“Geek icon” might not be the first words that come to mind when you think of Ed Asner. The man best known for playing Mary Tyler Moore’s gruff boss Lou Grant first in her show and then in his own is series is one of the most well respected actors around. But this guy is all over the place when it comes to voice work. While watching an episode of the excellent Young Justice, it dawned on us that not only was Asner voicing Doctor Fate’s alter ego, but also that this dude has voiced some of the most iconic characters in history. To give you an idea, he’s done Perry White and J. Jonah Jameson, a New God, a Batman villain, Santa Claus and recurring voices on The Cleveland Show. We combed through his work and culled the list down to the ten coolest, geekiest roles the man took on since breaking into the biz back in 1957.
The funny thing about Asner’s voice work when you look at it all together like this is that a lot of it sounds the same, like the actor simply talking. But then you think about the particular voice roles it hits you that you didn’t even realize it was him. He still finds a way to lose himself in these characters even when not altering his voice all that much. Like Wolverine he’s the best there is at what he does, and what he does is play gruff, authority figures with varying senses of humor.
10) Carl, Up
Having made a career out of playing curmudgeons, Asner fit right into the role of Carl in Pixar’s Up. The story of a recent widower who decides to tie balloons to his house and fly off to distant lands, the film was funny, dramatic and even emotional (don’t lie, that opening montage was a killer for everyone). Starring in a big budget Disney flick might not be considered geeky, but when you consider this one was made by the uber-nerds at Pixar and that it stars a talking dog, a scout and a villainous adventurer, it fits in well with everything else on this list.
9) Sgt. Cosgrove, Freakzaoid
Though it only lasted for 24 episodes, Freakazoid garnered a loyal army of fans who still love the series to this day, even though it’s been off the air since 1997. Freakazoid himself was a zany superhero who ran around fighting bad guys like The Lobe and The Nerdator. His number one pal in the police force was Sgt. Mike Cosgrove who was clearly visually based on Asner. Known for nearly perfect timing and his ability to get people to “cut it out” on command, Cosgrove kept a calm, nonplussed attitude to balance out all of Freakazoid’s craziness while also tossing out some of the show’s funniest lines.
8) Chief Abalone, Fish Police
Fish Police? That Hanna-Barbera animated series about, well, fish cops that CBS only aired three of before canceling? Yes, that Fish Police. While the show got bounced before most people could see it, it’s actually based on an independent crime noire comic from the late ’80s created by Steven Moncuse and featured a young inker by the name of Sam Keith that just happened to star fish. As you might expect, Asner voiced Chief Abalone, the tough boss who gives his officers a hard time, but deep down knows they can handle their business. Skip to the 5:00 point in the clip to hear Asner get his fish on.
7) Hoggish Greedly, Captain Planet
Depending on how old you are, Captain Planet and the Planeteers is either an awesome action cartoon featuring children wielding the power of the primal elements and their superhero protector or a preachy pre-Green Movement cartoon that grated on the nerves thanks to its cloying soapboxing. Either way, it’s undeniable that Asner played one of the series’ main villains, Hoggish Greedly. A pig-face man who cavalierly destroyed the environment for his own gain, Greedly — and by extension Asner — appeared in 31 episodes of the series including the very first one “A Hero For Earth.” Here, Hoggish teaches native islanders how to blow up the coral reef for monetary gain, but the real evil is his ship’s mer-pig figurehead.
6) Master Vrook Lamar, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
While many of his voices tend to be blustery or angry, Asner got to chill out a bit as Master Vrook Lamar in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel The Sith Lords, one of the Jedi masters you encounter in the game the explains the game’s deep back story to you. If you’re lucky, he’ll also teach you one of the many Force-based combat moves he knows.
5) Roland Dagget, Batman: The Animated Series
For a lot of animation fans, anyone involved in the seminal Batman: The Animated Series gets a free pass for life at anything. Like Harley Quinn and Detective Montoya, Roland Daggett was added to the Batman mythos by way of this series. As a dangerous man who also happens to own Daggett Industries, Roland was one of the few normal human foes that Batman continued to run into throughout the classic series. Not above blowing up Crime Alley or turning a movie star into Clayface, Daggett proved so popular that Christopher Nolan even included him in The Dark Knight Rises, but played by some other guy.
4) Ed Wunclear Sr., The Boondocks
While he’s done a lot of voices in comic-inspired shows, Asner’s only done one based on a comic strip: The Boondocks. Based on Aaron McCruder’s strip about a pair of African American brothers moved out of their old neighborhood and into their grandfather’s mostly caucasian one. Asner’s Ed Wuncler, Sr. was a gruff, angry industrialist unafraid to spout off the most insulting, offensive lines imaginable. Hearing the iconic voice of Mary Tyler Moore’s boss making jerkoff jokes and swearin gmakes this one of Asner’s funnier roles.
3) J. Jonah Jameson, Spider-Man
Before Sam Raimi came along and nailed the live action casting of J.K. Simmons as Daily Bugle publisher and Spider-Man-hater J. Jonah Jameson in his series of films, the makers of the ’90s Spidey cartoon did an equally good job getting Asner to do his Lou Grant thing for another young, aspiring kid in the news business. Like his comic book counterpart, though, this version of JJJ thinks that his neighborhood Spider-Man is less than friendly and actually a menace to the public. Skip ahead to the 4:27 mark to see just how far he’d go to stop that menace. By the way, it’s important to note that Asner also played Uncle Ben in the latter day Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon and another famous comic book newspaperman Perry White in the All Star Superman animated movie, but a long term commitment as one of Spidey’s most persistent haters tops both of those.
2) Hudson, Gargoyles
For a guy who’s been a part of some of the most beloved cartoons of the ’90s, Asner’s got a really strong resume, but we haven’t even hit his longest running role, that of Hudson from Gargoyles. The fan favorite Disney series lasted two seasons, all of which featured Hudson the elder statesmen of the Manhattan Clan. The one-eyed warrior may have been past his prime and usually stayed behind to guard the headquarters, but he would throw down when need be.
1) Granny Goodness, Superman: The Animated Series
When it comes to great roles, sometimes they’re developed between the director and the actor and sometimes it’s a matter of choosing the right actor for the right part. The latter is the case for Asner’s funniest geeky role, that of Darkseid’s number one child torturer Granny Goodness. The best part? He didn’t even try to feminize his voice, meaning this is straight up Asner as a gray haired evil lady psycho. Asner first appeared in this role on Superman: The Animated Series and the excellent team-up toon JLU. He even reprised the role in the animated feature Superman/Batman: Apocalypse. It’s even better when you picture Asner in Granny’s Jack Kirby-created costume.