If you’re like me and you grew up during the days of classic Adult Swim, Toonami, or Cartoon Network, than this will certainly be a sad day in TV animation (on yet another sucky Monday, no less).
As reported by multiple sources, voice actor and animator C. Martin Croker has died. According to those reports, he passed away abruptly at his home in Atlanta on Sunday morning from what’s currently being reported as ‘undisclosed causes.’ He was 54 years old.
Born in 1964 as an Atlanta native (his first name is Clay), Croker began his illustrious career working for the Turner Broadcasting System family of television networks as an animator, working on various promos that aired as part of the network’s TNT Toons block. But it wouldn’t be too long before he would become an instrumental part of the shows that once made Adult Swim a household name in mature TV animation.
Among many of the shows he worked on, he is best known for his work on Space Ghost Coast to Coast, a surrealist comedy that re-casted the titular Hanna-Barbera creation as the host of a late night show, with his roster of enemies serving as on-air sidekicks and guests (against their will). In addition to serving as that show’s animation director for a whopping 92 episodes (and animator for 6), Croker was the voice of Zorak, who is portrayed in Coast to Coast as the long-suffering bandleader of The Original Way Outs and a bitter arch-enemy of Space Ghost. It was his portrayal of that character, paired with a sick sense of humor and a gift for ticking off Space Ghost on a regular basis, that become one of the show’s most popular elements. Zorak became a crucial element to that show’s success and, in turn, earned Croker a massive fan following.
(footage from The Brak Show, courtesy of Adult Swim)
In addition to reprising that character in spinoffs like the short-lived Cartoon Planet and The Brak Show, he further cemented his status as an Adult Swim legend as the voice of Dr. Weird in Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Like with Coast to Coast, he was also involved very heavily in the production side of things as an animator for 65 episodes. For Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters, he reprised his role as Dr. Weird and was involved as both the animation director and lead animator.
(Footage from Season 1 of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Courtesy of Adult Swim. Mild NSFW warning)
On top of all that, Croker was also busy in a number of other areas. He provided designs and bumper animations for Cartoon Network’s first rebranding in 1998, and hardcore fans of Toonami will remember that he also voiced Moltar (another character from Coast to Coast) from 1997 to 1999 as the host of the programming block’s earliest incarnation (before being replaced by TOM). Of recent, he was the voice of Tornado in Perfect Hair Forever. That show would be the last time he would reprise his role as Zorak.
His last completed work was on a UK animated indie film titled The X-Mas Files, voicing one of the reindeers.
(Croker, holding his 2012 sketch of Space Ghost at a convention)
As you can probably tell by now, Croker had a strong hand in making Adult Swim into what it is now (in addition to being involved with early Cartoon Network and Toonmai at the ground level). Even today, his influence is still felt in the programming style and the type of shows Adult Swim airs. So much so that the network itself posted a simple yet heartfelt tribute to him on its Twitter:
RIP C. Martin Croker pic.twitter.com/Ol6RNHhs60
— [adult swim] (@adultswim) September 18, 2016
The network followed that up with the news that “Elevator”, the first Space Ghost Coast to Coast episode, will be aired tonight in a special presentation (in honer of Croker). On top of that, every episode of Coast to Coast is now streaming on its official website.
As always, we offer our deepest condolences to both his family, his friends, and colleagues.
What was your favorite TV show that C. Martin Croker worked on? Do you have a favorite character that he voiced?
Edited by: Kelly Conley