Peter S. Svensson writes for Bleeding Cool.
The Power Rangers panel was full. Full of people who were reading the current comic by Boom, which reinvents the classic 90s series as a damned good superhero team comic for the modern day. Full of people who were hardcore fans. Full of people who just had fond memories of the show growing up and didn't read the comics.
Yoshi Sudarso emceed the panel. He's a massive Nightwing fanboy, adored We Are Robin, and is also the Blue Ranger in the current series Power Rangers Dino Supercharge. As the panel began, he asked each panelist who their favorite original Mighty Morphin Power Ranger was.
Jason Bischoff, who works for Saban Brands managing products, picked the color of his shirt. White.
Kyle Higgins, who writes the comic, said that he can't pick because "It changes issue to issue." He did like the cool stuff he did with Trini.
Steve Orlando, who writes the Bulk and Skull backup feature, proudly proclaimed his love for Billy, the Blue Ranger.
Dafna Pleban, the editor of the Power Ranger comics got mock angry with Orlando for stealing her answer. "I really like Billy. He's cute and has glasses like me."
Melissa Flores, the director of production for Saban Brands agreed with Kyle that it's hard to pick, but settled on Trini or Billy. (I think she said Billy…)
Yoshi was stunned, as no one said Tommy, but that's because he couldn't see Jason's shirt from where he was sitting and didn't get it. He proclaimed that Tommy, as the Green Ranger was his favorite.
He then gave a quick recap of Boom's history with the Rangers. Last year at Comic Con they did the issue 0, followed it up with issue 1 in January, and last month did the first spin-off series with MMPR: Pink #1. He then asked if there would be more miniseries like that for other ranger colors, such as blue, in the future.
Editor Dafna Pleban smiled and gave a quick "No comment."
Jason Bischoff gave immense praise to Boom for their landing incredible talent to work on the MMPR comics like Kyle Higgins and Steve Orlando and Goni Montes.
Kyle Higgins asked who in the audience was reading the books. Many hands went up.
"The rest of you are dead to me. Surrender the ranger swag now." he deadpanned.
He gave a summary of the book, that it's a contemporary approach to the series taking advantage of not having a limited budget or needing to use existing footage. There's no limitations. He wanted to do a series that wasn't the Power Rangers as they actually were, not the Power Rangers he remembered as a kid, but the Power Rangers as he remembered them making him feel. That combination of epic scope and personal drama, where Tommy losing his powers was a tragedy unfolding on the television screen. The comic is its own timeline, where he can explore themes of teamwork and friendship through having a new ranger join the team.
The comic is set just after Tommy has just broken free of Rita's mind control, and in the show they gloss over the whole impact of that. But the comic has Tommy haunted by visions of Rita, which could be her still controlling him, or it could be PTSD from the experience. "It's like a Manchurian Candidate approach… this is Power Rangers right?"
Getting to write the book was a right place, right time situation. He'd talked with folks at Boom years ago about doing a slick, updated Power Rangers comic, and when they got the license, he begged them to give him a shot. They didn't have a writer lined up, and liked his pitch. Not just Boom liked it, but so did Saban.
Kyle continued to explain that the best part of writing a team book is the different dynamics characters have when interacting with each other. ABCDE may all be teammates, but E and A will have a different dynamic than C and A, and B and D may not get along. He used the example of the Trini and Tommy exchange from a previous issue (which was SO GOOD), as something the show never did, but the comics get to explore.
"It's Archie with super powers." joked Higgins, explaining that the comics can do things the show couldn't do, like have scenes set inside the Dragonzord. "Comics are the perfect medium for the grandiose scale of Power Rangers." he continued, explaining that he loved writing the really quiet, intimate moments.
Yoshi mentioned how he loved the civilian outfits. They were designed by interior artist Hendry Prasetya, who was praised for his skill in doing both down to Earth character scenes, and big blockbuster action. The outfits were designed to be modern, hip, and worn by teenagers who had their lives together and probably weren't reading comics in class.
Kyle pointed out that he identified with Billy. Melissa noted that while he started off as a dork in the series, by season 3 he was one serious dude. Yoshi noted that actor David Yost was not just a great gymnast, but that Blue is the best color.
Guy might be biased.
Steve Orlando explained that the Bulk and Skull backup stories came out of his talk with Boom where he said "You have to do Bulk and Skull as Archie in Angel Grove." Then he dropped the mic and walked away.
"He carries a mic around just so he can drop it." said Higgins.
Steve talked about how the Bulk and Skull short stories are a stylistic counterpart, with physical comedy and loveable buffoons, that their capers are like Rube Goldberg devices.
Dafna gave a fantastic analogy, that the main series is like the new, modern Archie, with the backups being more like classic Archie.
Yoshi: "I want Bulk and Skull to get Ranger powers."
Kyle: "Issue 8." (Probably joking?)
Dafna: "Maybe someone should pick up the annual…"
Yoshi, who was a massive fan before becoming a Ranger himself, asked fellow massive fan Jason Bischoff about the transition. Bischoff explained that in the past six months his life has become surreal, and he gets to do things like sit on meetings and say "Can we use the Sword of Light as our MacGuffin to restore Kim's powers?" or try to solve a continuity issue in a comic by asking "What if we shot Tommy out of the fingers of the Dragonzord."
Yoshi was shocked by this, taking offense that someone would even consider murdering Tommy. Jason clarified that it was more like shooting a guy out of a rocket, because for reasons Tommy couldn't teleport and they needed to get him somewhere. They apparently found another solution.
Yoshi then asked how the core fandom's reaction has been.
Melissa: "It's been awesome."
