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#20

Scorponok

By Blackjack

"The real Scorponok wouldn't have turned and fled! He'd have accepted his responsibilities. His fate! Can I then do less? I think not! Unicron! I'm coming for you!"

Percentage of vote: 22.7%
Average ranking: 12.8

Ah, Scorponok. He never did much in the cartoon, even by cartoon standards he wasn't even an actual character, just a big transforming base that appeared for all of two minutes under the control of the villainous Lord Zarak. And while he does have gotten some appearances in modern comics, they tend to be extremely inconsistent, with his various appearances in IDW material ranging from a hammy Bond villain to a stupid generic warlord. He does appear in Regeneration One as a major villain early on, but personally I don't like to talk about that.

Scorponok has been reimagined several times: as a dimwitted thug in Beast Wars, an angry warlord in Energon and a mindless (but awesome-looking) sand-monster in the 2007 Movie, but none of them hold a candle over the version of Scorponok that most people almost universally voted for: his Marvel comics version. And specifically for me and a lot of other voters as well, the couple of issues which led to the climax of the Marvel series and Scorponok's death. Whoops, spoilers! But within the space of a couple of pages, Scorponok was turned by Simon Furman into one of the most memorable characters ever in Transformers lore.

"Late G1 Marvel, to be specific
(Regeneration One be damned). Just
an all-around good anti-villain."

--zigzagger

To understand more of Scorponok's motivations, we must wind all the way back to Scorponok's first appearance in the comics. Being the big Decepticon toy in the year 1987, Hasbro understandably wanted this new awesome toy Scorponok (which a lot of our voters seemed to like as well) to have a huge role in the comics. So Scorponok was set up initially as one of the Decepticon leaders, pursuing a group of peace-seeking Autobots led by Fortress Maximus to the planet Nebulos. Scorponok's group was told of the Autobots' arrival by a certain Lord Zarak, who wanted the Autobots off his planet but eventually got more than what he bargained for. After a series of calamitous events, Scorponok and Lord Zarak eventually found themselves grudgingly bound through the Headmaster process, unlikely allies who shared control over the main Scorponok body.

Throughout the Nebulos arc, the merged entity known as Scorponok was torn between Lord Zarak's uncertainty about harming his daughter and the original Scorponok's Decepticon pride. It was this little split between the two personalities, their internal conflict and Lord Zarak's eventual acceptance of being Scorponok, which made his original appearance so much different from other Decepticon leaders. More than anything, Scorponok was partly human (or Nebulan, if you will), making the internal conflict so much more relateable. Granted, he was reduced to a generic cunning Decepticon leader after the Nebulan arc, with Lord Zarak being written off as accepting the role as part of Scorponok and never really seen. As my fellow writer inflatable dalek put it, he was 'a bit all over the place under Bob', alternating between being a generic 'ha ha ha kneel before my new gimmicky warriors' villain and clashing egos with leader of the Earthbound Decepticons Ratbat.

"A Decepticon leader who sees
the bigger picture (eventually)."

--Rack'n'Ruin

But Bob Budiasky handed over the reins of writing the US comic to Simon Furman, and this was when Scorponok truly shined. As Robert Herkstroter put it, Scorponok 'turned from a savage brute to a more sympathetic character'. Scorponok was faced with a lot of problems near the end of his tenure: forced to team up with the Autobots, facing a revolt from his troops due to accepting the treacherous Starscream into their fold and facing off against a Decepticon civil war in the form of Shockwave's return (and the aforementioned treacherous Starscream, naturally).

Desperate to recruit the Decepticons to the greater cause of fighting the world-eating demigod Unicron, Optimus Prime had surrendered to Scorponok, and the Decepticon leader (or rather, Lord Zarak, who seems to have eventually become the dominant personality) was torn between his powerful Decepticon pride and saving face in front of his troops, as well as his far more sensible human urge to actually work against this larger threat. Reason eventually won, and despite the decision being mightily unpopular Scorponok entered into an alliance with Optimus Prime.

"I love the idea of a Decepticon
leader hiding his nobility
behind utter ruthlessness."

--Anonymous

As they were drawn into the Unciron conflict, Scorponok showed a far more vulnerable side to his character. Despite all the bluster he spouted about being the mightiest Decepticon during his tenure as leader, Scorponok was afraid of death, afraid of failing his troops and generally enduring some very human fears of leadership. He confessed all this to Optimus Prime in a surprising moment of vulnerability, and was one of the most powerful emotional scenes in the Marvel book's history. Vowing to go down with pride and accepting that death was not something to be afraid of, when Unicron's cultists attacked Optimus Prime, Scorponok both the human and the Decepticon part stormed in to the rescue despite the admitted chance to leave the Autobot leader to his fate.

However, when the planet-sized harbinger of doom Unicron arrived, Scorponok was paralyzed by the sheer power of the monster who quickly killed his opposite number Primus. Freezing in fear and feeling that he's not quite up to the task to stand up alongside Optimus Prime as a leader, Scorponok had a very powerful scene where he reflected on his vulnerabilities. That he was a man...but also a Decepticon. It was definitely that moment when he cemented himself as one of the best anti-villains of all time in my heart. Charging into battle without a hope of victory, with only his Decepticon pride to lean upon, Scorponok goddamned bit chunks out the feet of a god. In his own words, as he sunk teeth and claws into Unicron's ankle: "I'll rip you to pieces with my bare claws, tear your circuits out with my teeth and spit your diodes back at you! Die Unicron...Die!" It was an act of defiance, an act of pride, an act of spite, an act of acceptance...and it lasted all of two panels before Unicron melted him without so much of a side glance, but as he lay dying, half-melted, Optimus Prime consoled him and told him that, yes, Scorponok did indeed do good.

"Or Lord Zarak, if you would
the flawed, scared man at the heart
of this massive, deadly machine.
Scorponok's struggles trying to lead
the Decepticons, especially in light
of the coming of Unicron, showed him
to be a sympathetic, complex individual."

--Warcry

Throughout his tenure as the Decepticon leader in the Marvel comics, Scorponok and Zarak showed an extremely progressive characterization, being one of the few Decepticon leaders who had to suffer through the burdens of leadership instead of just bullying his way through, and dealing with mature issues such as pride, choice, honour and death. Scorponok was a man, a Decepticon, a leader and a warrior -- and so was Zarak. Their combined arc is certainly one of the deepest characterization ever given to Transformers a character, and despite said characterization only occurring over the span of his last few issues, it is still one of the unquestionable highlights of Transformers fiction to me.

"Prime... did I do good?"

--An anonymous voter paraphrasing Scorponok's famous last words.

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