“We double dare you to mess with this pristine image of us! If you do, Saban will send us to kick your ass… er, give you a spanking! I can use the word ‘spanking’, right?”
I’m sure by now that many fellow fanboys (and girls!) have heard of the controversy surrounding the elaborate R-rated fan video of the original Power Rangers produced by Joseph Kahn as part of his “Bootleg Universe” series of such film shorts. If you haven’t seen this approximately 15-minute video yet, watch it here, then come back to this post.
The big controversy revolved around the fact that Kahn produced this maverick video entirely without the approval of Saban Entertainment, the company that produced the kid-friendly but high-concept and long-lived American version of the Japanese franchises that began with GaoRangers, and continued with many other similar genre series from there. The fight scenes, along with other sfx sequences, were lifted from these Japanese genre series and inter-mixed with new footage featuring American actors and Saban-produced effects, beginning with the classic Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers circa 1992.
The first few seasons gave us the classic presentation of the American iteration of the show. Its break-out character was the troubled but inherently heroic young martial arts expert Tommy Oliver, a.k.a. the Green Ranger, played by actor and martial arts expert Jason David Frank. He began his career as an unwitting enemy of the rainbow-hued team of monster-fighting heroes, later becoming a valued member after turning against the evil forces that initially gave him his battle armor and weapons, i.e., the Rangers’ arch-enemy Rita Repulsa. Tommy Oliver later took a hiatus from the team when he lost his Ranger powers, but was soon reintroduced with new armor and weaponry as the White Ranger by Season 3, taking over from the Red Ranger as team leader. This is where he fully solidified his iconic status.
The Season 2 intro that first features Jason David Frank (J.D.F., as his fans like to call him) as Tommy Oliver as a regular character can be viewed here. Many different Power Rangers series and telefilms were produced from 1992 all the way up to the present, as well as a major big screen motion picture featuring the Season 3 crew, all having to change format to make use of the footage taken from different sentai series in Japan.
The result was an extremely popular action adventure franchise on this side of the Pacific, which for a time spawned different series that borrowed footage and basic concepts from the more “mature” Japanese versions. These other kid-friendly Saban sentai series included Masked Rider, Big Bad Beetleborgs Metallix (hate the show all you want, but you gotta love that theme song/intro!), and V.R. Troopers, none of which caught on in America like the Power Rangers did (no crossovers either, unfortch!). Though the more kid-oriented sentai genre in America only had a few years of small screen popularity in America during the early to mid-1990s, the slew of Power Rangers series continued on and off into the present decade, for a time falling out of and then back into ownership by Saban. Many of the series can now be streamed on Netflix, and I encourage all readers of this post to check them out.
Like all shows produced by Saban – both those designed to cash in on the Japanese sentai genre (the theme being super-heroes who battle monsters) and those from other genres (including harmless teen romance series like Sweet Valley High, based on a popular book series of the same name) they were aimed at what people at the time would derisively refer to as the “kiddie market.” I was and remain a big fan of the Power Rangers, because despite how much the scripts were geared towards a young audience, the concept was fantastic and solid, with characters that were both endearing and inspiring. The writing wasn’t always top-notch, but the charisma of several of the characters, not to mention the compelling backstory of Tommy Oliver when he was added to the classic series, would often more than made up for this. That explains why so much of its American audience remained fans of the characters and the concept well into adulthood; it was much more than mere nostalgia. The series has since become something of a sleeper legend amongst sci-fandom of all ages.
Jason David Frank would go on to reprise the role of Tommy Oliver as a mentor to a new generation of teen Rangers in successor shows of the franchise, and has also been clamoring to appear in a new Power Rangers movie produced by Saban. His fan support for this is quite heavy.
Which brings us to the debacle of Kahn’s R-rated video. J.D.F. and the rest of the original cast had nothing to do with it, but it did star some well-known actors, such as James Van Der Beek of Dawson’s Creek fame. The problem cuts to the heart of the oftentimes excellent and spectacular slew of fan-produced short films, perhaps best exemplified by Aaron Schoenke’s Bat in the Sun Productions and Kahn’s Bootleg Universe videos, which have begun appearing in large numbers on video sharing sites such as YouTube and Daily Motion over the past decade.
