The world is mourning the loss of a superhero legend with the passing of Kevin Conroy following a brief battle with cancer. Now, we’re counting down why the Batman: The Animated Series star was THE DEFINITIVE Dark Knight, in our book.
10. Kevin Conroy’s voice was naturally so deep, he didn’t need to modify it
Kevin Conroy’s iconic baritone voice proved to be the only tool he needed to portray Batman in both a naturalistic and intimidating manner in Batman: The Animated Series and subsequent portrayals. In retrospect, this is an impressive feat considering other actors have resorted to modifications of some kind to match the dark tone required to bring Batman’s cowl to fruition. This has included the Ben Affleck version of Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice utilizing a digital modulator to artificially make his voice an octave or two deeper than what it normally is and Christian Bale adopting a goofy growl when he wears the mask in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.
9. Kevin Conroy was the longest-running, continuous Batman ever
Kevin Conroy boasts the distinctive honor of being the longest-running continuous Batman actor in history, according to Fandom. Having first helmed the role in 1992 with Batman: The Animated Series, Conroy’s most recent credit as the character came earlier this year with his inclusion in the brawler videogame MultiVersus, marking an incredible 30-year span of time portraying the character. All tolled, Conroy has brought Batman to animated life in nearly 60 different productions, according to DC.
8. Kevin Conroy nailed the role of Bruce Wayne in live-action, too
Fans got a taste of what it would be like if Kevin Conroy portrayed Batman in live-action with his cameo as Bruce Wayne in 2019’s Batwoman CW show as part of the Arrowverse’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover event. Though Conroy’s appearance was brief, it has been remembered fondly by Batman fans everywhere.
7. Kevin Conroy elevated all the numerous DC animated movies he was involved in
Beyond just Batman: The Animated Series and its various follow-up series — including Batman Beyond and Justice League — Kevin Conroy has also lent his voice acting talents as Batman for 15 different DC animated movies, beginning with 1993’s masterpiece Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Conroy has continued to reprise his role in DC films stretching into the mid-to-late 2010s, such as 2019’s Justice League vs the Fatal Five and 2016’s Batman: The Killing Joke. Despite the latter title garnering harsh criticism for a shoe-horned-in prologue that deviated from the Alan Moore-penned comic source material, there’s little debate that both Conroy and Mark Hamill’s appearances as The Joker did anything other than elevate the film in every way.
6. Kevin Conroy embodied a superhero in real life by helping to feed first responders after 9/11
In the week that followed the terrorist attack on 9/11, Kevin Conroy proved he has the spirit of a true superhero by volunteering to help feed first responders affected by the catastrophe. When the city called for volunteers to help, Conroy was told by a volunteer line that they needed people with restaurant experience to help feed first responders and other volunteers. Thus, Conroy was put to work as a cook at Nino’s — a restaurant a few blocks from Ground Zero — according to SlashFilm. In a 2013 documentary called I Know That Voice, Conroy recalled the utter disbelief and joy that the dining hall was treated to upon the discovery that the man who voices Batman was serving people meals, and of course, he gave them a taste that he was the real deal by uttering a few of the Dark Knight’s iconic lines.
5. Kevin Conroy has helped make the Batman mythos a powerful metaphor for LGBTQ+ identity
One aspect of Kevin Conroy’s life that the actor has kept largely personal until very recently is his struggles facing discrimination growing up and in his career due to being gay. In an autobiographical story called “Finding Batman” that Conroy wrote for the anthology DC Pride #1, the actor recounted how landing the role of Batman for Batman: The Animated Series came at a particularly low point in his career, having just seen friends and colleagues pass away from the AIDS epidemic and getting passed up for roles due to his sexuality. Conroy explained in the graphic memoir that being in the closet for so many years professionally seemed akin to harboring his own secret identity — just like Bruce Wayne — making Batman the role that he seemed destined to play his entire life.
4. Kevin Conroy’s Batman v Mark Hamill’s Joker is a rivalry for the ages
Ever since the landmark 1992 series Batman: The Animated Series, the world was gifted not only what many consider to be the definitive version of the Dark Knight with Kevin Conroy’s interpretation, but the ultimate foil to Gotham’s protector, Mark Hamill’s Joker, which is also considered to be an all-time great portrayal. In real life, Hamill and Conroy weren’t at each other’s throats like their Gotham counterparts, but good friends, by all accounts. As Hamill said in a prepared statement to DC following Conroy’s death,
“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.”
3. Kevin Conroy voiced Batman for what many consider to be the best superhero games of all time, the Batman Arkham series
Both Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprised their respective roles as Batman and Joker in the 2009 video game Batman: Arkham Asylum. The game — which was originally released on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC — was immediately hailed as the new benchmark for superhero games to follow. The follow-up installments — Batman: Arkham City and Batman: Arkham Knight — were similarly praised and saw Conroy reprise his role each time. Indeed, it’s hard to pick up any superhero game today, such as 2018’s Spider-Man by developer Insomniac, that doesn’t show signs of some influence from the Arkham series.
Conroy also reprised his role as Batman in the acclaimed fighting games the Injustice series and MultiVersus, with the latter ensuring it will be the actor’s iconic baritone voice we will be hearing while Batman pummels Shaggy in years to come.
2. Kevin Conroy starred in what might be the best Batman movie ever, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.
Before Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, or 2022’s The Batman, Kevin Conroy brought the world a breathtakingly tragic and action-packed origin for Bruce Wayne going the way of vigilantism with 1993’s Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. The movie featured a heavy dose of Mark Hamill’s Joker and an intriguing romance plot with Dana Delany’s Andrea Beaumont. The animated film by the creators of Batman: The Animated Series finally brought to the big screen the kind of depth to the Dark Knight’s character we knew from the comics but was never truly done justice in a feature film up to that point. Tim Burton’s duology of Batman films are commendable in their own right, but it was Conroy’s faithfulness to the spirit of the character that truly won us over in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.
1. Kevin Conroy introduced a generation of children to a comics-faithful Batman for the first time with Batman: The Animated Series
Kevin Conroy’s biggest legacy as Batman has to be that he became the definitive version of the character for children everywhere thanks to Batman: The Animated Series. The show added its own style to the Batman universe, such as inventing the character Harley Quinn and making other villains’ origins like Mr. Freeze more tragic and sympathetic. However, it’s Conroy’s performance that has cemented him as the definitive version of the character that, like the comic books, portrays a grief-stricken and complicated man with a set of morals that he struggles to keep in the balance in the face of fighting justice. Hence, it is Conroy’s voice that now pops into the heads of many fans when they read the comic books, even to this day.