Kevin Conroy has died, according to his representative, Gary Miereanu. Conroy was the man who gave Batman his deep, gravelly voice and made the growl that made it clear who Bruce Wayne was and who the Caped Crusader was. He was 66.
DC Comics also said that the news was true. Miereanu said that Conroy died Thursday, not long after he was told he had cancer. Conroy’s work as Batman has been used as a model for every other version of Batman that has come out since.
He played Wayne and his superhero alter ego, Batman, on TV for a long time, including on the famous “Batman: The Animated Series.” Christian Bale, Robert Pattinson, and many others who have played the role have been influenced by his work.
But few actors can say they’ve played Batman as often as Conroy. He was the voice and sometimes the body of the Dark Knight in more than 400 TV shows.
Broadway to Batman
Before he was Batman, Conroy often acted in Shakespeare plays. He was a graduate of the prestigious acting programme at Julliard, and he often performed at the Old Globe in San Diego in adaptations of Shakespeare plays like “Hamlet” and “King Lear.” He was also in the plays “Lolita” and “Eastern Standard” on Broadway.
But the Bat is without a doubt what Conroy is best known for. DC says that he played Batman in more than 60 shows (which shares parent company Warner Bros. Discovery with CNN). DC says that “Batman: The Animated Series,” which ran from 1992 to 1996, is his first and most important contribution to the Batman story.
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In all, he played the Bat and Bruce in over 15 animated series (with nearly 400 episodes) and 15 movies, including “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.”
He often played against Mark Hamill, who often voiced the Joker in animated movies like “Batman: The Killing Joke,” which was dark and scary. The way their voices worked together reminded me of how the Joker and Batman often played tug-of-war.
Hamill told DC in a statement that Kevin was the best. “For several generations, he has been the definitive Batman. It was one of those perfect scenarios where they got the exact right guy for the exact right part, and the world was better for it.”
But Conroy wasn’t a fan of Batman when he started his job. He said that all he knew about the character was Adam West’s campy 1960s version. In an interview in 2014, he said he didn’t know what to expect because he was one of the hundreds of actors trying out to be the voice of the popular superhero.
He used his knowledge of Shakespeare to find the character. He said he saw a little bit of Hamlet in Bruce Wayne.
“I gave life to the character. I think I gave passion to the character,” he said in the 2014 interview. “I approached it from a purely acting perspective. A lot of the fans approach it from the whole ‘bible’ of Batman… It’s humbling to me.”
In 2019, Conroy finally showed up as a live-action Batman in an episode of “Arrow,” “Batwoman,” and “Supergirl” that involved all three shows. As a Bruce Wayne from a different universe, Conroy’s hero was battle-weary and needed a robot suit to help him walk because he had been hurt so much over the course of his life.
Conroy Found the Courage to Come Out
Conroy could also relate to his most famous character because, like Bruce Wayne, he hid his insecurities behind a mask. He was afraid to come out as gay because of homophobia in his industry. In a short comic for DC, he said that being Batman helped him find his own strength.
“I often marvelled at how appropriate it was that I should land this role. As a gay boy growing up in the ’50s and ‘60s, in a devoutly Catholic family, I’d grown adept at concealing parts of myself,” Conroy wrote in the comic, according to gaming outlet Kotaku. DC says that Conroy later married Vaughn C. Williams, who is still alive.
Kevin Conroy, who’s most well known as the iconic voice behind Batman in BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, has sadly passed away at the age of 66…
Rest In Peace pic.twitter.com/hbnu6YPS3H
— MovieRankings.net (@LightsCameraPod) November 11, 2022
Batman also brought happiness to people when they were sad: Conroy was born and raised in New York. After September 11, he felt called to work at a food relief station for first responders. One of the people he worked for knew who he was, but a coworker didn’t think Conroy was really the voice of Batman.
So Conroy said one of the most famous lines in his signature bass: “I am vengeance. I am the night. I am Batman!” And with that, he showed that he really was Batman, which made the first responders happy.
Batman Fans Love Him
Fans and other voice actors shared their sadness about Conroy’s death online. Clancy Brown, who voices Mr. Crabs on “Spongebob Squarepants” and Lex Luthor in several animated shows, called Conroy his “hero.”
Liam O’Brien is known for voicing characters in anime shows like “Naruto” and in a number of video games. He has said that he’s not sure he’d be a voice actor if he hadn’t been “so inspired by Kevin Conroy.”
Every time Kevin Conroy voiced Batman [A Thread] pic.twitter.com/D0sXAcVfry
— Frank (@Frankussy) November 11, 2022
Tara Strong, who did the voices for “Rugrats” and “Loki” and worked with Conroy on “The New Batman Adventures,” posted a picture of Conroy sitting on her lap and smiling. “He IS #Batman,” she wrote.
Hamill agreed too. Bale, Pattinson, Ben Affleck, and George Clooney are just some of the famous men who have played Batman, but few have had the chance to explore all of the superhero’s feelings and traumas over the course of several decades.
For many Batman fans, Conroy was the first time they ever saw and liked the Dark Knight. “He will always be my Batman,” Hamill said. In the early days of the pandemic, Conroy posted a video of himself in his garden reading Shakespeare’s Sonnet 30.
It’s a bittersweet look back on lost loved ones and the passing of time, but it ends on a hopeful note, which Conroy showed in his 45-second, impromptu clip. “But if the while I think on thee, dear friend/All losses are restor’d, and sorrows end.”
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Jessa Martin is the author of Nogmagazine, A professional in writing by day, and novelist by night, she received her bachelor of arts in film from Howard University and her master of arts in media studies from the New School. A Brooklyn native, she is a lover of naps, cookie dough, and beaches, currently residing in the borough she loves, most likely multitasking.