Transformers: 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Megatron

Megatron in Transformers: The Movie

When it comes to children’s toys, there are few villains more fearsome and ruthless than Megatron. The leader of Transformers's evil band of Decepticons will stop at nothing to get what he wants, even if it means blasting away an insubordinate right-hand man. He’s been portrayed in many ways across different platforms and continuities, from toys to comics and animated series, from video games to live-action films.

He’s seeped into the pop culture vernacular, with a late hip hop personality going by the name of DJ Megatron, and Calvin Johnson, a wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, being nicknamed Megatron, supposedly because he has large hands. With this list we’ll show you some things you may not have known about the Decepticon leader, from weird plot twists to behind-the-scenes facts and stories that almost came to be.

Don’t get on his bad side, just calmly enjoy these 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Megatron.

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If you’re a Transformers fan, you’re likely familiar with Unicron, so, no, that header is not a typo. In fact, in the 1986 animated Transformers: The Movie, Unicron is the behemoth machine that turned Megatron, at the time severely injured and helplessly floating through space, into Galvatron. But here, we’re actually talking about actual unicorns, those mythical equine animals with a single majestic horn.

In IDW’s Transformers vs. G.I. Joe No. 13, published in June 2016, Ultra Magnus challenges Megatron to a battle on the sun. Surprisingly, Optimus Prime burst out from within Ultra Magnus and defeats Megatron, thrusting him into the sun’s core. To escape, a burning Megatron uses his “black hole heart” to try to teleport to a different universe. It works, but he winds up in a world where his charred body lays, being licked by a My Little Pony-style unicorn, as the caption reads, it’s “a dimension where magic is science and friendship is magic.”


When the first Michael Bay-helmed Transformers movie came out in 2007, it ruffled many fans’ feathers with its depiction of a Megatron that really didn’t look like the traditional Megatron in any way. They were both silver and both evil robots who could transform, but the similarities ended there. The new Megatron looked much more alien, all jagged edges with barely discernible facial features. But that was almost not the case.

The original concept art for the movie revealed a Megatron that looked very similar to the traditional Generation 1 Megatron, complete with cannon on his right arm. As you can see in the image above, based on his legs, this version would have transformed into a tank, as opposed to the jet seen in the actual movie. Regardless, it’s hard to deny that the version they used on film is much more intimidating, if not perfectly faithful to the original.


We’ve touched on the fact that there are a number of different continuities, universes, and timelines detailing different stories and eras of Transformers history, some with different origin stories. This is called the Transformers Multiverse. In one of those multiverses, a Japanese cartoon continuity called Alternity, Megatrons from across the multiverse are able to come together in one storyline. Unsurprisingly, one Megatron is scary enough, but a bunch is incomprehensibly horrifying.

In Alternity, one Megatron is appalled by the newfound power of the Autobots, so he sets off on a tour of dimensions and universes to find a different version of himself in each, to bring back to his dimension. Even then, the powerful Alternity Autobots managed to take down the Megatron army time after time. He hatched a plan to manipulate the uber-powerful Planicrons to destroy them, but even that plan backfired when the Planicrons eventually turned on him.


The original G1 Megatron toy in gun mode

Of course, standing 30 feet tall, there’s no way a “real life” robot version of Megatron could ever fit on a puny human plane. But it’s a fact that you are not allowed to bring a first-generation toy Megatron on a plane in gun mode without facing some big trouble. Of course, it’s probably not the best idea to bring even an orange dollar-store water gun onto a plane these days. But the point is, in gun mode, Decepticon markings aside, he’s a very realistic Walther P38 U.N.C.L.E. And the original toy lacks an orange cap to signify that it’s a toy and not a real gun.

The fact that the gun mode looks so convincing is a key reason his alternate mode was originally changed and that he has gone on to have so many different modes (more on that later). There’s also the fact that it was a little silly for the leader of the Decepticons’ alternate mode to be completely useless unless it was in the hands of an ally to pull the trigger.


Marvel transformers gun

It’s true; a man in Windsor, Ontario, Canada was arrested in 2009 for allegedly pointing Megatron in gun mode at his neighbours. That’s how realistic that gun mode is. The story went a little something like this: Police got a call alleging that a 25-year-old man was pointing a gun around. Naturally, they took the call seriously – very seriously, in fact-- reportedly bringing in heavy forces with armor and artillery.

There was a three-hour standoff before the man was finally arrested. A nearby elementary school was put on lockdown as a result of the alarming situation. The man was reported to be upset because he had been evicted, but there’s also a weird twist to the story where the same man had been the victim of a home invasion that sent him to the hospital the night before. Ultimately, the man’s friend explained, “It’s an 80s-style Transformer... He’s had a really bad day. People are treating him like crap.” You can read the full story here.


