Kevin Conroy, best known as the voice of Batman in Batman: The Animated Series and numerous other projects, passed away on November 10th after a short battle with cancer. He would have been 67 later this month.
Conroy was born in Westbury, New York in 1955. He studied acting at Julliard alongside fellow iconic DC hero Christopher Reeve, and roomed with Robin Williams. For the next two decades, he worked steadily in theater, film, and television.
His breakout role 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 its writing, animation, score — and of course, acting. Conroy’s performance as Batman continued with BTAS’s many spinoff and sequel series and tie-in films, including Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, Batman Beyond, and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Conroy ultimately voiced Batman in nearly 60 productions across animation and video games, and even played a live action Bruce Wayne in the Arrowverse’s “Crisis on Infinite Events” crossover event. His final credit as Batman was this year’s MultiVersus video game, marking a full three decades as the character.
To countless fans, particularly millennials, Kevin Conroy is Batman. Before the Christopher Nolan movies, I remember it being considered a mark of good taste in nerdy circles if your answer to the question “Keaton, Kilmer, or Clooney?” was “Conroy.” Though fans still debate the merits and flaws of Christian Bale and Ben Affleck’s performances — and now, Robert Pattinson — no one argues about Conroy.
Conroy excelled at both sides of his dual role. His Bruce is warm and charming, a bit quizzical, a bit silly. You can see how he would be Gotham’s favorite son, but also how no one would ever suspect he was Batman. Meanwhile, his Batman rumbles with just enough confident gravitas to be imposing without ever veering into growling parody. He’s scary, he’s implacable, he’s inspiring — but he still has enough humanity to comfort the frightened victims he encounters, or unleash an occasional sly wit. 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 rippled through the fandom when the JLU episode “This Little Piggy” aired, twelve years into Conroy’s tenure in the role, and revealed that on top of everything else, Conroy had a beautiful singing voice. Do me a favor and Google “batman am i blue” and watch the clip you find. You’re 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 lettered by Aditya Bidikar, in which he discussed growing up gay in the ’50s and ’60s in a conservative home, living through the AIDS epidemic as a professional actor in the ’80s, and finally his audition for the role that would come to define his career. It’s by far the standout story of the anthology, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you’d like to read it, DC has made DC Pride 2022 free to read in Conroy’s memory.
After the news of Conroy’s death broke, social media overflowed with devastated tributes from his colleagues 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 tributes said the same thing: “You will always be my Batman.”
As part of this outpouring of grief and admiration, a clip resurfaced of Conroy being interviewed for the 2013 documentary about voice acting, I Know That Voice, in which Conroy talked about volunteering to feed first responders in the days and weeks after 9/11, and the absolute joy the exhausted first responders felt when they realized the guy making their meals was the real Batman. This was the kind of man he was. This was his impact.
But the clip that hit me hardest was the one Conroy recorded for a fan whose grandmother had just passed away, and which the fan kindly shared again in his honor. “The thing to remember is: their spirit lives on,” Conroy said gently, in that wonderful voice. “The people we love are always with us.”
Coincidentally, I was rewatching BTAS on Thursday night, the day that Conroy died, and when the news broke the next morning, it seemed impossible — he had just been there last night, after all. He’s been Batman since I first learned who Batman was, and for the entire rest of my life since. He seemed like he would always be Batman.
I didn’t know him personally, but he was loved by so many who didn’t know him personally. And how lucky we are that he was right: that his spirit lives on, in the memories of his loved ones and his fans, and in the unparalleled body of work he left behind. How lucky we are that he was able to tell his story before he went.
Rest in peace, Mr. Conroy. You will always be my Batman.