Power Rangers Comic Writers Talk Process and Future Plans
At the launch event for BOOM! Studios new Power Rangers comics we spoke with Kyle Higgins and Mairghread Scott.
Hey, did you hear? Power Rangers has a new comic series! After a long history of mediocre at best comics, Saban Brands has teamed with BOOM! Studios to bring us a new ongoing series with top creative talent. On January 16th, Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra California hosted a launch event for the comic along with an art show celebrating the long running franchise. The event was packed with press, fans, and writers from the comic.
First up, we spoke with the head writer for the new comic series, Kyle Higgins. Known for runs on Nightwing and Batman Beyond, Higgins spoke about his take on Power Rangers and plans for the future of the series. But when we first approached him, he noticed that this writer was wearing a shirt from another Saban series, VR Troopers.
So, you’re a fan of VR Troopers?
I could say I’m a fan, but I don’t remember much about it.
Probably better that way.
I liked the concept of it. I was a big fan of it at the same time as Power Rangers, but I think it was on in the mornings and I watched it before school.
Yeah, it was on in syndication. So here’s the question to start with. When are we getting a VR Troopers comic?
-laughs- I don’t know, it won’t be from me. Power Rangers is about my wheelhouse. I didn’t know a lot about Power Rangers continuity and chronology as much as I thought I did. I had to go back and look at a lot of stuff, I know even less about VR Troopers.
There’s not much to learn, I’ll tell you that.
Well there’s only three of them, right? So right off the bat that’s half the work.
So, with something like Power Rangers you come into this big ol’ franchise that’s over twenty years long, where do you even try to start doing research?
Well, I knew it was going to be Mighty Morphin. That was the era that most interested me as well. I knew I kind of wanted to do a contemporary take on it. Then it became a matter of what was my way in. Cause if we’re gonna do a contemporary modern take on the series, we can do new origins and start from scratch. Personally I’m not that interested in that and I also feel like it’s a property and a brand that’s been around for so long that’s so well established that there is a bit of shorthand as far as understanding what a Power Ranger is as far as comic book fans go and potential readers of the series.
So I didn’t want to start with a brand new origin or anything like that. But looking at the way the show ran, particularly in the first season, the introduction of the Green Ranger made a lot of sense in terms of a starting point because he serves as our audience proxy and also kind of allows me to explore some of the emotional aspects that I’m the most interested in as far as a new member on the team, what is like joining the group? Grounding the series emotionally in a way the series was never really able to.
As soon as I kind of had that thought of starting with Tommy’s introduction to the team the rest kind of clicked into place. That’s kind of how I work. When I come across an idea I may not always be able to put my finger on why it works but I can feel it in my gut like, “Oh no, I’m onto something” because I can explore X, Y, and Z as a result. Then you kind of just start building and weaving threads from that point.
So it’s really a matter of say, watching the series and being like, “Wait a minute, they never explored this. Let’s go there.”
Yeah! Pretty much. I remember watching old episodes and thinking, pretty sure he just joined the team right after being freed of Rita’s mind control. And I went back and watched the episode directly after Green With Evil and yeah, he’s pretty much a full member by that point. And there were a few episodes later that explored maybe some animosity between Jason and Tommy and maybe Tommy isn’t ready for prime time. But they’re few and far between and that was the thing that kind of sparked me.
So in that regard looking at an area that was not explored by the show, yes, that is what we did. Beyond that? No, it’s not like I’m going, “Well they’ve never told an origin of Zordon. So I’m gonna build a story to tell the origin of Zordon.” I don’t really get into filling continuity holes or backstory or things like that. If that answers your question.
Right now, you’re telling the story of how Tommy comes onto the team. Once that story arc has reached its conclusion, are you gonna just keep going from that point or are you going to jump around the timeline?
That’s a great question. It’s a little early to say. The story that I’m telling right now is 12 issues. It’s multiple arcs but in total it’s about 3 arcs that make up twelve issues. So I can’t really say, even within those twelve issues… Basically I can’t answer your question. It’s a really good question but I don’t want to say anything that would spoil what the story is going to explore.
Is the fact that there’s an armored Red Ranger and a White Ranger as covers for this comic indicative of what we might see later?
No. Those are just to look cool and they wanted a certain number of variants then they wanted to do incentive covers. They wanted to do a 1 in 50 incentive cover and a 1 in 100 so green and white make the most sense for that, even though White Ranger is not a part of the main story at this point. Then the dragon shield Red Ranger is like a cool after thought to tie it in for an exclusive cover for ComicsPRO retailors.
So when trying to figure out what to do for that cover it was actually assistant editor, Alex Galer’s idea, where he’s like, “You know what would be really neat?” Cause it was a rare occurrence when the Red Ranger puts on the dragon shield which is as rare as that cover is gonna be.
