Kevin Conroy, who gave the Batman animation an iconic voice for decades, died Thursday after battling cancer, according to a press release from Warner Bros. He was 66.
Talent agent Steven Neibert, who worked with Conroy for “over 25 years,” also confirmed his death Friday, saying “the voice-over community lost one of the greats.”
Conroy was the voice behind “Batman: The Animated Series,” which aired on the Fox Network in 1992 until 1996. Other famous voices among the cast included Mark Hamill’s Joker and Bob Hastings, who played Batman’s close friend James Gordon.
“Kevin was perfection,” Hamill said in the Friday statement. “He was one of my favorite people on the planet, and I loved him like a brother. He truly cared for the people around him – his decency shone through everything he did. Every time I saw him or spoke with him, my spirits were elevated.”
His role in the ’90s animated series led him to take on more Batman voice roles throughout the franchise, including the TV series “Batman Beyond” and “Justice League Unlimited.” He even voiced the Dark Knight in several video game spinoffs from the franchise.
In the eight-decade history of Batman, no one played the Dark Knight more.
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Born in Westbury, New York, and raised in Westport, Connecticut, Conroy started out as a well-trained theater actor. Before getting the call to suit up as Batman, Conroy was a stage actor studying at The Julliard School and roomed with Robin Williams.
After graduating, he toured with John Houseman’s acting group, the Acting Company. He performed in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Public Theater and in “Eastern Standard” on Broadway. At the Old Globe Theater in San Diego, he performed in “Hamlet.”
The 1980s production of “Eastern Standard,” in which Conroy played a TV producer secretly living with AIDS, had particular meaning to him. Conroy, who was gay, said at the time he was regularly attending funerals for friends who died of AIDS. He poured out his anguish nightly on stage.
In 1980, Conroy moved to Los Angeles, began acting in soap operas and booked appearances on TV series including “Cheers,” “Tour of Duty” and “Murphy Brown.” In 1991, when casting director Andrea Romano was scouting her lead actor for “Batman: The Animated Series,” she went through hundreds of auditions before Conroy came in. He was there on a friend’s recommendation — and cast immediately.
Conroy began the role without any background in comics and as a novice in voice acting. His Batman was husky, brooding and dark. His Bruce Wayne was light and dashing. His inspiration for the contrasting voices, he said, came from the 1930s film, “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” about an English aristocrat who leads a double life.
Conroy’s popularity with fans made him a sought-after personality on the comic-con circuit. In the often tumultuous world of DC Comics, Conroy was a mainstay and widely beloved.
DC Comics remembered Conroy on Twitter as “a legendary actor.”
“DC is deeply saddened at the passing of Kevin Conroy,” the official account wrote. “The voice of Batman for multiple generations. He will be forever missed by his friends, family, and fans.”
Michael Rosenbaum, who voiced for Flash in the “Justice League” series, called Conroy’s death “devastating,” sharing several photos of them together.
“Kevin was a remarkable man inside and out. I will truly miss those big hugs and that magical voice. You will always be my batman. Rest in Peace my friend,” Rosenbaum wrote.
Conroy is survived by his husband, Vaughn C. Williams, and his sister and brother.
In “Finding Batman,” released earlier this year, Conroy penned a comic about his unlikely journey with the character and as a gay man in Hollywood.
“I’ve often marveled at how appropriate it was that I should land this role,” he wrote. “As a gay boy growing up in the 1950s and ’60s in a devoutly Catholic family, I’d grown adept at concealing parts of myself.”
The voice that emerged from Conroy for Batman, he said, was one he didn’t recognize — a voice that “seemed to roar from 30 years of frustration, confusion, denial, love, yearning.”
“I felt Batman rising from deep within.”
Contributing: Jake Coyle,