As the voice of Vengeance and the Night, Kevin Conroy is/was the signature Batman for an entire generation even though he had never done voice work before The Animated Series. A theater actor from New York recommended by his agent, Conroy went on a blind audition that changed the direction of his career and made him a DC icon.
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Starting in the 1990s in a post-Tim Burton and Michael Keaton world, Conroy stood in a pantheon of performers, including Keaton, Adam West, Christian Bale, and – like them or not – George Clooney and Robert Pattinson. He gave the Dark Knight that gruff gravitas we all think of when we read a comic effortlessly, it seemed.
But the effort to imbue that into the character could get intense and challenging at times. Conroy revealed this in one of his final interviews when he explained and differentiated the relaxed fun atmosphere of sessions for TAS in the early days and the pressures of voicing the games in the Arkham series he was a part of.
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And there was quite a world of difference in expectation and workload between the animation and video game genres. On the Popcorn & Shield podcast where he was joined by DC Animated producer Bruce Timm, Conroy recalled BTAS was treated more like a radio drama and he often recorded with other actors in the room such as Mark Hamill.
“It was electric,” Conroy said. They could play off one another and get “unexpected reactions” which was the hope Timm had in mind. Working on the Arkham games was a night-and-day contrast that typically wasn’t a box of fluffy flying rodents. There were long hours, multiple takes, and with them constant repetition that drove the actor crazy.
“You do four hours a day alone, in a booth, in a vacuum, creating the character, keeping the character’s voice alive, and then creating the situation for each line, and then they want it three times,” he recalled. “You know, ‘Give it to us angry! Oh, keep that anger and give it to us with a little irony!”
Conroy continued, “Oh, we love the anger and we love the irony, now just sweeten it with a little bit of love.’ By the time you get out of there you’re pulling out your hair, you’re going, ‘What the f**k do they want me to say!?” His sessions ended after eight hours that are broken into four-hour blocks plus an hour for lunch.
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The job went like that for a week whenever they called him in. There were periods of rest in between – months when the writers took over to create new material. After that, they’d call Conroy back for more recording, and no clips were recycled as everything had to be fresh to fit game algorithms. The process for Arkham Knight took two years.
Before that entry was released, he ran into trouble that may have cost him his gig in the gaming medium. At San Francisco Comic-Con in 2018, Conroy discussed a mistake he made in talking about Arkham Knight before it was ready and while Warner Bros. Games was prepping the sequel, Arkham Origins. This got him a call from higher up the food chain.
Told he was in a potential breach of contract, WB suspended his convention appearances until he could be assigned a “minder” to watch over him and everything he had to say out on the road. This prevented any further mishaps but Conroy was replaced in the Arkham series by Roger Craig Smith who went on to voice Bruce Wayne in Gotham Knights.
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