Kevin Conroy, perhaps the most fan-beloved voice of Batman in the animated history of the character, has died. He was 66.
Conroy, who identified as gay, died Thursday from intestinal cancer, according to the New York Times.
Starting in the early 1990s, Conroy appeared in more than 400 TV episodes as the voice of the Dark Knight.
Conroy often played opposite Mark Hamill, who regularly voiced the Joker in animated projects, including “Batman: The Killing Joke.”
The two actors had a chemistry in their vocal performances.
“Kevin was perfection,” Hamill said in a statement to DC Comics. “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.”
Relating to Batman as a gay man
As part of DC Comics’ 2022 Pride anthology, Kevin Conroy wrote “Finding Batman,” a story that recounted his life and experiences as a gay man.
Conroy wasn’t comfortable coming out as gay because the entertainment industry was rampant with homophobia.
Like Bruce Wayne, Conroy hid behind a mask.
“I often marveled at how appropriate it was that I should land this role. As a gay boy growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s, in a devoutly Catholic family, I’d grown adept at concealing parts of myself,” Conroy wrote in the comic.
Conroy writes that he was asked during the audition if he could relate to the character.
He said his lived experience making “too many” compromises while balancing his public and private face as a gay man allowed him to find his voice as Batman.
“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,” Conroy said. “It seemed to roar from 30 years of frustration, confusion, denial, love, yearning…Yes, I can relate. Yes, this is terrain I know well. I felt Batman rising from deep within.”
Conroy was born on Nov. 30, 1955, in Westbury, New York, into an Irish Catholic family. He moved to Westport, Connecticut, when he was about 11 years old.
Conroy moved to New York City in 1973 when he earned a full scholarship to attend the Juilliard School’s drama division, studying under actor John Houseman. While there, he roomed with Robin Williams, who was in the same group as both Conroy and Kelsey Grammer.
After graduating from Juilliard in 1978, he toured with Houseman’s acting group The Acting Company, and the following year he went on the national tour of Ira Levin’s “Deathtrap.”
Conroy told The New York Times that, as a gay man living in New York in the time of the AIDS epidemic, he “went to so many funerals that I felt such a sense of obligation” to portray the character of a TV producer secretly living with AIDS in “Eastern Standard.”
During the 1980s, Conroy appeared on numerous TV shows, including “Cheers,” “Matlock, “Murphy Brown,” “Search for Tomorrow,” and “Tour of Duty.” From 1985 to 1986, he played Bart Fallmont, a gay senator, during the sixth season of “Dynasty.”
Conroy is survived by his husband, Vaughn C. Williams.