Seeing Batman: The Animated Series' First Artwork Was 'Overwhelming' For Kevin Conroy

30 years after its premiere, "Batman: The Animated Series" still undoubtedly serves as the blueprint for adapting the Caped Crusader. Created by Eric Radomski and Bruce Timm, the show took the source material seriously to deliver a Batman that wrestled with his unrelenting search for vengeance. A neo-noir aesthetic filled every frame to the brim with dramatic undertones befitting of the Dark Knight. In contrast to other cartoons, "Batman: The Animated Series" drenched Batman and his enemies in high-contrast lighting to emphasize the darker nature of the project. In fact, it was an art style that proved to be initially overwhelming for the voice actor under the cowl.

It's no secret that the late Kevin Conroy, whose legacy at the Dark Knight stretches far past "The Animated Series," has become the definitive voice of Batman across all mediums. Many have tried their hand at voicing the character (in fact, Conroy was not the first person to voice him on "The Animated Series"), but the legendary performer remains the unparalleled favorite. However, even Batman himself can be impressed. Upon viewing the first artwork for "The Animated Series," Conroy was in pure awe of the neo-noir aesthetic and Shirley Walker's score. He was not alone, of course.

'This is unbelievable!'

In an interview with Dan Allen Gaming in 2021, Kevin Conroy discussed the early days of working on "Batman: The Animated Series," revealing his reaction to viewing the artwork and music that his voice would soon accompany:

"So it was that first ADR session when I first saw what it was going to look like. And I sat there in a studio, Warner Brothers, and this full screen came up, and this color came up, and the full symphony score, and this incredible artwork painted on a black background so everything was so dramatic. I looked at Bruce Timm and I said, 'I had no idea this is what this was gonna look like, this is unbelievable!' So, it was overwhelming to all the actors, really."

I, too, would be overwhelmed seeing "Batman: The Animated Series" for the first time. It says a lot that Conroy, who is now synonymous with the series, was impressed by what he saw before his voice was attached to the titular character. The final product proved to be a perfect combination of talents, from Conroy's voice acting to the distinctly dark tone. However, the neo-noir aesthetic remains a staple representation of what Batman is meant to feel like, and it initially served as a subversive take on the character.

The blueprint for the Dark Knight

Tim Burton's "Batman" had impressed theater audiences with his direction and production design, and arguably led the way for "Batman: The Animated Series," but a cartoon featuring the DC Comics character being anything less than corny was non-existent. Before "Batman: The Animated Series," the Caped Crusader was featured in significantly lighter and brighter shows, including "The Adventures Of Batman" in the late '60s, and subsequently "Super Friends" in the '70s. "The Animated Series" signified a shift in the superhero genre, one that Conroy never expected until he saw just how dark the show would be:

"And I didn't expect it to be so rich. The artwork is so rich. It's all hand-painted, and the colors are so dynamic because it's on that black background, and the style is that deco-noir style. So there was just a richness to it that I didn't really appreciate the way it was going to look."

Not only did "Batman: The Animated Series" launch an entire animated universe, it proved that the World's Greatest Detective was always meant to be taken seriously. That is not to say that Batman is not for kids, but "The Animated Series" understood the potential superhero and his rogues' gallery posed. Briefly put, it's hard to imagine that we would have noir-driven adaptations like Matt Reeves' "The Batman" without it. The legacy of Conroy and "Batman: The Animated Series" never ceases to grow, so it's never too late to witness all three seasons, now available to stream on HBO Max.