After voicing Batman for decades in the iconic DC Animated Universe and the Batman: Arkham video game series, actor Kevin Conroy will finally portray the Dark Knight in live-action in the upcoming Arrowverse crossover "Crisis on Infinite Earths." Give his age and association with the character, many fans assumed that he would be playing an elderly Bruce Wayne inspired by his role on Batman Beyond. After being forced into retirement by the physical toll of his war on crime, Wayne taught Terry McGinnis how to be a new Batman for a futuristic Gotham City.
However, the latest batch of "Crisis" preview photos indicates that Conroy will portray a different aging Batman, apparently inspired by DC's dystopian-future Kingdom Come timeline. While he's not too entirely different from Batman Beyond's elderly Bruce Wayne, there are some key differences between these two future versions of Dark Knight that open up some fascinating possibilities for the Arrowverse's "Crisis."
In the world introduced in Mark Waid and Alex Ross' 1996 miniseries Kingdom Come, DC's familiar heroes were replaced by a violent new breed. After the Joker killed Lois Lane and the staff of the Daily Planet, even Superman retired.
At the start of Kingdom Come, Wonder Woman coaxed an older Superman out of his self-imposed exile. Early in his mission to inspire a new generation by re-forming the Justice League, Superman encountered an aging Batman who had been utterly broken by a lifetime of violence.
After years of pushing his body past its limits, Kingdom Come's Batman relied on an exoskeleton to help him move around. In the "Crisis" pictures, Conroy's Wayne can be seen wearing this distinctive piece of custom technology that was surgically grafted onto his body in the comics.
While it wasn't the first time a version of Batman embraced technology to fight the physical aftermath of his superhero career, this effects of this exoskeleton were echoed, on a smaller scale, in the mechanical knee that Christian Bale's middle-aged Batman used in The Dark Knight Rises.
At some point after adopting the exoskeleton, this Batman's secret identity became public knowledge, and Wayne Manor was destroyed by Bane and Two-Face. After retreating to the Batcave, Kingdom Come's Batman watched as his enemies were killed by the violent new heroes, and patrolled Gotham's streets with an army of robotic Bat-Knights. On the rare occasions he ventured into battle, Batman donned a suit of hi-tech armor that turned him into an imposing cybernetic Dark Knight.
Although he rejected Superman's invitation to join the Justice League, Batman brought together several aging heroes like Green Arrow, Black Canary and Martian Manhunter, along with the children of many other DC icons, to form the Outsiders.
After several Outsiders and many of Kingdom Come's other heroes are killed in a nuclear explosion, Batman opened up his rebuilt home to the blast's survivors, and reaffirmed his friendship with Superman.
While the friendship between Kingdom Come's Batman and Superman is one of that story's emotional cores, the relationship between those two aging heroes may play an unexpectedly large role in the Arrowverse's "Crisis on Infinite Earths."
In the crossover, Legends of Tomorrow star Brandon Routh will reprise his titular role from Superman Returns, in a sense, by portraying Kingdom Come Superman. The same photos that revealed Conroy's role strongly suggest that this Superman lives in a world where the Joker wiped out The Daily Planet, and both of heroes may very well live on the same Earth.
Like his comic book counterpart, Routh's Superman has traded the yellow in his S-shield for black to represent his semi-permanent state of mourning for everyone he couldn't save.
With both of these older heroes seemingly set to appear alongside each other in Batwoman's "Crisis" tie-in episode, a reckoning, or at the very least a tense encounter, between Batman and Superman seems likely.
While Kingdom Come's Batman and Superman put aside their differences to save their world, the Arrowverse's versions of these heroes will have to put aside any petty differences they may have to save the entire DC TV multiverse.
"Crisis on Infinite Earths" begins Sunday, Dec. 8, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Supergirl, then continues in Batwoman on Monday, Dec. 9, at 8 p.m. ET/PT and in The Flash on Tuesday, Dec. 10, at 8 p.m. ET/PT. After the winter hiatus, the crossover will conclude on Tuesday, Jan. 14, in Arrow at 8 p.m. ET/PT and in DC's Legends of Tomorrow at 9 p.m. ET/PT.