So yeah, I wouldn’t read too far into that. I would say that, I always as a fan loved seeing the Red Ranger wear the dragon armor and command the Dragon Zord and things like that. Any opportunity I can find to do that, don’t be surprised if it comes up because I think it’s a great visual. It’s also awesome for Jason and his character. I was always a big Jason fan and the armor just looks cool. Plus when he goes double blade? He’s double fisting bladed weapons, how can you go wrong with that?
That would make a cool incentive cover.
Oh yeah. Dragon dagger and sword of power? Yeah, totally. I’m gonna file that away as something I will definitely do.
Credit that to Den of Geek. So another question is, one of the big things about the story arc that you’ve started to show, is that while it’s set after the events of Green With Evil, the story itself is set around 2015. Was that your decision?
So what brought that decision on to set it in modern day?
Well, look. I think anyone who read the #0 issue or read the solicitation or read any interviews with me knows we’re exploring Tommy joining the team. We’re exploring it in a way the show never did but we’re not exploring it in a way that’s designed to just slot in between episodes. So from that standpoint what’s the easiest way to signify that we’re doing something different and it’s not designed to slot in between episodes?
It’s doing something that’s more contemporary. So from a logistic storytelling standpoint, there’s that. But from a creative standpoint? I was actually much more interested in doing something that was modern day. I feel like there is a lot of material that is set in the original timeline of the show, previous comics have explored that area as well, and in the spirit of something new? 2015, 2016 was really intriguing to me.
So does that mean we’re going to see plots that include things like social media or something like that?
Yeah. Maybe? I think that stories are set in certain eras for a reason and the era a story is set in has a big impact on certain choices in the story, certain characters, the choices they make, etc. A crime film from the seventies is different from a crime film in 2016 and it has very little to do with the fashion of the times. The zeitgeist, what’s going on in culture like these are things that inform characters and inform stories. And they definitely in the case of Power Rangers inform these kids that are high school students.
So those are all things that haven’t been mined before with Mighty Morphin and this series and the characters can stand the test of time. One of the things I always said when I was writing Nightwing is like, no matter what I do? The good news is that I can’t break Dick Grayson. He’s a great character who’s been around for sixty years before me and he’ll be around for another sixty after me. He has survived all these different interpretations there’s nothing you can really do to break him. You can push him and that’s where some really interesting storytelling and character development comes from but you can’t break him and that’s great.
I feel the same way about Mighty Morphin. You can’t break it, you can’t break these characters. So let’s try something different.
So by setting it in another time period it also frees you from any continuity quibbles. Was that a main motivator?
I wouldn’t say it was the main motivator but it’s a nice side effect. I’m not interested in filling gaps in continuity. I’m interested in telling new stories and explore some of the relationships between these rangers, what it means to be a Power Ranger, what it means to be a teenager, what it means to be a high school student in 2016.
So it’s more about the spirit of these characters and less about “this is set after episode 18”.
Exactly, and I say that having been the guy who wrote a Batman Beyond series that was all about exploring the past continuity and where it was set in the timeline of the animated universe. Doing that book, I loved it and I’m incredibly proud of it but it’s not something I’m that interested in doing again. That process has a ceiling on it. The types of stories you can tell definitely has a glass ceiling on what those are when they need to slot between preexisting episodes.
It’s the same reason I don’t really like prequels, for a movie for example. The story starts at certain point of time for a reason and if you know what the ending is going to be it’s not as interesting to me. Even in the case of Mighty Morphin where you can say, “well we know Tommy is going to become a full fledged member of the team”, will he? I mean there are a lot of things that, will he become the White Ranger in this version, in this book? Those are all questions that I think are valid with the set up that we currently have.
So for the more continuity minded this could almost be considered more of a branched, different continuity?
I mean, if you really want to get into it you can just consider it an alternate universe. But it’s more of an alternate timeline.
But what you’re saying to me is that it’s more focused on the possibilities of these characters.
It’s more a character piece then resolving XYZ continuity error.
Anything else you’d like to say to Power Rangers fans out there?
The reaction to issue zero has been incredible and I’d just like to thank everyone who picked it up and gave us a shot. I feel incredibly honored to be steering this ship and hopefully I can do some new exciting things that stay true to the spirit of the characters and explore them in ways that both honor them and push them in directions that we haven’t seen before. And pick up issue #1 coming in March of 2016.
Check out the next page for our chat with Mairghread Scott, fellow writer on issue #0.
Mairghread Scott is no stranger to writing for licensed properties, including her well received run on Transformers: Windblade. She’s also written her own creator-owned comic series, Toil and Trouble. For Power Rangers, Scott was tasked with writing the original six page story that debuted at last years San Diego Comic-Con and was included in issue #0.
