When it comes to definitive Batman performers, we all have our preferences. To some, Adam West’s trippy Batman ’66 will always be their Batman, others may see Michael Keaton. When I think of a definitive Batman, I always go to Batman: The Animated Series, with Bruce Timm’s sleek visual style and the robust vocal performance of Kevin Conroy. His Batman is the classic performance-fits-all, no matter the application or medium.
His work is so popular that he has played Batman in multiple DC Universe Animated Original Movies, other animated TV series including Justice League Action, and video games. We’ll never see Conroy in a live action feature film, but we can have a taste of what his version of Batman would sound like in The Dark Knight. Recently, Conroy appeared on The Nerdist’s Talkin’ Toons and read Bale’s script for The Dark Knight’s final scene with host Rob Paulsen (Animaniacs) playing Commissioner Gordon.
In this scene, after defeating Two-Face, Batman tells Commissioner Gordon that he must take the fall for Harvey Dent who sought revenge for his fiancée Rachel Dawes' (Maggie Gyllenhaal) tragic passing. First, watch Bale and Gary Oldman play out the scene.
There's nothing wrong with Bale's performance. He made it his own and we can come up with reasons on why Batman would sound like he has 80-grit sandpaper for a voice box. But instead, let's watch this video where Paulsen and Conroy read the same scene.
Listen to the rich, clean and deep timbre in Conroy’s Batman which is a major departure from the hoarse sound of Bale’s intimidating growl. Conroy notes at the end that it’s a cold read, with no rehearsal. Still, one could argue with a cold read that it’s praiseworthy, if not more pleasing to the ear. Taste is subjective, but this is an example why Conroy is the timeless, definitive Batman to many.