On November 10, 2022, the great Kevin Conroy passed away. According to a Warner Bros. Discovery press release, the cause of death was intestinal cancer. Since most fans didn’t know Conroy even was battling cancer prior to his death, this news understandably came as a shock.
At the time of his passing, Conroy’s most recent voice acting credit for his most famous character, Batman, was for the Super Smash Bros.-like fighting game, MultiVersus. However, ever since Batman Arkham developers Rocksteady Studios announced Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, fans wondered if Conroy would reprise his “Arkhamverse” version of Batman for the game. Given the timeframe, if he was in the game, it would seemingly serve as his final Batman portrayal.
During last night’s Game Awards, Warner Bros. Interactive shared Suicide Squad‘s latest trailer, which not only included a clip of Batman as voiced by Conroy but included a farewell message for the actor. Given the applause, audiences clearly loved hearing Conroy one final time. But one question remains: Is Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League the final Batman role Conroy deserves?
For those who don’t know, Conroy had voiced Batman in various works for the past three decades. He started his legendary run in the beloved ’90s cartoon, Batman: The Animated Series. Conroy’s performance captured the essence of Batman so perfectly that any time someone needed an actor to play the character in a non-live role, Conroy was usually their go-to guy. He reprised Batman in countless cartoons that share continuity with Batman: TAS (including Static Shock, Batman Beyond, and Justice League Unlimited) but Conroy also voiced Batman in unconnected projects. Those include Netherrealm’s Injustice games and Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham series.
When Rocksteady started developing Batman: Arkham Asylum, the studio wanted to create the definitive Batman experience. Since many view Batman: TAS as the quintessential Batman show, Rocksteady hired as many people from the cartoon as they could. Paul Dini was brought on to write the game’s script, while Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Arleen Sorkin were hired to reprise their voice roles of Batman, The Joker, and Harley Quinn, respectively. Their efforts paid off. Batman: Arkham Asylum won numerous industry awards, including the 2010 BAFTA for Best Gameplay and Best Game, and became a must-play hit for comic book fans and gamers alike.
In 2011, Rocksteady released a sequel, Batman: Arkham City. While Arleen Sorkin didn’t return, Conroy, Hamill, and Dini did. As much as gamers loved Arkham Asylum, many adored Arkham City even more. While the game won fewer awards, it received higher review scores and sold over 12 million copies compared to Arkham Asylum’s 9+ million. The Rocksteady and Batman relationship was soon deemed infallible by many, though that optimistic idea was quickly put to the test.
Rocksteady’s last Arkhamverse game was Batman: Arkham Knight: the worst-reviewed game of their trilogy (though not by much). Even if Arkham Knight didn’t quite measure up to its predecessors (largely due to all-time bad technical issues in its PC port), it was still an incredible game that left many dreaming of when Rocksteady would get another chance to return to the Arkhamverse. As such, the Arkhamverse-set Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League had some big shoes to fill even before news of Conroy’s death broke. Now, it carries even more expectations.
Simply put, Suicide Squad is about as unusual of a final Batman performance for Conroy as you could imagine given that Batman is actually only one of the game’s many antagonists. Sure, he’s one of the game’s most famous antagonists, but the subtitle is “Kill the Justice League,” which means gamers will seemingly have to fight the entire Justice League. Given the sheer number of potential villains in the game, it’s likely Rocksteady had to reduce everyone’s spoken lines in order to offer equal attention.
Granted, Conroy might have more lines than the other Justice League members, but he obviously isn’t playing the main character anymore. Best case scenario, Conroy voiced a paltry amount of dialog compared to his roles in the Batman: Arkham games but still enjoys a relatively sizeable role where every one of his lines is pure gold. Even then, some will naturally be disappointed by his comparatively limited appearance. Worst case scenario…well, we know from the latest Suicide Squad trailer that this game will not be afraid to kill off Justice League members and treat them as comedy fodder when needed. As such, there’s a chance the Batman dialogue we heard in that trailer is about as much as we’ll get before Batman is defeated.
Another potential issue with Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is that there’s no guarantee Suicide Squad will measure up to the Batman: Arkham games. Before Arkham Asylum, Rocksteady only had one game to its name: Urban Chaos: Riot Response. If you never heard of it, that’s because the game received fairly average reviews. How Rocksteady went from developing a forgotten FPS to one of the most important licensed franchises of all time is nothing short of a miracle. Studios shifting genres is always a gamble. If for some reason Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League just doesn’t live up to standards from a mechanical or narrative perspective (or worse, both), Conroy’s performance may be diminished by mere association. Most fans will probably be reasonable when separating the two, but some of the more passionate negative reactions to the still-excellent Arkham Knight showed how high Arkhamverse expectations tend to be.
Of course, these are all hypotheticals since nobody in the general public has played Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League yet. For that matter, the team at Rocksteady obviously had no idea that this would be Conroy’s final Batman performance. While there’s no world in which Suicide Squad will negatively impact Conroy’s Batman legacy too severely, it feels fair to say that nobody imagined that the last version of the character Conroy would ever voice would be a supporting villain in a Suicide Squad adventure.
Then again, maybe it’ll be great to hear Conroy voice a different version of the character that might very well remind us why he is often considered to be the very best Batman. For that matter, it will obviously be great to hear Conroy voice Batman one last time regardless of the context. It’s easy to worry that Conroy’s last dance as Batman will not live up to some considerable expectations. Until someone says otherwise, though, we should probably give Rocksteady the benefit of the doubt. Given their work on the Arkham titles, odds are good that Suicide Squad will live up to that franchise’s legacy, and that Kevin Conroy’s performance will serve as a satisfying finale to his tenure as the caped crusader.