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As Batman, Kevin Conroy’s Humanity Was His Greatest Weapon

The superhero world was hit hard by the news that actor Kevin Conroy died at the age of 66. It’s safe to say that Conroy defined Batman’s voice for generations of fans from his original work on the groundbreaking Batman: The Animated Series Batman He Beyond and shows like Justice in His League. , to follow up on his acclaimed Arkham game.

Bat fans can debate which actor best portrayed the character in live action, but the simple truth is that Conroy was as much Batman as Christopher Reeve embodied Superman. With the power of his voice alone, Conroy gave us the most nuanced and fully realized version of the Caped Crusader to appear outside of the comics. It’s how you make it the most important tool in your fighting arsenal.

Compassion for Batman’s Villains

One of the true hallmarks of Conroy’s Batman performance was his ability to draw a clear line between the voices of Bruce Wayne and Batman. Batman: The Animated As he watches the series, it’s easy to see that even Bruce’s friends, such as Lucius He Fox and Gordon He He Commissioner, can be happy oblivious to his nightly antics. increase.

The episode “Heart of Steel Part 1” has a scene that perfectly captures this. With Batman doing his job in the Batcave, Alfred receives a call from Lucius, Conroy’s voice immediately rises an octave, and when he mentally puts on another mask, that gruff edge is all will be lost.

But the real beauty of Conroy’s performance is that it wasn’t just playing Bruce Wayne or Batman. There are many moments over the course of the series where Bruce’s echoes trickle into Batman’s voice. Especially when dealing with his enemies.

“Heart of Ice” is an early example of this. That episode was arguably the best in the series, and is notable for radically transforming Mr. Freeze from a cheater with high-tech gimmicks to a very tragic figure. Voice actor Michael Ansara does the heaviest job in that episode, but Conroy also plays a key role in redefining the Batman/Freeze dynamic. Show sympathy. Even after finally defeating Freeze with his powers of chicken soup, Batman never rejoices in his hard-won victory, letting go of his corrupt GothCorp CEO’s disgust for his Ferris Boyle and the life he destroyed. Just clarify.

So many episodes over the course of the series hinge on a deeply empathetic connection between Batman and his nemesis. It ends with the iconic shot of throwing into the . This is a reminder of broken friendships. In “Perchance to Dream”, after experiencing a dream world where his parents still lived, Batman becomes furious with the Mad Hatter, but if it means leaving Tetch free to pursue his dreams, his nemesis I realized that I would gladly give him paradise.

Conroy’s Batman is defined by his relationship with these twisted misfits and the fact that no matter how many death traps and psychological trials he endures, he shows such compassion for them. Joker is no exception. 2011’s Batman: Arkham City ends on a haunting note as the Joker finally overdoes his hand and succumbs to a terminal illness. He seems to be grappling with the question of whether or not, but in the end he reveals that he couldn’t have let someone as twisted as the Joker die.

It’s the Joker who finally sealed his own fate when he accidentally destroyed Batman’s antidote. Not proud, but just lamenting the fact that he couldn’t save people far beyond salvation. Bring to life.

Conroy’s Batman is defined by his relationship with these twisted misfits and the fact that no matter how many death traps and psychological trials he endures, he shows such compassion for them.

Battling the Ages in Batman

Conroy’s Batman legacy would have been safe had the actor not voiced the character again after Batman: The Animated Series. It just kept coming out. There’s another advantage to his Batman performance. He’s had the chance to age and grow old with Batman in a way we’ve never really seen from the various live-action versions.

Clearly, that’s the whole premise behind Batman Beyond, a sequel to BTAS that’s decades ahead. Conroy’s versatility is on full display in every episode. In Beyond, a combination of age, failure, and regret blurs Batman and Bruce Wayne to form an older, antisocial, resentful man. The series premiere even gives this futuristic Bruce Wayne a brief but compelling origin story that shows him the last night at work when everything went wrong.

