Many people know Mark Hamill from his role as Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars films. Some may know that Mark is an incredible voice actor too. He portrayed one of the most iconic comic book villains of all time when he took on the role of The Joker in Batman: The Animated Series. From there Hamill has been everywhere. From films to TV shows to lending his voice in many animated series, Mark has become a staple in the entertainment world.
So it was no surprise to me when he landed the hosting gig of Comic Con HQ’s Pop Culture Quest. Hamill has been collecting comic books, original artwork, toys and other mementos since the early 1970s and now he gets to share his passion and enthusiasm for collecting in his new web series.
I was able to talk with Mark about how the show came to be and how collectors tell a story beyond their collection. It was an honor to chat with Mark not only about his new show, but also about Star Wars, fatherhood and more.
Art Eddy: Let’s first talk about your show on Comic Con HQ called Pop Culture Quest. I am a collector myself so when I heard you were doing this show I was very excited. So far what collection or collector has surprised you the most on the show?
Mark Hamill: Well they all bring something different and unique to the table. What surprised me was looking over some of the shows that we were going to do I said are we really going to do a show about a shoe collector? I just don’t understand why someone would collect shoes. Then you meet the guy. You see his collection. You realize it doesn’t really matter if you are interested in the specific item, but there is sort of a mutual bond that is shared for all collectors. His enthusiasm was infectious. What I discovered is that a lot of times these collectors themselves are more fascinating than the items that they are collecting.
AE: I kid you not Mark. On one side of my office I have a collection of Air Jordans. On the side I have a bunch of Star Wars memorabilia. It is nerdy, sport-geek I guess.
MH: It is a way that people express themselves. It is part of people’s personalities. That is what I found so compelling. It is the stories like you just described. Your passion comes through when you talk about what your office is filled with.
AE: I have an original Revenge of the Jedi poster in my collection.
MH: See I don’t even have one of those. (Both laugh.)
AE: It isn’t the one with Vader’s helmet and Luke and Vader fighting. It was the one that said coming soon, Revenge of the Jedi now in production.
MH: Right. That one didn’t get very far. Someone finally pointed out to George that Jedi don’t seek revenge. It is much more of an active word than return. Eventually he got to use it for Revenge of the Sith. So everybody is happy.
AE: What is your most prized collectible in your collection?
MH: I don’t know. Having done a few of these shows I realize that mine is rather modest. I don’t have a gigantic house. One of the reasons that this show was so appealing to me was that I ran out of room. Things go up the attic and down to the basement. They go into the guest house. Eventually we rented a storage place that was 90 minutes from my home. I said that this was really out of control. Who is going to drive 90 minutes to visit these things that are virtually in a garage?
I think that they are meant to be shared, displayed, and enjoyed by yourself, your family, and your friends. So this is a way for me to still be collecting without really obtaining physical objects. It is a chance for me to snoop into your collection. That is what is so fun about it.
AE: In regards to collectibles what was it like to see your first action figure for Star Wars when Kenner made them for A New Hope?
MH: It was just incredible. This is something that I have loved all of my life. I used to look at the back of cereal boxes and want to get that atomic submarine. I would sit with the Sears and Roebuck catalogue and make a list and I would want everything.
A lot of the things that I started collecting were things that I had as a kid. I am sort of all over the board. I collect model kits and board games and Beatles memorabilia. The idea of collecting toys that are based on projects that I have been involved with, not just Star Wars, but all the animated series that I have done. It is really fun. I never get tired of it. I am doing a villain on Miles From Tomorrowland, Gadfly Garnett. He is a reoccurring villain. He is not a major character, but I went in to do one last week and they brought me three different toys that are made for him. Again it is just a fun thing and it is something that I never get tired of.
AE: My daughters and I love Miles From Tomorrowland. When I heard your voice on an episode I was like this is fantastic. It is generations in my family of liking the work of Mark Hamill. (Both laugh.) So it is great.
