Kevin Conroy, voice of Batman animation, dies at 66


Kevin Conroy, the man behind Batman’s gravelly voice and who popularized that unmistakable growl that separated Bruce Wayne from the Caped Crusader, has died, according to his representative Gary Miereanu. He was 66 years old.

DC Comics also confirmed the news.

Conroy died Thursday, shortly after being diagnosed with cancer, Miereanu said.

Conroy’s work on the role is the foundation of every iteration of Batman popular culture has seen since. He played Wayne and his superhero alter ego for years on television, including in the beloved “Batman: The Animated Series,” and his influence can be heard in the performances of Christian Bale, Robert Pattinson and many others who have played the character.

But few actors can say they’ve played Batman as often as Conroy: He appeared in more than 400 TV episodes as the voice, and once, the incarnation, of the Dark Knight.

Before he was Batman, Conroy regularly played the Bard: A graduate of Julliard’s esteemed acting program, Conroy appeared in adaptations of Shakespearean plays from “Hamlet” to “King Lear,” usually at the Old San Diego Globe She also appeared on Broadway in “Lolita” and “Eastern Standard.”

But it’s arguably the bat that Conroy is best known for. He played Batman in more than 60 productions, according to DC (which shares parent company Warner Bros. Discovery with CNN). His first and most enduring addition to the Batman canon is “Batman: The Animated Series,” which ran from 1992 to 1996, according to DC. In total, he would play Bat and Bruce in more than 15 different animated series (for a total of almost 400 episodes) and 15 movies, including “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.”

He often played opposite Mark Hamill, who regularly voiced the Joker in animated projects, including the dark and disturbing “Batman: The Killing Joke.” The two had obvious chemistry in their vocal performances that echoed the tug-of-war that Joker and Batman often performed.

Kevin Conroy voiced Batman in over 400 television episodes and several films.

“Kevin was perfection,” Hamill said in a statement to DC. “For several generations, he’s been the ultimate Batman. It was one of those perfect scenarios where they got the right man for the right part, and the world was better for it.”

But Conroy wasn’t a Batman fan when his tenure began; all he knew, he said, was Adam West’s camp portrayal of the 1960s. In a 2014 interview, he said he went blind, one of hundreds of actors auditioning to voice the dear superhero To find the character, he drew on his Shakespearean background, saying he saw a bit of Hamlet in Bruce Wayne.

“I brought the character to life. I think I brought 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 Batman ‘bible’… It humbles me.”

In 2019, Conroy finally appeared as Batman in a live-action crossover episode of several DC TV properties, including “Arrow,” “Batwoman,” and “Supergirl.” As the Bruce Wayne of a different universe, Conroy’s hero was brought into battle, dependent on a robotic suit to help him walk after a “lifetime of injuries.”

Conroy related to his best-known character for another reason as well: like Bruce Wayne, he also hid his insecurities behind a mask: he didn’t feel comfortable coming out as gay because of the homophobia within your industry But being Batman helped him find his inner strength, heh he wrote in a short comic for DC.

“I often marveled at how fitting it was that I got this role. As a gay boy growing up in the 1950s and 1960s in a devoutly Catholic family, I had become adept at hiding parts of myself,” he write Conroy in the comic, according to gaming channel Kotaku.

Conroy later married Vaughn C. Williams, who survives her, according to DC.

Batman also brought joy to others in times of need: Conroy, a native New Yorker, felt called after the events of 9/11 to work at a food aid station for first responders. One of the men he served recognized him, but a colleague did not believe that Conroy was actually the voice of Batman. So Conroy done one of his most famous lines, in that characteristic bass: “I am revenge. I am the night I’m Batman!”

And with that, he proved that he was, in fact, Batman and charmed the first responders.

Fans and other voice actors mourned Conroy’s loss online.

Clancy Brown, the voice of Mr. Crabs in “Spongebob Squarepants” and Lex Luthor in various animated series, he called Conroy his “hero”. Liam O’Brien, famous for voicing anime series like “Naruto” and various video games, said he’s not sure he’d be a voice actor if he hadn’t been “so inspired by Kevin Conroy.”

Tara Strong, known for her voice work on “Rugrats” and “Loki” and worked with Conroy on “The New Batman Adventures.” shared a photo of Conroy lying on his lap with a smile. “IT IS #Batman,” he wrote.

Hamill agreed. Many famous men have taken up the mantle of Batman, Bale, Pattinson, Ben Affleck, George Clooney, among them, but few have come to explore all the emotions and traumas of the superhero over several decades. For many Batman fans, Conroy was the first iteration of the Dark Knight they came to know and love.

“He will always be my Batman,” Hamill said.

During the early days of the pandemic, Conroy shared a clip of himself reciting Shakespeare’s Sonnet 30 from his garden. A bittersweet reflection on lost loved ones and time gone by, it ends on a note of hope, all of which Conroy conveyed in his 45-second, off-the-cuff clip.

“But if as I think of you, dear friend/All losses are recovered and sorrows end.”

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