RIP C. Martin Croker, animator, voice artist, cartoonist

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Over the weekend I was devastated to learn of the sudden death of Clay Martin Croker, best known as the voice of Zorak and Moltar on Space Ghost Coast to Coast, but also an animator, cartoonist, and general renaissance man. He was only 54, and died after a sudden, acute illness.

You can read about his career  in this obit at The A.V. Club:

Croker was the animation director on Coast To Coast, and it was reportedly his idea to add longtime Space Ghost foes Zorak and Moltar to the show, with Zorak as the bandleader and Moltar as the director and editor. Croker voiced both characters for the entirety of the series, with the two of them constantly antagonizing Space Ghost and openly expressing their intense hatred for him. Often, the interplay between Space Ghost, Zorak, and Moltar was more involved and crucial to the show than anything the actual guest said, with celebrities left awkwardly looking from side to side while the animated characters had absurd adventures that didn’t involve them at all (and which they couldn’t see, since the animated stuff was produced later and wasn’t real).

Clay returned over the years as the voice of Moltar as the host of Toonami, and as Dr. Weird on Aqua Teen Hunger Force. I last saw him in June at AwesomeCon where I took the above photo.

Back in the day Clay was the artist on Cartoon Network Presents Space Ghost Coast to Coast, an occasional title that I edited for DC. While Zorak did the art, Andy Merrill, aka Brak the Barbarian was the writer. It is safe to say this was one of the best and most enjoyable jobs I have ever had.

I was, like most of th epeopl ein comics I know, a huge fan of Space Ghost Coast to Coast. Along with Ren and Stimpy it formed the avant guard of animated absurdity that helped make the 90s great and spawned a lot of what you see on TV and streaming now. SGCTC was even more influential as a deconstructed talk show, a repurposing of pop culture’s attic trunk, and the punking of D-list celebrities as seen in countless reality shows now. As 90s nostalgia has overtaken us, SGCTC is getting a wee resurgence, as various articles show, even though it’s not available on DVD legally. Thank god for You Tube.

You CAN  still buy used copies of Space Ghost’s Musical Bar-B-Q, a compendium of comedy songs, on which Clay can be heard several times. I still listen to “Put Your Sox on Mama” and other deep cuts from this masterpiece to this day. And the signed copy from Clay and Andy is one of my most prized possessions.

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Clay and Andy were quite the team on the comic, which took the personas from the talk show into actual adventures. Andy’s scripts were as blunt and wacky as Brak, but with strong adventure plotting somewhere in the back. Clay was a bit of a perfectionist as an artist, and not fast, hence the quarterly schedule for the book.

Loving Brak and Zorak as I did, I took every opportunity to call the guys and shoot the breeze. (Well, that’s how I remember it now, but it was probably more like calling to remind them about deadlines.) Clay lived in Atlanta, which had something of a boomlet in animation at the time as the headquarters for Cartoon Network. My memory is a little hazy but I think he also did the style guide art, as befitted his smooth line, reverence for Toth and classic cartoons, and eye for detail. He was a fan of old movies and ephemera  and collecting toys and told me about the parties he’d have in his backyard screening films and cartoons. These parties were legendary among locals. He also mentioned how he’d bought and installed part of an old drive in in his backyeard just for this purpose.

The invitation was always open to come down and go to one of those parties, something I never got to do and which I will always regret.

As I remember them, the comics were good–funny and unique. At last, they made ME laugh. If you liked Space Ghost Coast to Coast, I think they are worth seeking out.

I hadn’t seen  him or bene in touch in a long time when I ran into him at Awesome Con. I told him that the time was right to jump back in as Zorak what with the 90s boom coming along. He said he was trying to do some stuff along those lines, but I don’t know how far he got.

So glad today that I took the time to say hi take his picture and catch up.

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Hearing of his death while at SPX, I spoke about it with a few people, and remembrances of the show and the album flowed. Clay was such a sweet, funny and unique man. I’m so lucky to have worked with him and known him and we’re all going to miss him in many, many ways.

 

Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for posting this, Heidi. What a terrible loss. SGCTC was one of the last great pieces of nerd culture made from a totally authentic perspective before everything became grossly commodified. Right up there with MST3K on the short list of unique outsider media art. I hope it finds a permanent streaming home after this.

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