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By Thomas Wheeler

Certainly one of the most popular villains in any of the Power Rangers concepts is one that, perhaps not surprisingly, dates all the way back to the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. And with the resurgence of the original Rangers prior to Disney selling the rights to the Rangers back to Saban, it's also no great surprise that this particular villain has also once again reared his decidedly ugly head, not only on the show, but also in the action figure line.

His name is, of course – LORD ZEDD.

I did some research into the character, which revealed some interesting details about not only how the character appeared on the show, but also some interesting behind the scenes details about him.

Lord Zedd was introduced at the beginning of the show's second season. Unlike later Power Rangers' concepts, which saw an annual overhaul, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers actually ran for several seasons. Unlike the series' original villain, Rita Repulsa, Lord Zedd was a character introduced specifically for the American program, with no prior history in the Japanese "Super Sentai" series.

As it turned out, he was such a freakishly scary and almost nightmarish-looking character when he first came on the scene, that parents of especially younger viewers of the show complained that he was actually "too evil" for the Rangers program, and as such, his villainy was toned down a fair degree – unfortunately making him something of a goofball like most of the bad guys on the show. Or at least a lot more comedic and over the top.

Lord Zedd was the self-proclaimed, all-powerful "Emperor of Evil" and "sworn enemy of all that is good and decent". Not much is known about his life before attacking the Earth, but several details did emerge over time:

Over a period of time, he conquered a large portion of space. His distant conquests occupied his attention, which is what kept him away from Earth.

He developed an intense rivalry with Count Dregon, the evil uncle of the Masked Rider, which made for an interesting bit of crossover continuity between the two Japanese based series.

And, he was a member of the United Alliance of Evil. Doesn't exactly sound like the galactic equivalent of the Rotary Club, does it?

Lord Zedd arrived near Earth at the start of the second season, arriving on the moon to assume command. Angered that Rita Repulsa had failed in her mission, he demanded answers, and temporarily exiled her. She would later return, and of all things, the two would marry!

Seeing the Rangers as little more than "children", Zedd commenced a new and far deadlier series of attacks against the Rangers. He focused particular attention on Tommy, the Green Ranger, whom he saw as Rita biggest mistake. He ultimately succeeded in draining the Green Ranger's powers, and planned to brainwash Tommy into his successor, but Zordon managed to get to Tommy first, making him the new White Ranger.

Ultimately, Lord Zedd realized that the Rangers were far more than the "children" he viewed them as, and that he was no more successful in defeating them than Rita had been. He brought forth his own personal Zord, Serpentera. However, this Zord's power demands were so extreme that it could only be used for short periods of time. Zedd's attempts to find better power sources for the Zord continually failed.

Soon it became time for Zedd's Centennial Recharge, to fully restore his evil energies. It was during this slumber that Rita returned to the palace. She snuck a love potion into Zedd's Recharge Machine, and when he awoke, he instantly fell madly in love with Rita and proposed – no doubt to the nausea of younger viewers everywhere who probably preferred it when Zedd was a really villainous bad guy…

While Zedd and Rita became far less serious characters after their marriage, they were still formidable opponents, with the Rangers now having to combat their combined power. Starting with the third season and continuing into Zeo, the first sequel series, their evil monsers were created and grown by the two of them crossing their staffs.

When a new villain, Master Vile, appeared on the moon in his quest for the Zeo Crystal, Lord Zedd found himself pushed aside. Zedd had no respect for the older villain, and vice-versa, with Vile even once remarking to Rita, "You couldn't marry someone who had a skull?"

Lord Zedd also appeared in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Movie, but this film takes place out of continuity with anything seen in the series. The main villain of the movie was Ivan Ooze, someone whom Zedd once looked up to, but who later he refers to as a "clown" when Ivan decides to take over. Zedd and Rita uncharacteristically end up rooting for the Power Rangers when they go after Ivan Ooze, whom they ultimately destroy, with Zedd and Rita being freed from Ooze's captivity as a result.

By the time of the next series, Power Rangers: Turbo, Lord Zedd and company were not shown attacking the Earth. Their disappearance was never explained or even referred to on-screen. Zedd, however, was shown alongside Rita and other leading villains in the "Millennial Message", which warned of a universal conquest by evil and predicted that only one force could stop them, foreshadowing the following season and series.

