|Percentage of vote:||52.6%|
Traitor trai·tor n. one who betrays another's trust or is false to an obligation or duty
He may have 'the coolest name in science fiction', but Starscream's name is also the G1/G2 epitome of treacherousness as he systematically betrays Megatron at every opportunity in the absolute conviction that he would be a better leader of the Decepticons and. of course, finally settle who wins the war. However, when his plotting succeeds, Starscream just cannot hold onto what he has; he has his optics on the prize and the prize alone, never considering exactly what being a true leader entails. He has enormous ambition, but too much of a mercurial personality to ever really stick to a long-term plan and too much ego to actually hide his plotting, which is, inevitably, not A Good Thing for him, no, not at all...
"There are not many characters who openly announce their treachery, are renowned for deceit and cowardliness, and are downright beloved for it."
--Zach Baringer (Icespark from TFW2005)
Megatron warns, threatens and thrashes Starscream throughout the G1 continuity, but he tolerates him - possibly because it's wise to keep your enemies close, possibly because Starscream is a real asset as his Air Commander. It's when he's exiled from Megatron's cadre that Starscream becomes a real threat; he creates the Combaticons who form Bruticus [Starscream's Brigade] and plots to destroy Earth, with the Autobots and Megatron on it, to revitalise a Cybertron he can then rule [Countdown to Extinction].
You see, contrary to widely-held opinion in the Decepticon (and Autobot) ranks, Starscream is intelligent. Originally a scientist and explorer, he made a career change on returning to Cybertron after losing his friend, Skyfire, in an accident over an icy planet which later proved to be Earth [Fire in the Sky]. And, yes, he betrays his friend. Starscream's specialities include opportunism, lying and back-stabbing, although he is quite happy to shoot anyone in the face if they cannot stop him. His arm-mounted weapons are null-ray cannon, capable of incapacitating electronic systems so that Starscream can then flee or put the (jet)boot in at leisure, because he is a coward. No, strike that. His life is just too precious; after all, the whole point is to avoid dying and become the ultimate leader of the Decepticons and, possibly, all Cybertron. Can't do that if he's scrap, can he?
Sometimes, Starscream faces Megatron and manages to put him down, but only temporarily. He just doesn't follow through, proclaiming each time that he is now the new leader of the Decepticons only to get a kick in the pants, a blast from Megatron's fusion cannon or a drubbing. Granted, the cartoons were aimed at children and it would not do to brutally wipe out a main character (yet), but there is always the sense that Starscream is so arrogant as to never question his own skills and firepower.
Starscream obtains his greatest ambition by organising his own coronation after he consigns Megatron to his doom in space [Transformers: The Movie] only to see his dream crumble, literally, to ashes. Yet, even then, Starscream will not let go, as it turns out that he has some kind of special ability to exist without an exoform; an attempt is made to explain this ability in Beast Wars [Possession], where his Spark is described as a unique mutation. He returns to plan revenge on his nemesis, Galvatron, by turning a possessed Cyclonus into a traitor [Starscream's Ghost] and, later, he possesses Scourge and has another go at killing his killer [Ghost in the Machine]. Being a ghost, though, is not to Starscream's ultimate taste as his condition leaves him at a disadvantage in the power stakes, so he coerces Unicron into creating him a new body. And, yes, he betrays Unicron, too.
In the G1/G2 continuity, Starscream is last seen tumbling through space, damaged, but still functional, his situation mirroring that of Megatron in The Movie. In the end, driven by over-confidence, desperate ambition and selfishness, the greatest traitor of them all ends up betraying himself. The talented Chris Latta provided Starscream with incredibly annoying, screechy-snarly vocals which will always be a memorial to both voice actor and character.
Now, over to Warcry and Blackjack for a bit on the comic version of the character:
Though he doesn't have the most appearances or the most page time, Starscream has a huge impact on the franchise. More than that, though, it's a consistent impact -- Optimus changes personalities depending on whos writing him and Megatron is almost a different guy in each universe, but Starscream is always Starscream -- cowardly, traitorous and arrogant to the core. And nowhere is that more obvious than in the comics. In the Marvel books Megatron gets wise to his game almost right away -- a big plus on Megatron's scorecard when compared to the cartoon version -- and blasts him out of the opening miniseries. But Starscream betrays basically everyone else he ever works with, from Ratbat to Scorponok to Shockwave to Jhiaxus...and yes, even Megatron himself a few times later on. Nobody ever seems to catch on that, hey, maybe they shouldn't trust the guy. And Dreamwave, as one would expect from a mainly nostalgia-driven series, featured Starscream quite a bit doing treacherous Starscreamesque things. But during their short-lived ongoing series they made the interesting choice to feature Starscream not as a scheming betrayer but as a leader and even a protagonist after a fashion in the Sunstorm issues. Though not especially notable on their own, they do stand out as the first issues to really break the mold by featuring a Starscream who actually got the chance to do his own thing as leader, albeit for a short moment only.
