How Taylor And Byrne Juggled Two Universes For ‘Justice League/Power Rangers’ [Interview]
Over twenty years after six teenagers with attitude burst onto the scene, the Power Rangers are as popular as ever, and this week they're crossing the dimensional barrier to meet up with DC's most iconic heroes, the Justice League.
Ahead of the release of Justice League/Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, ComicsAlliance spoke to creators Tom Taylor and Stephen Byrne about crossing the two universes over, maintaining the appropriate tone, and the likelihood of Bulk and Skull versus Batman.
ComicsAlliance: I'm curious about how much of a brief you're given when it comes to an inter-company crossover like this? Do the publishers have a set of things they want to happen, or is a normal case of pitching the best story idea?
Tom Taylor: You'd be surprised actually. DC and Boom [Studios] came to me and said, "Tom, we'd like you to write a Power Rangers and Justice League story, give us a pitch!" and I gave them a pitch, and they really liked it.
There were a couple of changes and some tweaks, but generally what I originally thought of is what they responded really well to, and we were off and running. I think for Stephen it was the same thing, but I'll let you go. I saw a piece of art he'd done originally, and I thought "Holy c---, he's perfect!"
Stephen Byrne: Yeah, I kinda had the same experience; DC and Boom e-mailed me and asked if I'd be interested in this, and what my sort of interpretation of the characters would be. I think they wanted to make sure it was tonally right, so it wasn't super dark or heavy. I did something that I felt was tonally appropriate, and kind of bright and colorful; I referenced Ed McGuinness' Superman/Batman stuff and that iteration of the Justice League, and I did that piece of concept art. They were into and we went from there.
CA: In the first issue, it feels like it's a bit more Power Rangers than Justice League. Was there a sense that Rangers fans know who the JLA are more than JLA fans might know who the Power Rangers are?
TT: I think it was more that I wanted it to start from the Power Rangers' perspective, and I guess yes, in a way people do know the Justice League, and particularly DC Comics readers are going to know the Justice League. Starting it with the big event in the Power Rangers' lives, and something that throws them for a massive curve and then another one, then throwing them in with the Justice League, [means] we're experiencing what they're experiencing at the same time.
CA: With a crossover between two beloved teams and universes, how do you pare that down to what's essential? I imagine there's the temptation to throw in as many Easter Eggs and cameos as you can, is it a struggle figuring what's important to focus on?
TT: Always, yeah. I think when you've got a cast this big; we've got six Power Rangers, six Justice League members, villains, offsiders, other heroes, characters like Zordon and Alpha-5, it is difficult to figure out how much page time each one gets and it does come down to what's important. I find myself throwing out whole pages of interactions between characters because they don't move the story along. At the same time, you've got to find good moments for each character, so it becomes a juggling act. Luckily, I used to be a professional juggler, so I know how to do that.
SB: Is that true?
TT: That is true, that's not a lie. I used to be a street performer and juggle knives over my now-wife. I risked my love life for people's entertainment. Anyway, juggling twelve superheroes? Piece of cake.
SB: I know that reading it, I feel like each character gets a moment to shine. They all get cool moment to focus on them or an introduction, or anyone that doesn't in the first issue; that tradition carries on into the second issue.
CA: When doing a crossover like this, do you give much attention to the continuity of this team? Do you know where it fits in with each team's books? Does it fit in with the two ongoings, or is it own bubble of a one-off story?
TT: I think with something like this, you just try to find the heart of each team. In particular, I know the Justice League. I've grown up the Justice League since I was a kid and I've written them a lot in things like Injustice: Gods Among Us and Batman/Superman and other stuff I've done for DC. It's also for a lot of people, the core team of the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers is that first series, so that's where we've come from in this book, and Stephen that's probably your love as well, right?
SB: The original Power Rangers, yeah, they were my obsession when I was a kid, when I was like eight years old. I think for the Justice League, I don't think we were particularly tied to any continuity, but I know I intentionally referenced all the Rebirth costumes and that sort of stuff, to make it feel like the "real guys" even if we're not necessarily stressing out about what's happening in their books or whatever.
TT: Yeah, we're not hampered in any way by continuity which means we're free to tell good stories with good characters that hopefully everyone knows and recognizes.
CA: You mentioned the TV show and how formative that was; when you're working with characters with defined appearances from live-action television, is that different working on more iconic characters that have been interpreted a million different ways?
SB: I think it can be. Personally, I don't stress out too much about getting the likenesses exactly right, because I think it can lead to stuff looking kind of stiff, like if you over-photo reference things. I more think about who the character is than who the actor who I played them is, and that's what I'm drawing. Obviously, there's certain features, or clothing, or hairstyles that can help identify them but I'm not overly concerned with it looking like the actor from the TV show, I'm more concerned with it looking like the character from the comic books.
TT: I think on that, my favorite note --- and I think I'm allowed to share this --- there was one particular character he was asked to make better looking. I think someone really likes this character.
CA: How much Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers did you each go back and watch?
TT: I watched heaps, yeah. I sat down with my kids and we watched heaps, and I watched all the recap-y stuff on YouTube, although I'm not sure we're allowed to say that. I watched a whole lot to make sure I was getting it right, but it was more making sure I got the tone right.
This is something that cannot be too dark --- this isn't Injustice --- this is the Power Rangers meeting the Justice League. It can't be stabbing and violence and nastiness and too much sass. It's gotta fit tonally, and I think that's something Stephen has captured beautifully as well.
SB: I already felt like I had a good handle on what the tone of the old TV show was; I did go back and watch a few episodes but not too many, just to refresh my memory. I actually spent more time reading the other existing Power Rangers comics to see how people were interpreting them on the page because I thought that would give me more to draw from for what I was going to do with them on the page.
TT: Yeah, I did the same, I went and read Kyle Higgins' stuff, and what they're doing on Power Rangers: Pink, but I think I leaned towards that season of television rather than what Kyle's doing, although that is great.
CA: One of the things I always liked as a kid was the way each character got their own focus episodes, and this first issue very much feels like a Zack-focused episode. What was it about Zack that made him standout as the protagonist of the first issue?
TT: I think Zack didn't get as much screen time; there weren't as many stories just about him. Characters like Tommy, everyone always seemed to go "Aw, let's learn more about him, he's so interesting!" and Zack, I really felt, needed a bit more. Also, I knew Walter [Emanuel Jones] who played him, so I know his voice which I thought would make it easier going in.
Also, I just had a scene in my head of him meeting Batman, and because he's quite a funny character --- particularly once we get to #2 and he starts talking with him and interacting with him more --- that dynamic between those two is perfect. Not to spoil anything, but they're the first two to meet each other and I thought that was a great entry point into our series.
CA: I've got two more questions, and by all means feel free to answer with a "no comment" because they might be too spoilery. First, are we gonna see Bulk and Skull meet the Justice League?
TT: I don't think so. I've agonized over this, but I don't think so. Maybe, maybe near the end. I don't know, it feels like I have to. You've asked the really tough questions. I'm just gonna say maybe.
Do you want to see it Stephen?
SB: Yeah, yeah, that could be fun. It would be a funny scene.
CA: Lastly, will there be some sort of Justice League-themed Megazord?
TT: I don't want to disappoint you, but probably not. I'm not going to say, "There certainly was one in a draft at one stage, I'm not sure." We'll put it in the sequel.
Justice League/Power Rangers #1 is on sale this Wednesday, January 11 2017, from DC Comics.