Hasbro has announced the 2012 human inductees into the Transformers Hall of Fame, Chris Latta, and Simon Furman.
I can’t imagine two better choices. I have criticized Hasbro a lot of late, and in my opinion, that criticism is well deserved. But I will give them credit when it’s due. This time they got it right. (Don’t worry, I’m sure they will screw up again soon, they are too well practiced at it.)
Simon Furman has written more than 350 issues of various Transformers comic series starting with the Marvel UK issue #13 more than twenty-five years ago and continuing to the soon to be released, Transformers ReGeneration, which will pick up where the original 80 issue Marvel US series left off. Few men have had such a long lasting and continued impact on Transformers fiction. His contribution to the Transformers goes beyond comics as well, as he wrote the series finale of Transformers Beast Wars, “Nemesis, Part 2” one of the greatest (in my opinion) episodes of any Transformers series ever. He is well deserving of induction into the Transformers Hall of Fame.
But, as deserving as Simon Furman is, it is the induction of Chris Latta that I really wanted to talk about.
Chris Latta (AKA Christopher Collins) is best known as the voice of two of the most iconic cartoon villains of all time, the Transformer’s conniving power hungry Starscream, and GI Joe’s mirror faced terrorist snake, Cobra Commander. In addition to other voices for Transformers and GI Joe, he also worked on numerous other cartoons such as The Simpsons, Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light, Inhumanoids, and (the greatest cartoon ever in my opinion) Star Blazers. He also has quite a few live action acting credits, including guest appearances on Married with Children, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, NYPD Blue, Seinfeld, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Mr. Belvedere. He was also a stand-up comedian. (Search Christopher Collins on YouTube and you’ll find at least one of his stand-up performances.)
To this day, though his appearance has changed and many different actors may have voiced him, the character of Starscream remains influenced by Chris’ Latta’s original portrayal. Starscream has been included in nearly every Transformers series since Generation One (even making an epic appearance in an episode of Beast Wars). While few would ever argue that Peter Cullen and Frank Welker stand above all others as the two most important voices in Transformers history, Chris Latta is a very close third.
One cannot discuss Chris Latta without mentioning what most fans of the original series know, that the circumstances surrounding his death have never been made completely clear. Comments from his fellow voice actors strongly suggest that he had his demons and that they were likely the cause of his death. At Botcon 97, an emotional Peter Cullen while speaking of Latta said, “Hollywood is the only city in the world that devours it’s young.” (For the record, that was fifteen years ago, so I may be misremembering the exact quote, but you get the point.) While tragic, it in no way lessens the impact his work has had on so many fans that consider Starscream among the greatest of all Transformers characters.
There isn’t much more I can say about Chris Latta. He breathed life into legends that will be remembered long after most people will have forgotten his name. But those of us who were watching from the beginning will never forget him.
“I WILL rule the universe. Even if I am the only one LEFT in the universe!” – Starscream, Transformers (G1), “The Revenge of Bruticus”