Friday, February 28, 2014

The Game is Afoot!

Heres one of a handful of projects I did at the start of the month. The school were my mother teaches was celebrating National Literature Month and she asked if I would help put together some kind of decoration for her door to promote the event. 

Since her room is close to the building entrance, I thought I would depict English Literature's greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes, investigating the start of a trail that would lead him to other doors that were likewise celebrating great works of fiction. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sketchbook Sharing: Ice Ice Baby

Well Michigan is still experiencing the harsh effects of winter, complete with high winds and frozen rain. Though for all the talk about the "polar vortex", this winter hasn't really given the Great Lakes State much in the way of weather conditions that are out of the ordinary.

But since everyone else can now understand the kind of stuff we deal with every year, heres a good a time as any to share some cool sketches from this past week.

The first thing anyone living were snowstorms are a regular occurrence is learning to rely on your neighbors, so here are some doodles of the Canadian Women's Olympic Curling team. 

Then here are some sketches of Elsa, the Snow Queen from Disney's "Frozen", because I don't think I've given her enough love in my own sketches, editorials, or twitter posts

And it wouldn't be complete with an appearance by the Ice Man himself, stocking shelves at a grocery store. Really, isn't that just the way we always thought Vanilla Ice would end up? 

Stay cool guys! 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Power Rangers Costume Commentary Part 5 (RPM - Super Megaforce)

Power Rangers RPM (2009)

Busy, yet it balances. Ambitious design but more successful than Ninja Storm. 

Here we have another "car" theme, but this time they really rub it in your face. Headlights and tires on the helmets, a racing number, seatbelt sashes, tire cuffs, and guns shaped like gas pumps. The primary three even have road stripes running done the sleeves. Not to mention, that the helmets and racing numbers not only have the car motif, but also are shaped like their power animals. How they were able to cram in so much and still make it legible is beyond me. 

Once again these characters were released in phases allowing for more differences between then and yet it still feels uniform. The three primaries have their rubber tire cuffs while green and black who were introduced later in the season have their gold gear cuffs and silhouette breaking helmet fins. Then we have two shiny Sixth Rangers. Adding gold and silver to the mix makes the shimmering suits feel less out of place than if there had just been one.

Power Rangers Samurai (2011-2012)

It was a good move to follow up the such busy suits with something simpler in appearance. The torso is minimal, meant to resemble a traditional gi. Though with the gold insignia on the side, it kind of looks like the uniforms from classic Star Trek. 

The future of the franchise?

Their visors as stylized representations of Japanese kanji, meant to indicate their power elements; fire, water, air, forest and rock. They may not be instantly recognizable like the Zeo helmets, but I found they really grew on me after a while. The Red Ranger's especially, those eyes remind me of Spider-Man!

I especially love how their belts are actually functional. The buckle houses the power discs for their swords, theres a sword hilt on one side, and other side actually has a pouch pocket to hold their cell phones!  Wow, thats something much comic book superheroes don't even have today! 

Power Rangers Megaforce (2013)

The most notable thing about these suits is the abundance of white, but unlike other seasons such as Lost Galaxy or Overdrive, I think this works were they failed. Keeping their individual colors in the torso era and arms makes for easy identification. Unlike Lost Galaxy, the gold trim around their vests makes it feel like this part is supposed to end above the navel. Since the sleeves are colored, it does make sense to make sure the stomach has some white in it to keep the ratio at least 50-50. Plus the tops are styled to showcase the ribcage of their heroic builds!

The rangers also has big golden crests representing their power elements of air, earth or water. Each symbol is one part of the team insignia that graces their helmets, which has that unifying theme that shows each ranger is just one part of a greater whole, until you realize that blue is the odd one out, as he doesn't have a counterpart with the water symbol.

The helmets are unique as well. Rather than sculpting the front in the shape of an animal head, instead we have a black and white animal decal on either side. Since it doesn't overcrowd their forefront visage, I'm going to mark this unique style choice in the win column. 

