For the past 30 years, Batman has been played by many people, but the sound of Batman has been defined by one man: Kevin Conroy. He first took on the role of Batman (and Bruce Wayne) in the classic ’90s TV series Batman: The Animated SeriesHe continued playing the character off and on until his death yesterday, following a brief battle with cancer. Conroy was just 66 years old.

His death was announced on Facebook by voice actress Diane Pershing. She worked with Conroy on Batman: The Animated Series, where she played Poison Ivy. “He’s been ill for a while but he really put in a lot of time at the cons, to the joy of all of his fans,” she wrote.

The Julliard-trained Conroy (who was Robin Williams’ roommate while the pair both studied there) got his start in theater and television, but the role he became famous for was his version of Batman. He seemed to capture the very essence of the character, and after Batman: The Animated Series ended, Conroy returned to voice the Dark Knight over and over in shows like Justice League and films like Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, and in video games like the hugely popular Arkham Asylum series. Earlier this year, he voiced Batman yet again in the Warner Bros. fighting game MultiVersus.

In this interview, Conroy reveals he didn’t even want to audition to play Batman. He originally thought he’d be a better Harvey Bullock, because he was the “bigger character.” But then the classically trained actor realized that Batman was, in essence, a grand Greek tragic character. And that was his way into finding his voice.

In tribute, Batman: The Animated Series writer/producer Paul Dini posted this on Twitter:

In a press release from Warner Bros., Mark Hamill — the voice of the Joker on Batman: The Animated Series and the Arkham Asylum games opposite Conroy — had this to say about working with him:

Kevin was perfection. He was one of my favorite people on the planet, and I loved him like a brother. He truly cared for the people around him – his decency shone through everything he did. Every time I saw him or spoke with him, my spirits were elevated ...  It was one of those perfect scenarios where they got the exact right guy for the exact right part, and the world was better for it. His rhythms and subtleties, tones and delivery – that all also helped inform my performance. He was the ideal partner – it was such a complementary, creative experience. I couldn’t have done it without him. He will always be my Batman.

Other people will play Batman in animated television series and movies. But for an entire generation — and for many generations to come — Conroy will remain the voice of that character. He was iconic and indispensable. He will be deeply missed. According to Warner Bros.’ press release, he is survived by his husband Vaughn C. Williams, sister Trisha Conroy, and brother Tom Conroy.

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