In science fiction, there are some characters that even people who aren’t fans of a particular franchise will know. For example, even if you’re not a Star Trek fan, you’ll likely know who James T. Kirk is, and even if you don’t know a Tie Fighter from a Pod Racer, you’re bound to know who Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker are. This kind of seemingly “racial memory” for a character or thing only happens when a franchise is so big that it transcends the boundaries of its niche genre and permeates pop culture. That having been said, then, it’s no surprise that characters from The Transformers have the same recognition.
One of the most famous of all Transformers is Megatron. As the leader of the evil Decepticons, this brutal warmonger stands at the pinnacle of ‘80’s cartoon badguy-ism. With a husky voice, a snap temper and a massive fusion cannon on his arm, the original Megatron (the one TRUE Megatron to most Transformers fans) is not only a supreme badass, he’s also one of the most recognizable characters in North America, if not the world (ironically, likely right after Optimus Prime).
Unfortunately, as a modeller, the number of models of Transformers is extremely limited, and the few that exist were tiny versions of the toys themselves, not true, stylized kits. If you want a replica of your favourite Transformer, you better hope he’s important enough to either warrant the Masterpiece treatment (thereby being made into a very intricate, and hugely expensive, display piece) or to end up as a cold-cast bust or statuette in a comic shop. Neither case, however, is particularly appealing to a modeller though, since we would rather build and paint our replicas ourselves!
Thankfully, as you can see with my 00 Blade Custom, a lot of mecha share features and similarities with other mecha. Thus, there is often a way to get a replica of something that doesn’t have a dedicated kit! (Note: Tekkaman Blade DID have its own kit, but I wanted another one. It’s not a big deal.) Of course, finding a mech that looks close enough to what you want is no easy feat, and usually the inspiration comes when you least expect it.
In my case, I’d never thought of even building a Megatron kit. I am a huge fan of Transformers (giant robots that turn into other war machines and fight everywhere… yeah, I’m good with that…). However, I have never really been a fan of Megatron. I liked Shockwave and Sixshot a lot, but Megs, because he was always hatching dumb schemes and making his side lose, never really did much for me. However, in the original movie (1986, waaay before Bay) he is quite the killing machine, and in the newer G1 comics, Megs is also an excellent politician, stragegist and warrior. With time, I found myself having a lot more respect for Megatron. However, I still never thought of modelling him.
One day, though, a random image search on Google brought up an image of an RX-78 Gundam modified to look like Megatron. It wasn’t super-polished, but I admired the spirit behind it. However, the first thing I thought of when I saw it was that Megatron doesn’t have chest vents like the -78, so it looked a bit off. Of course, then I thought “What Gundam DOESN’T have chest vents??” and thought nothing more of it. One Saturday morning, though, I woke up from a sound sleep and the answer was in my head: The Ez-8 from Gundam 008th MS Team doesn’t have chest vents! The Ez-8 is very close to unique in that respect. It has a broad, flattened “breadbox” of a chest, a lot like Megatron. It’s also a fairly clean mech, like Megatron.
With these wheels now turning, I got out my Master Grade Ez-8 kit and took a close look. I fired up my DVD set of G1 episodes and got some good shots of Megatron from all angles. I was amazed; the Ez-8 actually shared a surprising amount of proportionality and detail with Megs! The legs have odd shields coming down the ankle, similar to the backs of Megs’ feet in the show, There’s the roundy-yet-flat chest, and the simple, square-tube arms. The waist is also of simple geometry, and the head his very helmet-like, with no V-antenna (also odd for a Gundam).
With this, I knew it was “on”.
The Master Grade (MG) Ez-8 is a nice kit, although it is now over a decade old. It’s a simpler MG than some of the newer ones, but it is a good balance of part separation and complexity. It comes moulded in off-white, teal, grey and has two clear pink beam sabres. There are a lot of extra weapons for this kit, too; a bazooka, storage container backpack, beam rifle, machine cannon spare magazines for the machine cannon. There’s also a shield. None of this was needed for Megatron (I thought), so now I have a lot of cool spares in my collection!
