by Jarrod Jones. It’s a colorful and kinetic dust-up that’s played out in the minds of hearts of millions of people for a generation, and now it lives in the form of a major BOOM! Studios/IDW Publishing event: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Just typing that out is enough to send serotonin singing through my brain.
That’s right. Trini and Tommy and Donnie and Mikey and lurking somewhere in the shadows watching our primary-colored crew of heroes, Rita Repulsa and The Shredder. It’s enough to make any ardent fan of either franchise—say nothing of the Saturday morning die-hards of the early Nineties—go ballistic over the possibilities.
Ryan Parrott, now the key writer in BOOM! Studios’ Power Rangers franchise (he got his morphin’ start with Go Go Power Rangers in 2017, then moved onto the main MMPR title in 2019), is no stranger to playing with expensive toys. Teamed with artist Simone Di Meo, colorists Walter Baiamonte and Igor Monti, and letterer Ed Dukeshire, Parrott’s purview into famed intellectual properties has grown exponentially with Mighty Morphin Power Rangers/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Despite this, Ryan isn’t impervious to the megaton nostalgia inherent in such a crossover. On the prospect of finally being able to write the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (he’s a fan), Parrot admits: “I’m easily distracted by new shiny objects.”
And while Parrott is getting to live out the daydreams of countless Turtles & Rangers fans, he recognizes the responsibility that comes with such power. For one, he’s charged with corralling over 20 major personalities in a single series, a feat that might cause any writer to second-guess a dream gig such as this. “Granted, when you’re serving so many characters, it can be hard to really dig into some of the deeper themes and ideas you might have,” Ryan tells me. “My goal was simply to try and add something to the characters that have meant so much to me… and to find excuses for Michelangelo to say ‘Cowabunga’ as many times as possible.”
Ryan Parrott spoke with DoomRocket about BOOM! Studios & IDW Publishing’s power-packed crossover Mighty Morphin Power Rangers/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Simone di Meo’s ridiculously great action sequences, and the philosophical wonders of Pat Benatar. (Believe it.)
1. With a crossover such as this, most people will pay cash money simply to see these two iconic teams go on an adventure together. But as this crossover’s writer, you’re in charge of conveying the personalities of 10 iconic characters—not to mention the various characters in their rogues gallery. How do you strike a balance in the script so that the narrative scales don’t tip in favor of one franchise over the other?
Ryan Parrott: Well, at one point, I think I actually did the math and it came out to something like twenty-two iconic characters when you factor in all the buddies and baddies, so… yeah, there are a lot of mouths to feed. But regarding the balance, the goal for me was to break the story in terms of teams, rather than individuals. If you make it about groups gaining perspective on their own lives by walking in someone else’s shoes, then the back and forth is required. My biggest fear was that I might get too caught up in writing the turtles, only because I’ve been in Power Ranger’s world for so much longer. I’m easily distracted by new shiny objects.
2. I’d ask if you just distilled each character down to their purest essence to make this story work—Raphael being “the turtle with ‘tude,” Billy’s “the brainy Ranger,” etc.—but it’s clear that you’re digging deeper into what makes these characters work than just that. So how do you juggle so much character in a single story? Part of it is making sure you’re treating this story as more than a big toy commercial, surely.
If you’re anything like me, these teams are far more than just toys, because I grew up with them and have been hearing their voices in my head since I was probably nine. I mean, I went to the TMNT: Coming out of our Shells live concert for god’s sake. So, I hope that love and respect comes through in the story. Granted, when you’re serving so many characters, it can be hard to really dig into some of the deeper themes and ideas you might have, but… every once in awhile, a single line or silent panel can make your point. My goal was simply to try and add something to the characters that have meant so much to me… and to find excuses for Michelangelo to say “Cowabunga” as many times as possible.
3. Big team crossovers always include the introductory kerfuffle: One group of heroes suspects the other group of some malfeasance, and they scrap about it until a stalemate is reached. But in this crossover, the Power Rangers are known by the Ninja Turtles to be heroic while the Power Rangers have no idea that the Ninja Turtles exist. It’s a fascinating wrinkle; one group of heroes have to prove themselves (the Turtles) while the other group’s valor (the Rangers) “shouldn’t” be in question in the first place. How does this dichotomy affect that first burst of fisticuffs, and how does this initial fight affect the overall crossover?
First off, I’m supremely impressed with your ability to use “kerfuffle” and “malfeasance” in the same sentence. And secondly, because the Turtles appeared on a later season of Power Rangers, I just assumed that these two teams already exist in the same universe. Which meant I didn’t have to waste pages coming up with some crazy gadget or temporal anomaly to bring them together. And I thought that, the fact that turtles already know of and respect the Rangers actually brought an interesting dynamic to the fight. The Rangers are acting out of character and the Turtles know it, but… since they’re “heroes”… they can’t just give them the benefit of the doubt. They still gotta do what’s right. But, yes… each Turtle has a different perspective on the Rangers before they meet, and that plays into the larger story, if that makes sense.
4. In the first issue’s solicit material a big cat is let out of the bag: Tommy, the Green Ranger, has broken off from the Rangers and has been recruited by the Foot Clan. In the first batch of seasons of ‘Mighty Morphin Power Rangers’, Tommy was often the wild card, the character whose growth had a tendency to define the major moments of the series. Will the axis of ‘MMPR/TMNT’ turn on Tommy, and if so, how will Raphael cope with no longer being the lone bad-boy renegade?
