Saturday, 22 March 2014

Interview with Sharon Noble

Not long after I entered the “World of Illusion” of the M.A.S.K. comics, I started watching the cartoons. There are a few differences between the Cartoon and UK Comics such as there is no Gloria Baker in the UK Comics; the UK Comics really were a toy marketing campaign and only featured vehicles and characters as and when the toys were released. By the time the Split Seconds series hit the UK toy shops and at last we had Gloria Baker – the comic had ceased production.
Despite these differences, reading the comics then changed for me. I was now able to visualise the characters voices and persona's as I read my comics – this coupled with some of the best artwork found in comics made the characters come off the page.
Fast forward a couple of decades and I came up with an idea for a script based on M.A.S.K. and through my M.A.S.K. Comics Blog and Facebook Page, I now have the opportunity to have a Q&A session featuring Sharon Noble – the voice of Gloria Baker, Vanessa Warfield and the M.A.S.K. Computer.
Sharon is a very talented and accomplished Actress, Writer, Teacher….
M.A.S.K. Comics (MC): Thank you for taking the time to chat with me today!
Sharon Noble (SH): Thank you for asking. It's my pleasure.
(MC): Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
(SH): Well, let's see. I'm happily married to an actor and have three delightful children who are in "the business." I'm a devoted animal lover with three big dogs who nearly push us off the bed at night. I like to travel, but I also like to stay home and dabble with oil painting. I read several books a week, ranging from thrillers to espionage to historical fiction to romances.
(MC): When you were growing up; did you have your career path mapped out?
(SH): Oh, yes. From the time I could breathe, I always thought I was an actor just waiting to grow up so I could start working. My parents put me into tap and ballet classes when I was three (yes, three years old), so I had an early start on the stage. My first memory of the stage is singing "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby" and dancing in a yellow tutu with sparkles all over it. It must have been hilarious to see a three year-old little girl trying her best to sing and dance. After that I remember being in plays every year in school and oftentimes being asked to dance for student assemblies. I don't know what those teachers were thinking, but I remember I agreed. So I would take my costumes and ballet slippers and scamper around the stage while a teacher played the piano. When I was 10 years old, I began to worry that no talent scouts had come to my town to look me, so I began a writing campaign to all the major studios in California. I told them about this amazing little girl that they should be scouting, and I signed the letters "A Fan." Of course, they must have laughed themselves silly when they received them.
(MC): When starting out, did you face a lot of obstacles and if so, how did you manage to overcome these?
(SH): No obstacles except for my mother's concern that I needed a back-up plan in case my dreams didn't become realized. I took her advice and got a Master's Degree in Theatre and Communications. That advice has proved very valuable. When I was 16, I became an apprentice actor at the Palm Tree Playhouse, a professional theatre in Sarasota, Florida, where I worked until I was 18, studying and working with New York actors who were in residence for a season. Then, when I was 18 and chosen Miss Sarasota to represent the city in the Miss Florida Pageant, I was given a college scholarship and went off the study.
(MC): Did you have a lot of support from family and friends when you first started out?
(SH) My father, bless him, was with me 100% all the way. He thought I was the whole world wrapped up in a big smile and a head of curls. He called me Sunshine and Little Girl, and he took me everywhere with him. I continued dance lessons until I was 18, and my dance teachers also encouraged me. At school my teachers encouraged me and cast me in school plays every year. I also did half a dozen plays at the local theatre, The Players of Sarasota. My mother, however, steadfastly warned me to get my head out of the clouds and get my feet on the ground. She changed her tune, however, when I began to work professionally, and especially when she could watch me on television. She loved to watch my commercials because she could see them over an over again.
(MC): Do you have any horror stories where, in hindsight, you wished you’d never taken on a job?
