Legendary Batman actor Kevin Conroy sadly died at the age of 66 last week, and fans and stars (like Kevin Smith) have been mourning the beloved performer. The actor began voicing the Dark Knight when he was cast in Batman: The Animated Series, which premiered in 1992. From there, Conroy would portray the character in shows like Superman: The Animated Series and others that would eventually make up the DC Animated Universe. To put it simply, he was downright perfect as the iconic superhero, though there are a few DCAU episodes in which he was featured that resonate with me the most.
If I’m being honest, there are a number of installments in which the late actor proved that he just knew the key to playing Batman. However, there are just several key storylines that stand out to me the most and have really shaped my view of his overall DCAU performance. So without further ado, let’s talk out these impressive episodes:
“Nothing To Fear”
This is one of the earliest episodes of BTAS and marks the first DCAU appearance of Jonathan Crane a.k.a. the Scarecrow. The story sees the creepy villain attempting to destroy Gotham University in a fit of revenge and using his signature fear gas to help with the endeavor. While trying to thwart the baddie’s efforts, Batman is exposed to the gas and is forced to confront his guilt over his parents’ deaths. When you think of the Caped Crusader, fear may not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, the legitimate anxiety he gets while under the influence of the toxin is beautifully played by Kevin Conroy and, as a result, it’s so satisfying when, during the closing battle, he conquers his insecurities and iconically declares himself to be vengeance and the night. Here, Conroy firmly proved that he could play the character not only with stoicism but with vulnerability as well.
“I Am The Night”
Another one of the star’s most layered performances occurs in “I Am the Night,” in which the titular character has an existential crisis on the anniversary of his parent’s death. Already riddled with doubts about whether he’s truly making a difference, the hero spirals after Commissioner Gordon is gravely injured during a police operation. There are so many moments in which the Caped Crusader’s voice actor delivers, with the biggest being the emotional breakdown in the Batcave. There’s also a particularly touching moment that occurs between Bats and Gordon at the end of the show. The writers deserve a lot of credit here though, if the leading man didn't hit all the right vocal notes, the story might not pack such a potent punch.
“Perchance To Dream”
Believe it or not, Kevin Conroy actually considered this to be the finest episode of Batman: The Animated Series. The installment finds Bruce Wayne waking up in a perfect world – one in which his parents are both alive and he’s in a relationship with Selina Kyle. Of course, the ever-curious Bruce manages not to succumb to the temptations of the false reality, which was crafted by the Mad Hatter. Conroy particularly shines when it comes to the interactions between Bruce and his parents as well as the ones with Selena. He also nails the inquisitive and uneasy feelings that the character displays throughout. I’d not only agree with him that it’s one of the best episodes of BTAS but also one of his best pieces of work.
“Beware The Gray Ghost”
Die-hard fans are sure to remember this episode, which features the late, great Adam West as a washed up actor who teams up with the Dark Knight to stop “The Mad Bomber.” West’s Simon Trent was known as the Gray Ghost, a TV hero that Bruce Wayne idolized as a child. That respect and admiration leads to a tender moment in the Batcave, during which Batman shows Trent his collectibles and memorabilia from the show. It was the first time that fans ever got a sense of child-like wonder from the hardened crimefighter, and it felt organic partially due to the actor voicing him. This is a pretty sweet episode, and it hits even harder now given that both Batman actors featured in it are no longer with us.
“Over The Edge”
To put it simply, “Over the Edge” is one of the most intense stories ever told in the DCAU, as everything hits the fan. I mean, it opens with Commissioner Gordon and the GCPD storming the Batcave and shooting at Batman and Robin. Kevin Conroy’s Bat had been put through the wringer by this point, but not like he was this time around. From Bruce’s heartbreaking discussion with Gordon following his daughter Barbara’s death to the moment he tells young Tim Drake to turn himself into the police, Conroy simply nailed every emotional beat. Yes, the whole scenario only proved to be a fear toxin-induced hallucination for Batgirl, but that fact doesn’t take away from the episode, or the leading man’s performance, in the slightest.
