Erin Manzo writes for Bleeding Cool,
Recently, I was given the opportunity to interview Kevin Conroy, THE Batman. I have here provided for you the audio, a summarized transcript, and my thoughts (to the best of my recollection) during the process, as well as a general account of the events leading up to the event. Enjoy.
I received an email stating that Kevin Conroy would be calling at a specific time the following morning. I fan-girled. I sent texts to friends. I made a Facebook post.
I went to bed at a reasonably decent hour, for me (read: before 5AM).
The next morning, I woke up early, warned family members to be quiet or face my mighty wrath, had some water, and was stricken with a horrible thought:
What if he doesn't call? What if Batman stands me up?
Okay, calm down.
But, another email came, saying that I must now call a number at a particular time, and THEN I would interview Batman Kevin Conroy. I anxiously awaited the designated Bat-time.
I am calling Batman. Holy crap. I'm just going to dial a number in my phone, and have a chat with Batman. No big deal, I can breathe, it's cool.
I made sure the recorder I'd borrowed from my friend was working, reviewed my notes, took a deep breath, and dialed.
I was transferred to a conference line, where someone else was finishing up their interview, and was told I was next. As I listened to the end of the other reporter's interview:
Oh FFS, he's asked about BvS. OF COURSE he's asked about BvS. Alright, fine, one less thing I have to ask since I already know the answer.
(Note: the dialogue hereout is summarized unless otherwise noted. For exact quotes, feel free to listen to the audio.)
Conroy: Batman doesn't kill, and it was unfortunate that they crossed that line in Batman v Superman. Ben Affleck and Henry Cavelle gave fantastic performances though.
*Questions I don't really consider relevant between previous reporter and Conroy happen here*
OH SWEET MOTHER OF GOD IT'S MY TURN.
*Kevin Conroy says hi to me by name*
Extremely Awkward Reporter Me: says hi, says hi again, seriously uses the words "Oh goodness," thanks Batman Kevin, and gets started with the actual interview.*
Slightly More Together Me: If you could voice any character from any genre, cartoon, video game, or otherwise, who would it be?
Me: BESIDES BATMAN.
Conroy: *proceeds to list reasons why Batman is awesome*
*eventually says he loves playing Joker too, but acknowledges he's not as good at it as Mark Hamill is*
Me: Did you like Batman as a child? Were you a childhood Batman fan?
Conroy: *tells story that eventually leads to him talking about how Batman is basically Hamlet and also he went to Juliard, notes that comic books are our culture's mythology, briefly mentions that he didn't read comics as a kid*
Me: So, when did you read your first comic then?
Conroy: (Direct quote) …I, um, I didn't read a lot of comics as a kid. I had kind of an odd childhood, because… my father's an incredibly dark alcoholic, and incredibly cheap, so there was not a lot of…frivolity around that house. I did not have a lot of comic books. It was just not something we were allowed to indulge in. We went to Catholic schools and it was a very strict, a very strict childhood, with a lot of alcohol in the family. So it was not a, how shall I say, a rosy childhood. *laughter* So there weren't a lot of comic books.
Oh my God, I broke Batman. Holy shit, I am a horrible human being.
Me: So, um, as an adult, when did you read your first comic?
Conroy: Mark Hamill is a comic book genius and he brings me up to speed on everything. We have a great trust, I've gotten to know him and his family.
Me: Lighter tone, easy question, for the love of all that is good in this world
So…what do you like to do in your spare time?
Conroy: I paint, I work in oils, and I rebuild old houses.
Me: I didn't know you painted!
Conroy: I should put some of my paintings online or something.
Conroy: I haven't because I'm just a hobby painter…
You're MF'ing Batman, you show off your painting skills, man!
Me: Of all the incarnations of Batman that you've voiced, which one is your favorite?
Conroy: You made me think of something. We were shooting in Hawaii and the Viet Cong were attacking all around us and the cast would laugh because there were bombs going off, and there's Kevin over there painting…I'm sorry, what was the question?
HE REALLY IS BATMAN, BUT MAYBE MORE ARTISTICALLY INCLINED BECAUSE I DON'T THINK BATMAN PAINTS BUT WOW HE'S A BADASS.
KC: BTAS, and Mask of the Phantasm. It explores the origin of his oath to his parents, because he begs them at their grave to release him because he's fallen in love, and he realizes he can't be. He really is doomed to this life that he's chosen.