MH: It is fun to do a ridiculous villain like that. (In the voice of Gadfly Garnett,) It is so cartoony! You don’t have to worry about being over the top with somebody that is that crazy and fun. It is old school. I love that they are shorter cartoons. They are not a half hour long. They are about ten to fifteen minutes long. He is so grandiose, so buffoonish, and so inept at what he is trying to do that he is such a fun character to play.
I think it is an homage to all these wonderful character actors that I try to blend into the character. Whether it is Jerome Howard, who is Curly from The Three Stooges or Joe Besser, who I once worked with on an animated series or Frank Nelson. It was all of these classic comedians that I have always loved. I try to channel their comedic genius.
AE: Now switching to fatherhood what was your first thought when you found out that you were going to be a dad?
MH: It is overwhelming isn’t? You know your life is going to change forever. It is not going to be the same as it was before. It was something that I gave a lot of thought to. At the time I was 28. I thought I was pushing 30 and I really better settle down. If I am going to do this I have to be fully committed. At this stage there was no looking back. Now I have sons that are older than 28. My daughter is 28.
I am one of seven children myself. It is funny my wife is an only child. (Both laugh.) There was a big difference there. She would always be asking me questions like is this normal? Is that right that these kids are doing this? I would tell her that this is so routine. We had a pretty ruckus family ourselves.
AE: What were some of the core values you looked to instill in your kids as they were growing up?
MH: All the basics. It is not reinventing the wheel. Honesty, the golden rule, treating people they way you would want to be treated. All those sorts of things. Kindness and selflessness. Trying to do the right thing. It sounds corny when you put them into words, but I have been very lucky. It is not an easy journey. They go through the arc of life and there could be troubling times, but you stick with it and they come through.
One of my proudest achievements is that all three of my kids and I have a great relationship. It is not easy to raise three children and not have them all have resentments or be angry at you. Like I said it is not easy. It is something that you have to be dedicated to twenty four seven.
AE: What advice do you have for new dads?
MH: To listen to them. Do not dictate even if you are sure that you are right. Let them come to that conclusion themselves by indicated what you think is right and asking their opinion. What is so amazing is that all three of my children are so different from one another. There are certain things that they share, but they all have such distinct personalities. There is no specific guide you follow. The best thing that you can do is treat them all as people and listen to what they have to say. If you listen to them, they will listen to you.
Life of Dad Quick Five
AE: What was your favorite family movie that you guys liked to watch together?
MH: Oh gosh, there is a lot of them. I was showing them things that I loved like Little Rascals, Laurel and Hardy, and The Honeymooners. I loved that each of them came to have a favorite movie of their own. Whether it was Ghostbusters or even things that were a little edgy. I would say, ‘How did you guys see Alien? I never said you could see Alien.’ They would tell me that they would see it at sleepover at a friend’s house.
My daughter is a little more sentimental. She likes the Frank Capra kind of feel good movies like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. That is one of the great joys of having a family. It is sharing what you love. Movies are great way to do that.
AE: Did you guys have a favorite song that you all liked to sing and dance to as a family?
MH: They laugh because every year I used to show them Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, which I love. Those were the same guys who wrote Funny Girl. Everybody in my family at Thanksgiving sing, Razzleberry Dressing. (Both laugh.) They all think that is hugely corny. It has become sort of a tradition in our house.
The Pee-Wee Christmas Special we watch every year. Until they started rebelling against it I used to read The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve just before they went to bed. They loved it through grade school. Then at the teenage years they would say, ‘Oh no not this again.’ (Both laugh.) They would then try to get out of it. You got to laugh. That is the thing. You got to have a sense of humor in this house. Otherwise you wouldn’t be able to survive.
AE: Describe the perfect family vacation.
MH: We went to Japan together. I went to high school there for two years because my dad was in the Navy and we got transferred there. A business opportunity came up and I brought the whole family there so we could be on the same page. You have no idea what it would be like to live in Japan.
