Voice acting may be the most important element of a successful animated show, and though the voice acting in superhero cartoons of the '90s wasn't always the best, it was some of the most fun voice acting of all-time.
Voice acting may be the most important element of a successful animated show, and though the voice acting in superhero cartoons of the '90s wasn't always the best, it was some of the most fun voice acting of all-time.The majority of hero voices were bland, square-jawed, Anglo Boy Scouts, and most of the heroines were even more boring. Most male villains were either cackling high-pitched banshees or dumb thundering brutes, while the bad girls often took the sleazy seductress route.
Without strong voice work, everything else falls flat. Flavorless portrayals let the parade of muscle-bound hunks blend together into an unintelligible mush. For example, on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, there is nothing aside from headbands and weapons that visually separates the main characters. It was left to the cast to differentiate the four unique personalities. Without delineated vocal stylings, they would have just been Turtles #1-4.
The voices that sounded truly unique to their characters are the ones that really stood out, and they usually did so by setting a baseline that referenced the key characteristics that had made the character popular in the first place. The best cartoon superhero voices of the '90s utilized accents, vernacular, tempo, pitch, timbre, and tone to craft a performance that fit their character, that could never be mistaken for another character, and let the audience know what that character was about from the moment they first spoke.
The following are the best voices from superhero cartoons of the '90s.
As Voiced By: Mark Hamill
For as long as Kevin Conroy has been voicing Batman, Mark Hamill has been right there with him to voice his nemesis, The Joker. With high arcing melodies and sarcasm grumbled from the corners of his mouth, Hamill portrays all the madness, silliness and psychosis of Gotham's most prolific mass murderer. If his tones were mapped to musical notes, he probably would have utilized a wider range than any other actor on this list.
While the villains of Batman: The Animated Series were often left driving the narrative, Hamill never let The Joker's monologues become boring. Instead, they became lyrical soliloquies.Though it hardly seems possible, Hamill's turn as The Joker took a massive step forward when the show introduced Harley Quinn as his lover and nuisance. Hamill's half of the deranged relationship came off as equal parts loving and exploitative. Even with the stupendous voice work of Arleen Sorkin to play off as a foil, The Joker never let anyone steal center stage.
As Voiced By: Kevin Conroy
If you grew up in the 90's, it's almost cringe-worthy to hear another actor voice The Dark Knight. Kevin Conroy took up the job in 1992 on Batman: The Animated Series, and he continues to work as Batman in the DC Animated Universe and Arkham video game series.
He presented different voices for Batman and Bruce Wayne, which no actor, live action or voice, had done before him (looking at you Adam West). His Batman speaks with a low, deep, authoritative growl, while his Bruce Wayne voice is still deep, but with the crisp, airy cadence of a millionaire Playboy.With a character as comprehensively prepared for danger as The World's Greatest Detective, it is often up to Conroy's tones to instill a sense of peril and drama. Only when his booming growl descends into panic have events truly spiraled out of Batman's control.
As Voiced By: Lenore Zann
In adapting the invulnerable, untouchable Rogue to the small screen, Lenore Zann dialed the Southern Belle accent up to 11. Her twang is outrageous and charming, but at the same time, vulnerable (emotionally) and sexy. Every X-Man wants to hug her, many want to kiss her, but none of them can. Her uncontrollable ability to absorb the powers, memories and feelings of others through touch makes her the ultimate conundrum of intimacy.
Zann portrayed Rogue's torturous, forbidden romance with Gambit with delicacy, humor, and grace while portraying Rogue's strength with dashing panache. Both friends and enemies were called "sugah" with only her intonation to delineate the two.In X-Men: The Animated Series, Rogue also had the misfortune to have to use her powers on several occasions. Since the animation portrayed a painful and dynamic process, Zann had to match it with blood-curdling screams and agony. Afterwards, Rogue would suffer a kind of schizophrenic dementia as her mind processed the absorption of a second persona, and Zann navigated these assimilative breakdowns without any audio processing help or cheesy actor swaps... just down-home, country voice work, 'sugah.'
As Voiced By: Arleen Sorkin
There has yet to be a more popular character introduced to the Batman Universe since Harley Quinn made her debut in 1992. Her addition was so seamless, it's hard to believe that she was introduced on Batman: The Animated Series and not as an invention of the original comic books.A big part of the appeal was the voice work done by Arleen Sorkin. With an over-the-top Brooklyn accent, Harley was instantly bombastic, comedic, and edgy. Her high pitched, sing-song performances betrayed malice and an ambiguous morality. She portrays a character whose mirth and malevolence only serve to win The Joker's favor. The threats of violence, jail, or Batman are meaningless to her compared to losing The Joker's affection. The many times he did turn his back on her, Sorkin took the character's heartbreak through peaks and valleys where a wounded puppy channeled her sorrow into murderous rage.