Today marks the beginning of the Shattered Grid storyline in the immensely popular Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers comic book and its 25th issue. SYFY WIRE sat down with Kyle Higgins and Ryan Parrott, the writers of MMPR and its sister comic Go Go Power Rangers, respectively, as well as Dafna Pleban, editor to both books, and Brian Casentini, the executive producer of the entire Power Rangers franchise.
Our conversation went over the incredible reveals from the opening of Shattered Grid, the overwhelming reaction to the comics, and how the stories being told in the comics mirror real life. Before you read our interview, let it be known that it spoils a massive twist in issue 25 of MMPR, so read at your own peril.
So my first question… You killed Tommy!
Casentini: I love that that wasn't a question.
Shattered Grid is this big event that is messing with timelines and alternate dimensions. That leaves it open to him coming back in some form. How long have you been thinking about killing off Tommy, and what is your plan for that going forward? Do you intend to reverse it? Or is it a definitive "No, he's dead for the foreseeable future."
Higgins: Well, he's definitely dead. I think that the story and the… Look, we've not seen this before. It's a world without our Tommy Oliver, but there is still a Tommy Oliver in this world with Lord Drakkon. As far as exploring Tommy as a character in Shattered Grid, we're doing that, but from the Lord Drakkon perspective. What it means for the Tommy that we know and we watched die, for what was hopefully an epic page-turn reveal…
It was. It really was.
Higgins: Good, good. I would just say, we're all familiar with the mechanics of comic book storytelling, and things like death. That's not the story here, though. For the foreseeable future, yeah, he's really dead. We open issue 26 with his funeral.
Higgins: This isn't something that's just going to get undone. It's part of the kick off for the Shattered Grid event. His death, along with the super-charging of the green chaos crystal that Drakkon uses to hop between dimensions, as well as Jen Scotts (the Pink Time Force Ranger) coming back: that confluence of events changes things. And it breaks things. That's the kick off of the story we're exploring for… Dafna, how many months is it?
Pleban: All the way through August! Issue 25 as you may have noticed is oversized and then our finale one-shot is also oversized.
Higgins: DOUBLE sized.
Pleban: Yeah, double sized! And then you've got the annual with Shattered Grid, and comic book day, and Go-Go, so there's going to be a metric ton of story until August. It's gonna be really awesome.
Casentini: And August is the 25th anniversary [of the franchise].
Pleban: We're real subtle.
When you guys first approached the comics, and were making huge decisions like killing off Tommy, introducing the Ranger Slayer, and really turning what we know about this series on its head, were there any creative dos or don'ts?
Higgins: I don't know, Brian, how long was that first meeting? Four hours?
Casentini: It was very long. One of the key story points, which we can speak to now: the killing of Tommy, I ran by Haim [Saban] himself because I wanted to make sure he was onboard with such a dramatic turn. So, yeah, we've been thinking about this for over two years.
Higgins: There's never any absolutes. It's always a conversation, and it's always framed as what's best for the narrative. So, coming into that meeting, we sat down with Brian, Melissa [Flores, Director of Development and Production at Saban Brands] and Edgar [Pasten, Product Development Manager at Saban Brands] and presented what Dafna and I had been developing for five or six months before that.
It was all a conversation about "How does this work? What is the narrative potential here? What are we looking to explore?" In that regard, everything is coming from a good place. So no, I wouldn't say there were any overt dos or don'ts. I think any time you're working in a collaborative environment like this, where you're working with characters that aren't your own, there are going to be conversations and things you step back from, but that's a part of the process.
Casentini: What's been amazing is how closely Kyle and Ryan have collaborated across the two comic books, and then how the Shattered Grid story bleeds into other areas of the franchise in creative, new ways yet to be revealed.
It's that collaboration that's been so wonderful.
How has the overwhelming critical and commercial response to the comics shaped your decisions, regarding both the story and the releases of new comics?
Higgins: From my perspective, I would say it's interesting to see fans' reactions. I've been doing more conventions lately, after taking a year and a half break from doing them all together. So to see and to have that interaction with readers is really cool. Fortunately, we've had these plans in place for so long, that nothing from fan reactions has impacted the story we've set out to tell. It is a really fine line you have to walk.
One of the blessings of comics is the instantaneous feedback. You could — and Dafna is going to blow a gasket when I say this — you could, technically, do a book in three weeks and have it to the printer.
Pleban: Absolutely not!
Higgins: We all heard the gasket blow there!
Okay, I'm exaggerating a little bit, but you can write a book very quickly. It's not fun, but you can put it together and publish it very quickly. There aren't a lot of visual mediums where you're afforded that time. The downside is that, yeah, if you're not careful you can be shaped along the way by feedback.
As far as things going forward, it's all market dependent. The reason we've focused on Mighty Morphin' and waited to bring in any other rangers until it felt special was because of the crossover between comic book fans and Power Rangers fans. I don't think anyone knew what it was, and if they said they did, they were lying. The comics market is a tough place. Shelf space is at a premium. I think what Boom! has done has been very smart with what they've focused on within the franchise to translate to that really crowded shelf space.
From the get-go, MMPR was a huge hit, so I can imagine there was a slight urge to write as many series as you can since there is such a huge lore. The success I do think stems from being conservative about what you're putting out.
Higgins: That refinement and focus allow for us to talk like this. It allows Boom! to put a lot of energy into Shattered Grid. If you had six Power Rangers books going, it would be an unwieldy beast, and it's hard to say anything with that.
Parrott: Dafna I think just had a heart attack at the idea of six books.
The books deal with some very out-there stories with the costumes, and the monsters, and the zords, but it's rooted in very real emotions. Have you taken any real-world inspiration for the book?
Higgins: Why the book works is because it looks at very relatable themes in an out-there setting. It's really delicate to find the ways to ground the concepts. The show used a lot of pre-existing footage for the battles and the zords, so there was a lot of shorthand. As a kid, I understood that. As you move away from that shorthand, you ask yourself things like, "Well, what city is this in? Where does this zord come from? What about the building and the civilians in it?"
But you also don't want to make it dark and gritty. Dafna, Ryan, and I talk about this all the time. There is a world-view in Power Rangers that we all respond to, and that is a world-view that is not cynical. It is optimistic, it is good vs evil, and there are very real emotional stakes and very real emotional fallout. You're going to see this in issue 26, with the death of Tommy. But that doesn't mean the outlook on life and humanity should be dark.
So in that regard, we do take a lot from the real world, which is not a fun place right now. It's very scary. So we have a lot of conversations about how we represent that and choose to explore the world outside our doors in the framework of the book, without letting it dictate the type of stories we're telling.
The best commentary is allegory.