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In November of this past year, the world lost actor Kevin Conroy to cancer. Since the early 1990s, Conroy was (and continues to be) known as the quintessential voice of Bruce Wayne/Batman across the realms of television, film, and gaming. With his favorite iteration of the Caped Crusader gone from this world, however, Mark Hamill believes that it's time to retire as Joker.
“They would call and say, They want you to do Joker,’ and my only question was, ‘Is Kevin Batman?’ If they said yes, I would say, ‘I’m in,'" the Star Wars and voiceover icon explained during an interview with Empire for the magazine's March 2023 issue (now on sale). "We were like partners. We were like Laurel and Hardy. Without Kevin there, there doesn’t seem to be a Batman for me."
The most extraordinary part of Conroy's immortal DC legacy is the fact that he didn't know much about the character before landing the role. What's more: he'd never done a single piece of voiceover work until landing the role of Gotham City's brooding vigilante.
"When I was a kid, I was mad for comics and loved everything about the Batman series," Hamill continued. "What was so wonderful about Kevin is that he wasn't influenced by anything that had come before. It was so organic. And something that stood out about his performance over so many others was how subtly but clearly he delineated between Bruce Wayne and Batman."
Rather than draw from a childhood love of comics and superheroes, Conroy drew from his own frustrations and anxieties as a closeted gay man, who feared that being true to himself would adversely affect his career in Hollywood (thankfully, he got to be fully open about his identity for years prior to his death). That feeling of what must have been agonizing inner turmoil was entirely fitting for the Dark Knight, said voice director Andrea Romano, who oversaw Conroy's performance on a multitude of DC projects.
"Trained actors call upon things that have happened in their lives without getting fully deeply destroyed by those things. They can use it in their performance. I believe what he was using was probably the fact that he was gay, and that he was asking his parents for permission not to be the man that he was."
Batman: The Animated Series co-creator and producer Bruce Timm described Conroy as being "at the top of the heap of Batman actors." Fellow co-creator/producer Paul Dini echoed that sentiment, declaring: "[He] is the voice I will always hear when I write Batman. Every time I write a line of dialogue, that's his voice speaking in my ear."
Looking for some sci-fi TV? SYFY’s Battlestar Galactica is streaming now on Peacock.