I feel like there was a bit of a sophomore slump for Wizard World Des Moines in 2016. The first year saw heavy hitters like William Shatner, Billy Dee Williams, Lou Ferrigno, Robert Englund and several others.
This year the biggest name draw was probably Chloe Bennet from “Agents of SHIELD.” That’s not a slight to her, she’s the star of a popular (and current) series, but it doesn’t quite measure up to having the captains of the Enterprise and the Millenium Falcon in Des Moines.
Luckily, I’m more interested in the comic creators, and it was great to be able to meet Peter David and Colleen Doran for the first time, as well as see Iowa creators like Phil Hester and Ant Lucia. But there was one celebrity I wanted to meet at this year’s con: Kevin Conroy.
You may not know Conroy’s name, and you probably wouldn’t recognize his face, but I guarantee you know his voice if you’ve watched almost any Batman TV show or video game in the last 20+ years.
He was the voice of Batman/Bruce Wayne on “Batman: The Animated Series,” “Batman Beyond” and “Justice League.” He reprised the role for the “Arkham” series of video games as well as a number of animated films, including the upcoming adaptation of Alan Moore’s “The Killing Joke.”
When I read a Batman comic, it’s Conroy’s voice I hear. I would have jumped at the chance to meet him anyway, but I had a question I had to ask.
A dozen or so years ago, my friend Steve was doing some editing work in grad school. One of the books he had helped out on was Conroy’s autobiography. I was excited to read it, and anxiously awaited its release.
I’m still waiting for it.
So Friday night I met up with Conroy at his booth and asked him about it. He got a surprised look on his face, like he hadn’t been thought about it for years. He told me that it had been picked up by a publisher, then the market changed.
“Everyone loved it, they said it was very well written, and ‘If you were George Clooney, we could sell it.'”
On Saturday Conroy and Loren Lester, the voice of Robin on BTAS, were part of a panel at the convention. I took some notes, here are some highlights:
On whether they had any idea of the lasting impact BTAS would have:
Conroy: None of us knew what a landmark show it would be or what we were getting into. We recorded our voices, then they spent six months animating it. They brought Mark Hamill and me back for ADR to sync up with the finished animation and our jaws hit the floor. I said to him “Did you have any idea this is what we were doing?
An audience member asked if either has ever had the opportunity to meet one of the big screen Batmen or Robins (other than Adam West, who voiced the Grey Ghost on BTAS):
Conroy: I think what you’re asking is if any of them have ever had the chance to meet the real Batman and Robin.
There were several questions that basically boiled down to “What’s your favorite Batman comic book?” Conroy’s answer was interesting:
Conroy: Let me tell you a terrible secret about Kevin Conroy: you probably know more about the Batman universe than I do. I was a New York actor and went to the west coast to do a cold audition. I had never done an animated series before and my only exposure to Batman was the Adam West series.
they told me “Think film noir, 40’s New York, dark.” I said “You’re doing Hamlet! This is heavy stuff!” I used that and my theater training to really get into the character’s head.
He also talked a bit about his roommate at Juliard, Robin Williams:
Conroy: People thought he was a savant of improvisational characters that just came out of the blue. What he would really do is hone and work through each of those characters. I would hear him at night, having conversations between different characters. I thought we had a whole family living with us!
He was developing all these characters in our dorm so that he had a library of characters. He was always working on them. Preparation is so much of acting. Nothing is accidental