When you think of the Transformers, Starscream remains one of the most iconic Robots in Disguise. He is the absolute ideal of the evil minion, the villain's right-hand-man who tries and fails to overthrow his master time and again. There have been many interpretations of Starscream since his inception in Generation 1 of the Transformers franchise. However, most takes on the character rely on audiences expecting Starscream to be a treacherous monster.
And, in many respects, IDW Publishing's Transformers comics have drawn heavily from the G1 continuity to create its own universe. The comics feature a saga that spans from Cybertron's origins to Transformer society after the franchise's war, and give Starscream a particularly fascinating arc. In this comic, Starscream becomes a dignified character with a nuanced personality, a good reason to betray Megatron, and, most remarkably, a compelling arc after all is said and done.
Who is Starscream?
In the original Transformers TV series, Starscream is essentially self-serving. He works with the Decepticons because he has power, but constantly thirsts for more. He often declares to anyone who listens how things would be far better under his own leadership. It's a mystery thatMegatron trusts Starscream with half of the missions he's sent on.
Whenever Starscream thinks he has a chance to seize power, he takes it. When Starscream inevitably fails to seize power -- and he always does -- Megatron humiliates the traitor, Starscream begs for pity and, for whatever reason, Megatron always welcomed him back into the fold.
That all changed with the 1986 animated feature Transformers: The Movie. Megatron and Optimus Prime have their final battle, which leads to both being mortally wounded. Seeing this as a chance to finally seize power, Starscream rallies his fellow Decepticons under his wing and dumps Megatron's dying corpse to the oblivion of space. We see what Starscream does with power in this instance, and it's pretty petty. He just basks in his victory, celebrating his own power. When Megatron returns as Galvatron, he destroys Starscream in seconds.
Starscream, the Revolutionary
However, the IDW Publishing comics reframe Starscream's entire motivation. Starscream doesn't join the Decepticons in order to gain some semblance of power; He joins because he believes in Megatron's aims to reshape Cybertron's society. Megatron, who starts as a gladiator, argues that the circumstances of a Cybertronian's assembly does not define their roles in life, and that message resonates with Starscream. While Starscream is still deceptive, Megatron uses that to his advantage and utilizes his silver tongue, brain and wits to recruit new Decepticons.
Even stranger, in the earlier days, he actually managed to temporarily overthrow Megatron, though his co-rule with fellow conspirator Scorponok ended in explosive disaster. Millions of years after that conflict, however, Starscream managed to earn back Megatron's trust.
As time dragged on, Starscream became disenfranchised with Megatron's vision and objectives. He feared that Megatron has lost track of his true objectives and that the Decepticon cause had become muddied. Throughout the war, he seizes chances to take power, and, while he occasionally holds power, he often fails to retain it for very long. Of note, at one point he convinces the Decepticons that he has been chosen by the a fragment of the Matrix of Leadership, which didn't end well.
How Starscream Took Over Cybertron
But what's most interesting about IDW's interpretation of Starscream isn't the war itself, but its wake. After Megatron is defeated by the Autobots, Starscream manages to survive in the new Cybertronian government by functioning as an enforcer. While its a menial role, its a cushy job, considering his role as a a war criminal. When a new faction of Decepticons emerges from the woodwork, they naturally approach Starscream to join their ranks. Starscream, however, seeing the fragility of his position in both the new Cybertronian government and the Decepticons.
His solution is to kill a Decepticon, claim it was a result of the fighting, and convince the factions to dissolve. Earning the respect of every side, the populous of Cybertron elects Starscream as their ruler. Starscream becomes ruler of Cybertron not through physical force or power but purely through deception. Ultimately, this turn distills the greatest aspects of Starscream's original character in order to create something truly special.