No, not this. I promise I’m not subjecting you to a review of this sappy holiday hokeyness on VHS. For less annoying nostalgic fun, please read on…
In August of 1993, I was wrapping up a fun Summer spent living with my Mom’s side of the family in New Jersey. It was a wonderful experience that I refer to as “My Magical Summer” and strangely enough, one of the greatest highlights of my time there was the Saturday morning premiere of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers on the FOX Kids Network. A monumental event for me, which culminated in Megazord sized Christmas disappointment.
With the release of the tragically cheap, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III in March of 1993, (which despite the cultural Mandela Effect among 90’s kids, is not subtitled Turtles In Time), the flame of my love for the radical green teens was snuffed out completely. Though comic books were soon to become my greatest obsession, I was still young enough to be lured in by a new team of martial arts lovin’ high school heroes. So when I saw a commercial for a new show called Mighty Morphin Power Rangers while watching Batman The Animated series one Saturday, I made a glowing neon mental note of what time that I needed to be in front of the television one week from that moment.
There was just one problem, on that date I found myself in a hotel room on a family vacation to Hersheyland in Hershey, PA with my aunt, uncle and cousins. I was worried that the lure of milk chocolate laced adventures would be too strong to convince my loved ones to wait just 30 short minutes before sallying forth into the streets lined with Hershey’s Kiss shaped lampposts (yes, that was a real thing.) Luckily, they indulged the need to behold with my own eyes, the first appearance of these primary colored, helmeted heroes on American network TV.
The resulting 30 minutes of programming dazzled my senses and sparked my imagination, to the point where all throughout our tour of the Hershey’s factory, all I could think of was being endowed with my own Power Coin by a giant floating head in a tube and pummeling Putties into pieces, while wooing the lovely Kimberly, played by Amy Jo Johnson. As a result, my remaining months in New Jersey were spent building my own Power Morpher out of cardboard and tin foil, which was carefully worn under my shirt, so as to not reveal my secret obsession.
On a trip to the store with my Grandma a week later, I did see some Power Rangers toys on the shelf, but the 8 inch figures were selling for way more money than I had in hand from the monthly allowance my Dad would send to me. Rather than save up my money to buy them a few weeks later, I settled for a single articulated Spider-Man figure, which I played with endlessly and eventually repainted to be the Black Costume version of the character. I figured that the holidays were just around the corner and surely I could lobby to receive some Power Rangers under the tree come Christmas morning. A foolish bit of hubris I would soon come to regret.
Upon returning home to California in December, I immediately realized that the fever for Power Rangers had grown much greater in The Golden State than The Garden State over the months since the show began airing on weekday afternoons. My trip to Toys R Us after getting off the plane found me coming up empty handed when it came to “Mighty Morphin Merchandise”. No full sized action figures were available, just random school folders, a few tiny PVC figurines, VHS tapes, stickers and candy dispensers. It was as if Rita had sent Goldar on a mission to steal every toy bearing the likeness of her enemies and the dog faced goon had done it! I soon learned though, that it wasn’t a winged, golden-armored beast man that has scooped up that precious plastic, it was a far greater evil…toy scalpers!
Still empty handed, just a week before the big day, while on a random trip to the mall with my Mom for some last minute Christmas shopping, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. The new neighbor kids who had moved in while I was away, were happily playing with their Jason, Zack and Billy figures (they didn’t care much for the “girl rangers”), while I was having to settle for buying old peg warmers like Bandai’s Tacky Stretchoid Warriors (which in retrospect were pretty cool). But passing through the center of the mall that day, I suddenly saw what I thought had to be a mirage, something too beautiful for words. Yes, a mountain of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers action figures!
I couldn’t believe my eyes. There at a little booth in the middle of the mall were the red, blue, black, yellow and pink Power Rangers, still in their unconventional, triangle shaped boxes. Next to them were malevolent minions like Finster, Squat, Baboo and a majestic Megazord. But most important of all, the Power Gun/Sword and Power Morpher set, complete with gleaming golden power coins. As I urged my Mom to move closer to the precious Power Rangers bounty, I quickly recognized the huge line of parents encircling the booth and pulling out wads of cash, as they made known which color ranger their kids had requested. Shortly thereafter the price tags came into view and my heart sank.
