Who is John Erwin?

JohnErwinHeManHe-Man and the Masters of the Universe is my favourite cartoon series. Airing originally between 1983 and 1984, the cartoon had an extremely small voice-cast featuring John Erwin, Alan Oppenheimer, Linda Gary and Lou Scheimer (credited as Erik Gunden) with Erika Scheimer filling in as the occasional female or child supporting voice.

Linda Gary – voice of Teela, the Sorceress, Queen Marlena and Dree-Elle just to name a few – tragically already passed away in 1995 due to a brain tumour and Lou Scheimer (co-founder of Filmation and the voice of Orko) also passed away back in 2013. Both were very noted figures (Gary having an extremely extensive voice-acting résumé) with Scheimer even trying to revive He-Man numerous times over the years.

Alan Oppenheimer was a true voice-acting machine, voicing the lion’s share of characters on the show (including Skeletor), and he’s continued to work well into his old age (to note, he was 53 when He-Man began production) and, despite being now semi-retired, continually appears at voice-acting panels at conventions.

John Erwin as "Teddy" on the TV show Rawhide where he appeared alongside one Clint Eastwood.

John Erwin as “Teddy” on the TV show Rawhide where he appeared alongside one Clint Eastwood.

But surprisingly, the actor of whom people know probably the least is the leading man himself. John Erwin voiced He-Man the star of the show as well as Prince Adam and Beastman (which is why he often filled up his SAG quota in every episode and couldn’t do too many extra voices). However, considering that – he is the one voice-talent who’s remained out of the spotlight before, during and after his success with He-Man.

Erwin initially made his mark in live-action Television, playing a variety of roles on TV through the 1950s, 60s and 70s. His longest and most consistent run of appearances was on the TV show Rawhide where he played Teddy. However, Erwin transitioned into voice-acting very quickly during the 1960s as the long-standing voice of Reggie Mantle in a high variety of different TV iterations of the Archie comic book (also by Filmation).

This widely circulated photo of Erwin from some event is one of the very few photos ever circulated of him.

This widely circulated photo of Erwin (from some event) is one of the very few publically available photos of him.

Outside He-Man he was also the voice of Morris the Cat, the mascot of 9 Lives cat food.

Ironically, Erwin didn’t think of his own voice as particularly heroic, though as demonstrated on my Top-4 He-Man and Skeletor actors lists, I myself am happy to disagree with that statement. At any rate this is why He-Man was given a reverb when he talked. Although,  Despite He-Man’s immense success, Erwin valued his own privacy. Even though he would even take the time to call a sick child as the character, Erwin was apparently a big believer of not “breaking the illusion” in regards to his character.

Erwin, being a slightly chubby individual, was apparently very self-conscious of how much he didn’t resemble the character he portrayed on the cartoon and has accordingly remained out of public view. After He-Man (1983 – 84) and She-Ra (1985 – 86), he’s appeared very infrequently, usually as a voice-only performance in a number of movies. IMDb lists his very last role as a 2005 appearance on Family Guy playing, you guessed it, He-Man again.

Erwin is maybe one of the single most under-appreciated voice-actors ever, considering the character he portrayed is one of the most iconic in the history of cartoons. The Massachusetts born actor will turn 80 this year. I hope he’s doing well.

You have the power, John!