Kevin Conroy, the character actor who lent his voice to Batman in a series of animated shows, movies and videogames, has passed away at the age of 66. According to an official release, he lost a short battle with cancer.
A classically trained actor who graduated from Julliard (he was Robin Williams’ roommate) and made a name for himself on the stage, performing in productions of “Hamlet” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Conroy turned to television in the 1980s. He had a regular role on daytime soaps “Another World” and “Search for Tomorrow” and had a recurring role on “Dynasty.” Before landing his role on “Batman: The Animated Series,” he showed up on shows like “Murphy Brown” and “Cheers” (his comedic chops were just as finely honed as his dramatic chops).
But in 1992, with the debut of “Batman: The Animated Series,” he would become an entire generation’s version of the character, appearing as Batman and Bruce Wayne in a series of animated features (most notably 1993’s brilliant theatrical release “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm”), animated series and videogames. He would go on to star as the Caped Crusader in more than 60 productions.
What made Conroy’s portrayal of the character so special was that he delivered two dynamic performances within one character. There was the dark, psychologically tortured Batman, a relentless detective dealing with some very heavy issues. And then there was the light, airy Bruce Wayne persona, the good-time playboy who seemed unconcerned with the greater social pains of Gotham City, even if he was superficially philanthropic. And given that he had so much time to play the character, across various mediums and platforms, he could dig into what made Batman and Bruce Wayne tick. There’s a reason he’s the very best version of the character for an entire generation – he was really that good.
After the initial run of “Batman: The Animated Series,” a truly groundbreaking work whose visual and narrative sophistication would open up the American animated series space to more mature, complex works, Conroy would return in 1997 for “The New Batman Adventures,” part of a double-bill with a similarly styled “Superman” show. He would then return as a wizened Bruce Wayne in 1999’s “Batman Beyond,” a futuristic take on the character that saw Wayne mentoring a new Batman. He would then essay Batman as part of an ensemble, first in “Justice League” and then “Justice League Unlimited.” He would even appear later as Batman on episodes of “Teen Titans GO!” and “Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?”
Since the animated series he would also lend his voice to a series of features. After the theatrical “Mask of the Phantasm,” these movies would be relegated to home video, but they were extremely popular. Soon he stopped being just the voice of Batman in the “Animated Series” universe and was just Batman, period. He last appeared in “Justice League vs. the Fatal Five,” which was released by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment in 2019. He would connect further with audiences by providing the voice of the character in a series of videogames, including the critically acclaimed and beloved “Arkham Asylum” games.
Conroy was also open about how much the character meant to an openly gay man who had survived the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. Earlier this year, in the DC Comics Pride Anthology, Conroy published a story called “Finding Batman.” In the story he described Batman as a coping mechanism: “A mask of confidence to the world – and a private one racked by conflict and wounds.”
“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,” said Emmy Award-winning casting/dialogue director Andrea Romano in a statement. “Kevin’s warm heart, delightfully deep laugh and pure love of life will be with me forever.”
Conroy’s costar Mark Hamill, who played the Joker on “Batman: The Animated Series,” also shared a statement: “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.”
Conroy will be sorely missed by comic book fans, animation aficionados and everyone who grew up with Conroy’s gravely line deliveries, signaling that he was their Batman.