“It is with profound sadness that I send this to you today. Kevin Conroy, the quintessential voice of Batman, and a dear friend to so many of us, has passed away,” a rep for Conroy said in a statement.
News of Conroy’s passing was first reported when Diane Pershing, who co-starred with Conroy in “Batman: The Animated Series,” posted a tribute to him on Facebook.
“Very sad news: our beloved voice of Batman, Kevin Conroy, died yesterday,” Pershing’s post reads. “He’s been ill for a while but he really put in a lot of time at the cons, to the joy of all of his fans. He will be sorely missed not just by the cast of the series but by his legion of fans all over the world.”
Conroy made his debut as the DC Comics superhero Batman when “The Animated Series” premiered in September 1992. Developed by Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, and Mitch Brian, the Fox Kids animated series was a stylish, noir-tinged distillation of the Batman mythology and is frequently considered the best adaptation of the character outside of the comic books. One of the most praised elements of the series was Conroy’s voice acting, which brought sternness and gravitas to the role. In portraying Batman and his alias Bruce Wayne, Conroy gave both personas radically different voices to emphasize the distance between the mask — Bruce Wayne had a higher, upbeat voice, while Batman took on a gravelly, gruffer tone. Many of his line readings from the series, such as the famous “I am vengeance. I am the night” speech in the episode “Nothing to Fear,” have become widely parodied, with Robert Pattinson referencing the speech in this year’s “The Batman.”
In addition to Conroy, the show also featured Mark Hamill as the Joker, and the two became celebrated scene partners together. Memorably, the two reprised their roles for the “Batman: Arkham Asylum” series of video games, which received critical acclaim.
“Kevin was a brilliant actor,” Hamill said in a statement. “For several generations, he has been the definitive Batman. It was one of those perfect scenarios where they got the exact right guy for the exact right part, and the world was better for it. His rhythms and subtleties, tones and delivery – that all also helped inform my performance. He was the ideal partner – it was such a complementary, creative experience. I couldn’t have done it without him. He will always be my Batman.”
Conroy continued to voice Batman in “The Animated Series” follow-up “The New Batman Adventures,” as well as other installments of the DC Animated Universe franchise it spawned: “Superman: The Animated Series,” “Batman Beyond,” “The Zeta Project,” “Justice League,” “Justice League Unlimited,” and “Static Shock.” He also voiced the version of the character in several animated films, including the acclaimed 1993 release “Mask of the Phantasm.”
Conroy reprised the role several times throughout the years, including in the 2016 Cartoon Network show “Justice League Action” and several animated films such as “Batman: Gotham Knight” (2008), “Justice League: Doom” (2012), “Batman: The Killing Joke (2016),” Batman and Harley Quinn” (2017), and “Justice League vs. the Fatal Five” (2019). He also played Batman in the fighting game series “Injustice.” In 2019, he made his live-action debut as a version of the character in The CW series “Batwoman” as part of the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover event between several DC superhero shows on the channel. His latest portrayal of Batman is in this year’s crossover fighting game “MultiVersus.”
Earlier this year, Conroy wrote “Finding Batman,” a short comic book story for DC Comics 2022 Pride month anthology series. The story, with art from J Bone and Aditya Bidikar, is an autobiographical retelling of how Conroy auditioned for “Batman: The Original Series,” touching on his background in a broken home with an alcoholic father and his struggles as a gay actor working in Hollywood during the heights of the AIDS epidemic. Conroy was the first openly gay actor to play Batman and one of the first openly LGBT actors to portray a superhero on TV.
In the story, Conroy wrote about how these personal struggles helped him find his take on the character of Batman as a man still recovering from deep pain and loss.
“I felt disoriented and lost as an actor whose identity was being yanked from him,” Conroy wrote about his audition for Batman. “Was I my public face or my private face? Had I made too many compromises? My heart pulsed, I felt my face flush, my breath grew deeper. I began to speak, and a voice I didn’t recognize came out. It was a throaty, husky, rumbling sound that shook my body. It seemed to roar from thirty years of frustration, confusion, denial, love, yearning…Yearning for what? An anchor, a harbor, a sense of safety, a sense of identity. Yes, I can relate. Yes, this is terrain I know well. I felt Batman rising from deep within.”
Conroy was born in 1955 in Westbury, New York, and was raised in Westport, Connecticut. He attended The Julliard School to study acting, where he roomed with Robin Williams and studied with Superman actor Christopher Reeve. He began his career in the theater, acting in Shakespeare plays like “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Public Theater and “Hamlet” at the 1984 New York Shakespeare Festival. In the late ’80s, he starred as a TV producer living with AIDS in the Broadway production “Eastern Standard.”
“I went to so many funerals that I felt such a sense of obligation to do it right,” Conroy said in a 2016 interview with The New York Times about performing in the play. “Every night I would just wail, feeling all the pain. I couldn’t not feel it. It was a scream of, ‘Look what’s happening to us! Help!’”
On screen, Conroy had a lead role on NBC soap opera “Another World,” and has recurring and guest spots on shows like “Dynasty,” “Matlock,” “Cheers,” and “Murphy Brown.” He made his live-action film debut in the 1992 Temístocles López directed film “Chain of Desire.” Outside of Batman, he also had roles in animated series like “Ben 10: Alien Force,” “The Venture Bros.,” and “Masters of the Universe.”
Conroy is survived by his husband Vaughn C. Williams, and his siblings Trisha and Tom Conroy.