Monday, August 18, 2014

R.I.P.: Bob Hastings

I don't often comment on the deaths of old-time radio personalities - their ranks being (sadly) both small and finite - but there are some who certainly shouldn't be overlooked. Such a person is Bob Hastings, a talented performer whose career meets at an intersection between two of my interests - comic books & old-time radio. He passed away June 30th.

Hastings' was already a radio performer by age 14, beginning a career in voice acting which lasted 70 years. Hastings' first great role from the comic book genre came when he portrayed Archie Andrews on the radio (for about eight years). Unfortunately, it's a pretty awful radio show. Many radio shows of the day which featured comedic adventures of teenagers cast members used "funny voices" - actors whose voices cracked and broke. Archie's radio show was easily the most egregious offender against one's hearing (even the adult characters' voices crack). It's generally affirmed that Archie is one of the lousier old-time radio programs.

Fortunately, there was a lot more of Hastings on the radio in those days. Probably his greatest gift to we OTR fans were his appearances on NBC's Dimension X and successor program X Minus One, two great science fiction anthology shows. My favourite episodes with voice acting by Hastings are (links will take you to an mp3 file):

  • Cold Equations Tom Godwin's infamous tale of a woman who steals aboard a spaceship and the horrible reprecussions of her actions. Hastings portrays the husband of the doomed woman.
  • Marionettes, Inc. A swell Ray Bradbury story where men purchase android duplicates of themselves so they can escape from their wives. Hastings has a minor role as a bank clerk.
  • Junkyard A weird, almost equal parts funny and horrifying story about men setting their starship down on a world where people constantly lose knowledge, leaving the crew unable to recall how to activate their engines. Hastings plays a crewmember.
  • Skulking Permit A funny story about a colony which has been cut off from Earth for far too long; as Earth reestablishes contact, they're desperate to prove they're just like the humans they've read about in books, unaware Earth is now a tyrannical dictatorship. Hastings plays one of the complacent colonists.

Although he played Superboy on a 1960s animated series (his voice still quite able to achieve the teenage tones he'd used as Archie), Hastings' most beloved voice acting role came in 1993 with the launch of Batman: the Animated Series. His voice now roughened up by the passage of time, Hastings portrayed Commissioner Gordon. On the program, Gordon rarely got to be more than a stooge to the show's titular hero, but Gordon got in a few good lines from time to time and in one memorable outing - "Over the Edge" - went through an emotional rollercoaster which pit his brain and nerve against Batman himself.

Hastings remained with the program through 1999 and for many of us, served as the definitive Commissioner Gordon. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us, Bob!

No comments: