Let’s just get this out of the way now: Amongst we ComicMixers, the esteemed (and far prettier) Emily S. Whitten is a bigger and better fan of voice actors than I shall ever be. With that being said… aren’t voice actors amazing?
You see, in between bouts of crippling sinusitis and binge-watching Breaking Bad like I was addicted to meth, I opted to catch John DiMaggio’s documentary I Know That Voice. A fantastic little flick dedicated in celebration of a continually (mostly) unsung hero of the animated world: the voice performer. With interviews from some – if not most – of the current tribe of working actors and actresses who lend their larynx to the cartoons of the day, I simply must recommend watching it yourself soon if you haven’t already.
But that recommendation is not my singular premise of the week, kiddos. For you see, it was that fine feature that finds me floundering on someone who I particularly find perhaps even more incredible than the aforementioned performers – Andrea Romano, voice director.
A quick scan of her Wikipedia bio proved to me why she’s such a favorite of mine – Batman aside, which we’ll get to soon enough. After three years serving in LaLa land, Andrea landed the voice director role for a little show by the name of Duck Tales. For those not in the know, the best I could say is this: Duck Tales still holds up today, and puts plenty of what passes as entertainment now to shame. If you think Adventure Time doesn’t owe a debt of gratitude to Duck Tales, then you probably think dub step is real music. But I digress.
Duck Tales aside from wondrous writing – some episodes were adapted from classic Carl Barks stories – became a staple to my generation due, in part, to the strong direction in the vocal booth. For someone to be able to help her cadre of pros (and yes, we know Disney don’t fudge ’round when it comes to a good voice… save for Mickey, ha Ha!) produce pathos, angst, fear, pride, and greed in between daring adventures and slapstick? Well, it helped a show about anthropomorphic ducks and dogs going on worldly (and time-travely) jaunts feel like a show that could care less it was about ducks and dogs.
To wax poetic about every line-item in her IMDb profile would be a waste. Suffice to say, Ms. Romano’s resume is the tops. But the devil is in the details, there. Because no matter what else she was help produce in her tenure, Andrea Romano’s magnum opus lay across her impermeable casting and direction of the animated Bruce Timm DCU.
Close your eyes. Imagine Batman and the Joker trading a bit of banter before a major battle. If you’re not hearing Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, I feel mildly sorry for you. Personal preferences aside, when Bruce Timm’s critically acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series debuted… it was not only the unmistakable visual identity of the show that captivated the world.
The casting was an unheard of coup. Legends of the stage and screen joined well-vetted voice-acting professionals to layer a soundscape that perfected the art of matching an animated presence to realistic voice. I take nothing away from other casts, and cartoons mind you. But I beg for someone to compare the sheer volume of wins Ms. Romano chalks in her column, if by the DCU alone.
Even when facing a recasting, like Superman (heard of him?), Andrea cemented her mettle with me. Tim Daly’s Superman, as originally cast, brought so much to the role. As cast and written, Daly was innocent, untested, strong, but jovial. But by the time we reached George Newbern’s brogue come Justice League: Unlimited, the character had changed. Andrea’s selection delivered one of the most potent speeches ever uttered over celluloid. When through gritted teeth we heard “I live in a world made of cardboard…” in the finale of the series (and the animated DCU-ala-Timm) we heard a Superman that shunted away from his once prentice prose… that was still wholly made of his former self.
Beyond the most recognizable faces she brilliantly cast, Andrea Romano even nailed the minor roles. Take the casting of B-movie mainstay Jeffery Combs as the kooky Question. As a Vic Sage fan since forever, I can’t get Combs’ odd gravelly whisper out of my mind’s ear when I read him. Or take perhaps the hilarious casting of Fred Savage and Jason Hervey as Hawk and Dove, respectively. A wink and a nod to those of us who once grew up with the Arnold brothers of Wonder Years fame, but correctly recast; with the more nasal Hervey cast as the lesser Dove to the now meatier range of Savage. Even when taken out of our times, Romano matched the bravado necessary for Sargent Rock himself with the Hunter, Fred Dryer. I could go on (like the perfectly cocky Tom Everett Scott as Booster Gold, ahem), but my point has been made. And damn it all, I haven’t even gotten to the villains!
As my son begins to gain interest in the animated adventures of his favorite heroes, I’ll be perplexed to find him a definitive Captain America, or Iron Man. Luckily for me, he knows Superman and Batman. So, for the while, I’m well covered.