(SH): Only one, but I remember it vividly. I was hired to do a voice job -- a simple thing, really. I had been hired from my voice tape, but I had never met the client. When I arrived, he seemed to have a bit of an "attitude" but I've worked with off-the-wall people before, so I wasn't put off. You've heard my Vanessa Warfield voice, so you know what I sound like. However, this client said to me sarcastically, "You sound like Minnie Mouse!" I tried the reading again, in a lower register, but he insisted I had a squeaky voice and seemed irritated with me. The sound engineer said, "She doesn't sound like Minnie Mouse in the booth" but this guy was on a roll. So, I finally said, "Look, I'm obviously not what you want, so I'll take my money and let you hire someone else." With that I took leave. Of course I was paid for the session, but it left a bad taste in my mouth.
(MC): In my teens, I started collecting M.A.S.K. Comics which led me to watching the M.A.S.K. Cartoons. What can you remember from your time voicing this fantastic Cartoon Series?
(SH): It was sheer pleasure every time we were in the studio. We usually taped four episodes a week, two on one day and two on another. We had to wait for the storyboards to arrive from Japan, but we had the scripts ahead of time so we could prepare whatever incidental voices occurred. Most of us had never met before we started the series, so we spent a lot of time getting to know each other. Brennan Thicke, who played Scott Trakker, taped his work separately from the adults, so we were just five folks having a great time and creating characters that we loved. Marsha Goodman was our director for most of the episodes, although there were also guest directors from time to time.
(MC): You played a number of roles in M.A.S.K. – including Gloria Baker, Vanessa Warfield and the M.A.S.K. Computer. How much of a challenge does this put on you as a Voice Actress?
(SH): A modest challenge. More like great fun. I voiced all the women and all the children except for Scott Trakker, so that was where the challenge came in. Each week the team would be in a different country, so we had to learn new accents. But I also had to provide a different voice for the incidental women. That was the challenge. Inevitably there would be accents that some of us didn't know, but there would always be one of us who could do it and could teach it to the rest of us right there in the studio. We worked hard and quickly, but that's part of the joy of acting.
(MC): As well as M.A.S.K., you have many other Cartoons under your belt. Are you generally in a studio by yourself or are the other Voice Actors with you so you can adapt to them as you act?
(SH): I've worked in the studio alone many times, but when voicing cartoons, I prefer to work with the other actors so we can react to each other in the moment. It makes a more creative result, I think. Each actor can react to the mood and delivery of the others, and that always results in a fresher, more spontaneous result.
(MC): Does this make it easier - working as part of a team?
(SH): It's not difficult to act alone, but it's not nearly as much fun. And I think the product is greatly enhanced by the interaction of interpretations that perhaps one actor alone might not consider. I'm also a people person, so I love the fun of creating as a team. And the bloopers and outtakes are sometimes hilarious.
(MC): Brendan McKane also voiced characters in M.A.S.K. Was this the first time you'd worked with your husband?
(SH) Ha, ha. No. Brendan and I met in a play called The Hostage produced at Magnus Theatre Northwest in Thunder Bay, Ontario. We were intensely competitive, and I was impressed with the quality of his acting. I'm always drawn to talent -- music, dance, painting, singing, acting -- anything in the arts. I find talent mesmerizing. I didn't know until later that he was drawn to me for the same reason. At one point he told me he used to stand in the wings and watch me work. After that play closed, the director, Burton Lancaster, asked us both to do the next show, a musical called "Stop the World; I Want to Get Off", which had opened on London and then had a great run on Broadway. I'm not a singer by any stretch of the imagination, but I can sing, and Burton liked my work, so we did the show. Then, the next month I went to Blyth, Ontario to do a season of summer rep, and Brendan was in the company. We did four plays together. Then fast forward to after we were married, we did three more plays together.
(MC): Does it make a difference when you are working with Brendan?
(SH): Only in that we work differently. I run lines and blocking in my head while I'm washing dishes or walking the dogs or whatever. I can be in a noisy room and still do my work inside my head. Brendan, on the other hand, isolates and works intensely. He needs to be totally alone, in a quiet environment. So he works late at night after I go to bed. But on-stage we work seamlessly, and, if our characters interact, we do so with the knowledge of each other's innate styles.
(MC): Do you prefer your work on Cartoons or Live Action Roles?