Dafna clarified that people were afraid that the comic would be grim and gritty, with cynical storytelling. But the comic is about believing in teamwork. The comic is an ensemble, with each character having their own story to tell in concert with each other.
Yoshi admitted that while when watching the show, he had a clear favorite in Tommy, in the comic it's much more difficult for him to pick. He reads the comics when he stops by his local comic shop to play Dungeons and Dragons. He fixes the rack after doing so, organizing it, but is afraid that he needs to stop.
It's okay. As a former comic shop retailer, we love having customers who know what they are doing put books back where they belong.
The upcoming MMPR Annual will not be in strict canon, loosening the restrictions that Saban normally puts on the ongoing comic. There's a bunch of short stories by folks like Terry Moore and his son Trey, who is apparently a huge Power Rangers fan, they're telling the backstory of a favorite villain. Kyle has a story with long-time collaborate Rod Reis, featuring a week in the life of Red Ranger Jason. He tried to manage his responsibilities with his home life, karate and being a Ranger, but doesn't always do it as well as you'd imagine.
Bischoff mentioned that the pages look gorgeous and the last panel with–
Dafna: "NO SPOILERS."
James Kolchaka will be doing a short. Rob Guillory of Chew fame. Marguerite Bennett will be doing a Trini and Kim tea party that gets way more complicated.
Melissa mentioned that she's excited about how the Boom comics get young fans and adult fans alike interested in Power Rangers. She mentioned that the upcoming Lionsgate movie will be amazing, "I think you're going to love it. So many nods to the original series. March 27th. Be there."
Yoshi followed up that fans complaining that the movie isn't 100% accurate to the original show, can just go back and watch the original show.
Melissa then gave a shout out to the current series, Power Rangers Dino Supercharge, where Yoshi plays the Blue Ranger Koda, and next year's Power Rangers Ninja Steel. Executive Producer Chip Lynn is doing a fantastic job. "The finale is epic. It's going to be so cool."
Kyle: "Everything is coming up Morphenomenal!"
Melissa: "A bird crapped on me yesterday. That wasn't morphenomenal."
Kyle: "It was for the bird?"
The floor was then open for fan Q&A. Jason Bischoff is a god among men. He got Saban to delve into their archives to find toys to give to the fans who asked questions, above and beyond the free swag that everyone got for attending the panel.
The first question was about how the comic, the TV series and the movie co-exist.
Jason Bischoff explained that they are three seperate entities. The movie is like an Ultimate version of the original MMPR series, its own thing that has its own continuity. The TV series continues the original continuity of 23, 24 years? The comic is yet another thing, revisiting the retro Mighty Morphin franchise. There's some big announcements in the future that Jason wants to reveal, but it's still a little early.
It was at that point that the original five Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, in costume walked into the panel room and posed for photos.
Jason hinted that there may be an upcoming prestige format book collecting the covers from the Boom comics. He then gave the first fan a Gold Edition Galaxy Megazord, gaining Yoshi's ire.
Yoshi: "You will hear from me later!" he joked.
Jason: "To be fair, they're not ALL Gold Edition Galaxy Megazords."
There are no plans for other seasons being turned into comics, as they're focusing on MMPR for now. But that might change in the future.
The most recent issue of the main series, #5, has a convention exclusive variant of the issue 0, with the Black Ranger using the Dragon Shield, suggesting that Tommy may not have been Rita's first choice to be the Green Ranger.
Yoshi pointed out at as far as he could remember, the Blue Ranger never got to use the Dragon Shield. (I gave him confirmation of this.) Kyle responded that "Blue can always get more love."
Many of the original ranger actors are excited about the comics. Kyle Higgins spoke to Jason David Frank, who played Tommy, and he loved the comics. Walter Jones, who played Zack, moderated the Power Rangers comic panel at Wonder Con, and has also been supportive. (Which I wrote up as well…)
Jason Bischoff pointed out that the cast are amazing as a whole, that the "Once a Ranger, Always a Ranger" spirit is found in them. He then promoted Power Morphicon, the Power Rangers convention held in Pasadena, CA next month. A convention I help run. (I didn't even have to bribe him! Check out Officialpowermorphicon.com)
Kyle loves Scorpina, and used her in the first arc for reasons. He's not going to tell origin stories unless it's in service of a larger story. He does have much larger plans featuring the villains yet to come…
The next fan asked about a potential What If Power Ranger story.
Jason: "It starts with Circuit, who is time lost…" he joked, before giving a more serious answer that he'd love to see something with Andros and Zhane, the Red and Silver Space Rangers, and the backstory of the Phantom Ranger. (You and me both Jason, you and me both…)
Kyle wouldn't mention, as he can't spoil what is to come.
Kyle will be doing more quiet character moments in the future, and often needs to be reminded by Dafna that the series does need to have some action in it occasionally.
Bulk and Skull's evolutions as characters from the series will take a different route in the comic, as they've been reimagined to be Ranger fans with a Youtube channel rather than school bullies, as it was felt that made the characters make more sense in a modern setting. They will still have an arc and change and grow, just not the same arc as the original.
There aren't any plans for motion comics, and Kyle Higgins is a little glad about that, because he finds that they're halfway between animation and comic, doing neither one well.
Dafna concluded by saying "The best voices you hear in a comic are the ones in your head. The best sound effects is the sound of your turning the page."
With that, the panel ended. Everyone got a cool Power Rangers pin.
Peter S. Svensson continues to write for Bleeding Cool. He will be competing in the Pro/Fan Comics Trivia Match on Sunday. Please cheer him on. Next month, he'll be organizing the official Power Morphicon, the Power Rangers convention in Pasadena, CA. The one mentioned in the article above. Check it out!