The Voice of Batman Kevin Conroy Interview
In town for the Melbourne Armageddon Expo, Kevin Conroy aka. The Voice of Batman took some time away from his busy schedule to sit down and talk about being one of the most recogisable voices on the planet.
MMGN.com: You’ve been the voice of Batman since 1991. Is it still fresh? Do you still face the same challenges now as you did 20 years ago?
Kevin Conroy: Well that’s the actor’s job, isn’t it? To keep it fresh. Keep it real. Keep it alive. And yet, keep it consistent. Because the audience is so committed that they will hear any false note. So you have to be on top of your game, because they care more about the character than I do. They are so intoned with what it sounds like and what they think it should sound like. Half of my job is keeping it consistent, really going down a path of consistency. The other half is keeping it fresh and real. So it’s really two jobs for me.
Twenty years is a long time. Do you feel like the character has been molded around your own attributes in that time? Or even you around Batman’s?
Everyone wants to be Batman. Everyone wants to be as cool and as sleek as Batman. I’d love to have some of those attributes myself. I’d like to think I’m like Batman: as noble as Batman, as good a person as he is. He’s so noble, but you know, we’re all weak, we’re all human beings. I think that’s why we’re all so attracted to him as a character. He personifies what we wish we could be.
Definitely. I feel that he is one of a few comic book heroes that people can relate to and resonate with on some level.
Definitely, definitely. He’s someone that has put himself into this type of being. This manifestation of everything he is afraid of yet wants to be in order to control the world.
You voice the same person but two different characters. Bruce Wayne and Batman are so very different from one another. How do you approach that? How do you become a person with two very different personas?
It’s my favourite part of the job. I don’t feel that putting on the cap and mask is putting on a costume. I feel that putting on the business suit as Bruce Wayne is the costume. The place Bruce retreats to after his parents were murdered is the most primitive, painful, child-like place. He built this armour around that. But Batman is that painful experience from childhood. When he is in that cave, when he’s alone, when he’s the Batman, that’s the real person. He then puts on the suit and the persona of Bruce Wayne, and he showcases that to the world. So early on I actually made the decision to make a really clear distinction in the voices. So that when he put on that Bruce Wayne outfit, he put on a Bruce Wayne voice. A very sophisticated sound. A playful voice. A lot of sarcasm, a lot of humour. But then when he becomes Batman, he can become himself. So I kind of reversed the wearing of a costume onto Bruce Wayne.
Did it take you long to settle on the voice or are you always looking to change it based on the situation/story?
Initially it made no sense to me that when the wealthiest, most popular, most available bachelor puts on a cape, no one knows it’s him. How is that possible? For reality, to maintain a sense of reality, there has to be change. It makes it more interesting as an actor also. I’ll ask, “Can I try that?” and they’ll (Warner Bros.) respond, “Yeah, yeah, and if it doesn’t sound right we won’t let you do it again”. So I did it initially and everyone loved it. There was a very strong distinction from the voice. But as the show evolved, as the cells were being painted and they realized how dark it was going to be, they realized that the playful, young voice was too colourful and too jarring a difference, so we went back and re-recorded some of the earlier episodes to tone down the Bruce Wayne voice, so that it’s still distinct from Batman but much less so.
Do you have much say in how the character is portrayed or how a story might pan out, be it in a game or on the TV show?
Over time I did have some input. Not any real storyline influence, but if a situation came up -- because Bruce says so few words so what he says is quite important – they would ask me, “What do you think he would say?” so I do have some input there. We have worked together for so long that they’ve grown to trust my instinct with the character.
Batman is a lone warrior. When you add other characters to the fold as allies his personality changes. He seems like a giddy schoolboy around Catwoman, quite a contrast whenever he is on his own.
Oh yeah, there’s a real sexual tension there….
It makes him quite vulnerable.
Yeah, that happened in Justice League. The character evolved into the Justice League and I had to make a real adjustment because it brought out all of his loner instincts. He is not a club joiner. Warner Bros. picked up on that. So they began to write him as the outsider of the group.
And it worked.
It worked very well. Batman’s always going to be the outsider. It’s him; it’s the darkness of his personality.
On the topic of Justice League, how do you compare Batman to other superheroes? To a character like Superman?
I think Batman resonates with people more than anyone. He really does. There is a huge following for the character. It’s because he doesn’t have any superpowers. He is the only superhero without any superpowers. He’s got to do everything by his wits. But also he has an impeccable sense of duty and of dignity. He doesn’t kill anybody, no matter how horrible the villain is. He won’t cross that line. He’s not a killer. If the civil authorities want to execute somebody, that’s their responsibility, but for him it’s about bringing justice. He has an incredible sense of right and wrong, and he never crosses that line. And people relate to that.
By Gaetano Prestia
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Kevin Conroy is in Melbourne as part of the Armageddon Expo. You can catch him for an autograph and chat on Saturday, 22 October and Sunday, 23 October. For more info, visit the Armageddon Expo website.