In Power Rangers in Space, Zedd and Rita attended Dark Specter's conference on the Cimmerian Planet. Although they were distraught when they heard that another villain, Divatox, had supposedly destroyed the Rangers, Zedd toasted to Dark Specter's eventual takeover of the universe.

Months later, Zedd and Rota joined in the overall attack throughout the universe. They invaded the Vica galaxy and quickly conquered it, defeating and capturing the Gold Ranger in the process. Zedd gleefully explained, "It's great to be back in the game!"

However, when Zordon's energy wave washed over them and their army, Zedd was spared, transformed into a normal human being, and apparently free of his evil persona. Since the only other villains to survive the wave – Rita, Divatox, and Astronema, were more human in appearance to begin with, this speculated that Zedd may have been a more human-like being at some point in his past. Zedd and Rita seemingly retired, purified of their evil.

Years later, in Power Rangers Operation Overdrive, in the anniversary team-up episode "Once a Ranger", it was revealed that at some point Zedd and Rita had a son, by the name of Thrax, who ultimately returned to seek revenge. Lord Zedd himself did not appear, but his change to the side of good was mentioned by Thrax, who called him and his mother weak for making such a decision. He vowed to restore his father's evil legacy and is seen using the staff that belonged to his father.

So, how's the figure? Really very cool. This is hardly the first Lord Zedd figure, and in fact, it's not even the first relatively recent Lord Zedd figure, as there was a special edition Lord Zedd "chase" figure offered a few years ago, that was notoriously scarce. However, this Lord Zedd figure is obviously designed to work with the current Mighty Morphin Power Rangers line.

As such, it's smallish relative to a lot of previous Ranger figures. Although there has never really been a consistent scale, or even design, from one Power Rangers toy line to another, for reasons unknown, Bandai chose to really shrink the scale with this Mighty Morphin line. As such, in keeping with the scale, Lord Zedd is about 4-1/2 inches in height – not counting the little doo-dad on his faceplate.

I can see why kids might have been afraid of Lord Zedd, from a visual standpoint. He's a pretty scary-looking individual. In basic form, he looks like a flayed human. He appears to have no skin. Instead, he has the appearance of a muscular human, with all of the muscles on the outside of his body. He tends to be a rather intense red in color (and was known for glowing red when especially angry – admittedly a relative measure), and his body seems to be supported by a silver exo-skeletal framework.

This framework takes the form of a rib cage with shoulder blades, silver trunks rather strategically located, and support structures running down his arms and legs. There is blue piping running throughout the structure. The back of the structure continues the shoulder blades, and has a narrow ridged section that looks like a silver spinal column.

Most fearsome is Zedd's faceplate. His face is entirely covered, with a wide red visor covering his eyes, and a wide silver toothy grin – that looks like a more menacing version of Geordi LaForge's VISOR from Star Trek The Next Generation, covering his mouth. The entire facial piece is held in place with a ridged silver wraparound covering part of the back of his head, and has an antenna rising up from the center, with a silver "Z" at the top. The top of Zedd's head appears to be an exposed brain.

The sculpted detail is astounding. Most of the basic Ranger figures, that is, of the Rangers themselves, tend to have a rather smooth and almost simplistic design. For the concept, it works. Lord Zedd is a different critter entirely. There are extensive narrow ridges sculpted throughout the body, to mimic the appearance of the exposed musculature. It's really extremely impressive. The detail work on Zedd's face is similarly highly detailed, especially across the mouth, as well as the exposed brain.

Articulation of the figure is superb, and in some respects, superior to the Rangers, which is surprising for a villain in this line. Lord Zedd is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, a swivel right below the elbow, legs, upper leg swivel near the knees, and the knees themselves. My only complaint here is with the rivets in the hips, which tend to be a little glaring, and is a change from the design structure of the Ranger figures. But the swivels in the lower arms and upper legs are masterfully done.

Paintwork is very neat – as far as it goes. Granted, Lord Zedd didn't really need a whole lot. Really just the silver exo-skeleton, the blue piping, and the red visor. He has all of these – almost. One unfortunate habit that Bandai has developed with the Power Rangers line is that they don't always paint the back of the figure. Although the initial assortment of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was properly painted, the recent assortment of "Power Up" Rangers, which also included Zedd, did not have the backs of their belts painted. For the Rangers, this could be fairly easily remedied with a bit of white paint, a brush, and a reasonably steady hand.