(SH): That's like asking which of my children I love best. They're totally different animals. Voicing cartoons allows the actor to become whatever the script requires. I've provided voices for singing alligators, chipmunks, talking shoes, other inanimate objects, and narration for travelogues and nature films, and I enjoy the challenge of the different needs of the work. But live action allows me to also look different, play different character, and (the not so good part) tells me if I'm employing my own personal idiosyncratic body language that unconsciously comes into play. I have some body language that I don't particularly like, so I watch the live action to see if I'm successfully disguising my personal gestures and using only the gestures that belong to the character.
(MC): Quick Fire M.A.S.K. Questions –
Gloria Baker or Vanessa Warfield
Aura or Whip
Shark or Manta
(SH): Vanessa
Whip (much more deadly)
Can't decide between Shark or Manta - very different but effective
(MC): Moving away from your acting career, can you tell me about your novels?
(SH): I write erotic contemporary romance novels. So far I've written three, Autumn Desire, Passion's Design, and Velvet & Topaz, and they're published by The Wild Rose Press, Pink Petal Books, and Freya's Bower. I began on a whim one day. I was sitting at my computer with nothing really in my head. Then I had a line in my head, so I wrote it down. It turned out to be a conversation, so I just continued writing until I had about five pages. I found it was like a movie playing. I saw the characters, heard what they said, and followed what they were doing. The funny part is that sometimes they do something that I wouldn't have planned for them. I have an idea of where they going and what they're doing, but it changes as I'm writing. I know that sounds as if I'm a bit cuckoo, but it's the truth. It doesn't always happen, but sometimes they just take off and go in a different direction. I spoke recently at the West Coast Writers Conference, and I present a workshop on romance writing at the West Hollywood Book Fair each autumn. I also present this workshop at local libraries during the year. I'm also available for writers' groups.
(MC): Are your books part of a series or one-offs?
(SH): They're one-offs. As a reader, I don't care for series, so as a writer I don't write them. I like the story arc that begins and ends in one book.
(MC): Where do you draw your inspiration from?
(SH): Anywhere and everywhere. Autumn Desire was inspired by my mother's return to college after my father died. Passion's Design just popped into my head after I had been chatting with an actor from South America. Velvet and Topaz was the result of a trip to England with my daughter. We visited Hampton Court Palace, and the idea just presented itself nearly full blown. Sometimes when I'm walking my dogs, I'll hear a line -- just a line -- but it grows into an idea, then into a page, then into a chapter.
(MC): As a writer, do you ever critique scripts that you are given to read? Do you ever think “I could do better”!
(SH): I make it a point not to read other writers' scripts. I read their published books but not their work in progress. Writing is highly subjective, and one writer's voice is different from another writer's voice, and it's not my place to critique another writer's work. Who am I to offer my point of view to another writer? I never offer my manuscripts for critique until they're submitted to a publisher and I am assigned an editor. That's my own personal point of view. Sure there are times I know I could do better, but there are times I know I couldn't possibly do better.
(MC): How long can it take you to write a book?
(SH): Ah, that's a good question. It can take a few months if I'm not busy with anything else, or it can take a year. I need long stretches of time at the computer -- like six hours or so. Some writers can write for an hour and pick up a day or so later, but I can't. I'm a seat of the pants writer, no outline, no plan; I just let the story unfold, and it takes time for it to get started. I like to think that, as I write more, I can accomplish more in less time, but I'm not sure that will ever come to pass. I write what I love; it's like reading a book or watching a film.
(MC): When I was writing my M.A.S.K. script, I had a complete mental block trying to write a scene. The challenge I had surrounded a new character – I didn’t know what I was going to call her Mask or what ability it would have. One day on a drive into work I heard a 90’s song called Renaissance which linked in my head to Reconnaissance then shortened to Recon – and her Mask was born. The scene then played out in my head and within minutes I knew how to get past my 2 month (maybe longer) block.
Has a similar thing ever happened to you?
