Power Rangers Scribe Kyle Higgins on Morphing ‘90s Nostalgia into Good Comics

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<i>Power Rangers</i> Scribe Kyle Higgins on Morphing &#8216;90s Nostalgia into Good Comics

If John Stamos and Jeff Franklin were smarter men, they would’ve recruited comic book scribe Kyle Higgins to write for Fuller House.

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Both Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and the original run of Full House were formulaic, transparently budget-conscious, ambitionless staples of ‘90s children’s TV that thrived because their audiences didn’t know any better. This year’s Fuller House marked an opportunity for Stamos, Candace Cameron Bure and their faux family to produce a product worthy of its foundation’s place in pop culture history. They failed—spectacularly. (Except for episode three, which is actually pretty great.)

But all the canned laughter tracks and over-choreographed dance numbers in the universe can’t hold a flickering birthday candle to BOOM!’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #1, released last week, in which Higgins recounts Tommy Oliver’s genesis into heroics, following his brief time under the nefarious thrall of Rita Repulsa.

Aided by manga-evocative pencils by Hendry Prasetya, Higgins swiftly adds new degrees of depth and nuance to characters who first appeared as stereotypical ciphers back on 1993 TV. And not that there’s anything wrong with taking the Rangers down a dark ‘n gritty NSFW path, but BOOM!’s Rangers ups the source material’s sophistication without straying from its General Audience roots.

We shot the scribe—also known for his work on Nightwing—a batch of email questions for our mutual edification.
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Paste: How’d you get this gig?
Kyle Higgins: Neil Gaiman said no.

Paste: Did you campaign for it?
Higgins: I wouldn’t say I campaigned, no. I reached out to [Managing Editor] Bryce Carlson at BOOM! when I heard they’d acquired the license. I asked Bryce if I could put together a pitch or something for a backup, or a mini, or something. At that point, I assumed they already had a writer for the main series. Bryce said that my name had actually come up for the main book, and that they were taking pitches from a bunch of different writers. So, I put together a proposal and they didn’t hate it. And then, Saban didn’t hate it either. So, it kind of went from there.

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Power Rangers #1 Interior Art by Hendry Prasetya

Paste: The characters in the original show were—to say the least—not especially well-written. How does one go about making Jason, Kimberly, Tommy and the gang engaging to an adult audience without basically reinventing the source material/wheel?
Higgins: Well, it’s pretty simple, really. The source material is great—it doesn’t need to be reinvented. Refined and tweaked, sure. Elaborated on, definitely. But the DNA is all there in the original show. My job is just to flesh these characters out and spend time getting to know them—what they want, what they’re afraid of, who they don’t want to disappoint. Ultimately, for me, it comes down to writing people.

Paste: Were you a fan of the original show? If so, what kind of fan? A little kid the show inspired to take karate lessons, or an older kid the show inspired to potentially venture into conscious-altering gateways?
Higgins: I was a kid who cut morphers out of cardboard, helmets out of brown paper bags, built a command center in his basement (complete with two blue Rubbermaid trash cans stacked on top of each other and a sharpie face drawn on them) and turned his dad into a cinematographer in order to make intricate fan films that involved stop motion to turn household items into a Megazord. And that was when I was eight.

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Power Rangers #1 Interior Art by Hendry Prasetya

Paste: Why skip ahead into the first season, starting halfway into the Green Ranger saga?
Higgins: A couple reasons. First, I didn’t want to tell new origins. I’m sick of origin stories, frankly. Plus, I didn’t really have anything new I was dying to say with a main Power Rangers origin. However, in watching the first season and realizing that once “Green with Evil” ends, Tommy is basically a full-fledged member of the team, with very little aftermath fallout from his defection; that was something I knew was ripe for exploration. I felt I could use it to create some really nice tension, a who-can-you-trust Manchurian Candidate quality, about a guy who was brainwashed and manipulated into doing terrible things. Now, he’s given a second chance. Can he take advantage of it? Is he still haunted by Rita? Is he just a sleeper agent? It’s built for playing with ambiguity, which, if you’ve read any of my other books, you can probably tell I absolutely love.

However, the bigger reason I started where I started is because of what Power Rangers has always been about—the power of teamwork and friendship. What better way to explore that than through the lens of a new member? A new member who—weeks earlier—was trying to kill you? Can everyone just get along? Or will the change in team dynamics be too much to overcome?

Paste: Was there ever any discussions of going a dark and gritty route with this book, along the lines of the wildly excellent and totally unauthorized power/rangers fan film from last year?
Higgins: There was a fan film?

Paste: Yeah, it’s awesome. Did you really not see it?
Higgins: [Laughs] I saw it. Yeah, there were never any discussions about going in that direction.

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Power Rangers #1 Variant Cover by Dustin Nguyen

Paste: I noticed Alpha hasn’t had any dialogue yet. Do you plan to kill him off at some point? Maybe have one of Rita’s monsters pull him apart like a soggy loaf of bread? Slowly and painfully?
Higgins: Yeah, but you have to wait until issue 3. I mean, it starts in issue 3, but it doesn’t finish until issue 12. Because, you know, it takes a long time to pull a robot apart.

Paste: Do you feel any obligation to fill in some of the logic gaps in Power Rangers mythology now that you’re temporarily in charge of it? (Why would Zordon recruit teenagers instead of adults? If he wanted teenagers with “attitude” why not recruit Bulk and Skull, who’ve got loads of attitude? How was Zordon ever oblivious enough to assign the color yellow to an Asian person and the color black to a black person? And where do they hide the zords, anyway?) Or would explaining all of that rob Power Rangers of some of its magic?
Higgins: For starters… Even Zordon didn’t want to see Bulk in spandex on an ongoing basis. So, that answers that. As for the OTHER logic “gaps” you mention… Maybe? The Zord thing is actually something that bugs me and that I’m playing with right now. I mean, our story is a bit more grounded, if only because we’re not reusing the same stock Zord footage again and again, and our cities aren’t cardboard. So, I have to show the Zords coming from SOMEWHERE, and how they all arrive together so quickly… So yeah. We’ll go with a strong “Maybe.”

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