Since these fan films utilize mostly copyrighted characters which are in no way authorized by the companies or individuals who actually own them (e.g., Warner Bros., Disney, Saban, Capcom), they must be offered for public viewing free of charge, with the producers receiving no type of monetary remuneration whatsoever. So no harm, no foul, right? Well, here’s the thing… there are several people in the creative arts community who believe that these fan-produced, non-profit film shorts are crossing the line for the following reasons:
1) Those who own the intellectual property should have full control over the use of said properties, whether money is being made off of them or not. Plain and simple.
2) While the fan-produced films aren’t profiting off of someone else’s intellectual property in a financial sense, they are capable of giving a form of negative publicity to the property if they produce films that are geared towards an age demographic other than the one specifically targeted by the officially approved brand. Particularly, by taking a property essentially aimed at the child market and producing a fan-made short film that alters the characters and concept for adult viewers. A major case in point is Kahn’s Power Rangers video.
3) If the intended target audience of the official brand, or their legal guardians, happen to see these unauthorized fan videos, and for whatever reason doesn’t realize it was unauthorized, it could give the mistaken impression that this is what the official brand is all about, thus hurting sales for the rightful property holders.
4) The usual thing whenever kids are involved: The contemporary Western cultural ideology that children should be shielded from seeing certain things considered to be strictly “adult,” and that viewer prevention is actually possible to accomplish by [name the prevailing draconian measure], especially in the midst of today’s Information Age. And accordingly, if you produce an “adult” version of a brand whose official version is targeted to kids, then it’s believed that kids will seek out the R-rated version and watch it against the wishes of their parents or other adult guardians due to the familiarity of the brand.
5) Because the American conception of Power Rangers is a kid’s brand, this is how so many fans remember it. The fictional world created to fit the age demographic of that brand is considered by many fans and parents to be tainted when you add all of these “adult” elements – profanity, nudity, sexual situations beyond innocuous “puppy love” scenarios, hefty helpings of blood & gore, extremely dark & gritty tone, the portrayal of the characters as having too many serious flaws – and that this constitutes a major departure from, and betrayal of, the world crafted by Saban from an aesthetic view.
So to make a long story short, when Kahn’s video went viral, it became such a huge traffic sensation on YouTube (and elsewhere on social media) that Saban quickly got wind of it, didn’t like what they saw (to say the least), and demanded that YouTube take it down for copyright violations. The YouTube administration promptly did as instructed. Many fans applauded the action; others, however, cried foul due to the opinion that the video was not a legal infraction of any sort, and started an online campaign to have the video restored. Ultimately, a short time later YouTube did put the video back up (and it currently remains viral), with the caveat that Kahn added a big fat disclaimer screen at the start of the video to make it clear that his film is not affiliated with or authorized in any way by Saban Entertainment.
Could you possibly imagine any of these sweet faces having a dark side? (That, btw, was a rhetorical question.)
One of my respected colleagues in the field of authoring fantastic fiction happens to be one of those fans who disliked Kahn’s Power Rangers video and denounced it on his blog for pretty much all of the above reasons. Jason David Frank wasn’t happy with Kahn’s interpretation either, as he refers to himself as a “PG-13 guy” who wants to see the brand reserved for a young audience. I want to make it clear that I respect both of these guys, and I do understand why they feel as they do even though I disagree. So by all means, listen to and consider what they have to say while extending the same courtesy to those who view matters to the contrary.
