Warner Bros. Animation took cartoons away from the Saturday morning kiddie line-up and made it accessible to people of all ages when it introduced Batman: The Animated Series to the world. Superman, Batman Beyond, and The Justice League all earned high praise from fans as well. While the writers and producers spent a great deal of time finding just the right voice for Batman (Kevin Conroy), Superman (Tim Daly), The Joker (Mark Hammill), and Lois Lane (Dana Delany), it’s the casting of the guest stars who proved the creators wanted to craft the best animated television shows possible.
The list of famous voices is long when it comes to the televised DC animated universe, but we’ve narrowed it down to 10 that make our ears perk up and make us ask, “Is that who I think it is?”
10: Jodi Benson as Aquagirl (Batman Beyond)
Where you’ve seen her: Ariel (The Little Mermaid)
Why it works: Benson earns a spot on this list, not because of her star power, but simply because she was the voice of Ariel in The Little Mermaid. Was it accidental casting, the producers tweaking our noses, or just one of those weird stellar alignments we always hear so much about? For those in the know, this is one of those moments that make you smile.
Other notable voice roles: Barbie (Toy Story 3), Patsy Smiles (Camp Lazlo)
09: Thomas F. Wilson as Anthony Zucco (Batman: The Animated Series)
Where you’ve seen him: Biff Tannen (Back to the Future)
Why it works: As the bully who was willing to kill Marty McFly, Wilson is an appropriate choice for the mob boss who ends up killing Dick Grayson’s parents, which lead to Robin’s creation.
Other notable voice roles: Cat-Man (Batman: The Brave and the Bold), Stan Carter (The Spectacular Spider-Man)
08: Michael Dorn as Kalibak (Superman: The Animated Series)
Where you’ve seen him: Worf (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
Why it works: Kalibak is the son out of place, constantly seeking his father’s approval, and willing to unleash violence to accomplish his goals. As a massively sized character, one would expect him to have an equally deep voice. Dorn has more than enough baritone to bring the character to life in all of Kalibak’s attempts to kill Superman.
Other notable voice roles: Colonel Lomak (The Zeta Project), The Fright Knight (Danny Phanton), Centurion Robot (Duck Dodgers)
07: Michael Ironside as Darkseid (Superman: The Animated Series)
Where you’ve seen him: Richter (Total Recall), Darryl Revok (Scanners), Col. Dugan (The Next Karate Kid), General Ashdown (Terminator Salvation)
Why it works: When one thinks of bad-ass 80s military men, Michael Ironside got more face time on television and the movies than other “I know that guy” actors of the time. When one thinks of bad-ass cosmic military men in the DC Universe, Darkseid reigns supreme. Put the two together and you’ve got a bad-ass animated character who can go toe to toe with Superman.
Other notable voice roles: Jack Granger (Command & Conquer 3), Sam Fisher (Splinter Cell), 80s Batman aka Dark Knight Returns Batman (The New Batman Adventures)
06: Gilbert Gottfried as Mr. Mxyzptlk (Superman: The Animated Series)
Where you’ve seen him: Dr. Peabody (Problem Child), USA Up All Night, Howard Stern, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
Why it works: Gottfried’s comedic voice is instantly recognizable, and instantly irritating to many, which makes his portrayal of Mr. Mxyzptlk a wonderful laugh riot ever single moment he’s on the screen.
Other notable voice roles: Iago (Aladdin), George Zucco (Crank Yankers)
05: Ron Perlman as Clayface (Batman: The Animated Series)
Where you’ve seen him: Hellboy (Hellboy), Clarence Morrow (Sons of Anarchy), Vincent (Beauty and the Beast)
Why it works: Clayface is a behemoth of a villain, and Perlman’s deep voice and ability to bring an angry baritone from within moves Clayface from an annoyance easily dismissed with a water canon, to a creature of evil to be reckoned with.
Other notable voice roles: Slade (Teen Titans), Gha Nachkt (Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Rise of the Bounty Hunters), Lord Hood (Halo 3), Orion (Justice League Unlimited)
04 CCH Pounder as Amanda Waller (Justice League Unlimited)
Where you’ve seen her: Mrs. Frederic (Warehouse 13), Detective Wyms (The Shield)
Why it works: From the moment Amanda Waller appears on the screen, Pounder’s presence and voice command your attention, which is exactly what you want when you have a tough as nails leader of the secret Project Cadmus. Of all the actors on this list, Pounder’s is the one I most look forward to seeing again and again.
Other notable voice roles: Moat (Avatar), Mayor (Static Shock)
03 Ed Asner as Granny Goodness (Superman: The Animated Series)
Where you’ve seen him: Lou Grant (The Mary Tyler Moore Show)
Why it works: There’s something very masculine about Kirby’s Granny Goodness, so when it came time to bring the character to life, Superman: The Animated Series producers made the wise choice to get the gruff and gravely Ed Asner to turn on his falsetto to bring the villainess to life.
Other notable voice roles: J. Jonah Jamison (Spider-Man), Master Vorook Lamar (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic), Carl Fredricksen (Up)
02 Jeffrey Combs as The Question (Justice League Unlimited)
Where you’ve seen him: Herbert West (Re-Animator), Commander Shran (Star Trek: Enterprise)
Why it works: Every role I’ve seen Combs in, his voice has a hint of paranoia and anger in it, which is perfect for the JLU’s Question. His near monotone delivery makes everything he says clear and to the point, and that delivery combined with no face makes Combs’ portrayal of The Question unnerving.
Other notable voice roles: Dr. Jonathan Crane (The New Batman Adventures)
01 Adam West as Simon Trent a.k.a. The Gray Ghost (Batman: The Animated Series)
Where you’ve seen him: Batman
Why it works: Adam West was a brilliant casting choice for Simon Trent. As the Gray Ghost, Trent became typecast as the pulply hero and had a tough time finding jobs later in life. Trent’s story tends to parallel West’s post Batman career so much so, that those that recognize him as Simon Trent, might think the episode was written specifically for him. At the end of Beware the Gray Ghost, Trent becomes a celebrity once again, much the same way West’s star re-ignited in the mid-90s.
Other notable voice roles: Thomas Wayne (Batman: The Brave and the Bold), Mayor Adam West (Family Guy)
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the hundreds of actors whose voices have appeared in the decades long DC Universe animated experience. The next time you are watching an animated show, listen carefully to the voice, and check the credits because you may find yourself asking, “Is that who I think it is?”