Hi, I’m Becka.
And I just…really love Megatron.
Well! I mean! He’s just such a great character, isn’t he? Such a cool villain with a really rad name and he’s normally all silver and angry and always mucking up his plans…
Ma’am, this is a Wendy’s.
…Okay, if I buy some of whatever a Wendy’s sells, can I carry on talking about Megatron?
Fiiiine. I’ll just have to do it the old-fashioned bloggy way, then.
It’s July 2019, which means that Megatron has been my favourite Transformer for a decade now. Hugo Weaving’s particularly impressive olfactory skills were my first exposure to the character, sitting in my parents’ living room cheering on the cavalcade of robots whose importance to pop culture I did not quite understand at that point, and thinking the big silver guy all covered in ice like that pack of sausages I bought two years ago and left in the freezer “for emergencies” was pretty damn cool. The G1 cartoon soon followed, and then Transformers: Animated, and then a brief stint with Transformers: Prime (it’s awesome, but not for me), and finally a complete binge of Beast Wars. Recently I have dabbled tentatively with Beast Machines and am considering doing a full days’ marathon, but for now I am content with fast-forwarding through the episodes to find the Megatron parts.
(I’m sad they never made a toy of his adorable little traitorous drone).
But hitting my 10 year Transformers anniversary (Anniformersry? Sorry, Thew) made me wonder just why I liked this character so much – why I consider myself to be a moral person with good judgement, but it’s always the villain who attracts my attention. Usually this signifies that the protagonist/protagonist team of a franchise is just a bit wet, but the strength of Transformers has always been that the heroes are just as interesting as the villains – after all, they’re there to sell toys. You can’t sell a toy of Boring McVanillapants when Boring McVanillapants is a giant space robot and needs to be at least as interesting as a Furby.
I’ll admit I am that sort of person who always finds the villain more interesting than the protagonist, usually because the protagonist exists to maintain the status quo whilst the villain exists to shake it up (note I am not using ‘antagonist’ here because sometimes this includes characters who purport to be on the ‘good side’ but are so into maintaining the status quo that they loop right around to being the ‘bad side’ – the best current example I can think of is Heaven still wanting a holy war in Good Omens when Aziraphale and Crowley’s relationship proves that peace is achievable).
And villains just downright have more fun, usually because they don’t really care about how they appear to those around them. I’m not a sociopath advocating for The Joker to be our next messiah (because the people who do usually end up being those people who think that SJW is an insult and consider Superman being an immigrant story to be Modern Diversity Ruining Comics), but I am saying that watching Jack Nicholson fart around Gotham City doing ridiculous shit will always be infinitely more entertaining than watching Christian Bale brood in a cave.
Also, villains are just sexier.
So yesterday on Ye Olde Twitters Dot Com, I asked my followers who their favourite Megatron was and collated the responses together per Megatron to see what exactly the wider Transformers fandom (as represented by people who follow me, obviously not a scientific sample but still with more street cred than an Antivax blog) considers to be The Quintessential Megatron Qualities. I’ve gone through the 151 replies (no wonder my phone ran out of battery quicker than a Sega GameGear) and picked out the key words each respondee has applied to their Megatron of choice to deduce how to create The Ultimate Megatron, and not because I want to take over the world or anything. Have you seen the world? It’s a mess. Who wants to run a mess? I have a hard enough time remembering to hoover.
From my admittedly crap science brain (look I got a C at GCSE, what do you want from me?) here are the five key areas that must be fulfilled to create the ultimate Megatron:
- Have An Arc
Bear with. I break these down below.
Okay, you’ve heard it enough from me but now I want to hear it from you all:
Which Megatron is your favourite, and why?
— Becka 🔜 TF Nation 2019 💕 (@tainkirrahe) June 30, 2019
The Scare Factor (Transformers: Prime)
A good villain has to be scary in order to lend gravitas to what they’re trying to achieve, and if that was purely what this contest was rated on then Transformers: Prime Megatron would have the whole shebang in the bag. And then he would probably put that bag in some sort of horrific blender and drink whatever came out because the guy is crazier than a bag full of cats.
Here’s his word cloud of the terms the responses used to describe him:
Whilst several people talked about his eventual redemptive arc in the Beast Hunters film, most focused on the fact that the guy was a big terrifying ball of spikes and malice who posed a legitimate threat to Optimus Prime and his merry band of resistance fighters by sheer brute force alone. Megatron may have had an entire army behind him and more brains on him than the usual depiction of the character, but it’s easy for his army to do their jobs when the enemy has already retreated because their general has just snorted a whole bunch of crystal meth and cracked a boulder in half with his head.
The Goofiness Factor (G1 & Unicron Trilogy)
Oh Frank Welker, what did we ever do to deserve you? Not enough, that’s what.
Despite the near legendary status of the G1 designs only a few responses mentioned G1 Megatron, which I find surprising, especially when you consider that Transformers as a fandom is still very much centred around the Sunbow cartoon from 1984-1986; even Hasbro itself is reverting to the aesthetics and world that cartoon brought, for better or worse.
But what isn’t surprising (at least to me) is how the fandom remembers the Big Grey Gun Man – despite the 1986 film ramping his threat status up from Ha Ha He’s Running Away to Holy Shit Now We’re Running Away, many still remember him as, uh, well:
It seems that the general consensus of Sunbow Megatron that, whilst certainly recognisable, he’s just a bit of a doof and not taken anywhere near as seriously as the Megatrons who followed him.
