Top 10: Possible Power Rangers Crossovers by Jerry Whitworth
Set to meet its finale at the end of this month, Justice League/Power Rangers features a team-up between the two iconic superhero groups as they combat Brainiac and Lord Zedd. The six issue mini-series is the latest in a series of offshoots of Boom! Studios’ popular license of Power Rangers. Of course, the Power Rangers are no strangers to team-ups haven crossed over with Masked Rider for the three-part episode “A Friend in Need” of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers‘ third and final season and Marvel’s Masked Rider (1996) one-shot comic, Beetleborgs in the Power Rangers Turbo vs. Beetleborgs Metallix (1997) one-shot comic, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the Power Rangers In Space episode “Shell Shocked.” However, given the popularity of Boom!’s Power Rangers and the buzz from this latest crossover, the question is begged what property could the team tackle next. Lets take a look at who some of the likely suspects could be.
Following the popularity of Power Rangers when it debuted in 1993, there was a sudden interest in bringing Japan’s other tokusatsu series to America (especially since the production was cheap with Japanese studios having already filmed most of the costly elements of the series). Saban, the company responsible for Super Sentai’s transition into Power Rangers, was at the forefront where, as noted, the Rangers crossed over with Masked Rider and Beetleborgs (at least in comic form). The while, Saban rolled the dice with making its own live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that also crossed with its Rangers franchise. Saban would also produce two other series around this time in the sci-fi series VR Troopers and fantasy series Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog. Originally intended to be called Cybertron and star Power Rangers’ Jason David Frank as its protagonist Adam Steele, VR Troopers likely underwent a name change when someone realized its similarity to Transformers‘ homeworld Seibertron while Frank had to return to Power Rangers given his massive popularity in the show which Saban felt would be hurt by his absence. Originally only going to adapt the Japanese series Choujinki Metalder (a Metal Hero series paying homage to Android Kikaider and its sequel Kikaider 01), the loss of Frank likely meant a desire to more closely align with the squad dynamic of Power Rangers and so footage from fellow Metal Hero series Jikuu Senshi Spielban was added to the show to create a three-person team known as the VR Troopers. The series’ plot centered around scientist Tyler Steele’s development of a virtual reality so advanced, it spawned an alternate dimension existing beside our reality. Billionaire Karl Ziktor learned of Steele’s work and hijacked it for the purpose of creating super weapons in his virtual reality that he could use to conquer Earth. Years later, Steele’s son Ryan continued to search for his missing father stumbling onto his work and partner/fellow scientist Horatio Heart who employed Ryan and his two closest friends to combat Ziktor (who had taken the name Grimlord as his alternate virtual identity). The series would run for two seasons (using footage from Space Sheriff Shaider of the Space Sheriff series for its second season) and was featured in a Marvel flip-comic series with Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Ninja Rangers before meeting its end. While not as successful as Power Rangers, the franchise’s true death kiss came in that Shaider was the final series in the Space Sheriff line as the final series in the Metal Hero brand was already being used up for Big Bad Beetleborgs (which saw Beetleborgs end after two seasons when that footage was expended). Subsequently, Ryan Steele’s actor Brad Hawkins would provide the voice of the Gold Ranger in Power Rangers Zeo before actor Austin St. John reprised the role of Jason Lee Scott and took on the Gold Ranger mantle. VR Troopers always seemed to come very close to Power Rangers between Frank’s nearly being its star to Marvel’s flip-comic to Hawkins voice as the Gold Ranger, it just appears like the franchises were meant to at some point meet but never could quite manage to pull it off.
Sports Entertainment (or pro wrestling) company World Wrestling Entertainment, WWE for short, has had a longstanding connection to comics. From its run with Valiant in 1991 to Chaos! in 1999 to Titan in 2010 to Papercutz/Super Genius in 2013 to today with Boom! Studios since last year, its brand has transitioned to the four-color page while comic book aspects have often bled into the live action performance art the company is known for. While Boom!’s approach has largely tried to steer towards the realm of realism in its presentation, its WWE has also tackled the more fantastic elements of its source material often in short stories. As such, the alignment of WWE and Power Rangers would not be that difficult (considering in animation, the sports entertainment promotion has crossed over with Scooby-Doo, Flintstones, and Jetsons) when you have WWE characters like Undertaker and his Ministry of Darkness, Kane, Max Moon, Mantaur, and the Gobbledy Gooker to draw upon. Further, among WWE’s current roster, performer Xavier Woods was billed as being from Angel Grove when he performed in the company’s developmental brand NXT. Of course, both WWE and Power Rangers being under Boom! Studios doesn’t hurt either for a viable opportunity.
