By Shane Tomalinas
Kevin Conroy, the voice actor best known for his work as Batman across television — and who had animated movies and videogames for the span of nearly 30 years — passed away on Thursday, Nov. 10 at the age of 66.
Conroy was diagnosed with cancer shortly before his passing, confirmed by both his representative Gary Miereanu and DC Comics.
“Stunned by the loss of this brilliant actor. Words can’t express my admiration and respect for the man. I loved him like a brother,” wrote actor Mark Hamill on Instagram, who has been voicing the Joker alongside Conroy’s Batman since 1992.
Before becoming the iconic voice behind the Dark Knight, Conroy was largely involved in Shakespearean productions such as “Hamlet” and “King Lear” through The Juilliard School's acting program. It was not too long after that he began acting on Broadway, going in for a blind audition one day alongside hundreds of voice actors for the role of the next Batman since Michael Keaton’s casting in 1989.
“Batman: The Animated Series” ran for 85 episodes and opened the door to a number of subsequent spinoffs and comic lines such as “Batman Beyond.” The show was highly successful, having won a number of awards, including the first Emmy for an animated TV show based on a comic, according to CBR. It is acclaimed for its inventive and stunning visuals and has been cemented as one of the most groundbreaking additions to animation history since Max Fleischer’s original Superman in the 1940s.
17 years after the animated series, Conroy signed on as Batman once again, this time in a video game. Developed by Rocksteady Games, the “Arkham” series went on to become one of Conroy’s most recognizable iterations of the Caped Crusader. The video game series offered a grounded reinvention of the Batman mythos that blended horror, action, and realism across three main games and three spin offs (two of which did not feature Conroy in the titular role). This version of Batman focused heavily on mature themes for an adult audience, its second entry having tied with the winner of the Game of The Year in 2011, according to IMDb. Conroy successfully managed to modernize Batman once again.
Susan Eisenberg, who lent her voice to Wonder Woman in a number of Justice League animated films and video games, was one of the many other celebrities to share their love for the actor via Twitter.
“Like for so many of you, Kevin was our Batman,” Eisenberg wrote. “He was loved beyond measure, and he felt it… [he] was the most decent of men. He was kind, smart, talented, & deeply appreciative of a career that spanned decades! He leaves behind a legacy that will never be matched or forgotten. To his legion of fans, I am so sorry, but please know that he saw you… & he loved you, too.”
The impact of Kevin’s dedication to the role of the famous comic character went on to inspire generations of Batman actors in live-action, introducing a new depth and level of humanity that is arguably unmatched to the generations of Bruce Waynes to wear the cowl. Actors such as Ben Affleck, Christian Bale and Robert Pattinson even took their own spin on channeling Conroy’s signature gravel voice.
Conroy took his role as Batman as a responsibility and used his connection with audiences to inspire change and awareness. He was an avid pioneer of the gay community during a time of immense homophobia within the Hollywood entertainment industry. Conroy publicly supported the LGBTQ+ community during his life, even writing his own comic exploring the acceptance of himself as a gay man, something which he credits could only have been done with the help of his supporting comic fanbase. He would pass this on to his fans at comic cons, listening to their stories, giving them the confidence they needed in themselves.
For fans around the world, Conroy is and always will be Batman. His legacy as the Bat will be cemented forever in the plethora of animated works over his decades-long reign as the iconic voice behind the mask and a superhero in the eyes of many.
“Batman is an escape for a lot of kids in rough situations. It’s like a safe zone, an ally. I’ve heard amazing stories of childhood survival that the character helped get them through,” Conroy wrote in the 2019 book collection, “Batman: The Definitive History of The Dark Knight.” “That’s such a gift to me, to be able to have my work have such a resonance with the audience.”