Megatron Origins Comic Cover

Megatron wasn’t born a fierce, ruthless leader who would blow his right-hand man to bits without a second thought. Though, this is a little complicated due to the different continuities – in the Generation 1 animated series, he actually was built to be a leader, but other iterations depict something similar to what follows. Once upon a time, according to the four-issue IDW comics series The Transformers: Megatron Origins, he was a lowly worker bot, an Energon miner who suddenly found himself thrust into the world of gladiatorial games.

Though he was at first hesitant to kill his opponents in the gladiator arena, he soon developed a taste for blood… or whatever the robot equivalent is. He won gladiator battle after gladiator battle until he reached to the top the pile. At that point, he had a thirst for leadership so strong that he killed the leader of the gladiator games and took over his role. Upset with the political climate on Cybertron, he eventually recruited his gladiators into an army, who become known as the dreaded Decepticons.


Megatron reaching

As is the case with many creative endeavors, “the man” likes to have its say, and it was no different with Transformers. In this case, “the man” was Hasbro, the toy giant behind the brand. They didn’t like the name “Megatron.” They felt it conjured images that were too scary for the youngsters who were the toy’s target audience. It sounded like “megaton,” which is a scientific term for measuring massive explosions like those caused by nuclear bombs-- a real fear for kids of the 1980s.

Marvel Comics writer Bob Budiansky had a simple retort: that was the point. The name “Megatron” was supposed to be scary because he was the leader of the most fearsome mob of robots in the galaxy. Eventually, Hasbro relented and he was christened with the infamous name. We’d love to know, though, if Budiansky or Hasbro suggested any alternative names for the franchise’s ultimate big bad. What would be less offensive? Disgruntledbot? Grumpytron?


When we say Megatron was rebuilt by Cobra, yes, we’re talking about the Cobra you’re most likely thinking of: the terrorist organization that battles against G.I. Joe. The Transformers and G.I. Joe franchises have crossed paths on a few occasions, both being '80s creations of toy manufacturer Hasbro. But how did it come to pass that Cobra turned Megatron into a tank with an even more powerful gun than he already had?

The story was told in the Generation 2 Marvel comic G.I. Joe Starring Snake-Eyes and Transformers #139, which features an awesome cover depicting Megatron happily holding Cobra Commander in the palm of his hand. Megatron is in bad shape, damaged from battle, and in the presence of the Cobra leader. After witnessing the overwhelming power of a rail gun in Cobra’s possession, Megatron agrees to a deal where he’ll exchange Cybertron technology if Cobra will repair and rebuild his alternate mode to include a rail gun. Sure enough, he later rolls out as a tank equipped with his coveted gun.


Beast Wars Megatron as a T-Rex

Transformers fans will know that there was another Megatron in the Beast Wars  and Beast Machines animated series. This Megatron was a Predacon, not the same Megatron we know from the first generation who could turn into a gun and led the Decepticons. In fact, some fans have taken to calling Beast Wars Megatron “Megatron II” and in the Japanese series Transformers: Robot Masters, he was referred to as Beast Megatron to avoid the confusion.

But the confusion was almost eliminated in the first place. When they first conceived of Megatron as a character for the Beast Wars toys and mini-comic, he was meant to be the same old Megatron, just with a different appearance. But, as we know, they eventually chose to make him distinct, though he’s still an evil, ruthless leader with a blaster of sorts on his right arm – only in this case it takes the form of a Tyrannosaurus head, since this Megatron can take the form of a T-rex.


For many Transformers traditionalists, Megatron was, is, and always will be that Walther P38 U.N.C.L.E. Special handgun. But, at the risk of sounding cynical, it makes a lot more financial sense for Hasbro to keep giving him different alternate modes, so they can sell more toys. So, Hasbro, various comics publishers, animated series, and film productions have done just that.

To that end, Megatron could transform into flying vehicles like a military-style helicopter in some continuities, or a jet in others. The original G1 Megatron of Walther gun fame could later become a tank, jet, sports car, Cybertronian weapons platform and a Nerf toy gun. In some continuities, like the Unicron Trilogy, his alternate modes included Cybertronian versions of a tank, jet, racer, and even a robotic T-rex. He could also turn into a dragon, spaceship, and various assault vehicles. In the movies, he’s also been a Cybertronian tank (a flying one, no less), jet, and truck. In Robots in Disguise, he’s been non-vehicles like a dragon, gargoyle, and a hand, on top of vehicles like a spaceship and jet.

So let’s break it all down into 12 separate categories: gun, helicopter, jet, tank, sports car, truck, different types of weapons/assault vehicles, T-rex, dragon, gargoyle, hand, and spaceship.