Conroy quickly came to embody this aging and reclusive Bruce Wayne, much like BTAS’ youthful and compassionate hero. In Beyond, Conroy’s voice has a much more gravelly timbre. This blues is impatient and short-tempered. He’s a man who’s still trying to accept the fact that he can’t patrol the streets every night. There’s a lot about this Bruce Wayne’s thoughts, feelings, and motivations that needn’t be explicitly stated in the script. Conroy’s heavy voice says it all.

But there were other Batman stories that allowed Conroy to tackle a more nuanced version of the “Batman faces his death” trope, and 2015’s Arkham Knight is perhaps the best example of that. It’s only revealed once you enter the game, but Arkham Knight chronicles Bruce’s final and most important mission as Batman. rapidly collapsing. Conroy’s performance has an increasingly desperate edge as Batman races against time. And in the game’s dramatic climax, Batman fights for his soul as the Scarecrow’s horror toxin flood opens the door for the Joker to take over his mind. It allows Batman to be portrayed at both his lowest depression and his highest triumph.

[sidebar – DC’s Arkham Knight prequel comic is worth checking out for more context about Bruce’s mindset during this period and his compulsion to leave a lasting mark on Gotham while he still has time left.]

Conroy is as adept at playing an aging, resentful Batman as he was Batman in his prime. That’s what paved the way for him to finally make the jump to live action in the 2019 Arrowverse crossover Crisis on Infinite Earths.・Appears in the second episode as a version inspired by Kam. If Batman his Beyond’s elderly Bruce finds some form of redemption through his partnership with Terry McGinnis, this Bruce will be engulfed in darkness and hatred. It’s a chilling performance because Conroy is playing a very different version of his most iconic role.

Conroy’s Batman Origin Story

Aware of being the temporary custodian of a role with many hopes and expectations and responsibilities, Conroy always treated the role of Batman with solemnity. Related to BTAS Podcast Host Justin Michael Anecdotes about Conroy’s appearance on the showMany veteran BTAS actors had recorded fake commercials for podcasts as their characters, but Conroy politely declined. For him, the idea of ​​a Batman-He-Shilling product for American corporations ran counter to everything the character stood for, even if it was just a joke.

To understand why Conroy had such a protective attachment to the role of Batman, just look to his autobiographical comic Finding Batman. Anthology Special DC Pride 2022Working with artist J. Bone, Conroy gives readers a short but powerful glimpse into his personal life and the struggles that shaped him on his path to becoming Batman. Conroy reflects on the difficulties of growing up as a gay man in a highly conservative and religious community. He reveals the struggles he faced when he saw so many of his friends and colleagues die in the ’80s in the midst of the AIDS crisis, trying to care for his mentally ill brother while pursuing an acting career. Even his professional achievements were overshadowed by the homophobia that was rampant in Hollywood at the time.

Art by J. Bone.  (Image credit: DC)

Art by J. Bone. (Image credit: DC)

But despite its heavy subject matter, Finding Batman is ultimately a story of hope. It ends with Conroy auditioning for Batman: The Animated Series, tapping into a deep well of pain and loss. He finds a kindred spirit in Bruce Wayne. Bruce Wayne is forced to spend his life hiding from the world wearing a mask. Conroy’s pain becomes Bruce’s pain, from which his Batman comes to life.

Conroy wrote: Anchor, port, security, identity. Yes, I can sympathize. Yes, this is terrain I am familiar with. I felt Batman rise from the depths of my soul. ”

That’s why Conroy became the voice of Batman. He brought his life’s hardships and adversities to the table and used them to his advantage. Rather than creating the dark horrors of the night, he builds a Batman shaped by pain and defined by compassion for friends and foes. , he will probably always be the standard by which all other Batmans are judged.

Jesse is IGN’s Gentle Staff Writer. Allow him to lend you a machete to your intellectual bush. Follow @jschedeen on Twitter.

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