Robo Knight reminds me a lot of Solaris Knight from Mystic Force. Not only because of the name, but because they look like they shop for codpieces at the same place. Though much like Solaris he is wearing a great deal more body armor so each though he wears the team symbol quite prominently, he feels like an outsider in the group shots. Though to be fair that is in keeping with his character.

I do like how the his power animal in incorporated into the whole body rather than just confined to the helmet, I imagine that was tough to pull off. The spiked shoulders also make for a very distinct silhouette. 

Power Rangers Super Megaforce (2014)

Yes, Super Megaforce, because calling it Super Mega Ultra Awesome Force, would have just sounded silly. 

Very direct, probably because they knew these suits would be sharing just as much screentime with the previous costumes so there was an effort to keep them from being complicated or too different from one another.

Theres a clear pirate motif with the jolly roger style insignia even if that theme goes without mention in the actual show. These easily contain the most black of any design we've seen. 

Personally I'm amused by how much the shape of the visors is clearly inspired by the visors from the 1970s superhero series "GoRanger", which started the whole Super Sentai franchise that this show is based on. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Power Rangers Costume Commentary Part 4 (SPD - Jungle Fury)

Power Rangers SPD (2005)

The aerodynamic design of the helmets gives the swept shape of their opaque visors a very "alien" shape, especially from the side, which flows right into their flashing sirens and perfectly cements their "Space Cops" theme. The numbers along the side makes for an excellent "uniform" motif as well.

They really went all out on additional rangers this season, not only to we have the white Omega Ranger, but also Shadow Ranger and Cat Ranger. Omega himself blends with the other five well, opting for a roman numeral in place of the other's side numbers. Shadow and Cat Ranger on the other hand fell much different, which is appropriate enough since they don't team up with the rest of the group all that often so their design work well on their own. I particularly like Cat Ranger's hexagon pattern on her breastplate, a seven-sided shape to indicate her place as the seventh ranger rather than a corresponding number like the rest. 

Power Rangers Mystic Force (2006)

Bold and bright. Theres gold and black relief colors spread throughout the costume for a good balance. Capes are a nice flourish. We've got Zeo style faceplates with their visors in the shape of their mythical power animals rather than sculpting the helmets to match the shape of that creature. 

Having the two girls with white leggings looks better and more balanced in the lineup than Ninja Storm’s one token girl.

Solaris Knight is appropriately shiny if a bit busy at first glance. Fortunately theres just enough blue to keep the shimmering gold pieces from being overwhelming.

Power Rangers Operation Overdrive (2007)

Why are the sleeves divided in half? We already have lots of white along the torso, do we really need to brighten up the underarm?

The shoulderpads do nothing. Helmets are supposed to be… what? Excavation Vehicles? 

The compass symbol is good for establishing their adventurer/archeologist theme, but thats one of the few things it has going for it. 

Then theres Mercury Ranger. By golly, it hurts to look at this thing. Giving the sixth ranger a black relief color just doesn't work unless everyone else has it too. The sharp scoop of the visor combined with the center antenna makes him look like a shark. I know, it sounds weird, but consider that this guy has sirens embedded in his shoulderpads. Weird is par for the course!

Power Rangers Jungle Fury (2008)

I know this design isn't very popular with fans, but I like how its willing to take risks with the classic elements of their costumes this season. 

Here we ditch a number of familiar attributes like belts, or silver mouthpieces, or gloves and boots. Given the animal/martial arts theme this round, I think these changes are more than appropriate. 

Having a suit that isn't divided up by belts or excess decals creates this unbroken path from the chest down through their legs, which in my mind emphasizes their speed and agility. Fitting for a team were the primary three are based on jungle cats. I also think giving these three personalized motifs along the sides befitting their unique animals is very creative touch.

Our supporting rangers, White and Violet are rather different from the group, but work in their own right. White has a suit inspired by a karate uniform, while Violet's costume is much more flashy to match his backstory as a wrestler. Form meets function all around. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Power Rangers Costume Commentary Part 3 (Time Force - Dino Thunder)

Power Rangers Time Force (2001)

Having the clock hand motif on the helmets, chest and belt buckle feels redundant and the black helmets really clash with white chest. 

The sixth ranger is also red, which is a bit confusing. I get that it he's, once again, supposed to be the dark counterpart, to our fearless leader with the black relief colors and the "threatening" sawtooth pattern, put that just makes me wonder why that wasn't the standard design for the whole group since it matches their helmets better.

I'm also not too keen on the gauntlets with individually colored gloves. Its that whole Mickey Mouse thing, were the white gloves pop better against the colors on the body.

Power Rangers Wild Force (2002)

Wild Force easily has my favorite Power Ranger suit designs. One look at their stylized helmets and gold sash and you know that these guys are “the Honor Guard for the Animal Kingdom”. The helmets are beautifully stylized and surprisingly aerodynamic. Also, I'll repeat that I think black and white works better with the three primarily colors than black and pink. It also makes the token girl feel slightly less stigmatized, even if the pink stripes do come off as bold against a white suit.

I could do without the talons on their fingertips, and the Silver Ranger's navy relief colors feel a bit unnecessary but I can take those little bits of bad with so much good here.

Power Rangers Ninja Storm (2003)

These designs are very unique for the series, as they started with a trio in primary colors, introducing the other ranger later in the season, plus we had a female blue ranger this time around. Consequently the primary three feel like they fit together better than the rest of the later additions to the group. Even their visors feel like they're following a shape related pattern. Red with the sharp angled eyes, Yellow is boxy, and Blue's eyes are round and curvy. I'm just not getting that kind of continuation in Crimson, Navy or Green.

Speaking of the visors, theirs are thinner than other helmets to suggest “Ninja”, but not as much as the “Alien Rangers”. The animal motifs on the helmets are also very subtle with wing, mane and fin shaped reliefs in the gold sections. A smart choice consider how animals were a big part of the last season. The animal element is further carried out in their personal chest insignias. 

Of course the smurfette of the group gets the "whale tail" symbol. Its sort of like that moment you realize that in Mighty Morphin', the Pink Ranger's mech forms the Megazord's chest. Being an adult has ruined my childhood.

The silvery chainmail arms are a unique form of color relief, though I'm not sure why the blue rangers has to have silver leggings as well, especially since all of the previous female rangers just had a skirt over pants of the same color. 

Again, we're introducing some dark counterparts in our group with a Crimson and Navy, which makes the lineup more than a little confusing.  

Lots of mix and match going on this time. I feel its ambitious beyond its ability to carry through. Definitely a mixed bag of tricks.

Power Rangers Dino Thunder (2004)

Dinosaurs again, only different, sort of. 

Carrying the diamond pattern through the whole body was a bad move. The excess white on the legs and arms is already busy but it also clashes with the gold insignia. The helmets are “subtler” in their design so as not to compare too much with the Mighty Morphin' helmets, but don't leave much of an impression. 

The black and white rangers are the ones that really look gold out of the bunch. Black's tooth marks are all gold for great contrast, while the white ranger has this striking red visor, as well as a black talon relief pattern. Its doesn't blend quite as well with the others after going from bad guy to good guy like previous sixth rangers, but the fact that he looks so good on his own is one of this lineup's few redeeming features. 

Mighty Morphin', Alien, ZeoTurbo, In Space, Lost Galaxy, Lightspeed Rescue
Time Force, Wild Force, Ninja Storm, Dino Thunder
SPD, Mystic Force, Operation Overdrive, Jungle Fury
RPM, Samuari, Megaforce, Super Megaforce

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Power Rangers Costume Commentary Part 2 (Turbo - Lightspeed Rescue)

Power Rangers Turbo (1997)

This time around we got an automobile theme, but the costumes don't really scream “Cars”. They’ve got “New 52 Superman” style lines all over their bodies which I think is supposed to look like metal plates like on a car but it really doesn’t. Between those marks and the square chest emblem, it looks like they’re all wearing rainbow variations of the “Iron Man” costumes from that Halloween store at the mall.

Also what is that chest emblem supposed to be? Is it a headlight? It can't because theres only the one, plus you already have headlights on the helmet and the belt buckles, so that'd just be redundant.

Also, the helmets have sunroofs. Why?

