Everything you’ve ever dreamed of is now a reality: Mark Hamill will play The Joker in the upcoming animated movie, The Killing Joke. Reportedly.
I must try not to get too carried away with this story since the confirmation available is a little sketchy. After the story broke last week that Mark Hamill would love to come out of Joker retirement to voice the villain in The Killing Joke, apparently “sources reached out” to confirm that Hamill already recorded his voice work for the film. Hamill hasn’t publicly confirmed his role, and neither has Warner Bros.
The Killing Joke is the quintessential tale of The Joker for many Batman fans, and the same goes for how many people feel about Hamill’s voicing of the character. The two things coming together would likely be one of the best animated features of the year and within the Batman Universe.
In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Behind each scene goes hours of preparation. Hush Comics’ weekly article “Respect My Craft” will dive into the history of these comic book and pop culture greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of the nerd world, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.
Name: Kevin Conroy
Profession: Vengeance, The night, Batman
NotableWork: Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League, Batman: Beyond
“Then they described the film noir quality of it, the drama, the kid losing his parents and avenging their deaths, lives in a cave and has an alter ego. It was a whole different, much darker, much more substantive show than I had understood.” – Kevin Conroy
Take a second and ask yourself, “Who played Batman the best on-screen?” Christian Bale? Sure. Michael Keaton? You could say that. Really though, hardcore fans only know one man as the Dark Knight. That man is Kevin Conroy, the voice actor from the classic Batman: The Animated Series. His reign as Batman, which began in 1992, is the longest of any actor portraying the character – and it has not even ended. B:TAS is highly regarded as one of the greatest animated shows in the history of television, ranking 2nd on both IGN’s and Wizard Magazine‘s Top 100 (both behind The Simpsons, TV’s longest-running animated show). The series was a testament to the skilled writers, animators and actors that worked on the show. B:TAS resonated with casual and hardcore fans alike, and introduced a new generation to Batman and the DC Universe at a time when comic books were super-saturating the market. This could be hard to believe, but even Conroy himself was not a comic book reader.
Growing up in a strict Irish Catholic setting, he wasn’t exactly encouraged to read comic books. However, what he did end up with was a love for theater. In middle school, when he transferred to a public school, he did not know how to adapt to the liberal nature of discipline, where students spoke out of turn and roamed the halls care-free. Conroy states that if it weren’t for the care of his English teacher, he would have been headed down the road of trouble. She recommended that he join the school’s theater club, and it became a defining moment in his life, an entire lifestyle change.
From then on, Conroy acted his butt off. He joined an acting troupe in high school that became one of the best in the state, starring in every play the school would put on. He became so good that he earned a full scholarship to Juilliard. There, he joined a class of legendary thespians which included Kelsey Grammer and his roommate, Robin Williams. Ironically enough, he almost ended up as the roommate of Superman actor, Christopher Reeve. Conroy’s focus was much more classical. Under John Houseman (Citizen Kane), he became enveloped in theater. After graduating, Conroy worked for Houseman’s The Acting Company, doing Shakespearean plays like Hamlet and Midsummer’s Night Dream.
Like a lot of theater artists, Conroy needed a profitable way to continue doing what he loved. Throughout the 1980’s, he was featured in various made-for-TV movies, and a lot of soap opera experience. Although his characters never really had big roles, and few of them were recurring – his longest TV role was as Dr. David Dunkle in Rachel Gunn, RN, but it gave him the funds to continue doing theater. Conroy was looking for his big break when he auditioned for the starring role of Joe Hackett in Wings; in a twist of fate, the producers decided to cast Tim Daly instead. Tim Daly, some might recognize, is the voice of Superman in Superman: The Animated Series. This all worked out for us, because had Conroy gotten the role, he may have never put on the cowl.
