This one hurts.
Batman is dead. THE Batman.
We can argue about who played Batman best in the movies, we can argue about Adam West's portrayal as Batman and how it fits in the large scope of pop culture, but there was one thing that could never be argued. There is only one definitive portrayal of Batman across all media. Only one voice that embodied the character so well, that it forever defined who Batman is.
Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman in the classic Batman: The Animated Series (1992).
Conroy was one of the first actors truly delineate between Batman and Bruce Wayne, to portray the gravel that Batman would add to his voice, and often portraying the heartbreak inherent in the character. And he did it all with just his voice.
As a kid growing up in the 80s and 90s, Batman: The Animated Series had a huge impact on me. Their technique of animating and painting on black matte backgrounds to create a noir edge to the art. The streamline moderne aspect to the art, placing Gotham City in an anachronistic time period that never existed, but somehow fit perfectly. Plus, it was the first animated series where particular attention was paid to hiring dramatic actors to fill the vocal roles.
Conroy, prior to Batman, was a Juliard trained stage and TV actor who roomed with Robin Williams. He consistently worked throughout the 80s, often in soap operas like Another World and Search for Tomorrow. Batman would prove to be his iconic role, one he continued to portray to the very end and one he took to heart. He was particularly gracious to his fans at conventions, even as his health began failing him. He passed away Thursday, November 10, 2022, from complication due to cancer, at the age of 66.
If you have not read it, DC comics released a written work by Conroy with art by the incredible J. Bone as part of their DC Pride issue this June, in which Conroy relayed his experiences as a closeted and recently out gay actor working through the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. It spoke of his experiences fighting to find work in an industry that refused to put gay actors in a lead role and of the deep connection he made with Batman through the audition process and the development of the character. It is beautiful and heartbreaking and DC comics has made it available free to read to everyone now in honor of Conroy's life. You can read it here.
Rest in Peace Dark Knight, you are missed.