Today is one of tragedy and celebration as we mourn the loss of Kevin Conroy. Despite the many changes at the helm of Wayne Manor, Conroy was the only Batman throughout most of our lives. In an official statement from his publicist, Gary Miereanu, in collaboration with Warner Bros., it said:
“[Warner Bros. Animation] is saddened by the loss of our dear friend Kevin Conroy. His iconic performance of Batman will forever stand among the greatest portrayals of the Dark Knight in any medium. We send our warmest thoughts to his loved ones and join fans around the world in honoring his legacy.”
The award-winning and acclaimed actor began his life behind the Cape and the Cowl in 1992. That was when Kevin Conroy secured the titular role of his literal lifetime in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. It was also when he met one of his dearest friends and genius collaborators, Mark Hamill. Aside from being Luke Skywalker, Hamill’s role as Joker is about as attached to life in film as one can get.
According to several reports, Hamill’s touching words about the professional and deeply personal relationship he shared with Conroy were difficult to share:
“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.”
He inspired the hearts and minds of cinema, video, and gaming for decades–and did most of it from the privacy of a soundproof studio. His chiseled jaw and determined grit came across with every word he uttered as the lead for the DC Animated Universe (DCAU) in undertakings such as Batman Beyond, Justice League Unlimited, Teen Titans GO!, and Batman: The Brave and The Bold.
Settling for the Soaps
Kevin Conroy had a life before the DCAU and underneath his Bat bravado. If you’re a fan (or, more aptly written, your older relatives were) of Hallmark movies and schmaltzy soaps, you would have met him there. From 17 episodes on Another World (1980) to two episodes on Cheers (1989), Conroy stayed under the radar before 1992.
And then, on September 5 of that year, nerd fandom changed forever. As Kevin Conroy shared with The Hollywood Reporter in 2017 about that day, fate led him there to be Batman and meet this baby-faced sci-fi guy.
“I remember Mark and I were at the WB sound studio to do ADR work and we got to watch the opening credits…We hear the opening theme with the strings and the lush colors. It was incredibly dramatic. And I looked at Mark and said, ‘Did you have a clue this is what we were doing?’ He said, ‘No, I’m blown away!’ We both felt we were a part of something really special.”
How did a struggling TV actor from Westbury, New York, understand the veritas of what it took to become one of DC’s leading characters? Well, it took another odd film to inspire his presence, as he told THR in the same article:
“Early on, I said, ‘This is the most famous and powerful guy in Gotham. Are you telling me he just puts on a mask and no one knows it’s him? Seriously? There’s got to be more to the disguise,’…My template for the two voices was the 1930s film The Scarlet Pimpernel. I played Bruce Wayne as sort of a humorous playboy to counteract the brooding nature of Batman.”
That’s how mercurial and methodical this man was for his craft. He went wherever his mind would take him to deliver what he believed Batman and Bruce Wayne should have been. And today, we are better off for those dark journeys that Conroy brought to our light.
Suiting Up for a Lifetime
There were many more layers than “that dude who voiced Batman.” Kevin Conroy was a conflicted man on a mission. If you partook in his anthology of Finding Batman, you would know the heart of his struggle was with self. In the DC Comics No. 1 “Pride,” Conroy gracefully explains how he dealt with hiding in a mask and living his life out loud.
Yes, for those who didn’t know — Kevin Conroy was a brave and bold gay man. And during the HIV chaos in the 1980s and 1990s, he needed more than a utility belt. Conroy had to be a hero to many who weren’t familiar with the superpowers it took to be comfortable with his identity during those perilous times.
Becoming Batman was only the beginning of Kevin Conroy’s quest. It started with his voice but perhaps didn’t end until he put his signature on DC Pride #1 earlier this year.
The cherished comic involved many characters–and some of the people behind them–living their truth and fighting crimes against humanity, both on paper and in life. But the focal point was Kevin Conroy’s courageous words in “Finding Batman.”