When we initially starting brainstorming ideas, we latched onto the idea of using this crossover as a way to not only explore character, but… maybe dig into some mythology as well, namely—Tommy’s past. It’s a bit of a mystery in some areas, and we saw that as an opportunity to tie in New York and the Turtles. So the answer is “Yes,” this story turns on some of Tommy’s decisions and his path is the one that not only brings the Turtles and Rangers into conflict, but also eventually into camaraderie. Interestingly enough, although Raphael and Tommy seem like the obvious match when it comes to bad-boy renegades, I actually found Raphael paired the best with, of all people… Trini. They ended up being my favorite duo to write.
5. Let’s talk about fight choreography. How are you drafting fights in your script? How much free rein does Simone [di Meo, the series artist] have in rendering these fights?
For me, writing a fight scene varies with each artist. First and foremost, because the hero usually defeats the villain, I think a fight’s number one purpose isn’t simply to move the plot forward, but to reveal character. So the “how” to me is much more important than the “if”. When I first work with an artist, I’m usually pretty specific of the pacing and beats of the fight, and how the character wins/loses. But once we build a rapport, I can usually take my hands off the wheel. With Simone, that happened almost immediately. Once I saw the amazing kinetic energy in his pages and his attention to character detail, I just let him be the central storyteller with the fight sequences. It’s a lot of fun and speaks to his talent… and my utter desire to be a lazy writer.
6. Reading the first issue, I noticed that a lot of the panels are stretched across the page in either horizontal or vertical stripes—a “widescreen” format of sorts, at times inverted for maximum impact. Was this a conscious decision considering how many characters would be featured in this series, not to mention all the tuchus they’d have to kick for the duration?
That’s all Simone. I may suggest angles and panel size, but that’s only when I know I need space for my “valuable words”. But I think that’s one of the benefits of Simone already having spent a year drawing Power Rangers. You have to illustrate team books in a different way than you do a solo series. In a comic that’s about one person, you get a lot of your emotion in close ups and composition. But for a team book, you have to not only learn how much space you need for the story, but also how to use group staging and individual body language to convey multiple emotions at the same time. It’s very difficult, but Simone makes it seem effortless.
7. What’s the optimum panel layout for an action book, do you think?
I don’t know if I have an optimal layout, but I definitely have my “go-tos”. I’m pretty sure most writers do because we all tend to break scenes the same way. I know how I want to enter, where I want the turn, and the out… so I’m sure I have panels that fall into a pattern. But, I think if you’re writing an action comic, you should aim to write toward page turns and splashes. As a medium, comics have the ability to surprise a reader 10-11 times an issue, so I think you’re doing yourself a disservice if you’re not using it. Also, even thought I’m a writer, comics will always be a visual medium. It’s important to support your artist by providing them with moments to shine, and it’s hard to do that if your whole story is two people talking at a table. I’m sure there are artists out there that still make that amazing, but… I try to think about the things I wanted to draw when I was a kid, and start writing from there.
8. Have there been crossovers that you’ve watched/read over the years that ultimately became sources of guidance for the drafting of ‘MMPR/TMNT’? If so, what were they? Aside from your current project, obviously, what’s the ultimate crossover that works the best, that is the optimum representation of the characters that are crossing over and the worlds from which they hail?
Oh man, I’ve read so many over the years… I wish I could give the really good ones the credit they deserve, instead of just secretly (or overtly) stealing from them. I do remember really liking the Amalgam crossover from Marvel and DC. I loved that it had two parts. The first being the iconic characters from both companies meeting each other, and then… the second wave of crazy hybrid characters like Batman and Wolverine becoming “Dark Claw” or Ghost Rider and Flash becoming “Speed Demon”, which is just a great name. I don’t know if the story was particularly impressive, but I remember it made me realize how similar so many superheroes were, and that maybe I could make my own characters in a similar fashion. In fact, I think I still probably do something like that when I’m creating my own. So, thanks Marvel and DC.
9. His shadow looms across this entire debut issue, even before we’re fully aware of it—how does the Shredder factor into this story? Does he factor into a fight in this story that you might want to hint at here?
Ah, I see what you did there. Without giving too much away, half the fun of doing this crossover isn’t just bringing the teenage heroes together, but also their villains. I’m not saying it happens, but Shredder and Rita Repulsa would make one hell of a power couple. But their malfeasant manipulations take center stage in this story and it was fun to see how both the Rangers and Turtles reacted to facing off against new villains.
10. You recently said on Twitter that “everything you need to learn in life can be distilled from Pat Benatar’s video for ‘Love is a Battlefield.’” Could we dig a little deeper into that here? How was this philosophy applied to the narrative of ‘MMPR/TMNT’?
You mean people actually read those tweets? Well, my career’s about to go south in a hurry. But if you really want to distill this… I mean, the video is frankly Shakespearean. A young woman, cast out and abandoned by her family, sets out on an unexpected journey. Alone in the dark uncertain world, she sings this song as a credo whenever evil tries to prey upon her. “We are young. No one can tell us we’re wrong. Searching our hearts for so long. Both of us knowing… Love is a battlefield.” Ultimately, this helps her overcome her fears, rally the other broken and disenfranchised souls and unite them in an epic showing of solidarity and empowerment. And I like to think that, when we see Pat on that bus alone at the end of the video, she’s actually heading back home, reborn, in order to reunite and save her shattered family. If that doesn’t remind you of a certain Power Ranger, well… I don’t know what to tell you. But, believe me… if I could have found a way to have the Power Rangers and Turtles throw down in a shoulder shimmy dance fight against Rita and Shredder, I would have. Maybe next time.
‘Mighty Morphin Power Rangers/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ #1 is in stores now.
Check out this 10-page preview of ‘Mighty Morphin Power Rangers/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ #1, courtesy of BOOM! Studios!
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