Austin St. John, the original Red Ranger from Saban’s series, was more supportive of Kahn’s film from a purely professional standpoint, choosing to keep his personal aesthetic opinion to himself. Fan critic John of Mr. Weenie Productions, who runs the YouTube channel named after his rather ill-chosen nom de guerre, was appreciative of Kahn’s interpretation of the fan film, and responded to J.D.F.’s critiques here. It can be argued that John – whose videos are quite cogent, insightful, and articulate, thus allowing me to almost completely overlook his 1970s-style afro – is biased due to a personal dislike for both J.D.F. and Saban, which he makes clear vis a vis this and this. It can also be argued, of course, that John has a good reason for saying those things, as he does explain why he feels as he does in detail within each of those video critiques, so his opinions are not solely based on any personal bias, if any at all (most often opinions motivated heavily or entirely by personal bias will be filled with more ad hominums and personal insults than any cogent thoughts; take any of the typical things said in a web site’s comments section for numerous examples). I’ll let individual readers be their own judge, though opinions on either side may be biased due to their agreement or disagreement with Saban over this particular issue (so we should be wary of that, peeps!).
Now let’s get to my personal opinion of the matter. I didn’t think the fan video was perfect by any means, but I did like the work and time that obviously went into it, and I did think this dark and grim interpretation of the concept was intriguing. In short, I didn’t love it, but I did like it. I also like the fact that fans can produce their own interpretations of an iconic series while working independently of the Big Guys, and take chances like this… i.e., chances that Saban themselves would be highly unlikely to even consider taking (for good reason or not? Again, I’ll let the readers decide for themselves).
As is quite clear over the disparate reactions to this fan film by different segments of the fan base, with nothing close to unanimous, I think that what it ultimately comes down to is this: different fans must be expected to have a highly varying sense of aesthetics. What may be a cool idea for the concept to some fans may well constitute an unforgivable blot on its iconic image for others. It’s never going to be possible to please everyone, especially when it comes to such experimental ideas like those often presented by the fan films. Saban certainly has been inconsistent with the degree of quality for each series making up the franchise as a whole, so one can readily question their own commitment to the brand. With this point made clear, I will take each of the 5 main criticisms of the video that I listed above and explain why I do not agree with them (scroll above to refresh your memory on what each of them entail if you must!).
Point #1: While many believe that Saban should have full control over the intellectual property they own, there comes a problem if such control is considered to hold true in an absolute sense. This is another instance of the business world of private ownership clashing with the democratic principle of freedom of ideas and expression, one of the many conflicts of interest in a system where capitalism and democracy attempt to mesh together (yup, another assault on capitalism! Go, me!). As a published author who is now working on novels and short stories featuring copyrighted characters of my own, I understand the reason why those who have created characters and a concept want to have control over how they make money off the official property; in many cases, our intellectual property is the very bread and butter on which we live.
However, the thing about characters and concepts which leave a huge psychic mark on a large number of people throughout a society is that they become iconic and transcend the limitation of being one person’s or executive board’s private property, or a mere means for a handful of people to make money off of. They become a meme or an idea that works its way into the collective cultural framework. While they never become as important as real people or situations, they do represent many things on a variety of philosophical and sociological levels to the culture in question. They cannot, and IMO should not, be narrowly confined to the wishes and interpretations of one person or corporation that holds the copyright. They have a value and substance to the collective zeitgeist that goes well beyond a simple business patent used to make money for a single or handful of individuals.
So while I understand that copyright has to prevent unauthorized hands from making a living off of someone else’s cash cow for the duration of the copyright’s legal life span, trying to give full control of how individual minds express the concept and characters outside of the business realm where profit is made over it is going too far. It crosses the line between the right to own an intellectual concept you created or purchased, and the freedom of others to express what that concept means to them outside the strict parameters set or intended by the copyright owner.
