Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Peculiar Olympians: Beast Wars Megatron

“The Peculiar Olympians” is a series of blog posts about my most favourite fictional characters. They are each here for some combination of sympathy, empathy, inspiration, humour, quality, staying power, and/or significance to my relationship with fandom. These are not all the characters that I like, but they are the ones that have stood out to me the most. The list is also alphabetical and nothing more.

A love for villains with no deeper motivation or backstory than greed and personal enjoyment has become a nostalgic artifact for me. I sometimes miss my larger appetite for such characters, but if a “simple” villain has enough flair, I can still love them. Beast Wars Megatron totally has that kind of style, and looking at him takes me right back to the time when I could better appreciate the undemanding kind of villain.

Beast Wars was my first fandom, the first series with which I sought out material beyond the television show and began to follow online discussions. It lead to a larger engagement with Transformers fandom as a whole (which I’ve since fallen out of), butBeast Wars is still my favourite Transformers series, and its Megatron my favourite of the many unrelated characters to have that name.

Three hundred years after the end of the Autobot/Decepticon war, the primary Transformers factions are now the Maximals and Predacons. A Maximal exploration crew pursues rogue Predacons who have stolen an artifact called the Golden Disk, and the two ships crash on an Earthlike planet. This world turns out to be riddled with stores of raw energon, Transformers’ primary fuel source, and robots must adopt alternate modes derived from local animals/fossils to protect themselves from the resulting radiation. The scale of this conflict first seems small, but further details will be revealed that will introduce the potential to change the course of Transformers history. (And while it sounds ridiculous on paper, and a lot of plot details were never resolved, Beast Wars is still a good show.)

Beast Wars Megatron only wants power. Here and there he makes a bit of noise about wanting to free the Predacons from Maximal rule back home, but it’s abundantly clear that even this tidbit is more about feeding his ego than anything else. Yet his smooth voice, delivered by one David Kaye, lends him an air of refinement, and his ability to play his enemies against each other, with a light but twisted sense of humour sets him a cut above the rest….

…which it makes it all the better when we see how monstrous and bestial he truly is, his sophistication a veneer. Furthermore, as Beast Wars progresses, Megatron grows ever more insane and power-hungry. He loses something in this transition, but retains enough panache that my faith in him only wavers, never disappears.

The same can’t be said for the Megatron’s re-introduction in the sequel series Beast Machines. The merits of this characterization have been debated, but after struggling to accept it for years, I fall squarely on the side that considers Beast Machines Megatron an inferior and implausible continuation. Yes, he conquered the whole of Cybertron as he had always dreamed of, but deliberately put the population in stasis to rule an empty world. In addition he had inexplicable obsessions with cold, mechanical order and the elimination of organics. He had his moments in this series, but they were fleeting, and ultimately he was an unsatisfying re-iteration. Still, the memories of Beast Wars Megatron remain fondly.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

State of the Zentard Address, 2011

I forgot to blog about what’s happened in my latest year of Robotech and Macross fandom, for a lot of reasons. Basically, there was almost nothing going on with me that was new, and for a while I quietly imploded in response to the irritations coming from both fandoms.

Right now, all my feelings are still there, but I’ve become more confident about some of them. I’m telling myself to start believing several things:

* That I have not over-idealized the human-allied male Zentradi just because I like them above all else. I am aware of the characters’ place in the SDFM food chain and my desires for them did not overestimate this status.

* I gave every Macross work I tried a fair chance, and just happened not to like them that much. Perhaps my irritation over the fates of my favourite characters means my relationship with Macross is irrevocably broken, leaving me unable to feel that each series really follows from the past, but that’s the way it goes.

* It’s okay to say while I respect the freedom of the Macross’ staff, I don’t like what they’ve done with the place, and admitting this fact outright, instead of dancing around it, is the healthy way to be. You can respect canonicity and disagree with the creators both, and it doesn’t make you an entitled prat if you wish things had gone differently.

* That I have stopped trying to find the redesigned and retconned Zentradi to be appealing, and indeed they’re now a little sickening to look at. Macross 7 Neo-Exsedol is the exception, for vague reasons, but regardless, it’s all no surprise. If your favourite character is Bubba Jo-Jim Bob the accountant, odds are you like more about him than his name or his occupation. And once he’s only got those left, why stick around?

Thanks to the enthusiasm of Zen72, I’ve also become comfortable again with the role the Robotech novels and comics had in shaping the fan I am today. There is no point in trying to hide or deny that I once devoured the post-TV series novels and comics. I might have grown critical thoughts later, and my brain might have simply skimmed delicately over the stupider bits, but the attachment remains.

After passing through my critical but hateless period, what’s now happening is that the old Robotech novels and comics are acquiring a sort of demi-nostalgic charm. I can remember them fondly on principle, never mind the way I’ve cut into them more recently. I also still peck away sometimes at my Robotech fanfic-I’d-write-now-if-I-were-more-self-aware, but it’s largely just for that demi-nostalgia’s sake. It’s still anyone’s guess if I’ll wean myself off that story before finishing it, but a return to Tirol and Lantas feels refreshing sometimes.

At the same time, I’ve slid more towards a Macross state of mind. I find the Macross Romanizations, or the Macross-exclusive names springing to my mind first before the Robotech names, and the related storyline details. Some could attribute it to the inevitable “maturity” that Robotech fans with half a brain are supposed to go through, but for me these things are harder than if I were a fan of Minmay or Valkyries. I can’t become a full Macross fan, because I will not jettison that Robotech stuff entirely, even if it can be pretty awful with the Zentradi too.

If I were to give a better reason for dipping into this Macross-ness, it might be the short Macross AU fanfic I’m writing. It’s true that I feel something like a kid smoking on the porch while her parents are asleep--I’ve always been about the safe canon-fics. But I wanted to try something a little different, and be confident I could keep it all balanced.

I still have to make my own fun, because nothing has changed on the fandom front. The promise of a new Robotech “side story” while the main storyline has remained unfinished for five years  just further throws into light how pathetic the entire thing has gotten. At this point, I do in fact blame the people who believe Robotech is going anywhere. Harmony Gold is being as transparently do-nothing as usual, and anybody who can’t see it by this point…yeahhh…it’s hard to feel sympathy.

(The Toynami Glaug looks nice, though. I have to decide if my Matchbox Glaug and the SD Soft Vinyl I’m getting are enough)

Related to my understandings above, I no longer care that I didn’t grow to love Macross Frontier when everyone else did, but the recent MF film, Wings of Farewell, sounds so visually spectacular, I’ll have to give it a try. I even like the costume and effects for
“Magical Girl” Ranka, and normally I dislike Ranka anyway. I’m still looking forward to Yamato’s soft vinyl figure of Classic Britai, and, jeez, something good for me has to come out this year.

A problem I have right now is that I’ve still got a few ideas for projects, but a lot of apathy has set in. For instance, I would like to finally define what I believe the ethos of the pre-U.N. Spacy Zentradi are, and why I don’t consider them analogous to other warrior races with an ethos of honour. I’d like to elaborate on my take on the notion that Zentradi possess “war urges”. I’d like to refine and define my reasons for disliking Macross 7 (without going back to the series), and point out that even if I were more deeply invested in the main characters of Macross, DYRL still wouldn't be all that fun. The urge to write these things has not entirely disappeared, and it may be a matter of time as much as desire, as I don’t have much time to blog these days.

An SDFM remake and a Robotech reboot are still awful and stupid ideas, for different reasons. Fortunately, neither seems to be happening anywhere but in fans’ heads.

One doesn’t know what this year will bring.