Eric Holmes Turns To The Dark Side In "Megatron Origin"

Thu, March 22nd, 2007 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Arune Singh, Staff Writer

"Megatron Origin" #1

When it comes to transforming robots, there's no one more feared and genuinely terrifying than Megatron, the classic "Transformers" villain featured in comics, films and television programs. No -- not Galvatron. And certainly not Cy-Kill. Sure, we all wondered how the towering Megatron transformed into that tiny gun (ah, the wonders of Energon), but there was no doubt he would not only die trying to vanquish the heroic Autobots, but also enjoy it. Many a child blubbered and cried when Megatron killed Optimus Prime in "Transformers: The Movie,"cementing forever his evil villain status. With a new "Transformers"film arriving this summer, it makes sense that IDW Publishing would release "Megatron Origin,"revealing that Megatron...wasn't always such a bad guy? To learn more about the mini-series, CBR News spoke with writer Eric Holmes and found out just what makes Megatron tick.

"The book is all about the origins of the war, the Decepticons and my favorite Transformer of all - Megatron,"Holmes told CBR News. "The project came about because as long as this war has been going on, I had never seen a definitive origin that gave a reason for things to end up the way they are in regular continuity.  There's talk of a war, and gladiatorial battles and some general pursuit over the control of energy but it was never tied up in a way that could you why, for example, Rumble has a certain logo on his chest and follows Megatron's orders. I think that's the most interesting part of it all; you have all these great characters with no personal reason why they're all at war with each other."

"The story has been around for a while," Holmes continued. "There was a point where I talked to Dreamwave about it - they were interested enough to suggest making it an ongoing series, then they promptly vanished.  The license went into the ether after that, and after IDW emerged with the rights, I talked to Chris Ryall, Editor In Chief at IDW.  Chris really clicked with the proposal, so now we're here, ready to roll out the first issue in May!   It'll be a 4 issue miniseries giving you a peek at Transformers from a perspective you haven't seen before - the beginning of the war."

"Megatron Origin" #2 -- inked cover
Holmes' work as a game designer on the recent "Hulk" video games, working with Paul Jenkins, helped to prepare him for the writing of such a big assignment. Holmes found himself playing in the sandbox of Simon Furman (IDW's principle "Transformers" scribe and longtime fan favorite "Transformers" writers across multiple publishers), which was a unique experience. "Simon is definitely an inspiration,"said Holmes. "Like all the UK fans, I grew up with his Transformers work.  Among others, there was a story called 'Target 2006' which blew my mind when I was a kid. It came out just before the movie and featured all the new movie characters from Hot Rod through Ultra Magnus to Galvatron. It was very mysterious and slowly revealed how each of them relate to each other; the way Galvatron's origin was revealed was enough to collapse my tiny twelve-year-old mind under it's own weight, and I think I heard a few thousand others collapsing across the country at the same time.  I think IDW are re-releasing the series this summer, so fans looking for a blast from the past should check it out!   

"Simon is definitely guiding the overall IDW-verse, and has been a great help in making sure that it stays close to his vision without compromising the story at the core of it all. Getting to work with Simon was a definite thrill."

Very little has ever been seen of the Autobots and Decepticons on their home planet of Cybertron prior to the civil war that divided the Transformers into good and evil factions. Holmes did promise readers they'd see familiar faces, but also that Megatron may not quite be what you expect, "Megatron is not a general, not even a leader of any sort at the start of the series - he's someone getting the grubby end of the stick in an increasingly disparate society.  There's a reason for this war, and the root of it all is greed.  It's driving society to fracture - violently.  Megatron is not the character you recognize at first, but he has aspects of the character we know.  Through the tale he learns the lessons that make him the Megatron we know."

Holmes continued, "There'll be a bunch of other Transformers in the story, all a little tweaked from what you know.  It's fun to imagine who is doing what before the war. The focus is mostly on the classic characters, the ones there right from the beginning.  Prowl. Soundwave. Starscream.  A few of the lesser-seen characters.  Ratbat.  Blades.  A bunch of cameos of people in civilian life.  We have a Prime, but it's not Optimus - it's Sentinel Prime. There are a lot of ideas in this.  I honestly wish I had more pages - you could do a lot "before the war" and continue it as the war is spreading across the planet."

"Megatron Origin" #2 cover colors
Some fans have expressed concern over the notion of a "good Megatron,"citing concern of turning Megatron from bad guy supreme into a misunderstood hero. For Holmes' part, he said that fans shouldn't be so quick to toss around the labels of "good"and "bad.""I guess if you look at the package of the toy he's an 'Evil Decepticon'...or is that just Autobot propaganda?"asked Holms. "All the classic TF stories are told from the perspective of the Autobots as the central figures of the tale, hence they are the heroes.  I firmly believe that any villain has to be the hero of his own story.  If you look at any story from the perspective of the other side, they're on their own journey, doing what they believe is right.  Nobody sets out to be 'evil' or decides to be 'bad'.  They have their own values arrived at through their own life experience.  Megatron is definitely not the classic definition of a hero though, more of an anti-hero.  

"Is the Punisher a 'good guy'?  Is Magneto?  It's all subjective. I guess Magneto is 'classified' as a villain, but he has his own ideas and value system he's chosen to uphold, and in the classic comic canon he's set against the heroes.  It's his values that differentiate him, not that's he's fighting the heroes."