This is why you see so many pastiches of Superman, Spider-Man, Tarzan, Mickey Mouse, etc., in unauthorized versions. They are variations of the basic concept that helps authors and artists answer many questions about these characters, or what sociological tropes they may represent, that the corporate copyright holder may choose never to express themselves. In other words, what if Superman caved under the immense emotional and social pressures he was subjected to and essentially went nucking futs? See Mark Waid’s Irredeemable comic book series for that. What if all the familiar super-villains in the Marvel and/or DC Universes defeated all the genre’s popular super-heroes and took over the world? See Mark Millar’s Wanted comic book series for that (and ignore the movie loosely based on it). What if the world’s greatest super-hero team (that would be the Justice League, of course) decided to take over the world with the best of intentions? See the late Mark Gruenwald’s classic 12-issue maxi-series The Squadron Supreme for that. What if the original version of Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family lived in a world that mirrored the one we live in instead of the more innocent and whimsical reality created for them by Fawcett in the Golden Age of Comics? See Alan Moore’s 1980s re-interpretation of the copycat hero Marvelman/Miracleman for that. How would Mickey Mouse and his fellow Disney toons act and react if they expressed “adult” needs amidst all the typical hokum of the cartoons? See Dan O’Neill’s short-lived underground comix series Air Pirate Funnies for that. None of the above series would have been allowed to have been produced if the respective owners had that type of power (in fact, Disney successfully sued O’Neill over Air Pirates Funnies, which is what happens when you consider any iconic copyrighted characters to be sacred cows).
Again, this is a classic example of what happens when business interests collide with that democratic ideal of freedom of speech and expression. In fact, John of Mr. Weenie Productions has accused Saban of being all too quick to block fans from saying much of anything about their product on YouTube that isn’t authorized by the company, as stated here and here. Is this where absolute control of intellectual property by its owners ultimately leads? Pick your side carefully, people!
“Damn you, Alan Moore, for robbing me of my innocence with your deconstructionist bullshit!
“Oh god, did I just say ‘bullshit’? Um, I meant… ‘cowpoop’ or ‘cowdoodoo’ or something like that! And I meant ‘darn’, not ‘damn!’
“Good gosh, I just said it again! Mr. Moore, you’re on my… doodoo list! Wait, should I be alluding to excrement at all? ‘You’re on my bullhockey list, Mr. Moore!’ Was that better and more kid-friendly?
“Wait, you mean kids are allowed to say ‘poop’ and ‘doodoo’ nowadays!? I bet that’s all Alan Moore’s fault! I’d kill him, but I’m not ever supposed to acknowledge the possibility of death. Can I just slap him a few times instead? I promise I won’t do it too hard. Wait, am I even allowed to actually hit anyone in my book?”
Point #2: I don’t think that any business should have a legal right to stifle any alternate artistic expression/interpretation of their characters by fans who are not producing it for profit. As I see it, that is too much power to give to any corporate entity. I do not buy the reasoning that alternate artistic expression might bring bad publicity to their product that will ultimately hurt sales to a truly discernible extent. I believe including the type of disclaimer that Kahn added to his video was more than enough of a compromise. As I noted, it’s not possible – let alone desirable – to allow powerful corporate entities to try and control every possible expression of a meme or idea that resonates on such a deep level to so many people in society.
I can hear this coming: “Well, Chris, I’m betting you’ll change your tune in a hurry if your characters Centurion and Mike Nero, Beowolf are ever ‘bastardized’ by some fan film producer who interprets them in a much different way than you do.” No, I will not change my tune and agree I should have the right to call a cease and desist on some non-profit-oriented satire or re-interpretation of my characters. If I don’t like them, I will say so and explain why. If I disagree with whatever the point the producer is trying to make, I will say so and explain why. But saying he/she shouldn’t have a right to express this view of my characters? As much as I love and value my literary creations, they will never be real people, and I should not have the right to sue for a business-oriented equivalent of “defamation of character.” At least, that’s the way I see it in regards to balancing business with democracy, to such an extent as that can actually be done.
Point #3: This possibility is just too bad for the same reason mentioned above. As long as that disclaimer is there, both before the video starts and after it ends, then the fan producer should have his ass covered. Beyond that, it’s not his/her fault if people refuse to read the disclaimer, or overlook it for whatever reason. Freedom of expression with various ideas and memes is the price we pay to have even the nominal democracy we enjoy. Total control of an idea or concept is impossible, and attempting to do so leads to all sorts of fascist insanity. Attacking bureaucrats when they do this, but supporting corporate entities who attempt to do essentially the same thing, is basically a case of putting money over what the U.S. Constitution represents. Yes, the Constitution protects the concept of private property, but the Founders also added the Bill of Rights for a very good reason. Again, we the people need to pick our sides carefully when such conflicts arise. We need to stop worshiping money despite the fact that we all have no choice but to earn it in order to survive in this system.