Another outlet that Conroy took to was doing voice-overs for commercials. This led to getting an audition with B:TAS maestros Bruce Timm and Paul Dini. Previous to the audition, the only experience Conroy had with Batman was the 60’s show (Note: stars of the 60s Batman show, Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar will also be at Denver Comic Con) – very campy and light. Once Timm and Dini explained the comic book origins, the tragic story of a boy whose parents were murdered and his redemption, Conroy was instantly sold on the Dark Knight as a character. He attacked the role as a true thespian would, and even came up with the idea of doing two separate voices for Bruce Wayne and Batman.
Conroy says that, as an actor, he tries to constantly challenge himself. The voice itself initially made Conroy coarse, and had to be crafted and perfected. When time came to research his source, he had to look no further than cast-mate Mark Hamill, who voiced The Joker in the legendary series. Hamill, known to many as Luke Skywalker, is a huge nerd. He made his abundant comic book collection available to Conroy. The two are practically life partners in their work, much like the yin and yang relationship of their characters. Adding to their chemistry was the fact that Warner Bros. had all actors record in the same room. Although the method can lead to more takes, it breeds creativity and leads to more honest performances – which reflected in their work.
Since Batman: The Animated Series, Conroy has reprised the role of Batman in pretty much every animated project since, including the Arkham series, developed by Rocksteady. Recording for a video-game was a much different experience, and challenged him to keep things fresh. Unlike the collaborative environment of the series, recording for Arkham meant hours upon hours alone in a room, recording thousands of clips multiple times, covering every variable in the game. Thankfully, the stress doesn’t leak through into the product, because the Arkham franchise is one of the strongest in gaming; Conroy is set to reprise the role of Batman in next year’s Batman: Arkham Knight. His mantle as Batman hasn’t been just video-games and television shows. When Conroy was volunteering at a soup kitchen in New York City after 9/11, he cheered up the room by reprising his famous line, “I am vengeance. I am the night. I am Batman!” for the room to hear. Also, in lieu of the release of The Dark Knight Rises, Conroy dubbed an animated promo for the movie.
In celebration of Batman’s 75th Anniversary, Conroy has also collaborated with Bruce Timm for a few select shorts. He might be the most recognizable Batman voice-actor, but he doesn’t hog the spotlight. He supports other actors’ portrayal of the Dark Knight. Speaking of, he is actually quite a fan of Christian Bale’s performance of Batman, and calls the Nolan-helmed Dark Knight trilogy the closest adaptation to the dark Bob Kane/Bill Finger origins. The growling voice, on the other hand, he could do without. “It’s like – why didn’t someone stop him?” His career is built upon Batman, but the character isn’t the only thing Conroy loves to spend time with; one of his biggest hobbies is restoring old houses. Using his hands to build, garden and paint give him a lot of happiness. Could you imagine owning a home built by the Batman? Batcaves for everyone!
Kevin Conroy will go down as one of the greatest voice actors ever in one of the greatest television shows of all time. He is the undisputed voice of Bruce Wayne, and part of a show that single-handedly introduced a whole generation to Batman and the comic book world, including myself. After over 20 years of serving the people as Batman, Conroy still loves the character and his fans. It’s for these reasons that you must respect his craft.
None of the media in this article belongs to Hush Comics; it all belongs to their respective properties. I hope everybody has enjoyed our countdown to Denver Comic Con. Among all the writers at Hush, we were able to string together 30 biographical pieces in 30 days. Look to Hush Comics for more coverage of Denver Comic Con.