(SH): Yes, it happens frequently. But when I write myself into a corner and am stymied, I invite my son to brunch and present the problem to him. He always offers two or three options for getting out of the mental block. His mind is very fertile, and he has a multitude of ideas. I've suggested to him that he should write, but he always declines. He says he's just an idea man.
(MC): When writing – do you allocate a set amount of time each day solely for writing with no other interruptions?
(SH): Yes. Always. Sometimes my husband will make lunch and call me down to eat. I usually say, "I can't come right now, I'm watching the movie." I can't stop and start as some writers are able to do. I have to do a complete chapter before I can stop because the idea has an arc that must be completed.
(MC): Are you “old school” and write with a pen and paper?
(SH): Naw, I use the computer. It doesn't look right on the page if it's written by hand.
(MC): Can you tell us about your recent activities?
(SH): I just finished a voice job for a GPS system for a Japanese manufacturer. The street names were interesting. And I auditioned for a film that I'm waiting to hear. I'm doing the drawings for a children's book that a friend is writing, and I must confess I'm lagging behind on that. I just don't have enough time in the day.
(MC): I believe you were Presenting at the West Coast Writers Conference – is this a regular event for you?
(SH): This was my first year, but it went very well, and I've been invited to present again next year. The conference was well attended with a mixture of fledgling writers as well as professionals. The questions were thoughtful and relevant. I did three presentations, and by 5:00 I was well and truly spent.
(MC): I also believe you teach English to Foreign Language Students, this must be a very challenging and rewarding experience.
(SH): Yes, I love teaching. I used to teach at the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada, and Red River Community College, also in Winnipeg. I also taught commercial acting at Kristen Models in Toronto and Hollywood West Studio in Burbank. But teaching English to foreign students is a different animal entirely. My students are from all over the world, so I could have a class consisting of people from Spain, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay, Argentina, Dubai, Iran, India, etc., none of whom speaks English. I don't speak their languages, so I teach in English. You can imagine the degree of if difficulty, but we manage it. I love it when the light goes on over their heads and I know they understand. It gives me little shivers down my back. That's why I teach.
(MC): I was never very good at languages when I was at school and didn’t get very far with the French lessons I took. Do you know a number of foreign languages to help you teach English or would that be a hindrance?
(SH): I wish I did. My mother used to say that a person who know only one language is not educated. So I studied Spanish in high school and college. But with nowhere to practice it, I lost much of it. I can get along, but I'm not fluent by any means. I have a few words of French and a lot of hand gestures.
(MC): Moving onto a different tangent altogether – Erotica? How did that happen?
(SH): It's not really erotica. It's erotic romance. There's a difference. But as to erotica, I read the works of Anais Nin many years ago and found her work eye opening. Then a few years ago, a friend gave me a book of erotica as a Christmas gift, and I thought it would be useful to spice up my novels.
(MC): I’m sure you’re aware there are many sexed images of Gloria Baker and Vanessa Warfield on the web – do you approve?
(SH): I don't disapprove. I'm from a family who was open about sexuality. When we were recording the series, we used to get storyboards with Vanessa's breasts popping out of her unbuttoned shirt and some with Matt Trakker's pants filled with what could be considered a lunch pail. The Japanese have a different slant on sex. I liked their interpretations, but our series was for children, so we had to suggest modifications.
(MC): Finishing off (I don’t mean any poor puns re above) – if my script were to make it onto the big screen, would you be interested in reprising your role as the M.A.S.K. Computer and have a cameo role along with Brendan, Doug Stone and the rest of the team in the movie?
(SH): Of course I would be delighted to bring my characters to life again. I think it would be an excellent idea to use the original actors because there would be consistency in the sound of the voices, especially important since the series has been recently released as a boxed set so that new generations can enjoy the original!
(MC): Thank you very much for your time!
(SH) You're entirely welcome. You're a very interesting interviewer.
If you would like to know more about Sharon, you can check out or her profile on IMDB.