“Why hide the true symbol of my loyalty anymore? I fight for profit, investment, and the Kapitalist Way! Oh yea, and copyrights too! Can I add ‘bank bail-outs’ to that list? Heh.”
Point #4: I understand that the great majority of my colleagues and friends, including the many who lean to the Left politically, are not youth liberationists. But since I’ve supported that platform since I was 13, I’m going to stand up for that principle even if that puts me on the opposite side of people I love and/or respect in certain instances, especially since I strongly believe people on the Left should be supporting this platform rather than overlooking it, let alone denouncing it. It’s the next logical step on the emancipation agenda. I also understand that a great many people on the Left haven’t read or seen the platform since its revival between the mid-1990s and now, something that was certainly not the case with the Left during the 1970s, when liberals of that era were beginning to take youth liberation seriously until its derailment by the conservative takeover of government in the U.S. and U.K. by the beginning of the 1980s (but that’s a whole other topic in itself that I’ll tackle here in the future).
The bottom line when it comes to this topic is the following: We cannot assign a concept or meme to be the unofficial social “property” of a specific age group. And this holds regardless of what our conception of children or young people in general happens to be. Memes relating to characters and concepts of fantastic fiction have an archetypal value that resonates with people of all ages, no matter what the demographic target of the copyright holders may happen to be. This is the exact reason why super-heroes and various aspects of the sci-fi genre in general rose out of the “kiddie ghetto” they were once assigned (or is that consigned ?) to in America and embraced by the mainstream. They represent ideas and fantasies that transcend strict age barriers. The Power Rangers concept is no different in this regard.
This is why we will see multiple interpretations of Batman and the rest of his teammates in the Justice League that are designed to appeal to different age groups. For instance, we see the live action TV series from the late ’60s (often now referred to as “Batman ’66”) that brings us what our culture would call a “kid-friendly” version of the character despite being designed to appeal to all ages in that time period. We see the Batman animated shows of the 1970s, and The Super Friends, which were clearly designed to depict these heroes in a way that was harmonious to the innocent, idealized world we want children to see in place of the “harsh” reality we all know. We see the animated versions of the Dark Knight from the 1990s into the 2000s – and his super-heroic brethren from Justice League and its even better successor series Justice League Unlimited – produced by Warner Bros. that did a much better job of compromising with an appeal to “all ages”; one which recognizes the growing sophistication of children despite the best intentions of adults to keep them in a “blissful” state of innocence about the real world. We see the darker versions from the Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan films that are similar to the grim and gritty but “PG-13” atmosphere of the comics, along with the recent very dark and bloody direct to video animated films and video games we and our kids play on the X-box. And we see the “mature only” Batman stories such as Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke and Grant Morrison’s Arkham Aslylum graphic novel. [Update: The recent animated video version of Batman: The Killing Joke officially released by DC Entertainment was given an R rating!]
As another example, the funny animal genre used to be reserved largely for kids in any given medium, while ignoring the fact that the Warner Bros. Looney Toons shorts used to include innuendos that were intended to appeal to adult viewers, something the subsequent cartoons designed entirely for Saturday morning TV completely divested from them. We have seen that the funny animal genre, if not specifically the Disney and Warner Bros. Toons, could be interpreted in an “adult” fashion with creations such as the animated feature Fritz the Cat and renowned comic book series like Hepcats. This may not seem to be comparable to the above example with Batman and super-heroes in general, until you consider that there are many fans and casual viewers alike who think the entire funny animal genre should be “kids only” material. But the reality is that these fictional entities can be placed into many different milieus that work equally well for many forms of interpretation.
“I’d tell ya what you can do with yourself, Fritz, but I’m worried Bugs Bunny might hear me, so could ya stick around ’till I can think of a kid-friendly way to say it?”