The reason why they're so important, in my opinion, is because they blazed a trail for IDW to follow. Though they started off again with stereotypical Starscreamy betrayal, this time hampered by inconsistent writing and authors who couldn't decide if he'd been reformed or not, Starscream found a nice groove under the pen of John Barber. Scorned and abandoned by his fellow Decepticons, hated and mistrusted by the Autobots, Starscream steers clear of both sides and carves out a niche for himself as the leader of the nonaligned Transformers who returned to Cybertron after the war. And while it seemed at first like his leadership would be a fleeting problem that the Dark Cybertron crossover would wipe out, it's come and gone and he doesn't look like he's going anywhere. And so far it's turning out to be a grand experiment. Though Starscream is still as narcissistic and self-important as ever, the crossover crisis forced him to take statesmanlike -- even brave and heroic -- actions to protect his people since...well, without them he's not really in charge of anything, is he? His core motivations are the same they've always been, but in a new scenario those motivations force him into some very, very different actions. Seeing Starscream adapt to the rigours of leadership and learn that keeping power takes much more work than getting it has been interesting so far, and for the first time in the history of TF comics we finally have a Starscream who stands a chance of rising out of the highly entertaining cartoon version's shadow.
Next, Blackjack will cover some of the guy's career highlights!
Both Marvel and IDW gave us far more insight to Starscream's mindset, crafting a far, far deeper character than what he initially seemed like. And while overexposure and repeating the same 'obvious treachery' gimmick over and over again might be tiresome, there's one thing that's certain about Starscream. While he may be irritating, Starscream has endured for a reason, and his position in this list is exactly a demonstration of what it is.
"Ambition thy name is Starscream"
My personal favourite Starscream story is Fallen Star. Following his return as a Pretender and the events that followed, Starscream wallowed in self-pity, and believed all the other Decepticons considered him a joke for his many defeats, believing them to be avoiding him because he's a loser... not aware that their behavior is motivated by fear. However, after a monologue and after murdering a couple random Autobots spying on him in cold blood, Starscream began to build up his confidence and proclaim "I'm back!" And back he was, as Starscream's mere presence soon led to a schism amongst Scorponok's Decepticons.
In Generation Two Starscream was once more revived by Megatron – an act which Megatron would later blame on his own idiocy. Starscream helped Megatron reclaim Decepticon leadership from then-leader Bludgeon. However, once more, self-esteem issues rose and Starscream quickly saw that his usefulness to Megatron was coming to an end. Upon meeting the Cybertronian Empire, Megatron ignored Starscream's suggestions of retreat and instead joined forces with the Autobots… something Starscream found absolutely intolerable. (And you can actually see that throughout Marvel Starscream's career of backstabbing, never has he allied once with the Autobots, so he's sticking to his guns there.) On the other hand, the Cybertronian Empire are Decepticons...and Starscream being Starscream, he led the Cybertronian army to the Autobot-Decepticon alliance camp, whilst taking over the Decepticon Warworld by himself before merging with the Creation Matrix and the Warworld itself.
The IDW comics presented another take on Starscream. Despite all the criticisms All Hail Megatron receives, early on Starscream was one of the better parts – Megatron's short conversation, actually honestly complimenting him (which Starscream initially thought was a sarcastic remark) and saying that he's only a few steps short of Decepticon ideal – is a rare moment of insight into their complex relationship. Starscream then begin to taunt Megatron about the fact that Megatron doesn't have a master plan and all this is a distraction, either conscious or otherwise, to rile up the troops for revolution because without opposition Megatron is bored. It's a rather interesting direction to take Starscream in, portraying him as the one that understands most closely how Megatron's mind works, with Megatron taking the role of both a mentor and a rival...and one willing to subvert him, since he quickly rallied the Constructicons and Insecticons to his side and attack Megatron to stop the senseless war without end.
The later Spotlight: Megatron illustrates Starscream and Megatron's relationship extremely well, dealing with the long-time question of 'why doesn't Megatron just kill Starscream?' And Megatron has no better excuse than this particular one, that Starscream had succeeded him as leader and for two years did absolutely nothing to advance the Decepticon cause and reduce it into nothing but a rabble. In this issue, Starscream was broken, defeated and begged for death. Through abuse both verbal and physical, Megatron shows off just how much of a manipulator he can be, telling Starscream that they both have lost everything most dear to them… Starscream's long-sought leadership turned out to be a crushing failure, and Megatron's army has been reduced to next to nothing. Megatron will not grant Starscream the mercy of death, if only as punishment for his failure. Megatron keeps Starscream around as his personal way of not being too complacent and to always watch his back even in his greatest moments of victory (a nice tie-in to AHM), whereas Starscream is filled with a lot of rage and anger against Megatron. It's not a healthy relationship, but then what more can you expect from these two? I could go on and on about the subtle characterization given in Spotlight: Megatron but I'm afraid I'm already rambling as it is.
The name Starscream has appeared in all Western-released Transformers series except RID and denotes a traitor. Even Armada Starscream/Thundercracker betrays his Megatron/Galvatron, although for more noble reasons than other versions. Energon Starscream is in flux in more ways than one, but he eventually shows his true colours again in Cybertron, the concluding arc of the Unicron Wars. In Beast Wars, the Starscream role is taken by Terrorsaur, and Starscream gets to make a guest appearance, betraying everyone with a little more finesse, but no more success, than his would-be copy. Animated Starscream betrays Megatron from the outset, intent on obtaining the AllSpark for himself. As for Prime - Starscream is a great schemer with a penchant for grovelling to Megatron while displaying an Iago-like nature.
You just have to love that spawn of a glitch.
Lots of love for Starscream...
"Actually kind of a pathetically sympathetic character, really."
--Rack n Ruin
"There's a reason almost all of the fiction has a Starscream present"
"Transformers' most complex villain and sometimes hero."
Lots of love for all the Starscreams...
"Unexpectedly (and handled somewhat hamfistedly, thanks anime) a noble conflicted rogue."
"Unlike others, got hands-on with his career advancement."
"The coward we know and love. TF Prime would be nothing without him."