Megatron will also stand out from the crowd for much the same reason he'd stand out later--sheer brutality and a cold, calculating soul (or 'spark' in Transformers terms). "He has an utterly brutal side of him that he doesn't have completely in check.  He's violent, and he likes to endorse that.  That's one of the key things about the story; he experiences it, then finds out that he likes it and that he can make a good living through exploiting it. He's going to look in the mirror in this series and do some soul-searching about what he finds."

"Megatron Origin" #2 variant cover by Marcelo Matere
Fans shouldn't worry that Megatron's vicious streak will be diluted by providing an understandable origin. "He absolutely must have reasons for doing what he's doing,"asserted Holmes. "This is something Paul Jenkins was great at spelling out when we worked with him. He referred to 'evil for evil's sake villains' as 'moustache twirlers.'  You just can't invest in that beyond the world of Penelope Pitstop; people just don't decide to be evil. They get their values from their experiences and then come into conflict with others who have different values.  Subjectively, I guess both parties could call the other 'evil'.  

"It's a divisive issue, because when you first see the setup it is quite jarring, divisive even.  Readers aren't used to seeing Megatron in the starring role.  But Hannibal Lecter is fascinating as the lead character in his own stories too, hmm? Decepticons are underhanded, brutal, destructive - but what if there was a reason why they chose to fight that way?  If you can see why he does it, if you put him in circumstances that demand it to remain consistent with his values, he'll be sympathetic. Being cool doesn't hurt either, and Megatron is an inherently attractive and charismatic character."

In classic Transformers lore, Megatron relied on two lieutenants -- the ice cold Soundwave and the oft-traitorous, rarely loyal Starscream. For an entity as intelligent as Megatron, one had to wonder why Starscream's plans to overthrow Megatron (which included creating his own Decepticons to subjugate the rest of the clan) were so well tolerated. "You'll see Starscream in a role you haven't quite seen before,"teased Holmes. "I won't say more than that.  Their first ever meeting is in this story, as are many other 'first encounters'.  It's not quite what you'd expect.  Starscream wasn't born a traitor.  The two characters will work together - and it won't be a smooth ride.  We'll be setting some precedents that dovetail nicely into Simon Furman's current IDW story."

For those not enamored with the Transformers, the appeal of the franchise can be quite confusing, as the show was/is perceived as intended for children and not adults. Holmes can't speak for all fans, but he explained what makes him a Transfan for life. "Timing for our generation was a huge part, I'm sure - hence the movie being well timed at this point for new parents to be taking their kids to the new movie this year,"he said. "I'm sure there's a Hollywood clock to this stuff.  Look at the offset between the original Star Wars movies to the new sequels.  Now Transformers-- no coincidence I'm sure.  I've always thought the concept of Transformers is great fun for kids because it enriches the 'real' world.  Dad's truck doesn't have to just be a truck - it can be pictured as turning into a giant robot! As any Transformers-minded kid, it was special whenever you saw a Volkswagen bug or whatever any official Transformer turned into.  I wonder if the GM placement in the new movie will swing many prospective buyers through the same enthusiasm?

"The mythos that Simon built up back in the day was a huge part of why it was fun to think about the universe.  He'd always be throwing off an idea here or there about their culture, history, traditions, technology and it would get you thinking about how it all worked.  One particularly neat idea from back in the day was an 'inhibitor claw'; a piece of technology that inhibited a Transformers mobility by stopping the various pieces it clamped into from moving, hence stopping a Transformation.  It was such a simple idea, but a neat little nugget.  Simon is great for that.  Oh, and they turn up in the origin series!

The Decepticons were always a favorite for me.  I'm convinced you could tell a whole host of stories with nothing but them as the cast; they've got everything you need for conflict and drama without showing a single Autobot insignia.  I think they have the fan draw too."

Artist Alex Milne is a perfect choice to illustrate the book in Holmes' mind, as the scribe praised Milne for his nuanced artwork. "Alex has a great level of mechanical understanding a great eye for action.  I think that's when you get the best Transformers work; you get characters that look like real machines but deliver scenes where they're just as expressive as people.  It's a tough line to walk, but Alex makes it look easy.  Like the best artists, he's super-passionate about his work and doesn't want to let go of anything until it's great. Alex has had a lot of great ideas about the physical evolution of the character.

"We'll be taking [Megatron] from civilian to leader.  There's been some talk about what he is in the online forums from the covers that have gone out, so I'll tell you here: he's a miner, working on an Energon excavation site.  He toils to extract the riches from the mines only to see it taken away to fill the coffers of Cybertron's richest, while he gets just enough to see him through the next day's work.  Alex has the job of taking him from here to the fusion-cannon wielding leader of an army.  He's done a great job - you're going to love the cover of #4!

"Alex was also the artist selected for the IDW movie adaptation, so I think that tells you how much IDW and Hasbro respect his work; those movie characters are far from easy! You'll be hearing more 'Alex Milne' in the future!"

With Holmes being such a devoted Transformers fan, and the planned "Galvatron"one-shot (about which Simon Furman talked to us recently), it has to be asked: who wins in a fight, Megatron or his future upgraded self Galvatron?

"The ancient secret of who wins in a comic book match-up.  Just look and see in whose series the fight is appearing in - that's always who wins!"laughed Holmes.

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