No Need To Restart System After Update: Megatron

Once in a while you find a villain that have a grand back story and an appearance that does not match. Some people may disagree with me but I think Megatron fits the bill. His original design doesn’t seem to project the sinister brutal conqueror his personality and history display. Just as to recap Megatron’s resume mentions him being a gladiator champion, a conqueror of much of his home world, and the cherry on top; he’s killed Optimus Prime on more than one occasion.  I have to say looking back at some of the first images of Megatron I have to chuckle.

Megatron Original US

Megatron Original US

Megatron Original UK

Megatron Original UK

He isn’t the visage of a gladiatorial champion or the arch-nemesis to all living things. But he did have the potential to be the villain he proclaimed to be.  My argument is a character can evolve in order to fit the back-story, and that it is a good thing this is happening. It’s no exaggeration to say the remodelling of past characters is an everyday practice in the comic book industry, examples being Venom and Dracula. I believe this is healthy for the industry, without this material will eventually become stale. Just imagine almost any comic from Marvel or DC that had the same cultural views as those in the 1940’s, I’m not sure how well the public would react. Sure the retrospective analysis one could do would be present but the mass majority would probably wouldn’t be all for it. I’m not knocking old comics they are time specific, just saying updates don’t hurt.

Megatron as published by Marvel was a skinny, grey character with an arm cannon that turned into a pistol (a form that still exists). Part of this was because the comic was created to give a story to a line of toys featuring a transforming fire arm. A fact that the Marvel UK illustrators focused on (see second image above). This was a design that lasted for a long time and would be seen in the animated series as well. But something changed; the leader of the Decepticons got an overhaul. When the Transformer series had its “reboot” many characters were painted in a darker light and some characters what was considered their image. Megatron was one such character; he began to inch towards his current brutish appearance, this time as a green and purple tank. It should be noted, his head design remains intact. To me this shows that even with an update a character still needs to retain some elements for recognition or else risking the audience thinking it’s a new character. This happened when Beast Wars came out, that in itself is a bit confusing as both share the name, arm cannon and personality for conquest but are two separate characters (in the same universe). Back to comics, Megatron’s new tank model seemed to be the way to go as more incarnations of the form kept popping up.

Megatron

In more recent years IDW has been the publisher of Transformer comics. Their designs can be split into two categories in my opinion; nostalgic and contemporary. IDW’s nostalgic Megatron looks in most ways the same as his original appearance. Though we see a more brutish hulking form with much more detail, he still turns into a gun though (head scratching). The contemporary designs are the ones I think represent the good an update can be. He’s a tank, a massive tank. His colour scheme in most cases is identical to the nostalgic but his actions and appearance match the gladiator background. For example he is shown in flashback brutally killing as an arena fighter.

Megatron Gladiator

Part of the issue that goes along with updates, and is probably one of the driving forces is technology. Being able to create intricate designs and being able to print them in a mass scale is a game changer in comics. This allows for these extreme changes in character art. The thing to always remember is to stay true to the character, even flesh them out for the audience to enjoy. One thing I’m beginning to see is Megatron isn’t always this crazy psycho out for pure power, he has brief times of grey area wading. For instance the panel below;

 

Megatron; Right, Wrong or Master of Magnetism?

Megatron; Right, Wrong or Master of Magnetism?

Sometimes you almost want to side with the villain. Especially when his argument is surprisingly reminiscent of Magneto. Back to the topic at hand, comic book character updates; good or bad? I vote good. There is nothing wrong with trying to keep a character current, especially if the back story and characteristics are maintained. Some other noticeable examples of this trend would be Starscream (always a self-serving backstabber), Ironman, Spiderman and the example, Batman.

As just a note this is the most recent incarnation of Megatron (Bayformers never happened).

TFSpotlight_Megatron_cvrRE

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3 Responses to No Need To Restart System After Update: Megatron

  1. dgriffiths403 says:

    Hey Ty, wicked breakdown of one of my favorite villains. I would have to agree with you that the initial portrayal of Megatron just doesn’t capture his ferocious nature. I just can’t see how a robot can look fierce with a blaster trigger hanging under his junk. Remodeling characters does take its place when needed, so I can see why some people (including myself) can appreciate the “newer” looking version of familiar characters, including Megatron. I also agree with you and your outlook on character revamps. I think a change in appearance can help boost the popularity of a comic, since a good portion of readers rely on visuals more than the stories. I know for myself, that when I come across characters that have been overhauled, I’m drawn more towards the newer versions just to see if their change in appearance affects their abilities or skills. The changes can be appreciated and well-suited to the characters themselves (like Megatron being a tank, rather than a blaster), or they can lose their heroic/villainous style with just a touch of the wrong color or introduction of new powers. In one of your final points, you also mention to stay true to the characters true form. I also think this is important as well, since many overhauls try to completely remodel a character, rather than just simply tweak the visual appearance of an already familiar concept. Great post!

    -Dave G

  2. Peter Johansen says:

    I think adapting is, for the most part, a great thing. Comics is no exception. This can range to a simple colour change to a complete overhaul of a character who desperately needs one. I think that for certain comics, most importantly superheros and science fiction, to stay current and interesting, every once in a while you need to re-adjust things. To try to keep up with some of the outrageous and complex back storys is almost impossible. Although sometime trying to change things in order to keep it alive can backfire. (Just look at the new Two and a Half Men. Atrocious.) But for the most part changes often improve and compliment the structure already in place.

  3. benwong2369 says:

    Hey great post Ty!
    I`ve grown up watching Transformers and seeing how they were from back in the day all the way to nowadays including the live action movies, i`m quite happy with how things have changed character design wise.
    That of course includes Megatron, it just seems his overhaul is out to give him a badass look (which works of course) looking back now, it`s almost ridiculous how his blocky appearance is able to strike fear into the other transformers. This just proves that remodeling with the times is actually a good thing. I can now appreciate a fiercer looking Megatron.
    It really helps a lot when a character gets a new look, especially one that supports the modern times. I find myself drawn to the characters that look more modern and updated compared to their counterpart back in the old days, in the world of comics I really believe that if you don`t keep up with the modern looks of your visuals your comic will be lost in time.
    great post, cause this not only applies to Megatron which is a great example to use, but shows others that comic book artists need to keep up with their visuals of their characters and backgrounds if they ever hope to keep their readers

    Ben

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