Kevin Conroy — the brooding voice of Bruce Wayne in Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, and the Arkham video game franchise — has died at the age of 66 following a short battle with cancer. Eternally proud of his association with Gotham City's iconic vigilante, Conroy was a regular sight at conventions, enthusiastically speaking at panels and interacting with fans. He even got a chance to play a live-action version of the Dark Knight for an episode of The CW's Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event in 2019.
“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,” Emmy Award-winning casting/dialogue director Andrea Romano said in a statement Friday. "Kevin’s warm heart, delightfully deep laugh and pure love of life will be with me forever."
“Kevin was perfection,” added Mark Hamill, who famously voiced the Joker opposite Conroy's take on the Caped Crusader. “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's passing was also mourned on social media by Tara Strong (voice of Harley Quinn in BTAS), who tweeted: "I don’t have the words. Not today. My heart is broken. There will never be another. He IS #Batman."
"DC is deeply saddened at the passing of Kevin Conroy, a legendary actor and the voice of Batman for multiple generations," the Batman publisher wrote on Facebook. "His iconic voice made Batman real not only through his work in Batman: The Animated Series, but a host of video games, animated features, and more."
Born in Westbury, New York on Nov. 30, 1955, Conroy studied at The Julliard School — brushing shoulders with future Hollywood icons like Christopher Reeve (another DC legend), Frances Conroy, and his roommate, Robin Williams. Upon graduating, he took to the stage in a number of theater productions on both coasts before making the jump to film and television in the mid-1980s via roles in Cheers, Murphy Brown, Spenser: For Hire, and Matlock.
The project that would secure his legacy came in 1992's Batman: The Animated Series, which was the first voiceover gig of Conroy's career. What's more: he went into the original audition with the hope of landing the part of Harvey Bullock. Fate had something different in mind, allowing him to put his classically-trained skills to the test with one of the most tortured comic book heroes ever created.
"Of all the DC characters, of all the animated universe, he is a classic Shakespearean-type of actor. His whole life is a Greek drama. It's so epic," Conroy explained during an interview with Michael Rosenbaum last year. "I sort of found this character in the audition, just improvising. They essentially hired me on the spot and they'd seen over 500 people."
He went on to say that the gamble of hiring someone who had never worked in voiceover would most likely never happen today. "Because everything's stunt-casted now, everything's about star casting. They were willing to look at an actor that no one had ever heard of, but had the right instinct for the role and brought the character to life."
While Tim Burton already proved Batman could be mature and dark several years before, it had yet to be tested in the world of animation. "It was also the first show that broke away from that daytime, goofy, broad cartoon-y animation that had been done while we were kids growing up," Conroy added. "And they were willing to go to this dark, dramatic, epic, film noir, incredible scripts, full symphony score, big casts of actors. It was like doing a movie every week. It was such a huge departure for Warner Bros."
His connection to Bruce Wayne and the billionaire's crime-fighting alter ego lasted for three decades. Conroy reprised the hero on a regular basis in The New Batman Adventures, Superman: The Animated Series, Static Shock, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, Teen Titans GO!, and Batman: The Killing Joke.
“Kevin brought a light with him everywhere,” remarked Paul Dini, producer of Batman: The Animated Series, “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.”
“Kevin was a brilliant actor,” Hamill concluded. “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.”
Conroy is survived by his husband, Vaughn C. Williams; sister, Trisha Conroy; and brother, Tom Conroy.