• Joe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #110: Starscream


"Get on with the ceremony!"

Yeah, I was a big Transformers guy back in the mid-1980s. The original toy line and the cartoon culminating in the groundbreaking 1986 animated movie were high culture for ten-year-old me. I loved Optimus Prime like everyone else, but for me Megatron fell short as an antagonist. A bit too much cardboard-cutout, tin-plated (literally) tyrant, a bit too much central-casting megalomaniac. For me, the far more compelling Decepticon was Starscream.

The guy was a total weasel, in the vein of fellow total weasel aides-de-camp like Grima Wormtongue and Peter Pettigrew. Scheming, cunning, always looking for the angle, supportive of the big boss as long as the big boss looks strong. Where Starscream leaves these other guys behind is his burning ambition not just to be on the winning side, but to be in charge of it. He actively undermines Megatron, goading the more-balls-than-brains Decepticon leader into tactical mistakes, in the hopes that he'll be there to pick up the pieces when it all falls apart.

Starscream's big moment comes in the movie (no, not one of Michael Bay's explosion-orgasm travesties, the animated classic), when Megatron is finally defeated. Seizing the day, Starscream crowns himself as leader of the Decepticons. Alas, it isn't to last, as Megatron returns, newly retooled as Galvatron, and rudely cuts short Starscream's reign in one of the more spectacular death scenes in cartoon history.

The coda to Starscream's tale comes during an episode of the Transformers cartoon once the new robots introduced by the movie have moved to center stage. His ghost (yes, a robotic spirit) returns to wreak more havoc and hatch more plans. Even obliteration isn't enough to stop Starscream. Take that, mighty Megatron.

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