These brightly colored pieces of plastic were selling for $50 each and the Megazord for more than $100. As a kid who was used to paying $4.99 for a super hero action figure, my mind couldn’t process the concept of a mark-up like this. Supply and demand was not an economics lesson being taught in 6th grade, nor was the dark side of capitalism a thing I would come to comprehend for many more years. It never would have occurred to me that the same shady guys who were trying to sell my Dad high end stereo speakers out of a van in shopping center parking lots would see an opportunity to overcharge desperate parents for insanely popular toys that Bandai had failed to anticipate the demand for.
Understand that I had missed out on the mad hordes of parents trampling each other for Cabbage Patch Dolls in the early 80’s and the madness over Tickle Me Elmo and Beanie Babies wouldn’t hit for a few more years. As far as I knew, stores were full of every toy you ever wanted, all you had to do was get enough chores completed to buy them. The harsh realities of the retail world had crashed down on me like a ton of bricks.
I knew my situation was hopeless. Asking my garage sale lovin’, bargain hunting Mom to shell out that kind of cash was not an option, because it felt as if I would have to offer up my entire Christmas present allotment, only to end up with a single Power Ranger. A toy that would only be in scale with my old BraveStarr figures. To be honest, imagining a play scenario where Zordon sent the Angel Grove teens on a mission to New Texas for a showdown with Tex Hex just wasn’t that appealing. As a result, I walked away with the shimmer of the most desired toys of the season burning a hole in the back of my head, as we left the mall empty handed.
If you’ve been anticipating a heartwarming reveal that on Christmas morning I found five carefully wrapped, triangle shaped presents nestled under the tree and spent all day re-creating my favorite episodes with them…I’m sorry to disappoint. It was not to be. But I made out pretty good anyway.
Christmas 1993 may have passed without a “Merry Morphin’ Miracle”, but to be fair, I don’t think I could have enjoyed playing with an action figure I knew cost as much as a video game, even if my parents had gotten the hint and sold a kidney to buy it for me. I did eventually purchase one of the smaller transforming Power Rangers figures a few months later, when the toy stores were more adequately stocked, but those larger figures continued to elude me in the months that followed.
Meanwhile I watched as the neighbor kids’ Power Rangers collection grew larger every month, including the addition of the coveted electronic Dragon Dagger. Sure, I felt a little ridiculous as an 11 year old becoming irrationally jealous of a 7 and 8 year old, but toy deficiency does crazy things to people, y’know? Eventually I made some sort of peace with the fact that Power Rangers figures would not be a part of my daily playtime activities, but for the next two decades a certain part of my brain was always unsatisfied. Luckily, this was not the end of the story.
As a nice button to this tale of holiday heartbreak, in 2021 I went to RetroCon to meet up with the crew from The Retro Network and other online friends. I made it my goal that year to hit all the toy vendor booths and dig through every under the table loose figure bin to find a full set of the original 8-inch Power Rangers figures and if I could, the transforming ones too.
Luckily Power Rangers toys were plentiful that year and I assembled both groups of “teenagers with attitude” pretty easily (though buying the White Ranger complete with Saba sword was a bit of an investment). It was a childhood dream fulfilled without having to take out a second mortgage. The only figure I didn’t find on that trip was the Green Ranger.
Flash forward to the months following RetroCon, I had proudly shared my finds on social media and was lucky to have William Bruce West on WIZARDS! The Podcast Guide To Comics, where his well known fandom for Saban’s multi-hued heroes was on full display. A few weeks later I received a surprise package in the mail, with a note inside reading:
As I explored the contents of the box, I was in disbelief at the glorious sight within. There, carefully packed, I found an 8-inch Green Ranger figure, complete with his golden shield armor.
My eyes welled up with joyful tears and a huge smile took over my face as I admired every inch of that vintage masterpiece. Placing the Green Ranger on my shelf next to the rest of the team, the hole in my heart from 1993 was suddenly filled. William Bruce West was my Santa Claus that year, showing the generosity of spirit that every Christmas movie or TV sitcom episode has strived for and delivering that “Mighty Morphin’ Miracle” I had been dreaming of.
Of course that generous gift has meant even more this year with the untimely passing of the actor who played Tommy aka the Green Ranger, Jason David Frank. He was a force for good, who since the 90’s had been projecting positivity into the hearts of fans and continued to happily participate in the Power Rangers franchise on all levels. He will be missed and this year has received a prominent place on my Christmas tree.
Here’s wishing you all Happy Holidays and may your retro dreams come true!
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