Then we come to what many may consider the epitome of American idealized innocence that we want our kids to read or watch: Archie Andrews and the gang. This goes all the way back to the introduction of these characters in Pep Comics circa the early 1940s, rapidly displacing the super-heroes who were previously featured in that mag. We could find many fans who would vehemently insist that the good folk of Riverdale should only be geared towards presenting an idealized teen world to ostensibly pre-teen readers, thereby preserving the conception of innocence that Western audiences – but particularly Americans – so highly revere as the perfect trope for their children to enjoy without being “burdened” or “forced to mature too quickly” by presenting them with any material or situations that are considered “adult.”
Except that for a while now, though especially since the 1990s, it’s become clear that the Archie crew are so iconic that the storytelling dynamics which made that crew appeal to so many on such a deep archetypal level that it can work just as well beyond the confining walls of a “kiddie” conception. We’ve had Riverdale visited by the Punisher, human-eating zombies (see Afterlife With Archie), a human-hunting Predator alien, and a “Sharknado” twister (from the SyFy Channel’s gory Sharknado film franchise)… all of which were either fully or co-published by Archie Comics! Not only that, but we have the “mature” horror-oriented antics of Sabrina the Teenaged Witch in the recent ongoing Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comic, also published by Archie themselves! There is even a little back up story in Archie vs. Predator #1 where Sabrina – then in her childhood – meets Hellboy, filed off horns and all! [Update: And now we have the Riverdale TV series on the CW network, which is hardly “kiddie” fare!]
Okay, some may argue, “But that’s different, Chris, because at least Archie Comics, the copyright holder of Archie Andrews, had given their stamp of approval to these projects.” Yes, true, but this legal fact in no way contradicts the point I’ve been making here. No doubt many people who grew up reading or watching the animated exploits of the traditional “innocent” Archie gang would be shocked to the point of requiring a change of pants if they picked up an issue of Afterlife With Archie, Archie vs. Predator, Archie vs. Sharknado, or Sabrina’s Chilling Adventures [and readers back in the day certainly would never have anticipated something like the Riverdale TV series, or even the best-selling Life With Archie comic book series]. No doubt many would shout, “Omg, this is not something I want my kids to read! Archie is supposed to be for kids!” But the truth is, the crew at Archie Comics have realized that their All-American boy and his friends constitute a conceptual meme and set of archetypes that work very well across many genres, and can be interpreted differently by different age demographics in a manner that works equally well for each. They simply cannot be confined to the “kiddie ghetto,” and their successful break from it over the past two decades makes a very important point.
And to think Mr. Castle didn’t even give Archie time to draw his squirt gun. This is how unfair it is when an outrageously homicidal vigilante meets an outrageously innocent teenager. It would serve the mean old Punisher right if Archie sneezed into the barrel of his uzi and snotted up the works.
Now let’s return to the Power Rangers in particular. Are they a concept that can only work in an innocent and idealized type of world with hefty bits of bloodless fantasy violence thrown into the mix? Certainly not, I say. Like Batman and the rest of the DC heroes, like any funny animal characters, and like the Archie gang, they represent a solid concept that can work well in many different interpretations, spanning the conceptions of “innocent world,” or “PG-13 world” (sort of like Archie’s Life With Archie series), or grim and gritty “adult” world.
As John of Mr. Weenie Productions noted, Saban has already approved the White Ranger and Green Ranger going up against Scorpion of the Mortal Kombat video game franchise and Ryu of the Street Fighter video game franchise, both of which had received M-ratings in the past, for a pair of video shorts produced by Machinima for Bat in the Sun’s Super Power Beat Down video series. For those who may not know, an M-rating is the video and comic book rating equivalent of R, which they cannot use because of – ironically! – legal issues with the Motion Picture Association of America, who hold copyright patents for the ratings system used for ranking movies. And these are just a set of freakin’ letters and numbers used in specific sequences!