Megatron and Galvatron

Gargantuan, ferociously powerful, and often completely insane, Galvatron is most often tied very closely to Megatron. In fact, in many continuities he actually was Megatron, reborn from death. When he first appeared as a toy, though, his biography made no reference of the Decepticon leader – although many believe this was omitted only because it would spoil the storyline in the upcoming Transformers: The Movie back in 1986. So his original origin story was this: he rose from the ashes of Megatron. And the current film franchise presents Galvatron as created in part from Megatron.

But the fact is there are more Galvatrons in more different continuities than we can mention here. We’ll give you a sample. In the IDW Generation 1 comics series, Galvatron actually existed alongside Megatron. There’s a series of Transformers “Universe” toys where Galvatron’s bio claims that his origin is unknown and that he simply appeared to establish dominance over the Decepticons.


Megatron with Orion Pax

Since Optimus Prime is the leader of the Autobots and Megatron is the leader of the Decepticons, they’re naturally bitter enemies. But there’s more to their mutual hatred than just being on different sides, and it stems from the beginnings of their relationship, according to at least one continuity. Back in the day on Cybertron, Optimus Prime was known as Orion Pax, a rising star in the police force. Pax knew of Megatron, who at the time preached non-violence in his disagreements with the government. Pax thought Megatron had good ideas and had the future villain released when he was arrested.

The future Autobot leader came to believe strongly in Megatron’s teachings, to the point where he was convinced the Senate was corrupt. They worked together to take down those in power, and while Pax didn’t always agree with Megatron’s increasingly violent means, he agreed with the end desire. But in the end, just when they’d worked together to kill the corrupt Zeta Prime, Megatron turned on Pax and shot him in the back. It was from that that Pax rose from the ashes to rename himself Optimus Prime and put together the Autobot army he needed to defeat Megatron and his forces.


Frank Welker being interviewed

For our purposes, we’re focusing on English voice actors only, and there have been 11 who have voiced Megatron on screens both big and small, including video games. The Megatron voice to end all Megatron voices is the original: Frank Welker. He voiced him in the original '80s animated series with a menacingly metallic authority, and returned in 2010 for Transformers Prime.

Then there are the rest. There was David Kaye’s deeper voice for Beast Wars and Beast Machines (though, as we’ve said, that’s a different Megatron), plus the more traditional Megatron in Armada, Energon, and Cybertron. After that, Trevor Devall took over on Cybertron, with kind of a combination of Kaye and Welker’s styles. Richard Newman also worked on Energon, while when the first-generation Megatron appeared on Beast Wars, it was the voice of Gary Chalk aping Welker. Then there was Daniel Riordan’s wonderfully manic take on Robots in Disguise, Jeff Manning’s work on The Transformers, Corey Burton on Transformers Animated,  Tony Gialluca in Cyber Missions, and Fred Tatasciore in the War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron games.

Finally, there’s the most “visible” actor on the list, Matrix villain Hugo Weaving in the live-action movies, going deep-voiced and growly. You can listen to them all back to back here.


Hugo Weaving

That most “visible” voice actor who has brought vocal life to Megatron? He thinks of the role and the Transformers movies as “meaningless.” Back in 2012, already with three films in the franchise under his belt, Hugo Weaving told Collider, I don’t regret doing it, but I very rarely do something if it’s meaningless. It was meaningless to me, honestly.” He added that he never even met director Michael Bay, other than over Skype.

Not surprisingly, the outspoken Bay didn’t appreciate Weaving’s comments. Megatron had been killed off in that third movie, so he wasn’t needed for 2014’s Transformers: Age of Extinction. Weaving’s casting was controversial in the first place, with Welker, the definitive Megatron, auditioning but losing the part to the bigger name. Welker was brought in to do other Decepticon voices, like Soundwave and Shockwave. And, finally, with Megatron out of the picture for the fourth film, Welker was able to voice Galvatron, who in the film continuity was built in part with data from Megatron, but in other continuities is an evolution or reincarnation of Megatron.


Megatron in Transformers The Last Knight

All tis talk about the voices leads us to the point that, finally, Welker is going to get his chance to voice Megatron in a live-action movie: next year’s Transformers: The Last Knight. This is great news for Transformers traditionalists. But how is it possible? Optimus Prime pretty clearly sliced Megatron’s head off toward the end of Dark of the Moon.

As we know, Megatron has a penchant for coming back from the dead in many continuities, but, like we said earlier, it’s usually in the form of Galvatron. But a Galvatron storyline was already put into play in Age of Extinction, ending with him saying, “We will meet again, Prime… for I am reborn!” So does that mean Megatron is about to go full circle, Megatron to Galvatron and back to Megatron again? There is some precedent for that. The Japanese Transformers: The Headmasters cartoon has Galvatron emerging from 15 years trapped in ice to become “Super Megatron.”


Transformers: The Last Knight is scheduled to hit theaters June 23, 2017.

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