The Ez-8 is built around an internal frame, like newer MG kits, but it’s not so involved as some of the more modern ones. It has nice detail, though, and even little moving hydraulics on the feet! The armour fits onto the frame very well, and doesn’t really restrict movement much at all. Given that the Ez-8 is a bit “chubby” this surprises me.
Like all MGs, there’s no flash and the detail is crisp and clean There’s some detail on the insides of the armour plates themselves, as well as behind the shield. There is an extensive polycap rack (all the way to “X”!), although most of the joints are actually ABS plastic. It was about this time Bandai decided it was harder wearing than polycaps. In most cases, the polycaps are used to hold armour in place. The shoulder and hip joints, along with the neck, are exceptions.
Looking at the MG Ez-8, I got the distinct impression that so long as a builder was careful and followed the directions, there wouldn’t be any major problems. Thankfully, I found this to be true as I built my Megatron homage.
To convert the MG Ez-8 into a passable replica of Megatron was actually pretty easy. The mech is most of the way there; all you need to do is change the head, find a gun tube for his back, make a fusion cannon, and the rest basically takes care of itself by careful colour choices! Of course, it’s easy to think and write that, but it wasn’t as easy as it sounded.
One of Megatron’s signature weapons is his fusion cannon. In the toy, this forms the scope of his Walther P-38 altmode. However, since the Ez-8 isn’t supposed be Megatron, the kit doesn’t have any such thing in it. You could scratch build one, or do what I tried to do and make one out of the Ez-8’s bazooka. I found, though, that the bazooka was too small in diameter to really make a fearsome enough fusion cannon. The Ez-8 does have mounting lugs on the forearms for the shield, so it would be easy enough to attach a fusion cannon if you did make one.
Megatron has another famous, but more obscure, weapon. That is his Energon Mace. This energy ball-and-chain is only used in the second episode of the first three part series (More Than Meets The Eye) when Prime and Megatron fight on top of Hoover Dam. Even though the Energon Mace is on screen for only a few minutes (if that), it had a lasting impression on me. How cool is it to have your hand retract and a beam mace come out?? That’s sweet!
Note: Apparently, I wasn’t the only one impressed, since the fight at Hoover Dam is a well-known event in Transformers fandom. It’s so famous that Michael Bay even had Hoover Dam in his first Transformers movie, and Megatron also uses a chain-based weapon in that film too.
To create the Energon Mace, I dug through my spares box. I used the Gundam Hammer from the RX-78 One Year War kit. It is the perfect size and scale, has a ball at one end and a handle at the other, and it came with real, loose-linked chain. Of course, I had lost the chain. (D’oh!) To make the mace look like “energon”, I chromed it with Alclad Chrome and then mixed up a bunch of blue, pink and purple Jaquard Pigments with some Future. This created a pearly purple-pink paint, which once applied over the chrome, gave the impression of “dense energy”.
In the show, the Energon Mace is held at the end of a rod projecting from Megatron’s arm. Thankfully, the other end of the Gundam Hammer was an anchor-shaped handle. By cutting the anchor down, I was able to make a small “T” at the end of the post. With careful cutting, this was able to slip into the receiver for the polycap in the inner arm. That meant I could install the post with NO GLUING or other modification! Even better, the post was the perfect size to fit through the opening in the ‘cuff’ at the end of the arm. It was like fate WANTED this Ez-8 to become Megatron!
The only kicker was the chain. I wanted to get some actual silver-coloured chain, so that it would be similar to the chromed mace and I wouldn’t have to alclad it. Thank goodness for Walmart’s small, but in this case useful, crafting section. They had exactly what I need, and for $3.49 I got enough chains to do about 50 maces! The chain was painted the same as the Alcladded mace.
Got Your Back:
The Ez-8, like all Federation 8th MS Team mobile suits is designed for air dropping, and has a backpack that can hold multi-purpose weapons containers. These are cool, but Megs doesn’t need it. If you leave the backpack off, though, the mech doesn’t look right. However, there’s a detail that fixes both problems! If you look at Megatron’s animation model, the barrel of his gun mode runs up his back, behind his right shoulder.
