Kevin Conroy, for over 20 years the voice of Batman in Batman: The Animated Series, The New Batman Adventures, Batman Beyond and numerous video games, gave up his anonymity once he took on the superhero’s role.
In a recent panel discussion at the Paley Center for Media in New York celebrating the 75th anniversary of Batman’s first appearance–in Detective Comics #27, in May 1939–Conroy said his work “used to be comparatively anonymous.” En route to the movie studio at 4 a.m. one morning to drop off mail at the Hollywood post office, he said someone said to him, “’Oh, my God, you’re Kevin Conroy.’ You get recognized in the weirdest places.”
Immediately after the terrorist attacks in New York on September 11, 2001, Conroy, working as a night-shift cook for workers at Ground Zero, was asked to intone, “I am vengeance,” which he did, adding, “I am the night chef.” He said, “I was giving people something to laugh about when they needed it.”
Conroy, who worked with Adam West–who portrayed Batman in the 1960’s TV series–on Batman: The Animated Series, called West a “gentleman.” He said West told him, “I had so much fun doing it (Batman), you run with it.” West , Conroy said, was “generous to work with. Acting is give and take, like playing the ball with somebody. The more you give, the more you get.”
Kevin Smith, a writer of Batman comic books and host of the podcast, “Fat Man on Batman,” said he watched West’s Batman series “from 5 to 8 in my kitchen on a TV with rabbit ears. It was real to me. Nobody told us this was campy. It seemed they weren’t playing this for laughs.”
He called the Batman story “a passion play. The idea a child could lose his parents is where it jumps into your soul, when it captures the true back story. The soul center of the Batman story that most people connect with is the childhood pain. You immediately feel protective, it hits you on such a primal level.”
Michael Uslan, executive producer of The Dark Knight film trilogy, agreed, calling Batman’s “greatest superpower…his humanity. That’s what made me identify with this character.”
He said West’s TV show “simultaneously thrilled and horrified me. When it dawned on me he was being treated as a joke, I made a vow that somehow someday I would show the world what the real Batman was like.”
Also author of the memoir, The Boy Who Loved Batman, Uslan called Batman’s future “bright. He’s everything for all of us. He’s universal. He appeals to people across cultures. There will be a Batman for every generation to come.”
Asked about their favorite Batman memorabilia, Smith named a Batman nightlight, installed in his childhood bathroom, which he said “governed my entire youth until 1972” and which he owns to this day. Conroy said he owned between 60 and 70 Batman original production cels, given to him by Warner Brothers.