The Batman Comics superhero, The actor Kevin Conroy has died. He was 66.
Conroy was the voice of the Caped Crusader character on Batman: The Animated Series from 1992 until 1996, and in fifteen films, 15 animated series, and two dozen games. To several generations of fans like mine, he was Batman.
It’s because Conroy was able to recognize something essential about the character that no other actor who was able to portray Batman ever did:
Batman isn’t just a mask. Batman is a deal.
The actor Bruce Wayne that’s the put-on– the pose, and his face to this world.
Conroy was the one who got this—embodied. However, every actor who’s been put on bat ears throughout time always adopts a dramatic, affecting voice when they portray Batman.
In most cases, it’s a whispery rumble designed to appear super-boss or super-stylish. It’s Clint Eastwood’s stoic The Man with No Name in black Kevlar.
There have been a few occasions of exceptions. Adam West went big, funny, and loud. “Careful, chum! Pedestrian safety!”
Christian Bale went even harder and slapped criminals (and the vocal folds of his voice) with a loud and strangely Adenoidal roar. “SWEAR TO ME!” A bullfrog is suffering from laryngitis right here.
However, Keaton, Clooney, Kilmer, Affleck, and Pattinson all tend to recite their Bat dialogues as if they have the power to save Gotham through ASMR.
Everybody sees Batman as the ideal role to take on, and they think they must make a different, more menacing persona to play it.
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Conroy started from a different perspective. Conroy’s Batman voice was natural and less forced, which made him appear less fake. He was using his normal speaking voice. It’s something that you detect immediately. That’s probably why we all responded to his stance as strongly as we did. He’s not trying to act. It’s just acting.
The Batman: The Animated Series producers have claimed precisely what they wanted to find. While they were conducting auditions for Batman, actor after actor appeared and performed that Keaton/Eastwood whisper. It was precisely what you don’t expect your animated show to be: it was cartoonish.
However, when Conroy could get into his booth, he did the line. His natural voice was lowered just a bit lower, and he moved closer to the microphone.
It wasn’t a pose; it was all the guy. The guy was incredible. He underplayed. His Batman has a slack back and is funny, perhaps somewhat amusing. Mostly, though, he’s natural.
And why not? The guy was a real piper. The character was featured in an episode from the animation show Justice League Unlimited, and Batman is forced to perform a torch song to rescue Wonder Woman from the clutches of the witch Circe. And Conroy was on point and maintained the character’s constant Batmanishness.
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On the contrary, Conroy’s Bruce Wayne was a little. A lengthy performance. He pushed his voice to a skosh and made it a little softer. The result is a sound of privilege, of ease, as well as a life, lived with peace and tranquility.
What he was doing, however, was talking to all the other elite idiots’ Bruce Wayne hangs. Basically? He was just code-switching.
(Is it too far-fetched to think that Conroy was so skilled in this particular area due to his sexual orientation and maybe had some bit greater about codeswitching and was more experienced at it than the other actors that perform the role of Batman? It’s not a big stretch, but it’s an option. However, it’s a factor, perhaps.)
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Since Batman: The Animated Series ended, He was never shy about his role, which would eventually define him as many performers have. The actor continued to voice Batman in various other movies, shows, and games. He was a frequent participant in the Comic Con circuit, where the fans were always interested in his conversation. He even had the chance to play an older model of Bruce Wayne on the CW show Arrow.
But that wasn’t my whole life. He studied at Julliard with Christopher Reeve, Robin Williams, and Frances Conroy. He was a Shakespeare and Broadway and had a lengthy run with Another World and Search for Tomorrow. He is survived by his wife, a sister, and a brother.
According to all reports, Conroy was a sweet person who loved his Batman role and his fan base, and that’s why so many of us there feel a deep sense of sadness today.
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