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Urbana actor stars in new cartoon

Clancy Brown adds new Disney series about Hulk to his credits.

Local fans of TV cartoons should be able to easily identify the voice of Red Hulk when a new animated series inspired by the Marvel Comics universe debuts this weekend.

It’s obviously Mr. Krabs.

And Mr. Krabs — the proprietor of the Krusty Krab on Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob SquarePants” — has been voiced by Urbana actor Clancy Brown for the past 14 years.

Brown, 54, will provide the voice of another red-skinned cartoon blowhard with the premiere at 11 a.m. Sunday of “Marvel’s Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.” on Disney XD.

Despite a long list of voice credits and a growing relationship with Disney’s cable channels on everything from “The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” to “Sofia the First,” Brown still had to audition for this latest role.

“Oh, heck yeah,” he told the Springfield News-Sun. “Disney’s brilliant in building and protecting their franchise. They don’t care how long you’ve been in the business. They want to make sure they have the right person.”

Brown, who recently took in the Champaign County Fair while back in Urbana, isn’t actually the only homegrown Hollywood actor to lend his voice to animated superheroes as of late.

Justin Chambers, the 1989 Southeastern High School graduate who found fame in recent years with TV’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” has gotten in on the voice-over game as well, lending his voice to the Flash in “Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox,” an animated DC Comics feature that came out last week on Blu-ray.

“You can do a million characters and you’re not restricted by age,” Brown explained. “It’s really fun to do, and there’s a lot of it now. When I was a kid, there were only three networks and you saw your cartoons on Saturday mornings.

“It’s a growth industry.”

That much is obvious by typing Brown’s name into the Internet Movie Database and scrolling through his credits.

In addition to his long-standing role since 1999 as Mr. Krabs, Brown has lent his voice to various episodes of “Adventure Time,” “Phineas and Ferb,” “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” “Transformers Prime” and “Green Lantern: The Animated Series.”

Already a star among fanboys for his role as the wicked Kurgan in the 1986 live-action cult classic “Highlander,” Brown truly endeared himself to comic book fans when he took on the voice of Lex Luthor in “Superman: The Animated Series,” which ran from 1996 to 2000.

Brown, whose family has deep ties to the area — his grandfather, a longtime congressman, is the namesake of the C.J. Brown Dam and Reservoir near Springfield — has a penchant for playing bad guys.

His 1994 role as prison guard Capt. Hadley in “The Shawshank Redemption” is a regular sight on cable movie channels.

This latest high-profile role as Red Hulk in “Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.” might, however, need some explaining for those who haven’t read comics in a while.

Red Hulk is actually Gen. Thunderbolt Ross, the longtime nemesis of the more famous green-skinned Hulk. Ross, who made his debut in the pages of “Incredible Hulk” No. 1 back in 1962, became a hulk himself in the comics in 2008.

“Hulk had been humanized a lot in the books,” Brown said. “He’d been softened up so much, you needed that danger again.”

While admittedly “terrifying” in the comics, Brown said, Red Hulk plays a more kid-friendly role in the new Disney series — that of “a frustrated little brother,” he said.

The original Hulk will lead what’s essentially a gamma ray-induced family team of heroes.

“It’s really funny and really heartfelt,” Brown said.

Brown also isn’t surprised that shows like this appeal to a broad cross section, from children to the adults who now consume the majority of comics.

Hulk creator Stan Lee, he said, occasionally comes in and provides his voice.

“He totters in,” Brown said, “and he’s got to be 150 years old and he’s still going strong. This stuff is timeless.”

That might explain why the Walt Disney Co. bought Marvel Entertainment and its library of 5,000-plus characters in 2009.

Curiously, though, Brown isn’t the only local connection in the new Hulk cartoon. Marvel lists Dayton, Ohio, as the birthplace of Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk.

“I love voice work,” Brown said. “I would do that exclusively if I could get enough work doing it.”

Voice work also has been good to his family, which includes a 17-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son.

He recalled that when his daughter changed schools, she was able to tell her new classmates that her dad was Mr. Krabs.

“SpongeBob kind of saved her,” Brown said.

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