Two generations of kids have lost their Batman. I remember in 1991 when Batman: The Animated Series debuted, thinking the voice of this new cartoon Batman was so cool, so perfect. Later I learned it was an actor named Kevin Conroy; for 30 years the actor and character have been inseparable. They still are, and ever will be. Sadly, we won’t get any new Batman adventures with Conroy as the voice. Today publicists confirmed the actor has passed away at the age of only 66 after a short battle with cancer.
Conroy was a Julliard-trained thespian who performed in both New York and at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. The actor received rave reviews for his starring performances in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Public Theater, Eastern Standard on Broadway, Arthur Miller’s The Last Yankee, and in the title role of Hamlet at the 1984 New York Shakespeare Festival. In addition, he performed in films and television – most notably in the mid-1980s when he had recurring roles on Dynasty, Tour of Duty, and Ohara; successful runs on soap operas Search for Tomorrow and Another World; and guest roles on popular series like Cheers, Murphy Brown, Spenser: For Hire and Matlock.
But for all his other accomplishments and accolades, it was his preeminent work in the voice booth that earned him legendary status. Beginning in 1991, Conroy gave voice to a new animated version of Batman and alter-ego Bruce Wayne. So iconic was his character that even after the end of Batman: The Animated Series, Conroy remained in the role time and again. From appearances on Superman: The Animated Series to playing the elderly version of Bruce Wayne in Batman Beyond, to Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, Conroy was the voice of the DC Animated Universe.
Beginning in 2009, Conroy and costar Mark Hamill would reprise their roles as Batman and the Joker, respectively, in the hugely popular and influential Arkham trilogy of video games. Taking control of a beefed up version of Batman with Conroy’s voice in your head was perfect. Rocksteady Games very smartly realized, for the people they hoped would love their games, Conroy and Hamill were those characters. No better way to legitimize these games with longtime fans.
In total, Conroy provided the voice of Batman in nearly 60 different productions, including 15 films – highlighted by the acclaimed Batman: Mask of the Phantasm; 15 animated series, spanning nearly 400 episodes and more than 100 hours of television; as well as two dozen video games. Conroy was also featured as a live-action Bruce Wayne in the Arrowverse’s 2019-2020 “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover event.
Hamill had this to say about working with Conroy for 30+ years.
“Kevin was perfection. He was one of my favorite people on the planet, and I loved him like a brother. He truly cared for the people around him – his decency shone through everything he did. Every time I saw him or spoke with him, my spirits were elevated.”
“For several generations, he has been the definitive Batman. It was one of those perfect scenarios where they got the exact right guy for the exact right part, and the world was better for it. His rhythms and subtleties, tones and delivery – that all also helped inform my performance. He was the ideal partner – it was such a complementary, creative experience. I couldn’t have done it without him. He will always be my Batman.”
Emmy-winning voice director Andrea Romano, who worked with Conroy and Hamill on so many of those productions, added this.
“Kevin was far more than an actor whom I had the pleasure of casting and directing – he was a dear friend for 30+ years whose kindness and generous spirit knew no boundaries. Kevin’s warm heart, delightfully deep laugh and pure love of life will be with me forever.”
And writer-producer Paul Dini, one of the key creatives on Batman: The Animated Series, Batman: Arkham City, and many, many more, spoke of Conroy’s generosity both in and out of the booth.
“Kevin brought a light with him everywhere, whether in the recording booth giving it his all, or feeding first responders during 9/11, or making sure every fan who ever waited for him had a moment with their Batman. A hero in every sense of the word. Irreplaceable. Eternal.”
For kids like me, who truly grew to love the whole Batman mythos thanks to those animated adventures, Kevin Conroy’s voice is the one we hear when we read any comic book version of the character. He’s not simply the best and most perfect iteration of the character; he’s an example of how to share your gift with as many people as you can. All of us wished to be as cool as Batman, as kind as Batman, as heroic as Batman. While the movies tend to go darker and darker, believing it unrealistic to be otherwise, Conroy’s performance will forever represent the platonic ideal of the Caped Crusader.
Conroy is survived by his husband Vaughn C. Williams, sister Trisha Conroy, and brother Tom Conroy. Memorial services are pending.