Although diversity has been a key Power Rangers staple for 25 years, a new group of Power Rangers in the time of Civil Rights are posed to inspire hope in the bleak era of Donald Trump.
Few pieces of pop culture sum up the ‘90s like the Power Rangers. Their costumes, their special effects, their infectious power metal theme song — everything Mighty and Morphin’ always strikes a chord for millennials nostalgic for the Clinton years. But Kyle Higgins, the writer of the it’s-actually-really-good Mighty Morphin Power Rangers comic book series from BOOM! Studios, always has his heart and soul in the ‘60s. And on Thursday of New York Comic Con, Higgins and BOOM! unveiled the first generation of Power Rangers who saved the world during the Summer of Love in 1969. Power Rangers #20 — set for publication on October 18 — will tell the story of these moon-landing era Rangers for the first time.
Like their 21st-century successors (one big way the comics differ from the 1993 show is that it’s set in 2017), the ‘69 Rangers are a diverse group of young people from separate walks of life: Soviet KGB agent Igor, student activist Daniel, Vietnam veteran Terona, British singer Jamie, and NASA secretary Grace Sterling, the first teenagers with attitude to answer Zordon’s call.
“There are parallels between 1969 and 2017, in terms of how politicized things are and how far apart so many of us are,” Higgins tells Inverse. “There are controversial things happening in the world now as there was then. The Rangers of 1969, I think, are a snapshot of that.”
“That time is a fascinating capsule for our country,” Higgins said at the panel during Comic Con. “The late ‘60s, we were so divided, and seeing how we came out of it by coming together after Vietnam and other racial tensions, I think that if we can get these characters together and provide some optimism, it will be a big help.”
In Power Rangers #20, Higgins will explore the true original Power Rangers in their first mission, which somehow involves NASA’s Apollo 11 moon landing. Given the long history between the Power Rangers and Earth’s moon — Luna is the base of operations for their archenemy Rita Repulsa — Higgins teases there are long-kept secrets waiting to be uncovered.
“The inclusion of the moon comes from a story that [Go Go Power Rangers writer] Ryan Parrott was developing that involved the astronauts from ‘Day of the Dumpster,’” Higgins says, referring to the first episode of the TV show. He teases: “We’ve been to the moon before. Rita’s up there. Is there something there?”
Higgins says the whole idea was inspired by Darwyn Cooke’s DC: The New Frontier, the 2005 Eisner-winning comic that reimagined the Justice League during the Space Age. “[BOOM! Editor] Dafna [Pleban] and I were talking about this as New Frontier for Power Rangers. It just made us smile thinking about it.”
Although it’s set in the past, one progressive wrinkle Higgins will bring to Power Rangers history is in the Red Ranger of 1969: Grace Sterling, the first Power Ranger leader and now CEO of the cutting-edge philanthropic conglomerate Promethea. A recurring character in the comics who will shape the Power Rangers’ future, Grace’s secret history as a superhero will be explored in the game-changing Power Rangers #20.
Described as “some Elon Musk, some Richard Branson,” Grace Sterling will be used to explore a new theme in the book, leadership, as she butts heads with current Power Ranger leader, Jason Scott.
“This story is about exploring leadership through the lens of Jason,” Higgins says. “Grace represents a former Ranger who has a life beyond being a Power Ranger. That relationship between Jason and Grace is at the heart of the story. If the Rangers are focused on saving the world, Grace and Promethea are focused on making the world worth saving.
And Promethea’s methods may not be what Zordon had in mind. “They’re trying to better things. They believe in a more proactive approach in bettering the world. Is there a slippery slope? Zordon thinks so.”
After Power Rangers #20, the march to war in issue #25 begins. During the New York Comic Con panel, BOOM! and Saban Brands announced its ambitious plans to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the franchise, and in the comics, that milestone will manifest into the book’s very first event storyline: the Power Rangers universe engaged in an all-out war that will “change worlds” forever.
“This isn’t Civil War. This isn’t Rangers against Rangers,” Higgins says. “This is Lord Drakkon and his forces and their very ambitious desires. What the battlefronts are like, where and when, is very significant and unique. When you learn exactly what he wants, you’ll understand what the potential of this event is shaping up to be.”
While things are looking up for Power Rangers, the real world continues to look darker than ever. It’s no surprise that so many flock to superheroes for escape. And to most millennials, few heroes mean as much as the Power Rangers, who were a massive cultural phenomenon in 1994. Now, in 2017, perhaps there can still be lessons learned.
“The story really highlights their differences and how they’re able to set those aside for the sake of saving the world,” Higgins says about debuting the 1969 Power Rangers. “I do think there are things we can learn from if we weren’t so stubborn as people. I don’t know if an issue of Power Rangers is gonna save the world, but I would love it.”
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #20 will be released on October 18.
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