Tag Archive: mark hamill

Originally Published: March 4, 2011, on Comicvine.com

Batman: Arkham City is probably one of the most anticipated video games of 2011, but it will also mark the end of an era as Mark Hamill, the quintessential Clown Prince of Crime for the past two decades, has said that he will officially walk away from doing the voice of the Joker after this project. With this comes the difficult choice for casting directors of deciding who will take over as the vocal chords behind that infamous rictus grin.

This got me thinking that maybe I could lend Andrea Romano and other casting directors a hand. Romano, the DC Animation casting director who of course introduced us to Hamill as the Joker, will probably have the biggest hand in selecting a replacement for most projects involving the Joker. So with that, here is a comprehensive list I made of possible candidates for a new Ace of Knaves.

Kevin Michael Richardson

An extremely accomplished voice actor, Kevin Michael Richardson has been doing the voices of various comic book and video game characters now for almost 20 years. Bishop, Tombstone, Lucius Fox, Mammoth, Trigon and many others from both the Marvel and DC Universe, Richardson is a possible front-runner for the role after serving as the Joker for the entire five season run of The Batman in the mid-2000s.

Richardson’s Joker was part of a push for a more realistic Batman as a supplement building up to Batman Begins in 2005 and thus was forced to play a bit more of an urban thieving jester than the genius psychopath with a sadistic sense of humor. Preferring a straight jacket with torn sleeves, bare feet, and dreadlocks to the more traditional custom tailored suit and slicked up hair, Richardson’s Joker still got across that most basic of dynamics, that the Joker must be the yang to Batman’s yin. Throw in a sinister cackle cross bred with a hyena for his laugh and Kevin Michael Richardson did something that you want to see from whatever actor takes the role, he worked with it and tried to make it his own. Add in his experience already working with Andrea Romano on several projects to put him a little higher than a lot of the competition.

John DiMaggio

Another top of the line voice talent, John DiMaggio is best known as Bender from Futurama and Marcus Fenix from Gears of War. He also got at least one shot as the Joker when he voiced the Harlequin of Hate for the recent Batman: Under the Red Hood straight to DVD movie from DC Animation.

Strongly criticized for his portrayal of the Joker, I actually enjoyed his performance except for the fact that he didn’t make it his own. It seemed more like he was trying to blend Heath Ledger from The Dark Knight with Mark Hamill’s vision of the Joker instead of bringing something unique to the table. If he should land the role, I hope that whoever the casting director is works with him on trying to make the character more his own instead of trying to give fans what they expect from the character because he definitely has the chops to reach greatness. John also has the advantage of having worked with Andrea Romano as he also portrayed Aquaman and Gorilla Grodd in episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

Jeff Bennett

Another 20-year veteran of the voiceover business, Jeff Bennett is playing the most active version of the Joker at the moment in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon. The cartoon is a campier version of Batman and his rogues gallery that harkens back to the original run of the comic series of the same name from the 1950s, and so Bennett’s Joker is not nearly as sadistic or sinister as we’ve become more accustomed to. There are some episodes that have shown that he maintains his obsession with Batman, but the overall tone of the show prevents Bennett from ever showing that real dark side that fans have come to expect from the Joker. Not to say he couldn’t do it, but if Bennett were to become to the number one candidate, he’d have to show that he has the range to take the character where the fans want to see it go if it would be a permanent fix.

Being the Brave and the Bold Joker has afforded Bennett the chance to work with Andrea Romano, but it’s more likely that the campy scripts of Brave and the Bold have written off his chance of becoming the Joker full-time. Not to mention, he seems to be just imitating other campy voice versions of the Joker from decades earlier and hasn’t made the character his own at all.

Scott Cleverdon

Not many people may know of Scott Cleverdon, but when sitting down to make my list, he was one of the first names for me to come to mind of people who have never played the Joker. Comic book fans may know Scott best for his portrayal of Carnage in the mid-1990s Spider-Man cartoon as well as his brief stint in Batman Beyond as Jack of the Royal Flush Gang.

It is his experience as Carnage that really piqued my interest because there are few maniac villains who could come close to the seeming randomness of the Joker’s ways, but Carnage is definitely one. Carnage kills because he loves to kill and that easily could transition into the Joker. The Joker and Carnage are seen as so similar that they even teamed up in a 1995 one-shot crossover versus Spider-Man and Batman. Obviously, Cleverdon would need a bit more control with the Joker to get that calculating nature across if he were to become a candidate, but his high-pitched hyena giggle that he used with Carnage could work very well with the Joker. He has never worked with Andrea Romano and bringing the two of them together could also lead to an interesting exploration of the character.

Michael Nicolosi

Another candidate who has never played the Joker, but is familiar with sadistic clowns is Michael Nicolosi. He may not have the voiceover experience as some of the others on this list, but he did do a fantastic job as the Clown form of the Violator in the late-1990s HBO Spawn animated series. Obviously, in terms of language used, the Joker will be much more toned down than the script used on a premium channel, but Nicolosi provided that perfect calm before the storm. As Violator, he had a cool demeanor that put enough unease in you to know without seeing it that there was a monster just bubbling below the surface, which is literally the case in Violator.