Anytime you are together it doesn’t matter where you are. You don’t have to go to Disneyland to have a great vacation. I remember we got a hotel at the beach. Even though we lived at the beach it still seemed fun to stay in a cottage together and just be together. You don’t have to have a specific destination. They have been lucky and I have been lucky too. They have lived in New York and in California. I traveled so much. I went to nine schools in twelve years. It is unusual for me. I used to be envious of my cousin, who lived in one town from the time he was born until he went off to college. I was so envious. I thought everybody knew him and there was real stability there. I always felt like I just get settled and then you get transferred and your whole world is turned upside down. In retrospect that might have made me more able to accept change. Certainly in this business it is always changing.
AE: Lightsaber color blue or green?
MH: Is mine green?
MH: It is funny because I did a goofy movie with Kevin Smith called Jay and Silent Bob. I remember when I read the script I was like this is pretty radical for me to do. There are F-bombs galore. There is edgy drug humor and sex and all of that. So I said to Kevin because it is so influenced by Star Wars I am going to have run this by Lucasfilm. If they say that I can do it then I will do it. I am telling you Art that I thought for sure that Lucasfilm would say no. (Both laugh.)
Instead the only thing that they had said was because we have this fight scene with bong sabers was remember with the bong sabers fighting scene red is evil and blue and green are good. I was like I knew they were nerds, but I didn’t know how big of a nerd they were. That was their only comment with the sex and the drugs in there. That was the only thing that they cared about. Priorities right?
AE: I grew up on Batman: The Animated Series. You voiced the role of The Joker so well. What was the first thing that popped in your mind when looked to create the Joker voice?
MH: I just played the one role that they gave me. It was in the Heart of Ice episode. That was the one that won the Emmy with Mr. Freeze. I was the guy that pushed him into the solution. I was sort of the villain’s villain. That was the part that they just gave me because I wanted to be on that show. Then they asked me if I wanted to audition for The Joker. I said, ‘Oh my gosh. Of course.’
I realized that there was no way that they could cast me because it would be a public relations disaster to cast this icon of virtue, who played Luke (Skywalker) as this icon of villainy. They won’t be able to cast me anyway even if I do a good job. A lot of time there is this anxiety. You want that part so badly that you push too hard or you are off your game because you think that you can get it.
Since I had no doubt that they wouldn’t be able to give it to me I was totally liberated and relaxed when I auditioned for it. I was playing Amadeus for almost a year. I had a real arsenal of laughs because you can’t change the lines, but you can change the laugh to keep yourself fresh and not get bored. Mozart was supposed to have this ghastly laugh that didn’t fit his personality or his music.
I went in there and I was very confident. When I left there I thought, ‘Top that! They will never find a Joker that is as good as me.’ Then as soon as I got the part I was paralyzed with fear. I thought, ‘Oh no. I can’t do this. He is too high profile.’
If I were Clayface or Two-Face or some character that had never been voiced before. After Jack Nicholson and Cesar Romero, Larry Storch and all the other people who have played it there is no way I could do this. So I went 180 degrees in the other direction. I was paralyzed in fear of not being able to achieve what I was being asked to do. As it turned out the writing was so great. The cast. Everything about that show. The music by Shirley Walker. The art direction by Bruce Timm and Andrea Romano. I was really spoiled. It was the second animated series that I had done. The one prior to that was in the 70’s. It was too good to be true.
It has been really fulfilling for me because not only am I grateful to be able to do a character that is such a character actor’s job, but the fact that it is so meaningful to fans. I never expected it to last this long. Once we finished the original animated series many other actors played that part brilliantly. I never heard a Joker that I didn’t find something valuable in the performance. It wasn’t until they got me back for the Arkham Asylum game. It was a great reunion with Kevin Conroy. I first did it in ’92 and it has been 24 years now.
Follow Mark on Twitter @HamillHimself and go to comic-conhq.com to watch episodes of Pop Culture Quest. San Diego Comic-Con is only once a year, but Comic-Con HQ is year-round! The new subscription video on demand destination is available at Comic-ConHQ.com