Power Rangers in Space (1998)

Its at this point that we start to see some carry over from the previous year. The sunroofs, the white armbands and the yellow collars are all back, and thankfully look a lot better this time around.

This may well be the single most uniform of uniforms in Power Rangers history. Not only do the visors appear very identical unless you look really close, but the decal on their chests contains patches of colors from their fellow teammates. I like that. Even when they're separated, they're still have the support of their friends by carrying their colors. 

Gone are the sculpted lips (which now that I'm an adult is something I just think is weird) instead we have smooth, silver mouthplates that lend an even more in sync with one another, but also makes them appear more alien. Plus the bubble shape of the helmets emphasizes "astronaut".  

Even the Sixth Ranger follows the pattern without much variation. He lacks the broad shoulder pads of previous additions, opting instead for an look as slim as his compatriots.

I am amused by the belt buckle decal though. Its supposed to be an "M" for the Japanese counterpart "Megaranger", but without that it looks they're decked out with an envelope on their suits. Maybe in the wake of declining ratings, the Power Rangers have joined forces with Planet Express. 

Power Rangers Lost Galaxy (1999)

This is usually exhibit A as far as bad design for this series goes, and it’s a point that’s hard to argue. Why does the white vest area only go down to the midriff area and not all the way to the belt?

I get that the squiggle line is supposed to look like a fierce row of teeth for their animal motif, but really it just ends up looking like Charlie Brown's shirt. Having a pattern like that right all through the relief whites in the suits can get to be a little overwhelming in group shots. 

At first I thought the Pink Ranger was supposed to be a bunny, but no its supposed to be some kind of wild cat. Green is clearly a bird, but the others are next to impossible to identify at first glance.

The Magna Defender makes better use of this squiggle motif, working much better as an accent for his shoulderpads and belt. I also like any helmet that breaks the silhouette, to help give the otherwise similar shaped rangers a distinct exterior identity. 

Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue (2000)

Mighty Morphin’ Peppermint Rangers! 

While a candy themed team wouldn't be out of sorts for this colorful series, these guys were rescue heroes by day and demon hunters by night. In that respect the motif on their chests is clever way of tying the two unlike elements together as the cross shape is widely associated with both medic aid as well as repelling supernatural baddies. The white axis is a good way to balance out the bold colors similar to what they did back in Mighty Morphin'.

Unfortunately, while the badge shaped faceplates may reflect their unique law enforcement roots, the opaque shields provides only so much identifiability as there very little to read into or project a face on to it. While Zeo's visors may have taken up most of their helmet as well, they at least had shapes that young viewers were able to easily recognize. Here we've got a shield, two triangles... um a curve topped square, and some kind of trapezoid? 

Much like the alien rangers, its distinct, but not very memorable.

Then theres the Titanium Ranger, a hero created exclusively for the American series to fit the toyable Sixth Ranger slot. 

Once again this character was a case of bad guy turned good by the end, so his dull color scheme was appropriately opposite and made his V-Shaped visor seem all the more sinister.  

Much like the White Ranger in Mighty Morphin' he designed after the fact, so he doesn't blend in quite as well, and again his suit seems to make the others seem brighter by association. 

Mighty Morphin', Alien, Zeo
Turbo, In Space, Lost Galaxy, Lightspeed Rescue
Time Force, Wild Force, Ninja Storm, Dino Thunder
SPD, Mystic Force, Operation Overdrive, Jungle Fury
RPM, Samuari, Megaforce, Super Megaforce

Monday, February 10, 2014

Power Rangers Costume Commentary Part 1 (Mighty Morphin' - Zeo)

This weekend marks the premiere of Power Rangers Super Megaforce, the 20th anniversary season for the Power Rangers franchise. This latest installment, features a team of rangers with the ability to morph into previous members from the team's long history, taking on their predecessor’s unique powers, weapons and costumes.

During this season we can expect a lot of classic costumes back in action. In anticipation I am going to spend the next week looking at these spandex suits season by season, charting at the ups and downs in the appearances of this long running superhero franchise.

Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers (1993-1995)

Here it is, the one that started at all (on this side of the globe anyway). Nostalgia aside, these are actually some pretty good costumes that help to establish some of the reoccurring elements that we’ll see throughout the series. The helmets are sharply sculpted to resemble each ranger’s unique animal, prehistoric creatures in this case. The diamond shapes on the chest, gloves and boots resemble sharp animal teeth. This pattern also serves to balance out the bright colors of the rest of the suit.

This installment also started the tradition of the Sixth Ranger, a character type who would be introduced a third to halfway through the season so as to add a new figure to the latest line of toys. This character will often carry the other five’s motif, but possess a unique attribute that distinguishes them from the rest of the group.

Starting out as an antagonist to the team, Tommy, the Green Ranger has a helmet design that is very similar to the Red Ranger, serving as a dark parallel to our lead hero. He also has a golden shield with a diamond center not to dissimilar in shape from the other’s chest crests. 

While the five rangers are very similar in size and build, this shield broadens his shoulders and breaks the silhouette of his figure, making his appearance more distinct and intimidating. His gloves and boots had a long talon-like triangle pattern as opposed the other ranger's diamond shapes, suggesting a fiercer, more lethal fighter. The gold armbands around his biceps boast of his superior strength. He parallels his peer’s design, but also taunts them with their own image by demonstrating that he is their deadly better.

White Ranger (1995)

Once they ran out of Japanese footage for the original Green Ranger, who was by now the series most popular character, the writers came up with the idea of having Tommy lose his Green Ranger powers, only to gain new ones as the White Ranger, whose suit and stunt footage was borrowed from another Sentai series. 

The costume itself is alright, with a strikingly limited color scheme that looks quite regal. In-universe its fitting the redeemed hero should wear so much bright white and the shoulder pads echo his previous iteration quite nicely. 

My only problem was that it wasn't designed to match with the other Ranger's patterns, so he always seemed to stick out like a sore thumb in the group shots, especially with the lack of sculpted lips and how his lack of colors made the rest seem "loud" by comparison.   

Mighty Morphin’ Alien Rangers (1996)

Yes, Alien, even though they are clearly ninjas. I guess the writers were just looking to come up with a reason why we didn’t see this team join forces with the Power Rangers every week when the going got tough so setting these spin-off rangers on another planet seemed as good as the next idea.

These suits are remarkably simple. In fact, they’re probably one of the most "uniform" costumes in the franchise. Even their visors are very similar at first glance. Its that thin bar shape to their vision holes that just screams “Ninja”. 

I will compliment the use of color in this lineup. For a ninja team I think primary colors plus black and white works well within that theme. Also, I think a female white ranger helps tie the black ranger into the rest of the group's brighter colors much better than a pink ranger.

The sparseness of the design makes them a unique pedigree. They’re distinct, but not necessarily memorable.

Power Rangers Zeo (1996)

After three years of the Mighty Morphin' suits, this new iteration began the trend of introducing new costumes every season. As far as the shift between the two, this was about as different from those original suits as you could get. With the white in a more confined part in the chest area, these uniforms feel like they're bursting at the seams with vibrant color.

The sculpted animal helmets were replaced with geometric shaped visors. The Red Ranger's star visor in particular looks great. Plus these helmets have a subtle countdown with how many sides each shape has (Star-5, Rectangle-4, Triangle-3, Bars-2, Oval-1). 

The gold and white accents strike as "heroic" and "majestic", but for the life of me I can’t tell you what the “theme” of this team is supposed to be, which is something of a drawback.

The "Gold Ranger" carries on the tradition of the Sixth Ranger with his big shoulderpads, though I'm curious why they went with the name "Gold Ranger", when everyone has gold in their costume and the lack of shine and shimmer makes his black suit all the more noticeable in this lineup. 

Mighty Morphin', Alien, Zeo
Turbo, In Space, Lost Galaxy, Lightspeed Rescue
Time Force, Wild Force, Ninja Storm, Dino Thunder
SPD, Mystic Force, Operation Overdrive, Jungle Fury
RPM, Samuari, Megaforce, Super Megaforce
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