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: Efrem Zimbalist Jr.
As Batman's surrogate father, field medic, confidant and conspirator, Alfred J. Pennyworth wears a lot of hats, but thanks to the unflappable voice work of Efrem Zimbalist Jr., he never lost his cool. With a stiff upper lip and an accent to match, Alfred maintains an air of disdain for Bruce Wayne's nocturnal habit, even though he clearly loves him like a son.
The word "sir" could have a myriad of different connotations depending on the pronunciation. It could denote a scold, a concern, a reprimand, or an inside joke. Despite his less than explicit objections, Alfred never stopped serving Batman as faithfully as he served the Wayne family and made a recurring jest by introducing himself to Batcave guests as Batman with a deadpan delivery.Sadly, Zimbalist died in 2014, leaving a pair of well-polished shoes that will be difficult to fill.30264Did the actor do a good job?
As Voiced By: Clancy Brown
Lex Luthor is obsessed with killing Superman and can't find a modicum of happiness in his ridiculous wealth. He's actually pretty crazy, but it's that motivation, combined with a veneer of sanity that makes him such a successful CEO, President of the United States, and occasional wrangler of super-villain teams.
To portray such a delicate balance takes the cool, collected approach of Clancy Brown. The veteran live action actor has been voicing Superman's arch nemesis since 1996 and seen Lex go through a few changes including switching races more than once.Luthor's intense narcissism makes him the epitome of calm, even when his plans are falling apart. He always thinks that his intelligence and technical expertise will help him outmaneuver his enemies. Brown's unwavering gravitas make the listener buy in and momentarily forget that Superman always finds a way to put Lex back in his place (which more often than not, is prison).23959Did the actor do a good job?
As Voiced By: Cathal J. Dodd
No one ever did a better job of making the word, "bub," sound like a profanity than Cathal J. Dodd as Wolverine on X-Men: The Animated Series.
Dodd's snarling impatience evoked the original 70's version of Wolverine before a slew of Eastern enlightenment storylines softened the feral, Canadian stabbing machine. He kept Wolverine edgy, quick to violence, and rarely happy with a deep rattling speaking tone and ferociously guttural war cries.
In keeping with Wolverine's comic book dialogue, Dodd dropped all the "g's" off the end of words, especially in "darlin'." Wolverine's original backwoods Canadian heritage stayed intact with red neck colloquialisms and a thirst for beer.29487Did the actor do a good job?
As Voiced By: Tim Daly
Simple, clear and proud works for Superman, and your Superman for the 90's (and beyond) was Tim Daly. Though occasionally stern, Daly mostly presented a bright, clean-cut, all-American, boy scout voice for the Man of Steel.
Excellent diction, predictable phrasing and comforting rhythms made Daly's Superman the hero you could trust. You don't need intricate deliveries or subtle nuance when you can punch people to the moon. Superman is the pinnacle of human (well, Earth-bound Kryptonian) optimization and his grasp of the English language is no exception.
Naturally, Daly also played Bizarro (a sort of reverse Superman) with a completely opposite approach.Unlike many of the voice actors mentioned in this list, Daly had a slew of predecessors. By the time he took over on Superman: The Animated Series in 1996, four other actors had portrayed Superman on TV, and that's not even counting radio shows.21256Did the actor do a good job?