Me: Speaking of Batman falling in love, who's your favorite of his romantic interests?
I will be an adult and not mention that I am a Catwoman cosplayer. I will be a PROFESSIONAL adult and not mention that I am a Catwoman cosplayer. Adult. Profesional. Yes.
Kevin Conroy, Breaker of My Heart: Well…there's been a lot of…tension…with a number of the romantic interests. Barbara Gordon is the one he ultimately slips with in TKJ, but I think the one he ultimately becomes closest with is the one in Mask of the Phantasm voiced by Dana Delaney. (Andrea Beaumont) Catwoman, he's always attracted to…there's always a sort of a sexual tension between Batman and the women.
*Mentally re-enacts the melting scene from Amelie, only in a Catwoman costume*
Me: Do you enjoy being "The Batman Guy" or is that sometimes sort of frustrating?
Conroy: Oh God no! He's a wonderful character to play, there are so many levels to him. It's not like being Superman.
Heh. This pleases me.
He wears his heart on his sleeve, even though he doesn't show a lot of emotion; he supresses a lot of emotion.
Me: Who is your favorite live action Batman?
Conroy: That's really hard. I like that WB didn't just choose one. It was smart to see how different people would approach the role. Mark is THE Joker, and then Heath Ledger came along and nailed it. Not better, but different.
Me: I've heard you criticize, albeit fairly and very kindly, the Christian Bale Batman Voice.
KC: *laughter and screaming* That's the problem with the internet! If you say one thing, it haunts you forever!
Me: No! Like I said you were very nice and very fair about it! But there is a portion of DC's fanbase that has become fanatical. They respond aggressively to any and all criticism of DC. And you're probably exempt, I think you get a pass. But what do you think of these so-called "DC-fanboys" who, by the way, think there's a conspiracy among critics to favor Marvel and over-criticize DC?
Conroy: Oh really?
Batman: (Direct quote) Well, there's always a little bit of paranoia in the internet, I guess. You have to respect that people have different opinions about things! I mean, when I said that about Christian Bale, I also said that he was the best at the Bruce Wayne character, but that never gets quoted…But his Bruce Wayne was fantastic, he was perfectly cast. I don't know, the internet is a very dangerous place. There are all these camps that are formed, people become tribes on the internet. You're either with us or against us, and if you're against us, you're the villains and you're the enemy. You've got to accept the fact that everyone has lots of opinions and all opinions are valid, and that's a democracy, right? Everyone's allowed to have an opinion. It doesn't make you "the enemy" or "evil." People have got to learn to be more tolerant, or remember that we used to be more tolerant before we became so vulcanized on the internet. Does that make sense?
Me: Yes, I agree, people like to hear echo chambers.
How do you feel about the backlash over changes made in The Killing Joke?
KC: I think people aren't thinking that through completely.
Me: Do you think the changes they made diminished Barbara's strength at all?
KC: Some of my female Twitter followers have voiced anxiety about Barbara being weakened. (Direct quote) The weakness in that story isn't in Barbara. The weakness is in Bruce Wayne and Batman. He knows he's wounded. He knows he's incapable of the kind of intimacy Barbara wants, but he knows he wants it. And he needs it. But he knows he's incapable of it. And in a moment of weakness he goes there, because he's a man! A lot of people have interpreted it as a weakness in Barbara (…) it's not! She's deeply in love! She's being human! Her emotional response is the appropriate one. Batman's is the one that's screwed up. He's the dark, broody, incapable of human response character, and he's warning her, and trying to keep her away. But she's in love.
*I'm told that's all the time we have, and wrap up the interview*
Honestly, I came away from this looking at the Killing Joke additions in a different light. Kevin raised an excellent point in questioning who exactly was made to look weaker through the changes. And yes, I was overly excited and borderline swooning, but the not-Batman, real Kevin Conroy, was a pleasure to speak with, and I was delighted to find him a kind, extremely intelligent human being (even if he does have wrong opinions about Batman's ultimate love interest.) Maybe sometimes it's okay to meet your heroes afterall.
If you take anything away from the interview, let it be this: Batman wants you to calm down on the overly aggressive DC defending. Other people have opinions, and that's okay. If someone doesn't like the same things you do, that doesn't make them wrong, or any less of a fan of the source material. And if you're that "hardcore" of a DC fan, you should probably listen to Kevin Conroy, right?