JLUCast: Kevin Conroy Tribute

Chris and Cindy celebrate the life and career of the late, great Kevin Conroy by sharing their favorite moments from his portrayal of Batman across three decades.

Their friends Rob Kelly, Ryan Daly, Siskoid, Steve Givens and Dan Greenfield of 13th Dimension share their thoughts on what made Conroy’s Dark Knight the definitive portrayal for generations of fans worldwide.

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Clip credits:

Clips from Batman The Animated Series, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm Batman Beyond, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, Batman: Strange Days, and the documentary The Heart of Batman.

Music by Shirley Waker, Lolita Ritmanis, Michael McCuistion, and Kristopher Carter.

16 responses to “JLUCast: Kevin Conroy Tribute

  1. You didn’t exactly include my favorite line in your list, but it did come up in Chris’ 13th Dimension tribute. Conroy embodies (‘em-voices’) the modern Batman who is the real person and for whom Bruce Wayne is a disguise. Of course, in his head, he doesn’t call himself ‘Bruce’.

    1. Yeah, I omitted those moments from our list, once I decided to just read my 13th Dimension article. That’s a great one that always stood out to me. It came to mind instantly when writing the article.

  2. That was wonderful, Franklins, thank you. Naturally, I agree with the consensus that Conroy was the perfect person to embody Batman in animation. But I thought you were particularly effective in what I assume was one of your goals: Making me (a typical listener) appreciate a talent that I too often took for granted.

    I’m glad you touched upon Conroy’s sexual orientation, and how his personal decision to keep it hidden for much of his life might have informed his portrayal of Batman. I think much of what makes Batman such an interesting character is his secrecy, his need to keep his true self hidden in the service of his mission, or just as a way of getting through life (I think it explains a lot about why superheroes in general have always attracted so many LGBTQ fans, not to mention good old-fashioned misfits like me.) We can only speculate, of course, but it’s possible Conroy wouldn’t have given such an indelible performance if he’d never had the challenge of being a gay man in a sometimes-gay-hostile world. (Nonetheless, I’m glad he seems to have found happiness within his orientation by the end of his life.)

    And let me call out one of my own favorite animated-Batman moments, frtom “Starcrossed,” the Justice League three-parter in which the League is hunted by the invading Thanagarians. They’re on the run and realize they have to change out of their costumes to stay hidden, and the Flash expresses reservations about revealing his identity to his teammates. Batman interrupts him, sticks a finger in his face, and says “Wally West,” shortly before he takes off his own mask and says, “Bruce Wayne.” Conroy is masterful in shifting from the arrogant Bat-genius (“I’ve known who you are all along, dummy”) to the vulnerable, trusting teammate (“It’s only fair that I tell you who I am”). Just superb.

    1. Thanks Noah. I know this episode was clip-heavy, and I’ve tried to steer away from that in my podcasting in the last several years. But for this show, I thought it was important for everyone to hear Conroy’s performances, as we discussed them. He was Batman for so long, and was so ubiquitous in the role, it WAS easy to sometimes take his talents for granted!

      I definitely feel Conroy’s personal struggles informed his take on Batman. His “Finding Batman” story certainly points to that. Highly recommended for everyone to check out!

      That moment in “Starcrossed” is indeed a great one! I almost included it, but I wanted to spread the wealth around more evenly with the other DCAU shows with Conroy’s Batman.

  3. Great episode everyone. Touching and fitting requiem. And so many good moments.

    It’s funny, the one that stands out for me is in the two part Two-Face origin. After the explosion that hits half of Dent’s face, Conroy says ‘Harvey … no!’ It is a break in the armor as you hear the emotion of Batman who was trying and failing to help a friend. It is short but powerful. The fact that Conroy tells us so much in just those two words shows how powerful a performer he was.

    Thanks for doing this. And godspeed Batman.

    1. That’s a great moment Anj. I’ve heard a few folks younger than myself kind of criticize it, maybe thinking Conroy went a bit too “big”, there. But I never thought so, myself. This is one of Bruce Wayne’s best friends, so Batman reacting to this tragedy like an actual human being just points out how great Conroy was at bringing that compasion forward in his portrayal.

  4. Franklins, this was a heartfelt and loving tribute to Kevin. I put off listening to it for a bit, as I knew I was going to choke up a bit – and I was right. Kevin Conroy is the voice of Batman, and everyone before and after him ends up competing with his interpretation. The man brought such a strength of personality to the character, a touching humanity that is essential to the caped crusader to make him “work” on a character level.

    And this shows exactly the kind of impact that Kevin had on our lives as fans of Batman and DC comics in general. He was the voice of Batman, yes, but he was also the front runner in a slowly evolving DC Animated Universe. Sitting down to watch Batman: The Animated Series for the first time, I had no clue I was watching the genesis of a sprawling love letter to DC Comics and, in my opinion, some of the best interpretations of our heroes we’ve seen. He was the heart of the DCAU in many ways, and so I think his loss affects me deeper than I thought it would have.