Emerging in 1985, Robotech started its life as an animated television series created by connecting three separate anime series (Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber Mospeada) together to form a single narrative. The overall theme of the franchise follows Earth’s multiple wars against various invading alien armies and the human beings who find comfort in each other’s arms (and infrequently with that of their supposed enemy) trying to cope with the trauma of the conflict (and music, music is a big thing in the brand as well). Proving to be popular, the franchise has struggled since that time to continue its story while a cult-like fanbase has maintained interest in the property such that it has lived many lives. Recently, British publisher Titan Comics has begun producing a new ongoing Robotech comic series set in the Macross period (the first and, undoubtedly, most well-known incarnation of the brand). While initially it maybe difficult to see how Robotech and Power Rangers align given the former’s militaristic-based influences and latter’s “teenagers with attitude,” aspects of this relationship was already explored in Dynamite’s 2013 mini-series Robotech/Voltron (albeit with a likely darker tone). Both brands feature alien invaders, transforming giant mecha, and young people swept up in a conflict they didn’t necessarily want to be involved in. Also, given the often times angst-driven nature of Boom!’s Power Rangers, it would likely equal the mood of Robotech which often juggled trauma, comedy, and relationships.
Starting out as a somewhat minor superhero team in the pages of Marvel Comics, Big Hero 6 took on an entirely new life in 2014 when it was loosely-adapted into a Disney animated film of the same name. Featuring child prodigy Hiro Hamada and his brother Tadashi’s medical robot Baymax, the pair team with Tadashi’s classmates at the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology to combat the mysterious Kabuki mask wearing madman who stole Hiro’s technology and played a part in Tadashi’s death. Following the film’s success, it was adapted into a manga and video game as a sequel and animated television series are in the works. Joe Books, a Toronto-based publisher, would acquire a license from Disney to produce comics based on their properties including Big Hero 6. Of course, Big Hero 6 and Power Rangers both share ground in a number of ways. Both feature teams of youths fighting evil with an Eastern Asian aspect embedded within each, in some manner it seems as though they could have more easily aligned in another time (specifically, Power Rangers was produced as a comic by Marvel for a number of years and Disney owned the rights to Power Rangers for a decade, the company’s second longest running television series after The Wonderful World of Disney).
Born from an alliance between Marvel Comics and toy company Hasbro, Transformers was the merger of Japanese toy company Takara’s Diaclone and Microman Micro Change lines to form a new narrative involving the planet Seibertron and its transforming robot inhabitants. Featuring the peaceful Autobots and warlike Decepticons whose civil war rages across millennia, spilling over to the planet Earth, Transformers developed into one of Hasbro’s biggest brands spreading across various media from animation to comics to film. Obtaining the franchise’s license in 2005, IDW has produced scores of comics adapting Transformers’ myriad of tales spanning the decades. While Transformers has traditionally featured living, self aware transforming robots from an alien world, its Headmasters expansion would see organic humanoids employ suits to become the heads of Transformers forming a symbiotic relationship where the head pilots but both lifeforms share one mind. And similar to how Power Rangers pilot vehicles that transform and combine into a larger vehicle called a ‘Megazord,’ certain Transformers are known as “combiners” who transform and merge to become a larger robot. Between the themes of transforming robots and humans facing giant alien invaders, both brands certainly have areas they match up together well in. Undoubtedly, seeing the Rangers combat Soundwave’s Mini-Cassettes alone could be worth the price of admission.
By the decade 200X, most duties within society fell to robots. Scientist Dr. Thomas Light wanted to take things a step further by designing sophisticated robots that could perform the most dangerous of tasks expected of people in order to safeguard humanity. Light’s so-called Robot Masters were an evolution in robotics and the realization of his desires. Sadly,the scientist’s rival Dr. Albert Wily perverted Light’s dream by stealing his creations and turning them into instruments of death and disorder, making it possible for Wily to reprogram entire cities’ robot infrastructure to his will. Light was forced to turn to his assistant and first successful Robot Master Rock to save the world, transforming him into a powerful weapon. Now as Mega Man, Rock defeated Wily and the other Masters as well as many new dangerous robots to emerge through the years (with aid from his “little sister” Roll, Rush, Eddie, Beat, and, eventually, “older brother” Proto Man). The Mega Man franchise began its life as a video game in 1987 before expanding into animation and comics. A notable incarnation of the brand emerged in 2011 as a popular ongoing comic series under Archie Comics which ran until 2015 when it went on hiatus and seemingly never returned. Exploring some of the more complicated issues one couldn’t really tackle in the games over the course of the series (such as the concept of free will and how Wily made the Masters do his bidding forcing Mega Man, whose design they were based off of making him almost like a family member, to destroy them), the brand’s treatment is very much in the same vein as what Boom! is doing with Power Rangers today. And while Mega Man doesn’t pilot mecha, he’s no stranger to battling giant monsters with some examples including Yellow Devil, Mecha Dragon, Guts Tank, and Gamma. Mega Man also has a history with crossovers having been featured in the Captain N: The Game Master animated series, fighting game franchises like Marvel/SNK/Namco/Tatsunoko vs. Capcom and Super Smash Bros, and several comic events with Sonic the Hedgehog.
