Kevin Conroy, who died at 66, was maybe the best Batman voice ever
From 1992 to 1996, Conroy voiced the Caped Crusader on Batman: The Animated Series, and he has also done so in 15 films, 15 animated series, and two dozen computer games. To many people, including myself and many of my generation, he was simply…Batman.
That’s because Conroy grasped something about Batman that no other actor has ever managed to do:
As Batman, he doesn’t need to hide his identity. Truth be told, Batman is the real deal.
Bruce Wayne’s act, the one he puts on for the world, is the charade.
Confidently, we can say that Conroy understands. Put that into practise, if you will. However, whenever a new actor dons the bat ears, they always end up sounding overly theatrical and affected in their delivery of Batman’s iconic voice.
For the most part, they use a raspy, whispery tone to project an image of extreme masculinity and machismo. Clint Eastwood’s unflappable Man With No Name, clad in all-black Kevlar, looks like this.
There are a few notable outliers, though. Adam West came for it, all booming stentorian largeness: “Careful, chum! Pedestrian safety!”
And then Christian Bale went even further, punishing the villains (and his vocal folds) with a throaty, albeit oddly adenoidal, yell of “SWEAR TO ME!” Here we have a bullfrog with laryngitis.
Instead of speaking clearly, Keaton, Clooney, Kilmer, Affleck, and Pattinson all Eastwood-whisper their Bat-dialogue as though ASMR can somehow rescue Gotham City.
They’ve all decided that playing Batman is the cool thing to do, and they’ve all convinced themselves that they need to invent a new, dangerous identity to pull it off.
Conroy’s origins are very different. His take on Batman felt more organic, genuine, and genuine. His voice was pretty much just like normal. That’s something you feel right away, and it’s probably why a lot of us connected so strongly with his viewpoint. We could see that he was performing and not playing a role.
That’s what they wanted, according to the producers of Batman: The Animated Series. Actor after actor came in doing the Keaton/Eastwood whisper at the Batman auditions. It was really cartoony, which was exactly what they were trying to avoid.
To the contrary, Conroy merely read the lines after sliding into the booth. He barely moderately lowered his normal voice and moved closer to the microphone.
Nonetheless, he was being himself; the pose was fake. He had a laid-back vibe about him. He didn’t play up to his potential. His Bats is reserved and witty, bordering on cynical. Though, for the most part, he just is.
Additionally, this isn’t for nothing, right? This guy blew my mind with his amazing pipes. In order to save Wonder Woman from the clutches of the wicked witch Circe, Batman must perform a torch song in an episode of the animated series Justice League Unlimited. And Conroy did a great job with it, all the while keeping the character’s core Batman-ness intact.