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WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2008

STEVE BLUM -- THE VOICE OF WOLVERINE

Steve Blum is doing the best he can at being the guy who's the best at what he does.

After years in anime voice acting, Blum has broken into original animation acting in a big way. He voiced Green Goblin in The CW 4Kids' The Spectacular Spider-Man earlier this year and will be featured in his biggest role, Wolverine, in two projects from Marvel Animation: the Wolverine and the X-Men series on Nicktoons and the Hulk vs. direct-to-DVD movie scheduled for a Jan. 27 release from Lionsgate.

Growing up reading the comics, Blum is well aware of the responsibility of playing Logan. And with Hugh Jackman returning in the live-action X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie, three ongoing Wolverine comics series and numerous other appearances in the Marvel Universe, 2009 is shaping up as the biggest year ever for the claw-wielding mutant.

"I have to live up to a huge presence that existed long before me," Blum acknowledges. "I just don't want to disappoint anybody. I want to do the best job I can and keep the real die-hard fans happy. If the ones who have really been following this since the very inception are OK with my performance, that makes it all worthwhile for me."

He's off to a good start. The Wolverine portion of Hulk vs. and the first three episodes of Wolverine and the X-Men were screened at Comic-Con International in San Diego last summer with thunderous approval.

"The funny thing is I never dreamed that I would get the opportunity to read for something like this," Blum says. "I got into the business by accident; I was doing anime for years."

Although he provided the voice of Wolverine in the Ultimate Alliance video game, Blum, 43, still had to audition for the animated roles.

"For me, I had those voices in my head. I had what I always imagined those voices to be," he says. "And when I had the opportunity to actually go in and read for it, all of a sudden it was right there and it just felt natural. And like anybody else, I just hoped that it was what they were looking for at the time."

Blum says his scores of anime roles helped with Wolverine.

"It was the best training ground I could have possibly had to do this kind of work," he says. "For 15 years, before I did anything in original animation, I was screaming, growling bad guys and monsters and things. It couldn't have been better training. I developed all that nice scar tissue in my throat (laughs) and it worked perfectly for Logan."

Although Nicktoons hasn't announced an official launch date for Wolverine and the X-Men, the series should be on the air before the release of Hulk vs. Episodes have already aired in Canada and in Latin America markets.

The first three episodes, titled "Hindsight," set up the series, which story editor Greg Johnson calls "a long journey." Professor Xavier and Jean Grey disappear in an explosion, and the X-Men are torn apart. With mutant oppression prevalent, Wolverine enlists Beast to get the X-Men back together and when they find Professor Xavier, he warns them of a future that only a Wolverine-led team can prevent.

"This series is our answer to the '90s series," Marvel Studios' Craig Kyle says. "We tried to do something different and put the guy in charge who shouldn't be in charge and see how they do without the moral compass (of Xavier)."

Wolverine and the X-Men braintrust Kyle, Johnson and Boyd Kirkland are extremely familiar with the X-Men, having guided the previous animated series, X-Men: Evolution. Many members of the cast are also well-versed in X-Men history.

"They knew exactly what they were looking for and listening for," Blum says. "And all of us were fans, too, so we're all sitting there watching each others' performances and just enthralled with the whole process. It's really like watching the whole thing come alive around us. That was as much fun for me as actually doing my own roles."

The Hulk vs. movie -- which also pits the green monster against Thor -- harkens back to Wolverine's first appearance in The Incredible Hulk comic with iconic imagery. But it's an entirely new -- and violent -- story that also features Deadpool, Lady Deathstrike, Sabretooth and Omega Red and ties into Wolverine's origins.

"This was the one time where we could cut loose and show Wolverine for what he is," says the PG-13 film's writer, Christopher Yost.

"It was shocking to me to see how graphic we can get," Blum says. "It's pretty cool."

The movie doesn't waste time getting to the action, opening with Wolverine and the Hulk battling, no holds barred with plenty of berserker rage and Hulk smashing.

"There was really no dialogue, but it was very technical and they were very specific about what the hits were and how they were delivered," Blum says.

Blum recorded fight scenes with Fred Tatasciore, who plays the Hulk.

"We're fighting together and we're side by side," Blum says. "Arms are literally swinging and we're ducking and trying to avoid hitting each other while getting the best possible performance."

Blum didn't get punched, but the fight scenes took their toll. He says they were "brutal" and "really taxing" on his throat.

"I would usually need to rest for at least a day before I could do anything else and in some cases, two or three days," he says. "And we don't always have that luxury. A lot of times we have to do other jobs right after, and it's kind of tough."

His method for throat recovery? "Most of it is a lot of shutting up afterward," he laughs. "And a lot of fluids; you've got to drink a lot of water. And I do have these Chinese throat drops."

Wolverine gets a rematch of sorts with the Hulk in the seventh episode of Wolverine and the X-Men, appropriately titled "Wolverine vs. Hulk." Tatasciore, who voices Beast in the series, reprises his role as the Hulk.

"The movie was everything I always imagined and wanted to see," Blum says. "The series absolutely does the job, but that (Hulk vs.) was already satisfying for me. You get all the same emotion, but there was something satisfying with the film."

Wolverine is a long way from the cackling Green Goblin character Blum voices in The Spectacular Spider-Man, but series supervising producer Greg Weisman says he was a natural for the part.

"I love Steve's Gobby; it's what I always imagined the character sounding like," Weisman says. "But I'm not at all surprised that he also does Wolverine. I previously worked with the talented Mr. Blum on W.I.T.C.H. -- in which he played the garbage-loving creature Blunk, teenage bully Kurt and Knight of Vengeance Raythor. So I know how versatile Steve is and took full advantage of it for Spidey."

Weisman says Blum is back for Season 2, voicing big villains Green Goblin and Chameleon and more obscure characters such as Dilbert Trilby, Seymour O'Reilly and Blackie Gaxton.

And there appears to be more Wolverine in Blum's future as well. Marvel has announced 26 additional episodes of Wolverine and the X-Men.

"There's nothing better, there's nothing nastier or more fulfilling than to play this role," Blum says.



E-mail the Continuum at RobAlls@aol.com



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