Considering the finale of the Power Rangers’ crossover with DC Comics’ Justice League, it then shouldn’t be all that surprising in the future fans might see them tackle Marvel’s leading superhero team in the Avengers. What more, Marvel has history with the brand (at least its original material). Japanese creator Shotaro Ishinomori is a well-regarded comic book creator having produced Cyborg 009 and Skull Man that came to work for Studio Toei where he created Kamen Rider, Android Kikaider, and Himitsu Sentai Gorenger (first in the Super Sentai series whose later shows would be the source material for Power Rangers). Ishinomori would create another Super Sentai series in J.A.K.Q. Dengekitai before Toei decided to put the brand on hiatus to produce a live action (loose) adaptation of Marvel Comics’ Spider-Man. Incorporating the Super Sentai element of transformation and adding a giant robot named Leopardon, Spider-Man was a popular addition to Toei’s series of children’s action programming beginning an ongoing arrangement with Marvel. After Spider-Man (which introduced the giant robot aspect to Super Sentai), Toei incorporated Marvel into its Super Sentai brand with inspiration from Captain America in Battle Fever J (which had a team of heroes from different nations including Miss America from the US). While moving forward Toei stuck to its own creations for its live action brand, it continued its partnership with Marvel in animation for the animated films Dracula: Sovereign Of The Damned (1980, adapting Tomb of Dracula) and Marvel’s Monster of Frankenstein (1981) as well as various animated projects like Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Incredible Hulk, and X-Men: Pryde of the X-Men (Toei and Marvel recently partnered up again for 2014’s Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers). It is then fitting when Power Rangers was originally adapted for American comics, Marvel would produce those stories (as well as VR Troopers and Masked Rider). When you consider the paths Marvel and Power Rangers have already walked together, it almost becomes bizarre that their characters have yet to meet each other in their stories.
Noted previously with Robotech, it was not uncommon when anime came to American television waves that it would have to be combined with an unrelated series to meet episode length guidelines for syndication. Such was the case for 1984’s Voltron: Defender of the Universe which mashed together Beast King GoLion and Armored Fleet Dairugger XV (though, originally Future Robot Daltanious was intended to have been used in place of GoLion until a fortuitous mistake changed history). Although, that being said, most look back fondly on Voltron for its GoLion footage but selectively forget the existence of Dairugger. For the GoLion portion of Voltron, the Voltron Force pilot giant lion mecha that combine to form the robot Voltron to protect the world of Arus from the evil forces of Zarkon. What’s interesting about Voltron is how its become a chicken or the egg argument in the United States as undoubtedly GoLion was inspired by Super Sentai but most in America believe Power Rangers was inspired by Voltron. Regardless, Voltron has been rebooted twice in recent years with its latest incarnation becoming quite popular. DreamWorks’ Voltron: Legendary Defender is a Netflix exclusive series that debuted in 2016 and currently has three seasons with a fourth arriving next month. Additionally, this new incarnation has a toyline and series of comic book mini-series from Lion Forge (the second of which debuts next month coinciding with the cartoon’s fourth season). The issue of Voltron and Power Rangers has started many a debate over the years, between people believing Power Rangers somehow stole from Voltron’s intellectual property and the fantasy booking of Voltron vs the Megazord. While most are happy to have such two remarkable brands, others decidedly cast themselves in one camp or another. It’s with this sentiment that their crossover could prove to be quite dramatic should it touch on this nerve.
Wait, didn’t this already happen? Actually, in most people’s recollections, it didn’t. Truthfully, most regard Saban’s Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation to be so bad, they seem to forget it existed as if it was a traumatic experience from childhood their mind blocked out. Venus de Milo, a fifth and female turtle introduced in the series, is so reviled by Ninja Turtles co-creator Peter Laird that he refuses to even mention in joking of her existence. So deep is his hatred of that character, no other female turtle has emerged officially within the brand since (and likely never will while he’s alive). With this in mind, it almost begs that the Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers get another go-around so that they can get it right this time. In 2011, IDW would acquire the license to publish new Ninja Turtle comics and it has pumped out a massive amount of content in that time between its own interpretation of the franchise as well as multiple books based on the Nickelodeon animated series. Part of this remarkable run of published content has been a number of crossovers including with Ghostbusters, Miyamoto Usagi, and Batman (both the comic book versions and the animated versions). One could only hope should this crossover emerge, the team can somehow incorporate Mutant Turtles: Superman Legend which added the henshin (“transformation” in Japanese) aspect of Japanese heroes to their brand.
Arguably, the crossover people have waited nearly a quarter of a century to see. Godzilla, the unequivocal King of Monsters, was inspired by the 1933 film King Kong (which inspired many several giant monster films in the US itself) and gave rise to the kaiju genre of tokusatsu which included among its ranks Rodan, Mothra, and Gamera (where the former two became part of Godzilla’s universe and an attempt was made in 2002 to incorporate the third to no avail). Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra would form the trinity of a kaiju universe under its company Toho that included Mechagodzilla and King Ghidorah (as Godzilla would face his progenitor King Kong in a film in 1962 as the pair are set for a rematch in 2020 with the film Godzilla vs. Kong). If Power Rangers are in the business of fighting giant monsters, then it’s a no-brainer they’re all but destined to face the giant monster king. Add to the mix the Xiliens from the Godzilla universe as an alien threat and the story all but writes itself.
Honorable mentions: Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad, Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverly Hills, Ultraman, Cyborg 009, Gamera, and Mighty Orbots.