His story was essentially acting–for himself and us. That is until Kevin Conroy was satisfied with his journey and comfortable in his skin. His private life battled with his public persona. And even though only his close loved ones understood what motivated him to act as he did, Conroy understood it was more than a role.
This was his destiny. His mask was off. His words were poignant. And his reality blew everyone away–gay or not, closeted or not, fan or not. Once people read the pages inside DC Pride, there wasn’t a single DC Comics fan who wasn’t proud of Kevin Conroy.
Paul Dini, a blazing mastermind behind Batman in DC Nation, may have said it best.
November 11, 2022
“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.”
All those who knew him as Bruce Wayne, Batman, or Kevin loved him for his craft and admired him for his attitude, but many can find comfort in two startling ironies:
- It was until the CW’s most robust DC hit, the Arrowverse — Crisis on Infinite Earths, Batwoman, The Flash, Black Lightning, Arrow — in the last years of his life that his live-action appearances closed the door on the man of mystery and showed us just who he really was.
- DC Pride was one of the last things Kevin Conroy ever did–not only as Batman but as Kevin Conroy. And that was only a few months ago.
Some fans of Batman see the man’s grizzled smile or his bright eyes that never lost your gaze at expos and never know that he was the one they admired most of their lives. Most of the games, cartoons, and live animations millions have enjoyed and owned as Batman fans, were Kevin Conroy fans.
They are across the stress and around the world. Many of them know Batman as anyone from Alan West to Robert Pattinson. Yet Kevin Conroy was the Batman, and no one in DC Entertainment would dispute the claim. Kevin Conroy is gone after a short but valiant fight with cancer.
For decades, he was Batman, but not until recently did he understand what it meant to be a hero. He has given up his ghost and begun to soar higher than bats only ever dreamed.
He was 66 years old and will always be missed. See the official annoucement below.
PREEMINENT VOICE OF BATMAN, PASSES AWAY AT AGE 66
New York, NY (November 11, 2022) – Actor Kevin Conroy, the most beloved voice of Batman in the animated history of the character, died Thursday at age 66.
A noted stage, film and television performer, Conroy rose to unparalleled voice acting fame as the title character of the landmark “Batman: The Animated Series” (1992-1996). He would establish never-to-be-broken records as the voice of Batman, bringing the super hero to animated life 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 a 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.
In recent years, Conroy was a notable fixture on the Con circuit, greeting fans with the same warmth, respect and enthusiasm they reserved for him.
“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. “Kevin’s warm heart, delightfully deep laugh and pure love of life will be with me forever.”
“Kevin was perfection,” recalled Mark Hamill, who redefined the Joker playing opposite Conroy’s Batman. “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.”
Born on November 30, 1955 in Westbury, New York, and raised in Westport, CT, Conroy began establishing himself in the acting community while under the tutelage of John Houseman at The Julliard School – where he studied alongside the likes of Christopher Reeve and Frances Conroy, and was a roommate of Robin Williams.
Conroy began his career following his love of the theatre, keeping him on stage in both New York and at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, including receiving rave reviews for his take on 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 in Dynasty, Tour of Duty and Ohara; successful runs on soap operas Search for Tomorrow and Another World; as well as guest roles on popular series like Cheers, Murphy Brown, Spenser: For Hire and Matlock.
But it was his tortured, nuanced performance as the voice of Batman that put Conroy on the map – and the fan’s radar – when Batman: The Animated Series debuted on September 5, 1992. From that point on, Conroy would forever be linked to the Dark Knight – in series like Batman Beyond and Justice League/Justice League Unlimited, filming ranging from Batman: the Killing Joke and Batman: Gotham Knight to Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero and Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman; and more than two dozen video games.
“Kevin was a brilliant actor,” Hamill said. “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.”
Memorial services are pending. Those wishing to express their condolences are encouraged to make a donation to XXXXXXXX.
Since he saw ‘Dune’ in the $1 movie theater as a kid, this guy has been a lover of geek culture. It wasn’t until he became a professional copywriter, ghostwriter, and speechwriter that he began to write about it (a lot).
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