An excited, near-capacity crowd was greeted by the enthusiasm and charm of the original Black Ranger, Walter Jones. The actor welcomed an equally enthusiastic panel of participants to the WonderCon panel celebrating “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” including Saban executive Jason Bischoff, writer of the comic book series Kyle Higgins, editor Dafna Pleban and assistant editor Alex Galer.Â
Jones opened up with a trick question for the panel, asking who is their favorite Power Ranger while suggesting it “should be an easy question to answer.”
“The correct answer is that they’re all fantastic in their own right,” Higgins replied. “Personally, not just because we’re gonna hang out afterwards, I would have to probably go with Jason!”
“We’ve been able to dive into a lot of the character stuff the show didn’t get to explore,” Higgins continued. “I spent a lot of time and a lot of energy making sure that everyone has a unique and engaging subplot going on for them. It’s kind of like ‘Team Book Writing 101,’ but there’s a reason for it.”
“Every time me and Kyle have a story call, I’m like, ‘Can we beat up Billy a little bit more?'” Pleban added. “Which is how I show my affection for characters, seeing how sad we can make them.”
Bischoff described his transition from fan to pro, noting that he was only seven weeks into his job at Saban as of his WonderCon appearance. Â He said he’s “legit watched every single season, every single episode,” calling it “bonkers being on the other side of that power coin.”
Higgins said he stayed with the show even when other kids at his school left it behind, though he fell out of watching it until he started writing comic books professionally. Conventions and cosplayers “re-sparked my interest in ‘Power Rangers,'” Higgins explained, adding his writing partner would often find him delving into YouTube episodes and interviews, getting caught up late into the night even before he had the opportunity to pitch for the job writing the comic. “I’m writing what I felt about ‘Power Rangers’ as a kid,” Higgins summarized. “I’m writing based on the feeling that I had as a fan watching it.” Â
Pleban’s younger brother was the big “Power Rangers” fan in her family, and she described her interaction with the show as “grudgingly” watching it while she babysat him. It was one of the few shows broadcast in Israel that was played in English, so Pleban latched on to it during extended visits with family there. “It was my one connection from home, the only thing I could understand on the TV,” she said. “I remember my grandfather, who doesn’t speak a lick of English, taking me to see the ‘Mighty Morphin Power Rangers’ movie in theaters, dubbed in Hebrew. I was like, ‘No, you took the one thing I understood!'” Luckily, since the story was so clear, with comic book-styled storytelling, she was able to follow along without understanding the dialogue.Â
Galer was in 100% from the first episode, he claimed. “Everything about it, I was just in love with.” Though he stopped watching religiously after the “Turbo” series, the characters stayed with him and now he’s enjoying re-watching all the episodes.Â
“Everywhere I go, doesn’t matter what country, somebody recognizes me,” Jones said. “There is so much love that we get from it, and how much goodness we’re able to give back.”Â
“At its core, it’s always been a story about the power and strength of teamwork and friendship,” Higgins said, speaking of the reason for the success the comic has seen, including a retailer variant that was expected to be 2,000 orders that turned out to be 34,000. “Power and responsibility, power of teamwork, the weight of the world on your shoulders, but also the clique drama of high school. These are all aspects that make fantastic ‘Spider-Man’ comics, right?”
Jones noted the show’s diversity as a key to the franchise’s success and wondered what characters the panelists were excited about exploring. Â “The first thing I asked when we were designing the first arc was if I could use Scorpina as the main villain,” Higgins answered. “She wasn’t on the show that much; she kind of came in, in the Green Ranger Saga, for the first time. There was no real explanation for where she came from. I always thought the design was great.