Sharon's book, Velvet and Topaz, is currently available at Amazon!  You will also be able to find the complete M.A.S.K. DVD's at Amazon and

If you would like to see Sharon in a Live Action M.A.S.K. Movie - please feel free to sign my Petition to Bring Back M.A.S.K. and join in the Facebook Campaign as well.

#assembleMASK #Hasbro #MASKComics

Remember to follow and like The Platform Hub Facebook Page and also the M.A.S.K. Comics Facebook Page.

Thank you,


Sunday, 2 March 2014

German M.A.S.K. Comics

M.A.S.K. was very much a Global phenomenon - and one country in particular who took to M.A.S.K. was Germany.  I collected the M.A.S.K. Comics when they were produced in the UK and a number of years later I managed to collect all of the US comics as well.

That then got me thinking about what other Countries also had their own M.A.S.K. variant?  I managed to pick up a few German issues from Ebay and was a bit disappointed - rather than original stories they were "dubbed" versions of the US comics.  Nevertheless, they have pride of place in my collection.

The popularity of M.A.S.K. in Germany led me to introducing a German Character in my Script.  A former work colleague translated the dialogue into German for me.

Recently, I've been contacted by Florian - a German M.A.S.K. fan who has forwarded me some scans from the German Comic and I thought I'd share them with you.

Although the stories in the comics may not be original, the artwork on the covers certainly was.

It is a very strange and unique style of artwork and I'm not sure that I'm a big fan of it.  

The first point to note is the M.A.S.K. logo.  They have gone down the same route as the US Comic and reduced the size of Rhino and the Mask emblem to make if fit without taking up too much of the cover.  I always preferred the option that the UK comic took and removed Rhino to keep only word MASK and the Mask emblem.  Fitted in very well.

The next thing are the images - not really up to the same standard as the UK or US variants.

It is still great despite any reservations that I may have - it is M.A.S.K. after all and all things M.A.S.K. are great.

From this image, you may recognise the Sumos from the UK Storyline Kamikaze.  The two scans that Florian provided me with are excerpts from the Kamikaze Story.  Below we have the original UK image - 

I "borrowed" this image from my friends over at M.A.S.K. Eire as they have some great scans of the UK Comic.

I hate to keep banging on about it - but the artwork in the UK comic has some of the best artwork ever in a comic.  The attention to detail is amazing and really brings the characters to life.

Some of the baddies might be a little bit over the top - such as the titular character of Kamikaze - but you'd have to agree that he his extremely well drawn.

In the next image below, we see the same page taken from the German version of the comic -

The two differences that you notice straight away are that they have chosen to colour in the strip and the next is that it is German.

I have mixed feelings about the strip being coloured in.  Part of me likes it as it has been expertly done.

However, it does distract a little from the great pencil images of the original artist.  But somewhere in the middle there is a great compromise.  This shows what could've been in the UK comic had they made our version a fully coloured comic rather than mostly Black and White!

Perhaps I have a bit of jealousy that the German version has taken ours and added something to it!

Here we have another expertly drawn page from my beloved UK M.A.S.K. Comic - again borrowed from my friends at M.A.S.K. Eire - hope you guys don't mind!

It's amazing how much action the UK artists managed to fit on a single page!

I always imagined that the artists must've had their own M.A.S.K. toys on their desks to get the detailing of the vehicles so magnificent.

When it comes to the characters, their Masks and fatigues, they go beyond anything seen in the toys, cartoons or the US comics so much so you can understand how I could visualise a live action M.A.S.K. movie!

Again, in the German version, they have coloured in the great image above.

From what Florian has told me, the German Comics initially ran the US stories.  Then, when those dried up (only 13 issues made) they moved onto the UK Stories.

As I'm sure you all know, the US comics were all coloured - so it was just a straight copy - with the dialogue translated to German.

With the UK Comics, however, we get to see some interpretation; artistic license from the German's.

Although some of the colours may not reflect the true colours as you would expect them to look - I do like the stylistic way they have done it.  Far better than the Cover page!

If anyone has any more M.A.S.K. images you'd like to share - please feel free to get in touch with me.  You can make comments below, catch me on my M.A.S.K. Comics Facebook Page or if you wish you can e-mail me!

I know that it has been a long time since I've posted on my page with a "Comic" related item - but I should be able to get some more posts done soon - so keep an eye on my blog.

In the meantime - there are a couple of things I would like you all to do

The first is to sign the Bring Back M.A.S.K. Petition.  It's almost been 30 years since M.A.S.K. was introduced and I feel it's time for it to come back!

As well as the campaign above - there is still on the ongoing Facebook Campaign.

You also need to make sure that you are hashtagging everything - #assembleMASK #Hasbro #MASKComics.

So, whether you would like to see my script make it onto the big screen or Wyatt and Jason's, I would like everyone to back the campaign!