Michael Nicolosi hasn’t worked with Andrea Romano either, but if he can flick that special switch on and off with the Joker like he did a decade ago with Violator, then he might be someone who should be given a look for those really dark storylines involving the Clown Prince of Crime.

Frank Welker

This candidate is probably the biggest wild card (pun intended, pun always intended), but is also easily the most experienced voice actor on this list with more than 40 years under his belt. Frank Welker played the campiest version of the Joker on this list when he played him as a part of The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians in 1985. He has also played nearly every character imaginable and if you saw the list, you’d understand why I think he has the range where, if no others rose to the challenge, Frank could steal the title for himself and provide us whatever version of the Joker we want. Whether a dark, sadistic murderer, an aloof thief and eternal foil to the Dark Knight, or a campy jester prancing around with exploding whoopee cushions, Welker could get the job done.

Andrea Romano and Frank Welker worked together on the 1980s Jonny Quest and several other cartoons so these wily two veterans are probably very well acquainted with one another, which makes you think that if Welker hasn’t been used before for some other projects involving the Joker, then maybe he doesn’t have it in him to play the more serious Ace of Knaves.

Jack Nicholson

Here’s the long shot, and I know how much of a long shot this is, but hear me out on why this could work and why DC Animation should pursue Jack. The reason why this came to mind is I just moved and was looking through my video games and I came across my copy of From Russia With Love from the last generation of consoles and thought how great it was for Sean Connery to reprise his role as James Bond more than four decades after he shot the corresponding film. It’s not like he had a lot on his plate though due to the natural ageism that comes in Hollywood. There are simply less roles out there for older actors.

So here is an opening for the Joker, a role that Jack Nicholson defined for many people back in 1989. Movie roles are starting to dry up a bit for him. I’m sure he could find time in the basketball off-season to head over to a recording studio and reprise a role that many still see him as being the best live action version of. Even if he only does it for one movie or one video game, the appeal for all of us Batman fans out there to hear Jack do the Joker again would make it one of the best selling DVDs or games of that year. Gimmicky yes, but gimmicks sell and you can’t tell me you wouldn’t be curious.

Me, Ray Carsillo

Ok, honestly, this has been a dream of mine for years and at this point it’s probably the best way to get my name out there. If somehow Andrea Romano sees this, then maybe I’ll have a chance because I love the Joker so much I even have my own set of razor blade playing cards.

My name is Ray Carsillo and yes, I have done voiceover work before. Not a lot, but I have a radio/TV background and voiced a couple PSAs and commercials. You would have to trust me on this until you heard it, but I have the most maniacal laugh of anyone you’ll meet and can change my demeanor on a dime if necessary. I think I’ve shown my passion and more than any of these others guys on the list, I come cheap (I used that same line on the folks at Comicvine). All I’m asking for is a tryout…and if you would like a sniff of my flower?

-Ray “StrongProtector” Carsillo

Originally Published: December 9, 2010, on Youtube.com/CGRUndertow

As a part of CGR Undertow, I reviewed Batman: Arkham Asylum for the PS3.

The Horseman Cometh

Originally Published: January 13, 2010, on 1050espn.com (Now ESPNNewYork.com) and Lundberg.me

Often when something works, and works well, it will have imitators and copycats come out of the woodwork and try to capitalize on the splash made by the original. This is especially true in the media world and in video games. The hottest trend right now is an oldie but goodie: the portrayal of the possibility of a coming apocalypse, an Armageddon. There are different spins put on it from heaven vs. hell, man vs. the supernatural, or some seemingly omnipotent being needing to be stopped from wreaking havoc, but in the end it all comes down to the same basic concept. In the first quarter of 2010, we have three such games coming out with this basic theme: God of War 3, Dante’s Inferno and Darksiders with the original God of War series being the base concept.

Just because all these games may be similar in theme and execution, does not mean that they all can’t be good. In fact, sometimes the imitators will surpass the original and blow the concept out of the water. The first of these three games released, Darksiders, might do just that.

Darksiders begins with hell on Earth erupting as the balance between heaven, hell, and Earth has been disrupted and Armageddon has been triggered early. You play as War, one of the four mythical horsemen who mark the coming of the end of days, and immediately know something is awry as your fellow horsemen have not appeared. As you move through city streets, trying to find the source of the disruption as angels and demons alike fight overhead, you come upon Straga, one of the most powerful demons to emerge from hell and watch as one of the leaders of the angels, Abaddon, is swallowed up like an appetizer for the things to come. You fight the demon, but like Abaddon, fall to the unparalleled might of this hellish monstrosity.

