I’m a product of the 80s. Aside from completing my elementary and secondary schooling between 1980 and 1990, my television taught me to fear a finite number of characters: Mikhail Gorbachev, Cobra Commander, Darth Vader, the dude from the Pepsi commercials (Max Headroom?), Cameron’s dad, and Megatron from the Transformers.
Megatron is the leader of the Decepticons in Transformers fare. In the cartoon, both the Autobots and the Decepticons were stranded on Earth trying to find enough energy to convert into energon so they could get back to Cybertron, continue their war, and take over everything. In every episode, and in the explosive Michael Bay movies, Megatron leads the assault on the Autobots with the one thing that matters in stories like his: power.
Megatron is a living weapon. This is a character who wears a cannon on his sleeve and transforms into a gun capable of blowing a hole into anything. He was the first villain I ever saw attack and hurt his own people (before the Empire Strikes Back); and he was the first cartoon character I saw who damn near killed the hero. As much of a fan of Optimus Prime I am, I was pretty impressed with Megatron’s chops: this wasn’t some half-hearted, lame-ass villain like Skeletor. Megatron was something else.
In the 1986 Transformers movie (which I wrote a FANTASTIC sequel to with my 13-year-old capabilities), Megatron is the victim of a mutiny led by Starscream (who is BY FAR my favorite Transformer). His battered body is salvaged by Unicron, a planet-sized Transformer who eats worlds (I think they stole this idea from Marvel with Galactus) who then turns Megatron into Galvatron and makes him stronger. Stronger? Who needs him stronger? But he comes back and shoots Starscream and TURNS HIM INTO DUST! Dust!
This movie brought us “You Got The Touch!” by Stan Bush so if you’ve never seen it…
In the current incarnation, Megatron’s thirst for power is something otherworldly. And his viciousness is unparalleled. My favorite part is his decimation of Jazz, the weakest of the Autobots. (I always hated that cat).
Jazz: Is that all you got, Megatron?
Megatron: Come here, you little cretin!
[Megatron grabs Jazz, but Jazz opens fire with his blaster]
Jazz: You want a piece of me? You want a piece?
Megatron: No, I want TWO!
[rips Jazz in half]
That’s what Megatron is all about. And that’s the lesson we’re supposed to learn from him. It is one thing for your villain to have a desire for a thing or even have menacing punchlines and a maniacal laugh. But power is the key. Your villain has to have the means to achieve their goals. They have to have the capability for their vision of reality to exist. They have to be a real threat. That one facet adds weight to your story, adds heft to your villain, and a sense of urgency to your hero.
Power. Otherwise, what’s the point?
That’s the deal. Tomorrow is another free day for the A to Z Challenge but, as we say in the Celebration, there is no rest for the wicked. Tomorrow, we’re talking about Superman’s arch-nemesis: Lex Luthor.