While a growing list of actors have taken to the big screen to don the pointed cowl and play the Dark Knight, no one has portrayed Batman as long or as often as voice actor Kevin Conroy.
Since his distinctive growl debuted in 1992's Batman: The Animated Series, Conroy has been the go-to for depicting the Caped Crusader in a long list of cartoon shows and animated movies, including the box office sensation The Killing Joke and its fast-approaching follow-up Batman and Harley Quinn. In promoting the latter's upcoming release at Comic-Con International in San Diego, Conroy sat down with CBR at a roundtable interview. But far more than talking Batman and Harley Quinn, he gave us breathtaking insight into what it's like to tap into the brooding superhero for 25 years and counting.
"The challenge for me for 25 years is to keep him consistent and not let him get stale," Conroy explained. "You can hear a lie, a lot faster than you can see a lie. You can tell someone's lying by the tone of their voice. I know the audience would know if I was faking it, if I wasn’t genuinely inhabiting the character.
"For me, it's not about putting on a husky voice," he continued. "That voice came out of everything that happened to him as a child. That dark pain of his childhood that he never was able to escape. And when you go back to that, you know, watching his parents get murdered in front of him in that alley in Gotham, that just puts you in that place. Then, [Eases into Batman voice] the voice just comes out of that. [Resuming his natural voice] If you're there, emotionally, when you create the voice, it's consistent."
"You go that moment, and that’s where the voice comes from, that's who Batman really is," Conroy explained. "The performance has always been--for me--Bruce Wayne. The disguise is putting on the business suit, combing his hair, going into the office and being cool and calm. That's the performance. Just like we all have differences in our lives. We get dressed for work, we preform a different way than we do at home when we're in our jeans and our underwear."
Conroy admitted it can be a tricky finding how his Batman fits into wacky worlds like that of Batman and Harley Quinn, where the stern caped crusader teams up with the cheeky, chaos-loving criminal to stop a world-threatening scheme of Poison Ivy's. "Going to that humor and keeping him rooted in the character you've known for 25 years," Conroy mused. "That was the challenge for me."
"You know, the secret to comedy is not playing the comedy," he shared. "You're always playing the truth of the moment. The comedy is the absurdity happening around you. The humor is your straight reaction to it. If you start playing to the comedy, it's not funny anymore. Now I was just the straight man for this. Now, (Batman and Harley Quinn) is not as heavy as The Killing Joke. That's as dark as it gets! So, you can't play that level of drama in this movie, or else you'll kill the movie. Everyone would be crying, when they should be laughing. So you're playing the reality of the moment, the darkness of the character, but in a slightly lighter situation."