Christopher Collins was born Christopher Lawrence Latta on August 30, 1949 and passed away on June 12, 1994.
He was an American actor, voice artist and comedian, perhaps best known as the voice of Cobra Commander on the G.I. Joe animated series and Starscream in the first Transformers animated series. He is also noted among Star Trek fans for his guest roles on The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, along with many other television series and a number of films. In addition, he had a successful stand-up comedy career.
One of Collins’ earlier voice works was in Star Blazers second series broadcast in the United States The Comet Empire. His most notable role in the series was that of space marine Sergent Webb Knox (Saito in the Japanese version).
In 1983, Collins started voicing Cobra Commander for a five-part G.I. Joe animated miniseries. In 1984, he reprised the role for a second five-part animated mini-series, which became a regular series in 1985. Also in 1984, Collins voiced a new character, Starscream, for a three-part Transformers animated miniseries. By 1985, he was voicing other G.I. Joe and Transformers characters in toy commercials, carrying on in those roles when the two television series made their debut. When he began doing regular voice work, he adopted the stage name Chris Latta because another Screen Actors Guild actor was performing as “Chris Collins”.
Cobra Commander was the original leader of Cobra, usually portrayed (in the cartoon version) alongside the steel-faced Destro. Starscream was played as a megalomaniacal offsider to the chief antagonist (Megatron performed by Frank Welker), and was more concerned with usurping his superior than with following orders. After the Serpentor character was created in 1986, drawing power away from Cobra Commander, that role became very similar to Starscream’s role. However, most striking was the high-pitched, rasping voice Collins employed for both roles, which made the characters always seem duplicitous and conniving regardless of what they were saying, as well as adding an element of a running gag when they inevitably threw a tantrum or when they were humiliated by their superiors (Starscream getting slapped around by Megatron for his disobedience and Cobra Commander getting himself routinely countermanded by Serpentor). He also provided the voice for Wheeljack, a heroic Autobot scientist, the Autobots’ human friend Sparkplug Witwicky, and Gung Ho, a burly, rough and tumble G.I. Joe Marine characterized by his mustache and bald head. Gung Ho was very much the antithesis of Cobra Commander; while Cobra Commander was a cowardly egomaniac and a weakling, Gung Ho was a brave, steadfast hero who was strong enough to withstand a punch in the jaw without flinching.
Collins’ success led to work on many other animated programs, including Inhumanoids, where he voiced D’Compose and Tendril, Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light, where he voiced Darkstorm and Cravex, and The Simpsons, where he originated the voice of Mr. Burns in the first season episodes “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire”, “The Telltale Head”, and “Homer’s Odyssey”, and recorded lines (but was dubbed over in the latter) as Moe the bartender for “The Telltale Head” and “Some Enchanted Evening”. Along with several other early Simpsons voice actors, he left during the first season. Hank Azaria took over the voice of Moe, while Harry Shearer assumed the role of Mr. Burns.
Later in the 1980s, Collins began working as Christopher Collins and acted in many live-action television series and motion pictures. He played Klingon Captain Kargan and Pakled Captain Grebnedlog in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Collins went on to portray two different Markalians on Deep Space Nine: first Durg, and then an unnamed assistant to The Albino. In Married… with Children, he played Roger, one of Al Bundy’s bowling buddies and a member of NO MA’AM (National Organization of Men Against Amazonian Masterhood). He also portrayed a mugger on an episode of Seinfeld entitled “The Subway”. His character known only as “The Thug” and demands Kramer to “Gimme da money!” before being apprehended by an undercover NYPD officer. In this episode, he is credited as “Christopher Collins”. He appears as “Mr. Forbes” in a first-season episode of NYPD Blue titled “Abandando Abandoned”. He provided some voices in The Real Ghostbusters and is credited as Chris Collins. From 1989 to 1990 he played King Koopa (aka Bowser) in King Koopa’s Kool Kartoons.
Collins’ first live-action feature film appearance was a bit part as the sharing husband in the Patrick Swayze film Road House. He also appeared in True Identity, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, Blue Desert and A Stranger Among Us.
On April 28, 2012, Chris Latta was inducted into the Transformers Hall of Fame. His daughter Abigail accepted on his behalf, to a standing ovation.
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