1955-2022 He was vengeance, he was the night, he was Batman.
“BATMAN IS NOT THE MASK,” argued Kevin Conroy. “Batman is who he really is in his soul.” As the voice of the Dark Knight he defined that avenging soul across TV, movies and videogames, earning more credits in the role than any other actor.
Born in Westbury, New York, Conroy attended performing arts conservatory the Juilliard School in the early ’70s, rooming with Robin Williams and studying alongside future Man of Steel Christopher Reeve.
Mixing theatre and television work throughout the ’80s – there were high-profile appearances on Cheers and Dynasty – he was still a relative unknown when he auditioned for
Batman: The Animated Series in 1992. Conroy only knew of the camp Adam West take on the DC icon, but he saw the possibilities of a darker, more nuanced approach once he discovered the character’s bullet-born origin story.
“I said, ‘Wow, this is the arc of so many great tragic characters,’” he recalled. “‘This is an almost Hamlet-like character, or like the great Greek tragedy characters.’”
Beating 500 rivals to the part, Conroy summoned an intimidating baritone that could be shaded with compassion or deployed as a deadpan foil for comedy. “It put me into a darker and deeper and huskier place, which just sounded to me so mysterious and secretive,” he said of his choice of voice. A more colourful upper register characterised Bruce Wayne, the Caped Crusader’s billionaire playboy alter-ego, Batman “performing for the world”.
For the next three decades you can imagine producers simply flashed the Bat-signal instead of reaching for the phone. From Batman Beyond to Justice League, animated movie Mask Of The Phantasm to the Arkham videogame series, Conroy was the essential voice of Gotham’s greatest hero.
“The character really is most alive in animation,” he once said, “because people can invest their own imaginations in the character.” NS