A Power Ranger with Heart

Jason David Frank provides COVID-19 relief for comic shops

By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette

If there’s one thing to know about Jason David Frank, it’s that he really appreciates his fans.

Frank starred as “Tommy Oliver” on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, a superhero television series that debuted in 1993, and proceeded to take Saturday mornings and toy shelves by storm. 

Frank’s character made his series debut halfway through the show’s first season as the mysterious Green Ranger, before evolving into the more powerful White Ranger. While the show’s cast members rotated frequently for the Power Ranger’s team roster, Frank remained one of the longest-running recurring characters on the series, with four iterations of the show, two movies, and multiple cameos.

These days, Frank is acting as a hero in different ways, holding signing events to help out local comic book shops during COVID-19. Frank is looking forward to his 12 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3 appearance in Corsicana.

“I’ve never been there,” he said. “I’m so excited.”

Frank admits to being a lifelong fan of comic books.

“I love comics,” Frank said. “I had a huge comic collection when I was a kid. A really good one. I ended up selling it to buy my first karate school franchise. I sold it for about $11,000.”

“It was really gut wrenching to sell it,” Frank added, “but I become an entrepreneur because of comic books, and I own my karate schools still to this day.”

Regardless, Frank confesses to being a Marvel Comics fan, enjoying series such as X-Men and Wolverine, and having a collection of titles ranging from Power Pack, Daredevil, Hellraisers, and Batman.

While connecting and making time for fans is part of Frank’s regular schedule, 2020 has been a hard year to meet people due to the social and safety restrictions of COVID-19.

“I do a lot of comic cons,” Frank said. “I reach out to a lot of fans. I hear a lot of great stories. And then all of a sudden this virus hit.”

“The government came up with the PPP (Payroll Protection Program) that didn’t last too long,” Frank said. “And I knew the comic shops were really struggling. All my friends are promoters, and my fans all collect comic books and they love Power Rangers, so I figured how can I meet people?”

Frank realized that he needed to do more than virtual meetings and online appearances.

“Digital is okay, but I hear so many stories through the internet about how Power Rangers changed their lives,” Frank said. “From happy ones, to ones that say ‘Man, I almost committed suicide, but once I watched Power Rangers, I didn’t want to do that.’”

“There’s just nothing better than actually having the human connection to hear those stories,” Frank said. “It hits my heart through the computer. I want people to feel my heart.”

“So I figured I do a lot of shows,” Frank said. “And honestly, I have six to seven to eight hour lines with people waiting to meet me. And it’s a little stressful because they’re all watching, and I’m trying to give time to people.”

In a time of social distancing where people need to stay six feet apart, multi-houred lines are no longer an option. Frank came up with a solution where standing around isn’t necessary, and fans can get numbered places for a virtual line where the Telegram app notifies them to return for their specific meeting time.

“This is the new way of the future,” Frank said of the current restrictions. “So I figured if we can keep social distancing, and they can come up just to get a numbered ticket, and they then go away and have fun, eat, and do whatever they want.”

“I went through 800 people in San Antonio and Houston, and you didn’t see more than ten to fifteen people In a social distancing line with masks,” Frank said. “So when fans meet me, obviously it’s a six foot social distancing. I sign their stuff, I hear their stories…. I don’t have to be that close for them to feel my heart.”

Frank makes clear that he takes his hero role seriously.

“So it’s one of those things where I wanted to save the world so I figured how can the Power Rangers protect people,” Frank said. “I came up with the Power Ranger Protection Program.”

“Power Rangers protect people,” Frank said. “I reached out to the comic shops. I’ve done 29 comic shops. “I said “Hey, I’ll come for free, I’ll make my own way, I’ll sign thousands of dollars of merchandise, and I’m going to raise some money for the shops to help keep their doors open.

“People ask me ‘Why comics’ all the time,” Frank said. “Comics for me got me out of reality. It was one of those things where I could at least come into a shop for an hour, and disappear from all of this reality stuff and enjoy it. Kids can come and feel like it’s normal again.”

Frank shares some past personal interactions with young fans during those meetings.

“I tell kids with a mask ‘Even though you have a mask on, let me see you smile,” Frank said. “‘But you can’t see it,’ they say, and I tell the little kid: ‘But I can feel it,’ and I want these kids to continue smiling.”

Driving by Oiltown Comics in Corsicana during one of his roadtrips reminded Frank of one of the comic shops of his youth.

“It was my first drive-by PRPP program where I just randomly drive by, I walk in and say “‘Hey, what’s going on? I’m the Green Ranger. Do you want me to sign stuff?’”

The store owner’s responses are an immediate “Yes.”

“I sign all the books, and leave a couple thousand in merchandise behind, they sell it, and I move on,” Frank said. “I don’t do it for any other reason. I just do it to help them.” 

Many of Frank’s initial appearances are random, and he takes photos during the visits so shop owners can post to social media and get extra business.

Due to local response, where Corsicana fans messaged Frank about having missed the opportunity to meet the Green Ranger, Frank offered Nic Davidson, owner of Oiltown Comics, a scheduled in-store signing. 

Frank’s next appearance will be at Zeus Comics in Dallas, 12 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 4.

Frank has covered more than 2,500 miles on his Harley Davidson, visiting states such as  Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Memphis, Tennessee.

Frank also hosts a mental health and spoken truth segment on his YouTube channel that has taken off during quarantine. He also an online virtual training program to keep people fit.

While Frank has reached out to other Power Rangers alumni such as Jason Faunt, Catherine Sutherland, and Nakia Burrese to participate in the PRPP and help the comic shops, this has largely been his personal mission, one he considers a “win-win.”

Courtesy of Jason David Frank

“This is a hobby,” Jason said of continuing his Power Ranger persona. “I’m a businessman, and this is something I just love to do. It’s why I created this program. I come in, and meet cool people, and I want to help and not expect anything. And in return, I get to go there and sign.”

What are some of the more unusual things Frank has been asked to sign?

“I’ve signed babies,” Frank laughed heartily. “I’ve signed cars.”

“Someone gave me a flag that they flew in Afghanistan,” Frank said. They gave that to me. They wanted me to have it. It’s just been amazing. I asked ‘Are you sure,’ and they said ‘Yes. We fought, we went through battle, and this flag belongs to you, because if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here.”

Frank said that his mental health channel has helped people deal with their feelings, and has been a reminder that when they fall, they have to stand back up.

“To all my fans out there: When you fall, you need good people around you to lift you back up,” Frank said. “Because it’s very hard to fall and stand up every time.”

Outside of the PRPP, Frank is working on a new film project called Legend of the White Dragon, a film he credits his fans for. Filming begins in November.