Zedd is another matter. The silver exo-skeleton is not painted on his back, or upper legs. Now, while this can also be corrected with some silver paint (I personally recommend Games Workshop's Mithral Silver), the unpainted appearance of the reverse side of the figure is -- more than a little strange. Keep in mind that Lord Zedd doesn't really wear a costume so much, as his body is apparently comprised of exposed musculature, which is somehow supported by the exo-skeleton. In other words, put bluntly, it's not like the guy has a shirt and pants on.

The resultant look on the figure is -- well, you can certainly see where the exo-skeleton has been sculpted. It's smooth, as opposed to the ridges of the musculature. So it doesn't really look like he's walking around with his buttocks exposed, but it honestly wouldn't be all that hard to make that misinterpretation at a distance. I am sure that the failure to paint certain portions of the backs of -- well, quite a significant percentage of their Power Rangers figures at this point -- is seen as some sort of moderate money-saving practice on the part of Bandai. In my opinion, it's a pretty dang stupid one, and I hope it's not one that will extend into other lines, such as their upcoming ThunderCats license. But in the specific case of Lord Zedd, I really think that Bandai should have worried less about the expense of about a fifth of a thimble-ful of silver paint, and spared Lord Zedd a little potential humiliation.

Apart from this, however, I have no complaints about the figure. It's nicely designed, well-articulated, and certainly fits in well with the current edition of Power Rangers. Heck, given the scale, he almost fits in with Star Wars, G.I. Joe, and Marvel Universe.

As to accessories, Lord Zedd comes with his staff. It's basically a plain staff, molded in black, with a large stylized "Z" at the top. His lower arms do rotate nicely so he can hold the staff in several menacing positions. However, the staff is molded from rather flexible plastic, and if one is not careful, it looks like he's trying to tie it in knots. Still, it wouldn't have been appropriate for him NOT to have it, so I'm pleased it was included with him.

Lord Zedd is coming along fairly late in the line, and I'm not sure how readily available he'll be, or for how long. I find myself wondering just a bit how the Power Rangers are going to proceed in light of recent "real world" events surrounding them. Here's what has happened, as best as I can summarize it. One of the reasons we got a redux of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers this year was because Disney, the now-former rights holder, really didn't want to put any substantial effort into "Americanizing" any of the more recent Japanese Super Sentai shows. In fact, they shut down the production facility that was used for that purpose.

Sometime during the year, Disney, now the owner of Marvel Comics and as such having a bevy of super-heroes to work with (and I'm convinced that this was one of the reasons), sold the Power Rangers back to the company that brought them to the United States in the first place -- Saban. Now, Saban is not Disney, and in this case, that's a good thing, because Saban has more reason to devote proper attention to the Rangers. They've already announced that they will be producing a new Power Rangers series, which will be appearing on the Nickelodeon networks, and Bandai will continue with the toys. That new Power Rangers concept, which is based on the Super Sentai concept that we would've gotten this year had things stayed on course, will be called POWER RANGERS: SAMURAI.

However, there is a question of timing. Over the past quite a few years now, the Rangers have undergone their annual concept overhaul around Thanksgiving, give or take a bit. I initially found the new Mighty Morphins on Veterans' Day of 2009. Personally, I am not certain as of this writing, which is taking place well before Thanksgiving, that there has been enough time to gear up a new toy line. This may mean an extension for the Mighty Morphin product, until Samurai can ship. The flip side of that coin is that a number of stores, frustrated by the lackadaisical effort put forth to market the Morphins, have, for the moment, stopped carrying the Rangers entirely. Which means that Lord Zedd could still be pretty difficult to find, even if the line gets a bit of an extension. At the time of this writing, I simply do not know how it's going to play out.

So, what's my final word, in any case? This is a cool figure. Lord Zedd has been very intricately and impressively designed, he's superbly detailed and articulated, and the paint problems can either be tolerated or fairly easily resolved for someone with sufficient talent. He's arguably the best known of all the Power Rangers villains, and certainly deserves to stand alongside those whom he most pestered over the course of over two series and then some!

The MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS figure of LORD ZEDD definitely has my very enthusiastic recommendation!