Kevin Conroy, best known as the voice of Batman in Batman: The Animated Series and numerous other projects, died on November 10 after a brief battle with cancer. He would have turned 67 later that month.
Conroy was born in 1955 in Westbury, New York. He studied acting at Julliard alongside legendary DC hero Christopher Reeve and stayed with Robin Williams. Over the next two decades he worked continuously in theatre, film and television.
His breakthrough came in 1992 when he was cast as Batman in the acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series, a show that broke new ground for animation with the sophistication of writing, animation, score – and, of course, acting. Conroy’s performance as Batman continued through BTAS’ many spinoff and sequel series and liaison films, including Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, Batman Beyond, and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Conroy eventually voiced Batman in nearly 60 productions in animation and video games, even playing a live-action Bruce Wayne in the Arrowverse crossover event “Crisis on Infinite Events.” His final credit as Batman was this year’s MultiVersus video game, which marked a full three decades as a character.
For countless fans, especially millennials, Kevin Conroy is Batman. I remember before the Christopher Nolan movies it was considered a sign of good taste in nerdy circles if your answer to the question “Keaton, Kilmer or Clooney?” was “Conroy”. Although fans are still debating the merits and flaws of Christian Bale and Ben Affleck’s performances – and now Robert Pattinson – no one is arguing about Conroy.
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Conroy excelled on both sides of his dual role. His Bruce is warm and charming, a little bit questioning, a little bit goofy. You can see that he would be Gotham’s favorite son, but also that no one would ever guess that he is Batman. All the while, his Batman rumbles with just enough confident earnestness to be imposing without ever descending into snarling parody. He’s scary, he’s relentless, he’s inspirational — but he still has enough humanity to comfort the terrified victims he encounters or unleash the occasional sly joke. Even comic book fans who don’t particularly like Batman (me) love Conroy’s Batman.
One thing Conroy’s performance never was was boring. I still remember the shock that flooded the fandom when the JLU episode “This Little Piggy” aired, twelve years after Conroy’s tenure in the role, and revealed that Conroy had a beautiful singing voice on top of everything else. Do me a favor and google “Batman am i blue” and watch the clip you find. You are welcome.
Earlier this year we learned that Conroy was also a gifted writer. He contributed an autobiographical story to the DC Pride 2022 anthology, illustrated by J. Bone and authored by Aditya Bidikar, in which he talked about growing up gay in a conservative home in the ’50s and ’60s and fighting the AIDS virus as a professional. Epidemic lived through actor in the 80’s and finally his audition for the role that would define his career. It’s by far the standout story of the anthology, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you want to read it, DC made DC Pride 2022 free to read in Conroy’s mind.
After news of Conroy’s death broke, social media filled with devastating tributes to his peers and fans, including Mark Hamill, Tara Strong, Michael Rosenbaum, Paul Dini and Andrea Romano, who cast him as Batman in 1992. Over and over again, The Tribute said the same thing: “You’ll always be my Batman.”
As part of that grief and admiration, a clip of Conroy being interviewed for the 2013 documentary I Know That Voice resurfaced, in which Conroy spoke about volunteering to help first responders in the days and weeks after 9/11 .and the absolute joy the exhausted first responders felt when they realized the guy preparing their meals was the real Batman. That was the kind of man he was. That was its effect.
But the clip that hit me the hardest was the one Conroy took for a fan whose grandmother had just passed away and which the fan kindly re-shared in his honor. “The thing to remember is, your spirit lives on,” Conroy said softly in that beautiful voice. “The people we love are always with us.”
We heard the news about Kevin Conroy last night and spent the rest of our nights in our emotions hoping it was just a rumor. I really don’t know what to say.
I just want to share his thoughts on death that he shared with me when my grandma died. pic.twitter.com/k6EBTKSjGg
— Watchtower Database (@dcauwatchtower) November 11, 2022
Coincidentally, I re-watched BTAS on Thursday night, the day Conroy died, and when the news broke the next morning it seemed impossible – after all, he’d only been there last night. He’s been Batman since I first learned who Batman is and for the rest of my life ever since. He always seemed to be Batman.
I didn’t know him personally, but he was loved by so many who didn’t know him personally. And how fortunate we are that he was right: that his spirit lives on, in the memories of his loved ones and his fans, and in the incomparable body of work he left behind. How lucky we are that he was able to tell his story before he left.
Rest in peace Mr Conroy. You will always be my Batman.