This barrel is a major part of Megs’ design, and it can’t be left off. As it turns out, the barrel from the MG RX-178 Gundam Mk. II’s bazooka is a perfect match in both shape and size! I cut the front half of the bazooka off, and found that it would fit nicely into the barrel flange of the Ez-8’s bazooka! I put a piece of sheet styrene over the bottom to close it up, and I had my “back gun”.
The problem was getting it to stay in place. I could have just glued it and hoped, but gluing paint to paint is always dodgy, and there’s no guarantee I’d get the orientation just right. I started by drilling two holes in the 178’s bazooka barrel for some thin metal rod. It wasn’t even really rod; it was just some wound up wire I found in the garage, but the size was perfect. I tend to enjoy the challenge of using what’s around, so I can’t tell you exactly what size it was, but it doesn’t matter; any robust rod will do.
To match the gun to the back of the mech, I used a red paint marker and put thick paint all around the holes. I then quickly put the gun in place and then removed it. The red paint left some marks on the body, and that’s how I got my alignment. I then drilled a couple of holes in the body to take the wire. I drilled through the external armour right into the body’s core “frame”. I took everything apart and glued the wire into the “frame” with Zap-a-Gap CA. This made final assembly a bit more difficult, since I had two non-standard locators to deal with, but it wasn’t ad difficult as it might sound.
Since Megatron turns into a gun, he needs a trigger. On the original toy, this is placed rather freudianly in the crotch region. (Stop singing Kiss’ “Love Gun”… he’s a robot, for Pete’s sake!) However, on the animation design, there is no sign of a trigger whatsoever. On the Masterpiece Megatron toy, the trigger and trigger guard split and fit inside his legs. That’s worlds better, but I still don’t like it. So, for my Megs, I decided to put the trigger on his back, beside the “back gun”, which is just gun-mode kibble anyway.
To make a trigger I cut the trigger and sighting mechanism from the Ez-8’s bazooka and modified it. I mean, the bazooka was dead anyway, may as well get some use out of it, right? The Trigger with the handle and guard fit perfectly on the Ez-8’s back, and I didn’t even have to drill out any holes for location pins. I reasoned correctly that a bit of CA would do the job just fine!
It’s All in His Head:
One thing on the Ez-8 that does NOT resemble Megatron as much as it should is the head. It is not a typical Gundam head, but it still needed a lot of work. The first modification was to chop the Gundam’s head comb off. Almost every Gundam has a “Mohawk” on it that houses cameras and other sensors. Megatron does NOT have this. My Tamiya razor saws corrected this problem easily. There are still some other issues, though; namely, the face and head are the wrong shape!
Megatron’s head is very much like an army helmet mated to a trash can. It’s flared at the back, but it’s a full side-covering helmet, actually, also a bit phallic. Hmm…. Is it me, or is there a hidden message here? Anyway, the Gundam’s head is rather round, while Megs’ should flare out at the bottom. To create a new helmet, I covered the entire remaineder of the head in Aves Apoxie Sculp and shaped it roughly. I also put some Apoxie Sculp on the face. Megatron’s face is much more faceted than the Ez-8’s, so it also needed recontouring. Sanding the helmet was simply done freehand until it looked right. My goal was to get it as smooth as possible and as symmetric as possible. Thanks to Apoxie Sculp’s innate sandability, this was surprisingly easy. Megatron’s face was also sanded freehand; the goal was to get the main ‘panel’ on his face the right size and shape. Megatron’s face is actually somewhat like an Easter Island statue; it’s fairly long and quite thin. The only thing I didn’t try to replicate was Megatron’s nose. I really don’t see the need for a mech to have a nose, and leaving it ‘noseless’ was a blending of Gundam and Transformer, which is exactly what I wanted to achieve.
The modifications listed above were the major changes I made to get the Ez-8 transformed (yes, pun intended) into a replica of Megatron. There were a few other tiny things that needed doing, though. The first was to modify the side skirts. The Ez-8 stores magazines for the mech’s machine cannon on the hips, but Megatron just has plain side skirts. I cut off the magazine receivers and then “paved over” the entire skirts with some sheet styrene. I etched the mating surface with the model parts, so that it would look like an extra layer of armour.
