Like any other kid who grew up in the 90s, my TV diet mainly consisted of Nickelodeon, Saturday morning cartoons, ABC’s TGIF block of programming, and the occasional free preview of the Disney Channel. Needless to say most shows were filled with slime, hijinks, hugs, laugh-tracks, and catchphrases, but every now and then an episode would drop a real life truth bomb on you. Here’s five episodes that chipped away at my childhood innocence.
Even though I enjoy many forms of pop culture and have been to New York Comic Con twice in the last two years, I still haven’t picked up a comic book in a very very long time. (I used to buy Animaniacs comics and other random issues of X-Men and Wonder Woman from a local flea market circa 1995.)
Luck seemed to be on my side on Saturday as the weather cleared up and I managed to see and do everything I wanted to at New York Comic Con. Going in with realistic expectations and a pre-determined schedule helped, but I think part of a successful Comic Con experience is luck – and timing.
First on tap was The Nerd Machine booth, which I swore wasn’t over by The Block, but lo and behold, it was. Normally that wouldn’t have mattered but TNM was holding “Smiles for Smiles” photo ops with various celebrities to raise money for Operation Smile and Zachary Levi (Chuck) was there, like at that moment.
Despite some slightly panicked wandering of the showroom floor, my friend and I made it in time to have a super quick meet-and-greet and photo with Zachary Levi. We also each walked away with a free “Viva La Nerdolution” poster and some other swag from the merchandise table. First win of the day!
Since it was still kind of early (re: not yet at max capacity) and we were already on the showroom floor we decided to just continue shuffling through the crowds, up and down each aisle taking in as much as we could – from the artwork to the cosplayers to all the other geek-themed stuff. Finn from Adventure Time seemed to be the most common character we spotted, although there were also several Waldo sightings and we even found Carmen Sandiego.
Besides The Nerd Machine, the 20th Anniversary Power Rangers booth was my favorite find. Not only were there action figures on display from each of the seasons but there was a couple of video monitors set up playing various episodes from the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. There was also a decent size replica of the original Megazord.
After about two hours on the showroom floor we hit our sensory overload limit and headed downstairs to the no-cell phone service zone to enjoy some panels. Seriously the Javits Center and T-Mobile don’t mix well, which makes the NYCC app pretty unhelpful at times. Thankfully it didn’t matter as we never needed to devise a ‘Plan B’.
For us, the first panel of the day was “The Mary Sue Presents: Representation in Geek Media”, which we narrowly made it into. Like the line was cut-off right after us, standing room only kind of narrow. I still consider that win number two of the day.
The academic nerd in me was pretty psyched for this panel, not only because it was something unique to the con experience, but also because it was a chance to contemplate and examine the larger picture of the “geek” media I consume.
The panel consisted of a couple of people from The Mary Sue website and a couple of others who are creative types within the mainstream comic book industry. Although the obvious result of the discussion was ‘yes it would be nice if media represented a greater variety of people’ I still found the panel to be quite entertaining, and funny. I think the most interesting topic brought up during the roundtable discussion was the dilemma, or lose-lose scenario, of introducing a new character into an existing universe and the equally daunting task of re-imagining an existing character to better represent our current times and diverse cultures.
Given the close call with The Mary Sue panel I wasn’t willing to take any chances on the next panel I had my eyes on, “Showrunners”, which meant some quality time camping out in the queue line. However, the good thing about line-waiting at Comic Con is that you’re surrounded by people who are deeply interested in the same thing you are.
Besides the good conversations, our get-in-line-early strategy paid off as we were able to get pretty decent seats. “Showrunners” was part exclusive clips from the upcoming documentary of the same name, and part Q&A session with the the documentary’s director and producer along with some of the featured showrunners including Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire), Greg Plageman (Person of Interest) and Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica).
Obviously Showrunners looked really interesting and I cannot wait for its release in 2014, but getting to learn a bit more about the inner workings of a TV show from some pretty high profile people in attendance was an added bonus. Out of the entire panel and screening, the following quote is what really stuck with me, “You work just as hard on the things that fail as you do on the things that succeed.”
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that no one sets out to make bad TV, so I think that sentiment only further highlights the difficulty of creating and running a successful series, let alone one that is heralded as groundbreaking or game-changing.
By the time the “Showrunners” panel let out, the general crowd had thinned out considerably so we took a quick detour to Artist Alley before making one final trip to the showroom floor.
Last year I never made it over to Artist Alley so that turned out to be an enjoyable stroll despite my complete lack of knowledge for almost all things comic book in nature. One webcomic caught my eye though – The Zombie Office. Check it out, it’s pretty damn entertaining if you’ve got a desk job.
So good times were had by all, and the NYCC fun even spilled over into Penn Station. Two Stormtroopers were standing at the bottom of the escalator giving high fives to all of us boarding the train back to New Jersey. I can’t think of a better way to end the day.
Whaaaat! Yeah, that was my first reaction upon learning that Mighty Morphin Power Rangers debuted 20 years ago. I mean mathematically that all makes sense, twenty years ago I would have been the right age to think that teenagers in dinosaur inspired fighting machines battling interplanetary bad guys with minions called Putty Patrollers was awesome.
Despite Power Rangers ability to retool and recast for a new set of kids every couple of years, its original version does not stand the test of time (and I can’t vouch for the others). Between the borrowed footage from the Japanese Super Sentai franchise and the incredible 90s fashion everyone is sporting, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers doesn’t tend to be a show that most people rewatch.
Regardless of its quality, now or then, back in 1993 I was totally obsessed with the series. Now I know me saying I was obsessed doesn’t really have much weight to it since I’m frequently obsessed with a TV show, but I watched all of the episodes, had the action figures, owned a set of Yellow Ranger pajamas (Pink Ranger ones were impossible to find), and even had my own morpher/gloves/gun set.
My brother and I, along with many of the other neighborhood kids even played Power Rangers after school. And I’m not just talking about the video games or with the action figures – I mean acting out our own version of Power Rangers. Looking back, I’ve gotta say that The Karate Kid films and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers were responsible for a lot of terrible backyard karate moves.
But besides filling my Saturday mornings and after-school hours for a handful for years, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers remains memorable to me for two specific reasons:
1.) I guess you can say I had a ‘Santa Claus isn’t real moment’, because after reading an interview with the cast members I learned that many of the actors were not in fact teenagers, but in their mid-20s. Of course I know this is normal now, but at the time it was mind blowing. It’s not that I thought everything on TV was real, but I guess I thought a bit more of it was authentic, you know the human elements anyway. It was the first time I felt betrayed by TV, and, well, it wouldn’t be the last. (See I do know the difference between reality and fantasy.)
2.) For all of its flaws and ridiculous plot lines, Power Rangers really resonated with me because the female characters got to kick ass too. And there wasn’t just one token tomboy either. Kimberly, Trini, Aisha, and Kat were tough, but girly. They weren’t perpetually getting themselves kidnapped or knocked out either, and in comparison to a lot of shows, past and present, that’s a pretty big accomplishment.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers might not be the best example of a TV show that created strong female characters (it’s not, I’m a Buffy fan remember) but it was certainly good enough for my 8-year-old self.
The original incarnation of Power Rangers lasted for 3 seasons, until 1995, and that’s about the time I moved on to Disney and Nickelodeon programming. But Power Rangers has lived on, the newest season – Power Rangers Megaforce – just premiered on February 1st on Nickelodeon.
Apparently the Power Rangers really are an unstoppable force.