“I’m also a sucker for secondary characters,” Higgins continued. “My favorite superheroes have always been Nightwing and Scarlet Spider and Winter Soldier, all of these characters that are, like, just either a rung below or just offshoot characters. The idea of Scorpina as, like, this deadly female assassin for Rita that wasn’t utilized that much — I thought there was a great opportunity to explore that. Then, of course, that begs the question, where is Goldar, what has happened to him? Digging into some of the villain stuff was fun for me.”Â
Higgins also noted his love for delving into the backstories of the Rangers. “Digging into the stuff with Tommy at home is my favorite stuff to write,” he said, talking about fan films he made as a child, inspired by the “Power Rangers” series, using stacked Rubbermaid trash cans as a Zord with stop motion.Â
“It’s like the return of an old love,” Galer said of the fan response to the comic and upcoming movie.Â
“We get to see them at school, we get to see them training…” Pleban added.
The panelists then spoke about the new Pink Power Ranger limited series, which Bischoff learned about via Twitter while sitting in a New York airport terminal next to William Shatner. Bischoff talked about how they work via conference calls to solve character development conundrums, “just geeking out,” as a very collective, collaborative effort. He revealed, “there is a person who works on a very pointy-eared book” who will be doing a cover for the Pink Ranger miniseries, and noted that Higgins works with the woman who wrote the story bible for all the twenty-three seasons of the series directly in helping craft the stories.
Bischoff put Higgins on the spot about a moment months before when Higgins was announced as the book’s writer, before Bischoff started with Saban. “I was just a dude — I was a dude on Facebook, working at Blizzard Entertainment. A good buddy of mine who knew that I was a big Power Rangers fan, posted on my timeline. He tagged me and said, ‘hey man, new series from BOOM!’ My immediate response was, ‘Oh, my God, I’m super excited, this is gonna be great!’ Then I wrote something like, ‘Kyle Higgins, hmm — I kind of liked his ‘Nightwing’ stuff, but it really wasn’t character deep enough for me. I’m seriously hoping he can give me a character story.’ Something like that. Kyle, with his big brass balls, happened to somehow be a part of this thread and responded to it…”
“We had mutual friends,” Higgins said.
“In a fun and snarky way,” Bischoff continued, “he said, ‘I’ve got this.’ Right? You know what? Super-validated.”
“I can’t believe you brought that up on a panel,” Higgins said.Â
Pleban talked about how she enjoyed being on the speakerphone every day with Galer and Higgins as Higgins built out the plot and world of the Power Rangers. Â “It’s like watching a hologram come to life,” she said.Â
Everyone on the panel was exuberant in their happiness working on the series. “If I don’t have the answer, I don’t have to worry about getting fired,” Higgins said. “To feel safe, creatively, where you can have those conversations and ultimately no one is judging because it’s all in service to arriving at a better story, it’s really great.”
They premiered the cover to Issue #5, a spotlight on Zack the Black Ranger described as a self-contained one-shot that is new reader friendly and focused on Zack’s importance to the team. “Rita having her eye on Zack is definitely a clue,” Higgins admitted.Â
Asked by an audience member if the original Japanese source material was used as a reference for the American incarnations, Jones said they didn’t see much of it when the first American Rangers were hired. “I was hired to be Zack,” he said. “I didn’t even know I was the Black Ranger until later and it was edited.” His first experience with the source material was a year after the shot the pilot.Â
A man cosplaying as Captain Marvelous asked about seeing more from the character Trini, and Bischoff advised him, “Tune in to ‘Pink.'” Higgins noted that Trini is seen in issue two with Billy and that carries over into issue three, which will expand on her family and history.
There will be no plots involving Lord Zedd in the next year, which Higgins has mapped out. However, he said he’s leaving the door open for that in the future.
Referencing the “shipping” of Kimber and Stormer in “Jem and the Holograms,” a fan asked if the characters would step outside of the bounds laid down in the show’s continuity. “I wouldn’t write the book if I couldn’t do that,” Higgins responded. “Getting them outside of their comfort zone, that’s what’s makes them interesting. The more challenges they have to overcome, the more they grow.”
“We’re not looking to grimdark the universe,” Pleban clarified. “Our world reinforces and rewards this positive world view.”
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