By Grady Smith
August 01, 2011 at 02:22 PM EDT

It was an awkward conversation with my college roommate the day we moved in together. “Are you really hanging that up?” he asked, glaring at my Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers poster. “Of course!” I replied unapologetically. I mean, if I was going to have to stare at his giant Moroccan tapestry all year, he could handle my little Power Rangers poster. (And my WALL•E poster. And my Lost poster. Oh, and maybe my Spider-Man and Pokémon posters, too.) My roommate sort of grimaced, trying his hardest to seem pleasant, and I gave him a similar look of pity — clearly, he was deprived as a child.

After all, what’s not to love about the Power Rangers? Jason, Zach, Billy, Kimberly, Trini, and Tommy were my gang growing up! Every afternoon, I would sprint down my windy gravel driveway the second the school bus doors opened, fearing I would miss the beginning of the “Go Go Power Rangers!” theme song, which started right at 2:30 p.m. on Fox Kids every day. For three straight seasons, I never missed a single episode of the colorful, action-filled, Japanese import.

I loved everything about it — the way Alpha 5 would whine “Ei yei yei yei-ei” during stressful moments in the Command Center, the fact that Kimberly’s Pterodactyl zord always emerged out of an erupting volcano, the way Trini would shout “SABERTOOTHEDTIGER!” so quickly when the Rangers were morphing, the way the protruding corner of Zordon’s face made his head look like a speech bubble, the triumphant call of Tommy’s Dragon Dagger (which was so much better than that dumb talking sword, Saba), the extended process of the Ranger’s combining their special weapons into the Power Blaster, the way every character would coordinate his daytime clothes with the color of his Ranger outfit, the fact that they could teleport — it was all magical to me.

And it all came to life during my fifth birthday party, which was a Power Rangers-themed extravaganza. Every guest that came to my backyard celebration was required to wear a solid-colored sweatsuit — that was the price of admission. When someone arrived at the party, my mom finished off his costume by applying a set of white contact paper diamonds to his torso. (That’s me in my finished green getup.) We all played games like “Pin the Morpher on the Power Ranger” (seriously) and “Kick the Putty,” in which the kids would hang on a glider that extended from one tree to another and kick a cut-out putty that was nailed to the ending trunk. Even better, my teenage neighbor, who was a black belt in karate, came over and taught my friends and me some “real” Power Ranger techniques. It was pretty much awesome. Present-wise, I got every action figure any little boy could want — Goldar, the Dinozords (which could be assembled to form the the Megazord), Putties, all the Rangers, electronic Power Morphers, Blade Blasters, and, best of all, my very own musical Dragon Dagger.

In hindsight, the amount of Power Rangers memorabilia that I accrued during my childhood must have cost my parents a fortune, but I don’t feel guilty about having wasted my parents money the way I do with other childhood fads. The reality is that Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers was a pretty quality show. The characters were well-drawn — they had talents, fears, crushes, and genuine humor between them. The sets were expansive, the monsters creative and appropriately villainous (I had a lot nightmares about Madame Woe), and the effects impressive. Was the acting first class? No. Was Rita’s dialogue poorly dubbed over her Japanese speech? You know it. Were the fight-scene visuals repetitive? Of course. But the show had heart, and it took itself seriously enough that the kids watching it did too. I held onto the hope that one day, maybe I would get the chance to be a Power Ranger — ideally the green one, though not the evil green one.

How’s this for a metaphor: It’s kind of like I was a shapeless ball of clay before I watched Power Rangers. When I started watching the show, Finster picked me up, carved me into a little fanboy sculpture, and sent me through his machine. When I came out the other end, I was a full-blown fanatic! I collected comic books, T-shirts, trading cards, lunch boxes, and all sorts of toys. Just when I didn’t think I could be any bigger of a fan, Rita Repulsa threw her wand down to earth in the form of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie, and I grew to a gargantuan size. I still love Ivan Ooze!

I remained dedicated to Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers through the show’s three-year lifespan, even during that awful moment when Kat replaced Kimberly as the Pink Ranger. (I kept following Amy Jo Johnson’s career as a kid, though, and it led to me watching some way too dramatic movies like Sweetwater and Perfect Body as a youngster.) When the franchise began to morph more rapidly, changing its premise every season, my interest waned, but I still stuck around for a while. I watched Power Rangers: Zeo delightedly — the individual episodes of the Rangers having to locate their individual Zeo Crystals remain some of my favorites — and I tuned into Power Rangers: Turbo as well, though it always irked me that that little boy Blue Ranger could morph into an adult body. Stupid, right?! Power Rangers in Space and Power Rangers Lost Galaxy held my attention much less, as most of the original cast was no longer a part of the show, Rita and Lord Zedd had faded away as the villains, and Alpha’s voice had changed. Lame. I stopped watching after that, only occasionally checking in on the show

But Power Rangers will forever hold a place in my heart. To this day, I often make the “Doot-doot-doot-doot-doot-doot” communicator noise when trying to get someone’s attention. I hope other kids are getting as much joy out of it today as I got years ago. The world needs some “teenagers with attitude” willing to fight evil, you know?

And now, a question about my favorite ranger:

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