I also needed a Decepticon symbol. I generally don’t decal mech kits, but Megatron is an exception. If he didn’t have the big Decepticon symbol square in the middle of his chest, then the look would be off. I used the Testors ink jet-based Custom Decal System and a downloaded .jpg of the ‘Con symbol to make the decal I needed. I printed it on paper first, to make sure I had the size right, and then I ran it off on the White (vs. Clear) decal paper. I used an HP Deskjet 3520 (not well-suited for this role, but that’s a separate story!) set to “HP Premium Plus Photo Paper” and “Normal” print quality. After the decal dried for about an hour (under a 60W lightbulb-equipped lamp) I appled the Decal Sealer and that was that. The decal worked perfectly and I only needed one layer. Sometimes, I find you need 2 layers, but in this one sufficed.
Painting and Finishing:
Megatron is primarily light grey, black and red. The light grey is meant to simulate the silver on the original toy, and the black is from the gun’s handle grip. The red is for decoration. There is a lot of difference in the colour distribution on Megatron, depending who is drawing him and when. Some versions (like that in the actual cartoon) have no red on the inside legs, despite the toy being all red inside the lower leg! Others have some red in the leg, and all the light grey the same colour while yet others have several different light greys. It’s all very confusing, so I settled on a hybrid colour scheme to satisfy all of the Megatron representations over time.
The entire kit was painted by hand using Testors Model Master Acrylic (MMA) colours. Only the final clear coats were airbrushed. The feet were painted in MMA Steel. Why Steel? Because the toy of Megatron originally had metal feet, so this is an homage to that. I gave the feet a wash of the Citadel Baddab Black wash to add depth. The lower legs were painted in Virsago Black (75% Gunship Grey, 25% black, approximately) on the oudside to simulate the grip, and F-15 Dark Grey on the insides and fronts. This is the only place that shade of grey is used. Why? I have no idea, but in the cartoon, Megatron’s legs are a darker grey than the rest of him.
The light grey on Megatron is Light Ghost Grey, and the red is Chevy Engine Red. All the mechanical parts of the internal frame, as well as the hand, were simply a wash of 40% Future, 30% water and 20% Aircraft Interior Black over the bare frame plastic. It already came in a nice dark grey, so there was no need to paint it. The Future in the wash helps keep the pigment in suspension and forces the wash to adhere to even bare ABS plastic. Megatron’s waist was done using the same Virsago Black as used on the lower legs.
The detail outlining was done using a Sakura brand calligraphy pen. I used the smallest one available, the 0.20mm version. There are several colours, but I just use the black one to keep things simple. When all the parts were painted and outlined, I used Future floor polish (cut 50/50 with 99% Isopropyl alcohol) to put a gloss coat on it. This helps to protect the kit, and the gloss coat does help even out any surface imperfections left after sanding.
The final flat coat was done using Delta Ceramcoat matte indoor/outdoor urethane varnish. This was cut with both water and Future (4 parts water: 4 parts flat coat: 5 parts Future). The mix was then shot at about 40% with alcohol as the thinner. This gave a slightly satiny finish which is what I prefer for mecha.
This was a fun project from start to finish. Once I noticed that Megatron and the Ez-8 shared some similarities, I became amazed and just HOW similar they actually were! The Ez- itself is a great kit, typical of early 2000’s MG Gundams, and isn’t as complicated as newer kits. This makes it more fun to work with, and easier for even beginners.
The conversion to Megatron was fun and a bit of an adventure, since I didn’t really plan any of it ahead of time. I just kept doing things as they became needed. Rescuplting the head and face was one of my more ambitions projects to date in terms of physically changing a kit, and I was very pleased with the result.
I think the most fun part of this is looking at my shelf and seeing a Megatron that NO ONE ELSE can have on display (unless the copy me based on this article, which is fine…)! I mean, the Ez-8 looks amazingly similar to Megs, and when you see that energy mace just hanging there and that little confident smirk on his face, the effect is multiplied.
All in all, I’d say this: “It’s over, Prime!”