Adam West. Michael Keaton. Val Kilmer. George Clooney. Christian Bale.
Even an average movie fan should instantly recognize what this list of actors has in common. These actors have all portrayed Batman in his various incarnations. Adam West was in the television series in the 60’s. Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, and George Clooney took on the role of Batman in the movies in the 90’s. For the two latest movies, Christian Bale wore the cape and cowl. These actors have carried out the role in varying degrees of quality, some quite excellent. But there is one name that is missing that stands above all of these.
This one is a bit harder. But the list above should give you a very good clue of where Conroy fits in. If you haven’t got it already, here’s another list:
Batman: The Animated Series, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Superman: The Animated Series, The New Batman Adventures, Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero, Batman Beyond, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, Batman Vengeance, Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu, Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman, Justice League Unlimited, Batman: Gotham Knight, Batman: Arkham Asylum
Outside of the live action movies, Kevin Conroy has been the voice of Batman in almost every depiction of Batman for the two decades. From his first appearance in 1992 on Batman: The Animated Series, that gravelly voice has captured the spirit of Batman. Over these past 18 years, Conroy has been Batman to children and adults alike. Even though different men were selected to voice Batman in 2004’s The Batman and 2008’s The Brave and the Bold, his influence is still felt. The latest Batman video game (Arkham Asylum) even went so far as to bring back the entire cast of Batman: The Animated Series to reprise their roles.
Much like Frank Miller’s graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns did in the 80’s, Batman: The Animated Series became the defining representation of Batman for the 90’s. It is the gold standard on which all future depictions of Batman are judged. Kevin Conroy’s portrayal of Batman is the key to this phenomenon. The fact that he has held the role so consistently shows that DC thought that as well. These other actors are mere imitators. More than another other actor, Kevin Conroy IS Batman to me.
Interesting aside: a similar situation exists with someone else from the animated series. Neither Jack Nicholson nor Heath Ledger are the true Joker in my eyes. But that’s the story for another day . . .
-That is all.