We spoke about crafting this unique story, her thoughts on Power Rangers as a franchise, and even discussed Billy’s ultimate fate in Power Rangers Zeo.
For someone who comes into a franchise this big what kind of research do you have to do to get acclimated to it?
Well this one was a real whirlwind, doing issue one. I had to binge watch in 48 hours the first two and a half seasons of Mighty Morphin. It was on for hours and hours and hours and I’m just like rewinding it and taking screen grabs of different shots to get the size comps of the Zords proper and I’m writing down all the different phrases, trying to figure out if I’m spelling morphinominal right.
I know that on Transformers the fans really love it when you nail those little technical bits and so I wanted to make sure that in the zero issue, because it was going to be the first big splash, that we got all those really great things the show maybe didn’t highlight as much. Like the Triceratops Zords power chains that shoot out from its horns and I really wanted to get those right.
Because they only show up like two times.
Yeah, it only shows up twice. Probably because it cost them a ton of money but its art now so we’re just drawing it, great!
Power Rangers has a big fanbase, what sort of response have you gotten for your work on the comic?
Extremely positive. I was really surprised by how much love there was out there. This is definitely one of the happiest brands I’ve ever worked on. I feel like everyone is like, “Yes, this is great!” Good for you Power Rangers fans.
The story you told was short for Comic-Con. If you had a chance to tell more stories in here, what character or storyline would you gravitate towards?
I do tend to write a lot of revenge so I guess if I was going to keep writing Power Rangers, I don’t know. It can go so many ways. It can go really light and you can do a lot of fun stories about how great it is to be a high school student and also be a Power Ranger.
You can do a lot of weird stories because no ever seems to notice the fact that even when he’s not Power Ranging, Billy is making flying cars. That’s just taken like, “Oh yeah, there he is, he’s just inventing flying cars and wrist communicators.” That is kind of amazing. You could go really dark, you could do a whole Tommy PTSD arc if you wanted. I’m sure Kyle will do a great job.
You’ve mentioned in other interviews that you’re a big fan of Billy.
Yes, I am. First, I love his intense need to just get maximum verbiage and we made a joke about that, like Billy cannot just say anything normal. He’s basically a superhero before anything happens and then also he’s a superhero. He’s super underrated and I love the power chains. The power chains are really cool. Just tactically, from a battle situation? That is a great thing.
It seems like something a Transformer would shoot out of its self.
It is! It’s so much fun working on things that are even bigger than Transformers cause normally I write Transformers and you think of them as huge but when you actually scale them next to a zord they’re not that big, they’re actually pretty small. I think we decided when we went through the size comps that a combiner would probably be taller than a Zord but shorter than the Megazord, you know? It’s kinda fun to get into true Kaiju territory when you’re really smashing a building, stuff like that. That’s fun.
How do you feel about Billy and his ultimate fate in the show is that he married a fish?
At this point, Scott was silent, trying to form a response.
Well, a fish person.
You love who you love. –laughs-
So in the comic itself there are three stories. Obviously the main story, the Bulk and Skull story, then there’s your story. Out of three, yours ends up being the most true to the original campiness of Power Rangers. How do you feel your story is the most traditional?
Well, I think that’s intended because we knew that was going to be the first story that was released and I really wanted to capture Power Rangers as people remember it. Just balls to the wall awesome, hitting that as hard as possible.
Maybe that would be difficult to maintain in the long term but for a six page thing we wanted to let fans know that we know what this brand is, we can give you what this brand is. It’s been really fun to be that and actually one of my artists on Transformers is doing the Bulk and Skull story. Corin Howell, she does good work.
What sort of guidelines, especially from Saban, are you given on a project like this?
Well I had a lot of technical guidelines for my issue because we knew each page had to be a story and the entirety of the six issues had to be a story and they actually knew which order they were going to print so it had to be issue one and two could be one of these two Rangers, issue two and three, yeah. But I kind of like that.
There’s this old Ben Franklin quote that’s like, “Freedom is looseness in the harness” and I really like knowing where the boundaries are because that lets you be a lot freer with the little details. They were great to work with.
Any other messages for Power Rangers fans?
It’s such a joyful brand and as it gets more attention I just really hope the fanbase can continue to welcome all the different versions of it. Keep loving yourselves and keep loving each other, Power Rangers fans.
Den of Geek would like to thank Gallery Nucleus for hosting the event and BOOM! Studios for the chance to interview the writers involved in the comic. The art gallery will be running until January 31st. You can find more information at the gallery’s official website.
Shamus Kelley hopes we’ll one day see a Masked Rider Warriors comic. Follow him on Twitter!