Saban’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #1 (1994)
“With the comic book, we’re going to try to keep some of [action], but put a little more thought into the plots and character development.” – Editor John Clark, from an interview with Wizard, 1994
Oh boy, here we go.
In the last two columns, I chose my book by its intriguing cover. As you can see in the image above, that definitely wasn’t my starting point here. I chose Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #1 for two major reasons. First, people like Power Rangers. Whenever we do something on the franchise, it gets a good amount of attention. As I grew up on the franchise, I’m usually eager to write a bit about it. Second, I found both this issue and an issue of Wizard with a brief feature on it, so I thought that was, how do you say, kismet. The Bruce Hamilton Company, best known for their Disney Comics reprints, took the super hot license at its peak in 1994 and produced the first comic for the franchise. They also produced a comic tie-in for Freaked. Nice. I soon found out that the four color Rangers suffered from some issues, but it is those issues that made it all the more intriguing.
The Menace of Dracula sounds like a story I’d like to read, and should only be bolstered by the appearance of the Power Rangers, but don’t be deceived by the title. This book does not feature our old buddy Vlad, but a giant version of a species of moth. Actually, a moth that I’m pretty sure they made up for the story. I searched both “Dracula Moth” and its supposed Latin name “Sinestra Draculi” but came up almost empty handed. It appears that some people call the Death’s Head Hawkmoth (which you might recognize from The Silence of the Lambs) by that name, but even that was bit shaky. So, the story isn’t quite what you might hope when you see that title, but they didn’t have Dracula attacking them on the cover so I can’t really complain. What I can say is that Mr. Clark’s comment above is not reflected in this issue at all. In fact, if there is something admirable about it, it is that it is like a lost episode from the series. The dialogue is almost identical to the show and the likenesses are all solid. The art lacks a dynamic feel but I suspect that has something to do with rushed creative. Why do I think that? Well, let’s take another look at that Wizard article.
Terry Austin and Bret Blevins provide cover art as Clark states in the piece, but there are no credits in the book otherwise. Clark mentions that the issues will feature lead stories written by Jack C. Harris with art from Al Bigley and Steve Stiles and back-ups from the team of Nick Cuti and Joe Staton, the team from E-Man. You’ll find that there is no back-up at all and most sites credit Don Markstein and prolific artist Gray Morrow with the first issue. I even came across an auction for a copy signed by Morrow, and I have no reason to believe it to be a mistake. Harris and Bigley’s work would eventually appear in issue #3 and again in issue #6. Cuti would write the promised back ups for #5 and #6 (the only issues with Back-Ups), but without frequent collaborator Staton. The question stands, why wasn’t this issue the sci-fi tribute to Gardner Fox that we were promised? My guess is marketing.
Though it has become less of an issue in recent years, many licensed comics have suffered from similar issues. WWE/WWF titles are great place to look, as only Boom! Studios and Chaos Comics were really able to keep it together. With so many cooks in the kitchen, it can be hard to produce something more than an advertisement for the property. Marketing teams are understandably obsessed with image, and something that seems ‘off-brand’ can be hammered into submission. Hasbro and Marvel were masters at it, and GI Joe and The Transformers have continued to have solid comic incarnations of the years, but those franchises have to be seen as the exception. The Power Rangers fell to their greatest ability, generation of revenue.
They also have those annoying costumes with the logos on their chest. That showed up way too much outside the show and has been bothering me for like 25 years. That’s probably something I need to tell my therapist.
If you’re looking for a great Power Rangers comic, start with the Boom! Studios stuff. It takes a lot of notes from Devil’s Due GI Joe and crafts something satisfying for fans of all ages. That said, if you’re looking for a cool relic from the golden age of the franchise, Saban’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #1 won’t set you back much.