Green Ranger vs. Ryu has yet to be released at this writing, but please do check out White Ranger vs. Scorpion. The entire Super Power Beat Down series, not to mention pretty much everything produced by Machinima and directed by Aaron Schoenke, is hardly “innocent” or “kid-friendly” as we Americans love to define these ideals. [Update: Schoenke, upon agreement with his friend J.D.F., did do his best to keep the released Green Ranger vs. Ryu as “PG-13” as possible. The arranger of the fight also gave us a great “nod” to this controversy when, upon seeing Tommy Oliver challenge Ryu he says, “I’m too old for this.”] Does the fact that Saban authorized the use of Tommy Oliver’s two famous alter-egos for these shorts make all the difference in regards to the integrity of the brand? I’ll let you decide.
Point #5: This correlates with the above point, along with something else I mentioned in this post. Aesthetic appreciation varies from person to person, fanboy to fanboy, etc. Some of us feel “off” about seeing a concept we enjoyed as kids morphed (pun intended!) into something darker, grimmer, and much more “adult,” with elements and imagery we never would have seen in the classic product. I respect that. Others, however, can readily imagine the basic concept and characters operating in a variety of conceptual milieus, and do not visualize it exclusively in an “innocent” world devoid of many of the atrocities of the real world (e.g., where death can occur as a result of fighting; where someone can be sexually assaulted; where bloody wars are fought; where good and evil are oftentimes not easily discernible; where you can suffer from a sudden and unexpected attack of diarrhea); or more heady speculative scenarios (e.g., a post-apocalyptic or otherwise dystopic future setting, or one where Donald Trump can actually become president!). Some of us prefer the Power Rangers as we remember them in their classic conception, and we’ll always have that. Others wonder about how they would operate in a different type of setting in regards to world and tone, and I like to think we should be able to have that too.
Let’s now make note of how the Japanese sentai series that birthed the Power Rangers on this side of the Pacific differed from the latter. Hence, one can argue that Saban’s presentation of Power Rangers actually sanitized another property in its translation to American “kid” sensibilities. Let’s not forget how other famous properties were re-conceptualized in the opposite way we’re discussing here, too. Specifically, how the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles started out as very grim, uber-violent, and largely no-nonsense characters in a dark satire of the grim and gritty comics that became such a hit with the fans in the early 1980s, particularly in regards to the explosive popularity at the time of Wolverine, Frank Miller’s interpretation of Daredevil, and the ninja craze (including those bloody yet awesome movies with Sho Kosugi like Revenge of the Ninja and Pray for Death, not to mention once-popular copycats like American Ninja). Yet they were later heavily sanitized for both their various animated TV series, subsequent comic book series, and first live action cinematic franchise when all were directed strictly towards a kid’s demographic. The concept never lost its solid appeal to all age groups, however.
Did this make a darker version of the Heroes in a Halfshell any less viable, even if the “kid-friendly” iteration proved more lucrative and far better known over the long haul? How about the newer “PG-13” version that acts as a bridge between the two conceptions, as seen in both the popular comic book series recently published by Dynamite and the new live action film franchise that recently hit the silver screen? How about the recent “mature” fan videos produced for the Turtles’ break-out supporting character, the hockey-stick wielding vigilante Casey Jones, one of them by Bat in the Sun that pit him against Kick-Ass, and which actually featured a guest appearance by the Heroes in a Halfshell?
The idea of copyrights and how they may interfere with artistic expression of ideas and memes is a serious one that we should all consider, regardless of whether we work in the creative arts field or not. The need to balance business interests with democratic principles can be a difficult one at times, but we need to think long and hard about all the issues involved. We may want those who create and/or legitimately own the properties to benefit in a fiscal sense, and I can certainly get behind that as an author who owns intellectual property. But we need to balance this out against giving corporations or individuals full control over ideas outside the realm of business, since what they represent goes deep into the collective consciousness of the entire culture… and some things should mean more to us than money (*ducks before Thurston Howell the Third and President Donald Trump has me shot*). There are some levels where intellectual creations can be privately owned, but others in which the ideas they represent cannot and, IMO, should not.
Bugs: “Can we at least get a ‘T’ rating for this mini-series, Doc?”
Superman: “I dunno, that’s up to the Warner Bros. executives. They’re far more powerful than a mere Kryptonian like myself around here.”