by Joel Hanek
These days it's impossible to release any animated feature without at least thirty names billed on the movie poster and the smog of its promotional campaigns polluting all of late night television.
But not unlike their superhero alter egos, once upon a time celebrity voice actors remained anonymous behind their animated masks. Most of us remember when our minds were blown by the revelation that James Avery, aka Uncle Phil from "Fresh Prince," provided the voice of Shredder on "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."
Let's take a look at some lesser known, random, and nonsensical voice castings in the superhero universe.
5. Brian Austin Green as The Human Torch ("The Marvel Action Hour: The Fantastic Four", 1994)
Before Chris Evans donned the flame-retardant spandex as Johnny Storm, former teen heartthrob and present day Mr. Megan Fox, Brian Austin Green, was the first person in decades to bring life to The Human Torch. Glommed together with Iron Man, the 1994 "Fantastic Four" was presented in a Sunday morning package on Fox as "The Marvel Action Hour." While the series itself wasn't the best iteration of these superheroes, at the time it was the closest thing for Marvel fanboys to seeing The Avengers partially assembled.
4. Martin Landau as The Scorpion ("Spider-Man", 1994)
One year after he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in his outstanding perfomance in "Ed Wood," Martin Landau voiced the troubled thief Mac Gargan, better known as The Scorpion, in the 1994 network animated version of Spider-Man. Sure, that might be an odd job to take on for an Oscar winner, but the visual of Martin Landau as The Scorpion is the best thing ever.
3. Hank Azaria as Venom ("Spider-Man", 1994)
Symbiotes are responsible for terrible things when they bond with humans, namely indulging the dark side of the soul and creating terrible dance sequences. In the 90's, the animated version bonded with the voice of Moe the Bartender, Hank Azaria, to create the first onscreen manifestation of Venom. Of course, Azaria is one of the better known voice actors working today, but considering his acting range and strong physical build, the actor probably would have been a more accurate casting choice for Eddie Brock rather than the meek, conniving version played by Topher Grace.
2. Ron Perlman as Clayface ("Batman: The Animated Series", 1992)
No stranger to the superhero world, Hellboy himself, Ron Perlman, voiced the villain Clayface in the 1992 series "Batman: The Animated Series." Perlman's gruffness provided the perfect palette for the slightly sympathetic but mostly terrifying villain, who found a home in the film noir-infused animated series. Also notable, but perhaps something we don't mind forgetting, Perlman voiced a cameo in the aforementioned Fanastic Four series as The Incredible Hulk.
1. Neil Patrick Harris as Spider-Man, along with the whole f'ing MTV series ("Spider-Man", 2003)
Riding on the success of Raimi's "Spider-Man," MTV picked up a new animated adventure for Spidey and friends. The reason you probably don't know about this one is because nobody ever watched this series. The 2003 animated series only lasted one brief season. Before he became the sitcom star of "How I Met Your Mother" and even before he became the ironic, nostalgic punchline in the "Harold and Kumar" series, Neil Patrick Harris voiced your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Just check out this cast and the list of recognizable names goes on and on: Lisa Loeb as Mary Jane Watson, Rob Zombie as The Lizard, Michael Clarke Duncan reprising his role as The Kingpin (because the people demanded it!!!), along with supporting roles for Kathy Griffin and Jeremy Piven. Although the casting might be a bit wacky and I may have been the only one who watched it at the time, it's worth a watch. Seriously. Ok, stop making fun of me.
(Bonus: If you want to check out any of the following, most of these are on Netflix! Except for Batman, but still, you should go out and buy it because it's amazing. And it's Batman.)
Who are your favorite superhero voice actors? Let us know in the comments below and on Twitter!