The Unicron Trilogy Megatron seems to have had the same fate, although not quite as badly as his sample pool was tiny:
Oh, and a grand total of one person talked about G1 Marvel Comics Megatron. They described him as a “putz”. Really, there’s not a lot more I can say about that. Except that “putz” is a good word.
The Competency Factor (Transformers: Animated)
You probably expected Beast Wars to appear in the subheading above, but you’d be wrong. Whilst he was the most intelligent Megatron to grace our eyeballs in 1996, the silky voiced Tyrannosaurus Rex has a category all of his own below.
Instead, sheer bloody competency falls instead squarely on the broad shoulders of the equally seductive Transformers: Animated Megatron, whomst Transformers Twitter decided by an overwhelming majority was a) the best one and also b) the most terrifying one because of just how capable he was – even when reduced to just a head in Professor Sumdac’s laboratory.
Most Megatrons have a temper that eventually snaps and ruins their plans – but TFA Megatron is the cool, calm, stoic, patient plotter that our ideal Megatron candidate clearly needs to be at spark. He’s not the brute archetype exemplified by G1 and TFP Megatron; he’s the guy who sits and bides his time and then strikes when he deems the iron is hot enough, even if he has to set it on fire himself to do so.
The Sex Appeal Factor (Beast Wars)
We live in the blessed time of galactic hyper space year 2019, in which people are free to fancy consenting adults of their choice so long as they’re not weird about it, and therefore naturally some of the answers mentioned the, ah, aesthetics of certain Megatrons.
Whatever it was we as a race did to deserve Frank Welker, take that and double it for David Kaye: Transformers Twitter is incredibly thirsty for the man’s vocal chords, and with good reason. Beast Wars may have had some slightly dodgy (unfinished, badly textured) CGI when it first premiered in 1996, but it did boast an incredibly impressive voice cast that helped to make it the memorable show that it was. Scott McNeil is the one we all whisper about in hallowed tones as we consider that most of the show is just him having a nice natter to himself, but we also can’t drop enough praise on Gary Chalk and David Kaye for giving us another unforgettable Prime/Megatron pairing.
Beast Wars Megatron is interesting because whilst I have (jokingly – everyone fancies every Megatron, it seems) put him under the sexy subheading, he also exemplifies the first two qualities we have discussed: he’s terrifying, and he’s also goofy as hell.
I’m not sure how many of these answers carry the above forward to Beast Machines, the black sheep of the franchise in which Megatron develops a taste for tying himself to the ceiling and wearing a shower curtain he found in B&M Bargains and everything is Grimdark and Very Serious, but in the meantime we can all universally agree that whilst TFA Megatron might be the quickest to secure a victory, BW Megatron would have the most fun doing it.
The Character Arc Factor (IDW 2.0 &Bayverse)
Transformers Twitter identified having a character/redemptive arc to be an essential ingredient for two Megatrons: More Than Meets The Eye/Lost Light’s Autobot Megatron, who probably doesn’t surprise you, and Bayverse Megatron, who probably does. Several also mentioned TFP Megatron’s arc, but it is less pronounced that the other two (and certainly more rushed), so I have left it with a mention above.
If there’s one thing you can say for MTMTE/Lost Light’s Autobot Megatron, it’s that he’s the giant robot version of the popular British toast-improver Marmite (shut up it is). You either love the fact that the writers tried something new with a tired old character and in doing so raised some significant questions about the morality of forgiveness, or you think a mass-murdering genocidal maniac being spared prison time wasn’t that great an idea in the first place. Whichever half of the coin you find yourself on, the arc itself has become an important part of IDW Megatron’s character now that that universe’s story is complete and finished, and arguably it does flesh him out in a way that had not been properly explored before.
But also of consideration is Bayverse Megatron. A lot of fans like to snigger behind their hands at the Michael Bay films for having ridiculous stories that make no sense, because those fans apparently have never watched the original G1 cartoon. (A lot more people take issue with Bay’s casual use of racism and misogyny and – yeah, that’s the real issue to discuss right there). But if you watch Transformers, Revenge of the Fallen, and Dark of the Moon – the Shia Trilogy – you will notice that this Megatron has the best character arc of any of the other characters. Tumblr user trinarysuns has created a fascinating breakdown of the evolution of this Megatron which first tipped me off to this, but it was also mentioned by other Twitter users among the consensus that Bay Megatron is a babe:
Perhaps I should have put him under the ‘sexy’ subheading after all.
Well, there we have it: the essential ingredients of what makes Megatron…Megatron. These aspects may be shared amongst a handful of different interpretations, but slap them all together and you’ll have yourself the best possible incarnation of the giant metal man with the good legs.
In terms of popularity, TFA and BW Megatrons were by far the most mentioned and discussed (and, to my mind, are the closest to possessing all aspects mentioned), with TFP Megatron taking second place. G1 and Unicron Trilogy were hardly mentioned, and RID was woefully under-represented.
The Machinima Megatron was mentioned twice, but the data here is far from clear as he was defined as:
- Having >:3c energy
- Being an asshole
And being An Old Person I don’t know if these two qualifiers are mutually exclusive or not.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, the police are here to escort me out of this Wendy’s. Apparently I’ve been hogging all the free wifi.