also produced 8 smaller ghost figures – four that sided with the Heroic Warriors and four that naturally served the Warriors of Evil. The story for the ghost toys is that they were Humans who had wandered into the Ghostworld and been transformed by the experience. The kindly Wizard known as Hooter could transform into an owl to dispense sage advice – where as the punk rocker known as Weird Wolf could unleash his power to become a fearsome werewolf. The good news is thanks to Jarl Grimm you can totally get an up close look at the Super Naturals figures as well as their vehicles and even the Tomb of Doom!
While I still think that Hasbro’s Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light were the better toys – I am slightly regretting not getting a few of the Super Naturals back in the day. What about you though, were you more of a fan of the latter in your youth?