A century then passes as hell has consumed the Earth and the human race has been wiped out. You have been imprisoned for all this time in the depths of hell by The Council, an ancient race of beings whose sole purpose is to maintain the balance that you have been blamed for disrupting. Finally, the Council relents to your pleas to send you back to clear your name. They concede, but they pair you with a high level demon called a Watcher (played brilliantly by Mark Hamill), to make sure you will do the Council’s bidding, and find out how, and more importantly, who caused the end of days before it was destined to.

Thus begins the story of Darksiders, a tale of redemption as you unravel a conspiracy that could invoke the wrath of a god.

Even with the overplayed theme, Darksiders is brilliantly executed. A combination of The Legend of Zelda and God of War series, the game is packed with both original characters, like Vulgrim the Soul Merchant, with whom you exchange the souls of your fallen foes for new weapons and fighting techniques, and those based in scripture like Azrael, the Angel of Death. Add in tons of actions sequences involving some epic boss battles and an ending that will leave you anticipating the impending sequel is more than enough for me to label this as the first must have game of 2010 (not that there is a lot competition right now).

The graphics are beautiful, from deserts where the sand is comprised of the ashes of six billion dead humans, to lush jungles that have reclaimed the cities that once dominated the landscape. Every creature has exquisite detail to them, from the scars on War’s face to the talons of the giant bats that litter the twisted remains of the world.

Along with great looks, the game sounds very good. The music, although rather generic, helps set the atmosphere beautifully and the voice acting is top notch, highlighted by Mark Hamill who seemed to channel shades of the Joker from Batman: The Animated Series into the masochistic Watcher and Moon Bloodgood as Uriel, the angel who takes over heaven’s ranks after the fall of Abaddon.

I also liked the fact how, aside from the opening and closing movies, the game really focuses more on the action, the fighting, and the platforming and avoids unnecessarily long cut scenes to forward the plot. Possibly this was a move to avoid too many comparisons to the style of games this is clearly based off of since the gameplay easily can draw a lot of parallels to more well-established franchises.

The gore and fighting mechanics are very similar to that of God of War with only a handful of buttons really being needed to mash your way across your typical desert, water, jungle, and fire areas. This goes along nicely with the “me against the world” theme from that franchise.

More parallels can be seen in the items you acquire over the course of the game since almost all of them have appeared in The Legend of Zelda at some point or another. The abyssal chain is exactly like the hookshot, your horse Ruin is reminiscent of Epona, the Crossblade is just like the boomerang, etc. So, the gameplay isn’t anything you haven’t seen before and lacks any real originality. Along with this, there are a few glitches as the game progresses and can be very frustrating when you fall into a bottomless pit when the game glitches mid-jump.

Still though, there is a reason why people love The Legend of Zelda and it was nice to see a game with hard puzzles and tremendous temples. The outside world wasn’t as epic as I would have liked, considering the entire Earth was supposed to be wiped out. It doesn’t seem like you’re traveling more than through the five NYC boroughs.

The game should take you 15-20 hours to completely beat, but there isn’t much to bring you back for a second playthrough. If there were any collectibles or achievements you missed the first time through they could bring you back for a little while, but otherwise this is a one and done.

Even with the aforementioned lack of originality, this game is a lot of fun and does a great job drawing you into the post-apocalyptic world. I enjoyed the game so much that I stood up and clapped at the end of the final cinematic and with the amount of games I have to play; it takes a lot to elicit that kind of a response from me anymore. Kudos to Vigil Games and THQ. Simply put, this is a great game. Darksiders is available now for Xbox 360 and PS3 and is the first must have game of the New Year.

Ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best.

Graphics: 9.0: From the detail of the world you fight through to the skulls carved on your Chaoseater sword, the graphics are top notch. A point gets deducted only for the generic looking blood effects. There could have been a little more splatter that lasted longer on screen for my tastes.

Audio: 9.0: The voice acting for this game spearheads this score as Mark Hamill and Moon Bloodgood highlight a cast of awesome performances. Include spot-on SFX and the only point that gets docked from this is for the generic, forgettable background music that at least was able to set a nice mood as you progressed through the game.

Plot/Plot Development: 7.5: The general plot has been done before so it loses points for lack of originality, but at least the game progressed at a good pace and set things up well as the conspiracy against War unfolds and then comes together at the end in a great final cinema scene.

Gameplay: 7.0: Glitches and lack of originality again hurts this score, but when you are basing your game off of sure-fire hits like God of War and The Legend of Zelda, you can forgive them a little.

Replay Value: 3.0: There isn’t a lot to bring you back to this game after the initial playthrough besides looking for more power-ups or any achievements you may have missed along the way.

Overall (not an average): 9.5: Even though I penalized the individual category scores for lack of originality, I can’t do it for the overall game because, the time-tested, proven formula that Darksiders uses works and is a lot of fun to play. Any game that gets me to stand up and applaud while the credits roll is a winner in my book and I cannot deny the fun I had playing this game. I looked forward to coming home and playing this game every day after work. So what if it wasn’t the most original game? Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery after all.

-Ray Carsillo