A short time ago, in a galaxy really close by, a king was anointed. On January 25th, 2013 it was announced that J.J. Abrams will direct what’s sure to be the next most highly anticipated Sci-Fi film of the century, Star Wars Episode VII. The official announcement came, after a week of rumors and speculation, that Kathleen Kennedy the new Lucasfilm President (or as I like to call her, George Lucas Episode 2) and her staff had selected the next director for the first of three Star Wars sequels. J.J. Abrams is best known for his involvement in the TV series Lost (exec. producer), Alias (exec. producer) and Fringe (exec. producer) as well as his exploits as movie director in Mission Impossible III, Super 8, and the most recent Star Trek films. Okay, let’s nip this issue in the butt right now… CALM DOWN … Yes, you! You who on some level is somewhere between appalled and dumbfounded that the new leaders at Lucasfilm have already resorted to borrowing something from the rival Trek universe for this revival of the glorious legacy that is Star Wars!! Just close your eyes, take a deep breath and then do the following. Open up IMDB, scroll down the list of J.J. Abrams’ involvements and as you read, count out on your hands the number of things that sucked on that list. If you somehow managed to tally enough to need two hands, go over the list again and this time, count how many things REALLY suck. Down to one hand or less?… I thought so. With that helpful exercise out of the way let’s take a step back.
While the above paragraph may have led you to believe that I’m convinced Abrams will do a great job in his new directing role, think again. In fact, in my mind, J.J. Abrams has just placed his head on the Guillotine block for all to see. Whether or not the executioner (me and the collective Star Wars community) decides to drop the blade will be determined by his actions as a director in what is likely to be the most important movie of his career. As he awaits his judgment day I will remain cautiously and skeptically optimistic. I thought a good deal on how I was going to write this piece. And while I must join the hoard of bloggers and fans crafting lists of demands that Abrams must follow should he wish to make good movie and spare himself decapitation, I’ve done my best to refrain from such rigid thought processes. Instead I thought this: If I, a die-hard fan, could give J.J. Abrams one piece of advice or pose a single request, I would do so in one sentence. Two words in fact: Irvin Kirshner.
For those of you who don’t know who Irvin Kirshner is, he was the brilliant mind and talent that directed Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back. For those of you who don’t know me, know that this film is my favorite of all time – not just of the six films, but of ALL films. Let me make my best attempt to tell you why Empire is my favorite movie of all time in just a few sentences. Empire has it all. From action and drama, to comedy and suspense, to romance and despair, Episode 5 is a shining example of what is great about movies. This film, whose predecessor appealed largely to a Sci-Fi community, took another step out of the proverbial box and caught the interest of everybody. For those who weren’t satisfied with repetitive action and adventure, we found thought provoking themes in the teachings of Yoda and the lost legion of ancient Jedi. For those who were tired of the good guys always winning, we found a story of darkness and a bleak conclusion. For those who were weary of predictability, we found utter shock at the terrifying truth of Vader’s identity. For those who didn’t want to take their girlfriend to the latest chick-flick found compromise as the love story between Han Solo and Princess Leia was just as compelling as the action sequences.
But what was it that made these parts stand out? What made them so enthralling that it would be viewed by most as the best of the entire series? The characters. It was more than just the story, and the ships, and the giant space slug. It was watching a three-foot green doll emote like it was real. It was watching Leia and Han softly kiss each other for the first time in the confines of the Millennium Falcon. It was watching the horrified reality dawn on Luke’s face as he came to learn that the most evil and feared man in the Galaxy was his father. It…was…acting. Acting at its very finest. And it was Irvin Kirshner that brought this out of our heroes (and villains). Kirshner knew what it meant to be a director. He was dedicated to his audience through his characters. Without concerning himself with fitting his characters into the world Lucas had created, he let the world fall in around the actors. It wasn’t forced or contorted for the genre – it was one of the most organic and consuming portrayals this Husher has ever seen. It is this mind frame that I hope Abrams adopts in his new role. No matter who casters hire, what plot is composed, how much CGI is used, or if we have to suffer through Gungans and Ewoks again, Abrams has the opportunity to immerse his audience in the same way Kirshner did 33 years ago. The pressure is on and any degree of egomania is sure to result in a disaster worse than the Hindenburg and Casey Anthony combined. But there is time and resources. Disney and its impressive little empire will do well to recognize their role in this undertaking and allow and encourage Abrams to play his accordingly. In three-years’ time I want to write about how I could feel Abrams commitment to me, the viewer, the fan to taking me back…A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. J.J. Abrams, may the Force be with you.