This is a very important episode in the grand scheme of the DCAU, as it explains just why Dick Grayson fell out with Bruce Wayne and eventually forged his own path as a hero. Fans see a pretty intense (and somewhat scary) side of Batman here, particularly when he brutally interrogates a thug in front of his wife and child. Of course, there’s also the heated discussion between Bruce and Dick, after which the latter forsakes the mantle of Robin. Kevin Conroy hits the mark when it comes to displaying the intensity associated with his role, but he also displays a warmth in Wayne, which was present in the fan-favorite episode's hopeful conclusion.
Who could forget the two-part installment that kicked off Batman Beyond? It was the first episode in which Kevin Conroy proved that he could more than play an elderly Bruce Wayne. However, even before we get to juicy scenes like Wayne’s first meeting with Terry McGinnis, Conroy shines while playing the middle-aged Dark Knight in the prologue. The scene sees the hero, who’s in his ‘50s at the time, trying to rescue a kidnapped woman and resorting to using a gun in the process. It’s an emotional moment, given Wayne’s philosophy, and I can still hear Conroy’s Bruce definitively saying, “never again,” after locking up the Batsuit for the final time. This episode set the tone for a new era in Conroy’s DCAU tenure, and he more than rose to the occasion.
“Out Of The Past”
One of the final episodes of Batman Beyond, “Out of the Past” focuses on Bruce grappling with his mortality as he reaches another birthday. His desire for his youth is conveniently answered when his former love, Talia al Ghul, returns and offers the Lazarus Pit to him. After an incident involving muggers, Bruce accepts and regains the strength he once had. Though a tragic twist reveals that there’s more to Talia’s gift than meets the eye. It’s rare that we see desperation in Bruce Wayne (in any medium or continuity), but it’s more than present here. It’s most effectively presented during the encounter with the muggers. I never thought an actor could convey helplessness in Bruce, but the Masters of the Universe alum certainly succeeded here.
“A Better World”
“A Better World” is one of the most intriguing two-part episodes of Justice League, as it introduces the concept of alternate universes. That ushers in the arrival of the Justice Lords, versions of the Leaguers who evolved into dictators after Lex Luthor became president. Because each character (besides Flash) has a double, Kevin Conroy pulls double duty for this episode. I don’t know how, but he successfully finds a way to pull off the mainstream version of Batman alongside his slightly tyrannical counterpart. One of Conroy’s most powerfully-acted moments comes when the Lord version of Bats makes the appeal that under his team’s rule, a child doesn’t lose their parents to gun violence. The conversation the two Bruces later have about what their parents would think about such a dictatorship is also affecting. Conroy had a big task ahead of him with this one, and few actors could play that duality like he did.
I mean, we can’t talk about the beloved performer’s most iconic turns without mentioning Justice League: Unlimited’s “Epilogue,” which was originally meant to serve as a conclusion to the series and the DCAU continuity. I won’t give too much away if you haven’t seen it, but it takes place years after the events of Batman Beyond and sees Terry McGinnis discover a major piece of information regarding his lineage. Kevin Conroy only has a few scenes here, but he makes the most of all of them. Bruce shares some emotionally-charged scenes with Terry, but it’s a flashback featuring Batman and Royal Flush Gang member Ace that really serves as a showcase for Conroy. Needless to say, the actor gives a heart wrenching performance, and it’ll surely stick with fans for years to come.
It’s sad to think that Kevin Conroy is no longer with us, but I do take comfort in knowing that he was aware of just how much the fans appreciated his body of work. And all of those projects, including the stories we’ve discussed here, will surely be enjoyed by future generations. You can stream episodes of Batman: The Animated Series alongside other DCAU shows by grabbing yourself an HBO Max subscription.
Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Your Daily Blend of Entertainment News
Thank you for signing up to CinemaBlend. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.