Power Rangers fans are finally getting some long-awaited answers about one of the franchise’s most mysterious and compelling Rangers this week, as the Phantom Ranger’s true identity and role in the greater Ranger mythos are fully revealed in Power Rangers Unlimited: Edge of Darkness. Those who have read the issue know that Phantom Ranger has an important part to play in a legendary character’s journey, but Phantom is also playing a role in the present day as well, and ComicBook.com had the chance to speak to writer Frank Gogol all about the issue, what led to Phantom’s origins, and more.
Phantom Ranger has been one of the more intriguing characters in the franchise, mostly because we don’t know much about him (until now at least), and that did bring some anxiety with it.
“I do think Phantom Ranger is this giant question mark in Power Rangers history, and one that’s had 20, 24, 25 years to kind of stew in its own fan theories, which is at the same time anxiety-inducing, but also really interesting as a writer because there’s a lot of opportunity there,” Gogol said. “I keep using the word canvas and the word runway to describe the opportunity because there’s not a whole lot established about the character. So it was pretty freeing, while also anxiety-inducing.”
“When I was first talking to Dafna in our meetings kind of jamming on the story, I said to her that this is Power Rangers’ Game of Thrones, right? This is where all the fan theories are, this is the thing that so many people are connected to, and they’ve lived for so long with the idea of what they want it to be that there’s never going to be a story that we’re going to come up with in these meetings that’ll check every box for every person,” Gogol said. “There’s no way you can please everyone, and weirdly after saying that out loud, it was freeing. I realized that there is no way to make everyone happy, so I’m just going to focus on telling the best story I can to introduce this character in a big way and set them up for stories for years to come hopefully.”
Phantom isn’t in that many episodes over the franchise’s history, but there were still enough appearances for Gogol to have a solid idea of who the character is and the role he carries in the overall franchise.
“There was initially early a three-hour jam session with Dafna and Gwen Waller, the assistant editor, and I, where we kind of talked about who the Phantom Ranger was, how they could fit into what’s going on in the present books, and just what the shape of the story would be. And after watching the 10 episodes the Phantom Ranger appears in, the seven in Turbo and the three in In Space, and realizing that this character is really, really undefined, like almost no personality, very, very little dialogue, the backstory comes from one of those 10 episodes, and it’s pretty slight. So, we had a much blanker slate than I thought. So, what we had to do is kind of think about what we’d seen already and kind of boil him down to the most core concept of the character. And the thing that stood out to me most was in two of the 10 episodes he shows up in, he delivers Zords to the Power Ranger teams, right? In Turbo he delivers the Rescuezords, and In Space he delivers the Delta Megaship, I think. And yeah, that to me, is like, ‘All right. So, this guy is the transporter of the Power Rangers’ universe. He’s a courier.’ And that’s kind of where the base idea for the one-shot came from.”
In the issue we learn that the Phantom Ranger is actually not a person per say but is a being made up entirely of Morphin Energy, so we had to ask if that was always the plan or if at some point an actual person was under the helmet.
“I think if I’m remembering correctly, early on Dafna and I both agreed and kind of said at the same time that we don’t think we should take the helmet off, at least now. That the story should be an introduction, it should be the first hopefully of many Phantom Ranger stories, and if we took the helmet off here, it would kind of take the wind out of the sails, right? He stops being interesting as soon as you know who he is. So I kind of made it my mission to say, ‘Okay, how do we make him even more interesting? How do we add layers? How do we raise new questions? How do we tease some of the answers that we’ve plotted out that aren’t in this, as an info dump, but might be brought up later?’ So, making him tied to the Grid, making him a lot older than we thought he was, making him a being made of Morphin energy, tying him to Rita’s history. Stuff like that was all really cool touchstones that we could use to flesh out this character who didn’t really have a whole lot of a backstory, and while still keeping the helmet on,” Gogol said.
“Also, some of the fan theories were kind of taken off the table just via stuff that exists in other stories already,” Gogol said. “One of the big ones is that it’s Billy, the Blue Ranger. But we see in the Coinless universe during Kyle’s run way back that the Phantom Ranger and Billy fight side by side. So we knew that without jumping through a lot of hoops and crazy story explanations, that that one wouldn’t really make sense. And like I said, we didn’t want to take the helmet off yet and we wanted to create a long runway looking forward for the character, but also a long runway of looking backwards.”
We also see Phantom’s role in Rita’s journey, as Phantom attempts to rescue Fienna and Rita from Master Vile. While the tory revolves around some pretty epic concepts, there is a heartfelt story of a parent trying to save their child at the core of it, and you might want to grab some kleenex.
“So, in my creator-owned stuff, all my books are fairly small in scale. They’re a little more intimate in that they’re really character-focused and not these cosmic epics, like some of the Power Rangers stuff. Because BOOM! and Dafna chose me to write the story, I wanted to bring my storytelling sensibilities to it, so I wanted to create lots of buildups to moments in the story,” Gogol said. “One of them is you see Rita tell the story to Phantom when he’s kind of unconscious and losing himself in the Grid, and then at the end, you see Phantom when his little arc for the story completes and he realizes that it’s okay to kind of care about people. He goes and he’s there for her in the same way, but his own way. And just building up those moments.”
“We know that Master Vile is Rita’s dad, but I had this idea early on that maybe Rita didn’t know and that Fienna was keeping it from her to protect her, like how parents think they know better for their children. And sometimes they’re right, and sometimes what they do is the wrong thing, but at any rate, Fienna kept this information from Rita and I knew that we were going to reveal it to Rita, and we get that really heartbreaking silent panel toward the end of the book where Master Vile changes back from his human form to the Master Vile form. And Rita, you see that quiet panel of Rita having that realization, and that’s the moment she starts down that road of being the Empress of Evil, right? Hope starts to slip away right there,” Gogol said.
“So I just wanted to build in character moments like that for our core cast, Phantom, Fienna, and Rita. I think Fienna’s is probably the most emotionally gut-wrenching for me. There’s the scene where it’s, you’ll remember the panel, it’s Fienna’s face and it’s bisected by a panel of her cranking up the Grid battery,” Gogol said. “If I did my job right hopefully, the dialogue sells that Fienna knew that this was what was… She looked at it as a suicide mission and she knew the whole time what was going to happen and she was still putting on that brave face for Rita and kind of lying to her. I don’t know, those are the things that I live for in stories. When I read something, that’s what I want out of it. No matter how big the scale is, unless there’s some kind of human emotion or some kind of emotional payoff, it’s not a complete story to me. So, I just want to make sure that we had a lot of that in this small space.”
You can check out our full review of Edge of Darkness right here, and the issue is in comic stores now.
What did you think of the issue? Let us know in the comments or as always you can talk all things Power Rangers with me on Twitter @MattAguilarCB!