    Part of what makes Batman such an interesting hero is the tragedy of the person. I don’t mean the perpetual image of Bruce kneeling over the bodies of his parents, strong as that image is. He is a man who has consumed his life in his quest for justice, his drive to beat back crime and tyranny and make the world a better place. He ends up eschewing love, friendship, comforts, and eventually his own character to make Batman happen – a man who sacrifices everything for his city and the world. His heroism is inflected with that sacrifice, and I think its part of his appeal as a character. Conroy brought some of that pain of the mask into his work, and let it soar in his vocal work, his interpretations of the lines – and gradually he shaped the character of Batman as writers began to “hear” a voice for Batman as they wrote their words.

    Kevin will be missed. Like Christopher Reeve, hearing and seeing his performances now will bring a mix of joy and sadness. Kevin, I raise a glass to you.

    Once more, Franklins, thanks for this tribute. I could hear the pain in your voice in the episode, and I shared it. Perhaps this sharing of grief among friends and listeners will help us all smile the next time we hear our Batman, THE Batman, speak another line in that gravelly purr.

    1. Thank you Ian. Yes, Kevin’s Batman is the cornerstone of the DCAU, which, for my money is the BEST version of the DCU. Luckily Timm and company recognized that while they were working on the show, so they never forgot Kevin and Batman was their guy. We’ll see him celebrated in both Seasons 2 and 3 of JLU, and we’ll definitely enjoy covering those moments and episodes!

  5. These comments are so excellent that I hate to add to them, but this tribute made me realize something, and I want to express it, in case it holds true for someone else.

    The tribute as a whole, and especially Ryan and Chris’s comments, made me realize the most important reason the DCAU Batman was so great, and simultaneously why Kevin Conroy’s contribution was so critical. This Batman was not really vengeance, or the night, or a mythical bat-god, or a nightmare brought to life, or some kind of retribution machine. He was a fully fleshed-out, plausible human. Ian wrote eloquently above about how Bruce eschewed love and friendship to make Batman happen, but he didn’t really. He had to have love and friendship like everyone else does, so he found a way to work them into his obsession. He built a structure of friends and family that hold him accountable and make him do the minimum necessary to take care of himself emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally. That’s just one example of how the DCAU showed Batman to be an actual person, with all our human limitations.

    The DCAU Batman is neither an unfeeling cyborg nor a tantrum-throwing rage monster. He is a person who has committed himself to a cause, who developed exceptional capabilities, and who practices extraordinary behaviors. There is not a gauge in his system that he doesn’t occasionally redline, and he teeters on the precipice of catastrophe, but he’s found ways to cope and sustain his performance. I can still have empathy for the character.

    I don’t care what happens to the bat-god, because I can’t relate to him. I can neither celebrate nor weep with the retribution machine, because he feels nothing. The rage monster just needs to be given warm milk and sent to bed. The Timmverse Batman lives on that knife’s edge, like Washington and Mandela and so many great athletes, great minds, and great heroes — almost superhuman, but still a person like the rest of us.

    Romano and Timm were right to go through so many actors. Without Conroy’s performance, they’d never have pulled it off. They’d never have made Batman real.

      1. Thank you Captain, and very well said. I guess we could paraphrase the eulogy of one of our favorite fictional characters: “Of all the Batmen we’ve encountered in our travels…Conroy’s was the most…human”. And it’s totally true. Now, we can’t forget the writers. Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Rich Fogel, Stan Berkowitz, Dwayne McDuffie and everyone else who contributed to the DCAU that I didn’t just list. But without Conroy’s emotional delivery, those words would have just fallen flat, no matter how well they were put together. It was the perfect synergy of character and actor.

  6. Hi, Franklins. This episode started up automatically just as I was about to leave my car and turn off the pod player, and just a few seconds of hearing Conroy’s voice in the opening interview got me emotional. Good thing I needed to turn it off because I needed some time before I could continue listening. It was fantastic to include it, but I wasn’t ready to hear him. Honestly, my reaction caught even me by surprise.

    But oh, your coverage was wonderful. The episodes you discussed, his performances, and the all-star contributors were all great. And it was very kind of you to read my ramblings on the air. Thank you for this lovely tribute.

    1. I feel ya Tim. Listening to Conroy speak about the work, and then going through all the episodes for clips really made me appreciate, and miss him, that much more. Thank you for your thoughtful contribution!

  7. Thank you so much, Cindy and Chris, for such a loving tribute. This was an amazing show that showed how exceptional was Conroy’s take on Bruce/Batman. All the clips and excellent gust stars just reinforced this.

    With a lot of celebrity deaths of people I admired, my reaction has usually been, “Awwwww man, that suuuuucks.” but the two that really affected me deeply were Stan Lee and Kevin Conroy. While I enjoy the DCAU, I haven’t followed every episode of every series, but Conroy’s voice was a constant, comforting blanket. AND he got better through the years, too!

    This was truly a perfect tribute to a man that most of us consider to be “our” Batman. He’s had imitators over the years that have tried to do what Conroy has done but there will be on one like him. Though he will never truly be gone as long as we have his amazing body of work to watch and listen, thank you for giving us an episode to say goodbye to such a fantastic Batman.

    1. Thanks Mike. As far a celebrity deaths that really got to me, one was Christopher Reeve. I really thought he’d walk again before he left this mortal coil. Another, and more surprisingly for me, was Leonard Nimoy. As huge of a TOS fan as I am, I somehow took for granted how important both the character of Spock and the person Nimoy was to me.


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