Everyone has a favorite live-action Batman actor, but in the eyes of this BatFan and plenty others, the one who reigns above them all is Kevin Conroy, who sadly passed away on November 10, 2022, after a short battle with cancer at the age off 66. This year actually marked the 30th anniversary of the actor’s tenure voicing the Dark Knight in several hit DC TV shows, many of the best animated DC movies, and even a number of acclaimed video games — most notably Rocksteady’s Arkham series.
It is hard to choose which of Conroy’s many performances as Batman should be deemed his crowning achievement, but I tried anyway by ranking just a few of his greatest hits in ascending order.
7. Batwoman (2019)
For years, I imagined what it would be like if Kevin Conroy leant more than just his unmistakable voice to the role of Batman and portrayed him in a live-action setting. That wish was granted with a special appearance on Batwoman, as part of the Arrowverse’s epic crossover event, Crisis on Infinite Earths, as the Earth-99 version of the retired vigilante, who relies on a robotic suit to move, has broken his one rule to never kill (including on Superman), and refuses to help save a universe he does not believe is worth it. Conroy brings out his dark side more than ever to play a Bruce Wayne who has lost all hope, which is heartbreaking, but also completely plausible given the hero’s penchant for cynicism.
6. Batman: The Killing Joke (2016)
Batwoman might not actually mark the first time the actor played a version of the Dark Knight driven to his breaking point. The ambiguous ending to the animated adaptation of Alan Moore’s shocking, acclaimed one-shot, Batman: The Killing Joke, hints at Batman’s rivalry with The Joker (Mark Hamill, widely considered to be the villain’s definitive iteration) coming to the ultimate end. However, just a moment earlier, Batman shows some sympathy toward his damaged arch-nemesis and offers his help instead of his fist in a beautiful speech that Conroy delivers with authentic compassion in his voice, seemingly reflecting how much the actor cared for Hamill in real life.
5. Batman: Gotham Knight (2008)
In one of the most underrated Batman movies — in my opinion — Kevin Conroy gives what I also believe is one of the most underrated Batman performances of his career in Batman: Gotham Knight. He takes on six different interpretations of the character in six very different stories in this anthology style feature produced in part by Christopher Nolan. Yet, he nails it each time, never once feeling out of place no matter how much one segment differs from the last tonally or stylistically — providing, perhaps, the ultimate proof of Conroy’s supremacy in the role.
4. Batman Beyond (1999–2001)
Even before completing the first third of his career voicing the character, Kevin Conroy proved he was capable of playing Bruce Wayne at any age when he reprised the role as a much older man forced to hang up the cape and cowl and mentor his young successor, Terry McGinnis (former Boy Meets World cast member Will Friedle). The idea of a “teenage Batman” should have never worked, but the futuristic Batman Beyond was very close to perfection, and a good chunk of the credit goes to Conroy in the way he reinvents his flagship character as a hero fighting crime from behind the scenes, purely with the use of his intellect in lieu of physicality and intimidation.
3. Justice League And Justice League: Unlimited (2001-2006)
On the other hand, it was especially satisfying to see the star return to play the Caped Crusader in his original form — but in an, arguably, even more intimidating manner this time — as he struggles to play nice with others as the one powerless member of a powerful superhero team. What really makes Conroy’s version of Batman from Justice League and its follow-up, Justice League: Unlimited, really stand out is his determination to risk everything for the greater good, and a refreshing sense of compassion, such as when he sits with a terminally ill reality-bender named Ace (Hynden Walch) until her death in one of the series’ best episodes, “Epilogue.”
2. Justice League: Doom (2012)
However, if you do prefer your Batman to be a compassionless hard ass, look no further than the 2012 movie Justice League: Doom, in which the heroic team is threatened by a special contingency plan to successfully neutralize each member that was created by the Dark Knight himself. When Batman discovers his plans have been stolen and altered to be deadly, he is horrified to see what his creation has brought on, but does not shy away from arrogantly defending the plans when his teammates take this as a breach of trust. You get two of Batman’s most defining emotions, played to perfection by Kevin Conroy.
1. Batman: The Animated Series, Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm, And The New Batman Adventures (1992-1999)
To really see Kevin Conroy at his best, start at the beginning with the Emmy-winning Batman: The Animated Series (later rebranded as The New Batman Adventures), which contains several moments that could be considered his peak — such as when his iconic voice utters the immortal line, “I am vengeance. I am the night. I am Batman."
My personal vote goes to a flashback in one of the greatest animated Batman movies of all time, 1993’s Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, when Bruce Wayne, having fallen in love for the first time, desperately begs his deceased parents at their grave to free him of the vengeful vow he made to them. The desperation in his voice when he says, “I didn’t count on being happy,” is the stuff that all voice actors live for.
I would go so far as to say that Kevin Conroy should be remembered as one of the greatest voice actors to ever live, even if his career is defined by one role. After all, for many, the role of Batman is defined by Conroy and will be forever, no matter who else plays him, whether that means in the cape and cowl or in a recording studio. We lost an icon who will be greatly missed, but will, fortunately, live on in these fantastic and influential performances.
Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.
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