More than any other Transformers toy, Megatron was the one that eluded me the most.
In many ways, Megatron represents a darker side of collecting Transformers. It was the one Transformer I wanted the most when I was young. I first knew of its existence in 1985 when I saw it alongside Optimus Prime in a Littlewoods catalogue. Optimus was £16.99, Megatron was £17.50. He was way, way out of my price range. But that didn’t stop me from desiring him. In fact, it was more than desire, it was obsession!
I was already very lucky, and grateful, to own Optimus Prime. But Megatron was his equal. And Hasbro was very clever, devious even, when it came to marketing Transformers toys. Transformers weren’t just toy robots, they were characters. More than that, they were interesting characters. Each one was a (often dysfunctional) person.
Hasbro (and Marvel et al) made Transformers must-haves. They made them addictive.
I initially got to know Megatron’s character from the Ladybird books and cassettes. There, he was a wise old warrior who was tired of war, and of the other Decepticons! I remember getting chills every time I heard his rasping metallic voice rattling in my headphones.
I never saw Megatron in toy shops, only in that Littlewoods catalogue. I studied him intently. I imagined how he might transform from gun to robot, and I imagined how his scope/silencer cannon would lay waste to my Autobots on my bedroom carpet. Even one rainy day, I attempted to build my own Megatron out of scraps of card and glue. You won’t be surprised to learn that it was terrible.
In the playground, schoolmates claimed to have Megatron. But they always left him at home. And if I ever visited them and asked about their Transformers, I was always told that Megatron was “somewhere” upstairs, or at their cousins’ house. “Chinny-reckon,” I would mutter.
One good friend of mine, Mark, had Megatron. In fact, he had all four leaders and was very proud of the fact. Megatron’s arms were incredibly fragile and after breaking them, Mark kept his Megatron in pistol mode only and the one time he let me look at it I remember just how heavy it felt. That brief moment of contact only fuelled my desire.
Once I started reading the Marvel UK weekly Transformers comic at the time of “Target: 2006” onwards, I grew to desire Megatron even more. I was captivated by his character as he struggled emotionally in both Simon Furman’s and Bob Budiansky’s stories. To see him up against Lord Straxus, Shockwave, the death of Optimus Prime, and himself, all at once was utterly gripping. I re-read that string of issues countless times. There was more depth to Megatron in the Marvel comics than I really appreciated at the time.
Megatron “died” in issue 108’s “Gone But Not Forgotten”, apparently by suicide. This was dark, dark stuff for a children’s comic.
Megatron was both the most powerful Transformer, and the most vulnerable.
Of course, I knew he was destined to return at some point in time for Transformers: The Movie to occur so he could become Galvatron. But I still missed him. I was still reeling from his death.
During the Easter holiday in 1987 Galvatron was added to my collection and even though I knew it was Megatron in a new body, it never really felt that way. I still didn’t feel like I had a Megatron in my collection.
When Optimus Prime was resurrected as a Powermaster in 1988 I had high hopes that Megatron would somehow be brought back in toy form too. Perhaps if Transformers were selling well enough to support Japan’s Masterforce Overlord toy in Hasbro’s markets, then maybe we would have seen him appear alongside Optimus Prime as Powermaster Megatron?
Still, Powermaster Prime and Galvatron were the same height and looked great on my shelves!
When the Classics range of reissues appeared in 1990, I had convinced myself that Megatron would make an appearance. In 1991, in Toys R Us in Peterborough, I remember seeing Original Optimus Prime for the first time and clearing the shelves in frantic search of a possible “Original Megatron” in gold packaging. Ironically, that same day I walked out of that Toys R Us with an Overlord in my arms.
I never saw an Action Master Megatron here in the UK. And while I was wantonly grabbing previously “US-only” characters like Shockwave and Blaster in Action Master form I remember bitterly thinking that Action Master Megatron probably hadn’t even been released in the UK anyway since Hasbro had already denied him a Classics reissue, you know, just to personally spite me.
Thoughts of Megatron eventually faded. I was no longer reading the British Transformers comic regularly and I couldn’t find any of his toys anywhere, real or imagined. My obsession with both Megatron-the-character and Megatron-the-toy finally subsided.
And then came Transformers: Generation 2!
It was by chance that I found out that the Marvel G2 comic existed after ringing up Forbidden Planet in Nottingham to ask if they had back issues of the old weekly Transformers comic. I was told they had issue 3 of the “new one”. Within the hour, I had that issue in my hands.
Megatron was now a tank! I had no idea of his new body’s origin but it didn’t matter. I was fascinated by his character once again. Here he was outdated (and out gunned) by this cheeky new generation of Decepticons. This, along with his uneasy alliance with Optimus Prime were the highlights of that series for me. This was my Megatron again, powerful and vulnerable.
I just knew there had to be a toy!
There was! I found one in the sale in a department store in Lincoln in late 1994. More than Galvatron (or even Action Master Megatron) this new tank form felt like it was Megatron. It wasn’t the original, but it was definitely Megatron. He stood shoulder to shoulder with my (by this time broken) Powermaster Optimus Prime on my shelves.
Generation 2 Megatron is by far my favourite Megatron toy, possibly one of my all time favourite Transformers. I was incredibly fortunate to find a sealed one again on eBay just this month and, when I un-seal him, he will again stand shoulder to shoulder with Powermaster Prime in my display. More on that another time.
I did eventually add the original Megatron to my collection after finding a boxed one in decent condition at BotCon Europe in 1999. It was, at that point, the most I’d ever spent on a Transformers toy. I remember driving home, back up the M1 motorway at about 2 am, and being so incredibly excited about finally, finally owning that Megatron that I had obsessively fixated upon for all those years.
Even now I can’t explain why Megatron got under my skin so much as a child and as a young collector. Maybe it was simply because he was a character that was (and continues to be, thanks to More than Meets the Eye and Lost Light) one of my all-time favourites, and that somehow the connection between fiction and reader was strengthened by the existence of a material version of him.
Hasbro went to great lengths to make their Transformers highly desirable to children, and I fell for their charms and fell in love with their characters. They made Transformers so collectable and so addictive that there was a sort of pain if there was one missing from a collection or group. Megatron’s absence from my collection for so many years fuelled an unhealthy fixation. It’s probably why, after 35 years, I still collect Transformers.
To me, Megatron is the epitome of the dark side of collecting Transformers; one that I continue to wholeheartedly embrace!
May your luster never dull, and your wires never cross!
(Megatron vs Straxus illustration by Geoff Senior, coloured by Josh Burcham)