When I heard the news of Frank’s death being caused by suicide, I was, like everyone who was a fan of the Power Rangers, was shocked. How could a man who was so humble and friendly to fans he came across at comic conventions choose to take his own life? What drove him down this dark path? We may not get the answers nor may we ever know what went on in the mind of a man who, little did we know, was troubled in the final days of his life.
Like almost everyone who grew up in the 1990s, I was awed by the phenomenon that is the Power Rangers. Every kid wanted to be the “teenagers with attitude” who attended Angel Grove High School. The Red Ranger, Jason Lee Scott (Played by Austin St. John), was the cool cat martial artist that everyone wanted to be. The Blue Ranger, Billy Cranston (Played by David Yost) was the brainy nerd that wowed everyone with his intelligence and sophistication with science. The Black Ranger, Zack Taylor (Played by Walter Emmanuel Jones) was the chill dude that got along with everyone. The Pink Ranger, Kimberley Hart (Played by Amy Jo Johnson) was the popular girl that every boy my age (especially yours truly) had a crush on. The Yellow Ranger, Trini Kwan (Played by Thuy Trang) was the cheerful girl that brightened the day with her smile.
And then there was Tommy Oliver: a talented martial artist, like Jason, but an introverted, reserved, and hot-tempered, young man who kept to himself and wanted to be left alone. The evil sorceress, an enemy to the Power Ranger, Rita Repulsa would take advantage of Tommy and christen him as her evil Green Ranger to terrorize the Power Rangers. Overtime, Tommy would ultimately break from Rita’s influence and join the Power Rangers and strike up a relationship with Kimberely. However, despite growing to become a trusted member of the Power Ranger, Rita would continue to torment Tommy until he lost his Green Ranger Powers and was forced to leave the team. However, not all was lost when Tommy was revealed to be the new White Ranger and promoted to lead the Rangers. He would also become the Red Zeo Ranger, Turbo Ranger, and Dino Ranger. And he would also become a father-figure/Zordon-esque character of sorts when he encountered the Dino Rangers as a doctored teacher.
Overtime, Tommy would become one of the biggest influences in my childhood since Superman, Clark Kent. I went from emulating Clark Kent by wearing toy glasses to emulating Tommy by wanting to grow out my hair long as his (I could not since it’s very curly even to this day).I also tried to beg my old man to enroll me in martial arts, which never happened. I would also try to cut off the sleeves of my t-shirt to expose my arms.
Looking back, Tommy was so unique because he taught the seven year old me humility and the wisdom that came along with it. As a former antagonist, Tommy reminded me that everyone had a chance at redemption from their shortcomings or their mistakes. I’m very certain that Jason David Frank did not know how much of an amazing and awesome influence he was to a certain scrowany biracial kid born to a Nigerian father and an Anglo-American mother.
Scrawny because at age seven, I was severely underweight due to barely eating. It wasn’t until I was introduced to Superman and the Power Ranger that my seven year old self decided that he wanted to gain weight. I made sure that I ate my meals accordingly and drank my milk. I also regularly exercised. While I did (and still do not) have an build of an adonis, I started to look healthier and become a little more confident.
After Power Rangers Turbo, I stopped watching Power Rangers but it’s funny because due to Tommy’s influence, I started to become fixated on supporting characters rather than the main characters of popular stories or franchises. Characters like Han Solo from Star Wars, Brock from Pokemon, Grand Master Sexay and Eddie Guerrero from World Wrestling Entertainment come to mind. Even to this day, I still fixate on secondary but popular characters like Zenitsu Agatsuma from Demon Slayer, Sanosku Sagara from Ruroni Kenshin, and Damian Wayne from the Batman mythos. Most of these characters start off as loners or independent of the goals of the main protagonist but overall, they become supportive of that character’s mission due to their growth. I believe that my admiration for these characters was influenced by Jason David Frank’s portrayal of Tommy Oliver.
Jason David Frank was not just a Power Ranger. He was THE Power Ranger. He was Tommy Oliver. He was the Green Ranger. He was the White Ranger. He was the Red Zeo Ranger. He was the Red Turbo Ranger. He was the Black Dino Ranger. He was a martial artist. He was a beloved father. He was a Christian. He was everyone’s favorite Power Ranger. He was my favorite Power Ranger. He was Jason David Frank.
I feel that once again, I’m my 7-year-old self learning another new nugget of wisdom from the man who once donned the Green Ranger suit.
I am learning that even the mightiest of all heroes are not immune from the curveballs that life throws at us. One minute, we are happy and living our best lives and the next minute, we are dreading every single minute wishing for it all to end. Some do find that spark of hope and press on. Some just hope for it to all end.
As I mentioned before, I do not know what was going on in the mind of one of the greatest Power Rangers of all time. And I feel that it would be very wrong of me to come up with my own conclusion. But the only thing I can say was that he was in a very dark place that he felt he could not fight his way out of but I am willing to believe that he tried. Just like Tommy would do.
Another piece of wisdom that I feel the Green Ranger is bestowing to me is that despite how powerful you may be, you are still going to need help from time-to-time. Even when the Power Rangers were at their most powerful, they would help each other or perhaps, their mentor Zordon, along with Alpha 5, would offer them some advice to help win the day. Sometimes, it was a friend outside the Power Rangers who would help the heroes.
It is okay to cry. It is okay to admit to feeling bad. It is okay to acknowledge that you are not feeling at your best. But those are indicators that you need to seek help. It should never go beyond that. It should never get to the point where one chooses to take their own life.
According to Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, SAVE, “In 2020, 45,979 Americans died by suicide” which is the “12th leading cause of death in the U.S.”
The story of Jason David Frank did not have to end in tragedy.
We lost a hero. I lost a hero. We lost a Power Ranger to a villain called suicide.
I wanted to meet Jason David Frank at a comic convention and thank him for the influence that he had on my life. Sadly, I cannot do that because he’s gone.
Writing this tribute is the best thing I can do and I hope that it puts a smile on his face while he is looking down from heaven. I also plan on cosplaying as both Tommy Oliver and the Green Ranger (And White Ranger). Just like my 7-year old self wanted.
Jason,I want to thank you for teaching me that we are imperfect and that anyone who walked a dark path can turn his/her life around and become a better person. I want to thank you for playing a role in helping me come to grips with my battles with high functioning autism and anxiety and growing into the man I am today. I want to let you know that you are the coolest and greatest Power Ranger of all time.
In the Daily Planet, heroes are born and the story continues. Jason David Frank is hero and his story is not going to end. Its going to continue. I will do my part (along with the Power Ranger fanbase) to make sure that it does by my gift in writing, creativity, and cosplaying.
We are Jason David Frank and Jason David Frank was us.
Lastly, when I cosplay as you, I’m going to look up at the sky and smile and I’m going to yell out those three words (pose included): It’s Morphin’ Time!
May the Power Protect You.
Brian from Earth-16
If you or someone you know if contemplating suicide or has suicidal thoughts, please contact the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.