Vox Daily The Official Voices.com Blog

Batman's Voice : An Exploration of Bruce Wayne's Vocal Alter-Ego

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

April 15, 2009

Comments (29)

batman-logo.jpgBam! Kapow! Zowie!

Have you ever wondered how Batman got his voice?

Discover some interesting things about Batman, the Caped Crusader's voices over the years, and draw some parallels here at Voices.com's VOX Daily.

Voices in Gotham City

When I first started thinking about voice over with regard to Batman, my original thought was to discuss something entirely different, perhaps a tad darker and more speculative. That was before I sparked a conversation on Facebook that quickly changed my focus and pointed me in a different direction.

During the conversation, my attention shifted from the late Heath Ledger's role as The Joker and the potential use of ADR to complete his lines following his tragic death, to the voice of Batman himself and how it has morphed over the years, starting with the televised series starring Adam West (1966), to the 1992 cartoon series with Kevin Conroy, and films ranging from Michael Keaton's smooth portrayal to the polar opposite, otherworldly voice of Batman in The Dark Knight as performed by Christian Bale.

This article, the prelude now being over, is specifically about the various actors, mediums and character voice interpretations that Bruce Wayne / Batman has experienced over the last four decades.

The Original Batman, Adam West

The series "Batman", starring Adam West, first aired in 1966 and ran for 120 episodes, each 30 minutes in duration. It was here that Batman became more than just a comic strip but a vibrant discussion piece around the family dinner table.

My dear friend, Nancy Wolfson, upon hearing that I was writing this article, offered to connect me with Fred Wostbrock of KSR Talent, Adam West's agent, to see if we might be able to learn more about the inner workings of West's Batman and Bruce Wayne.

Adam West, when asked how he differentiated the voices of Batman and Bruce Wayne, shared, "My Batman delivery was more forceful, quick, dynamic, comedic, musing and deductive in tone and rhythm. Whereas my Bruce Wayne was open and seemingly naive and vulnerable. I tried to give him a sound and demeanor as if he were hiding secrets that the audience was really in on. Again, fun for the adults and serious for the kiddies."

My first recollection of Adam West as Batman was through reruns when the series was rebroadcast on YTV in Canada. I loved the innocence and vigor of the show, and when the opportunity arose to include Adam West, I couldn't pass it up.

Kevin Conroy in Batman: The Animated Series

To many, Kevin Conroy is the definitive, quintessential voice of the animated Batman. "Batman" aired in 1992 and ran 85 episodes, each 22 minutes in length.

The voice casting of Kevin Conroy and his epic performances as Batman are legendary, with a number of voice actors citing Conroy's interpretation as their inspiration to become voice actors. In December of 2008, it was announced that Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, the voice of The Joker in Batman: TAS, were invited back to reprise their roles by videogame developer Rocksteady Games in the upcoming, Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Norm Hayden, a voice over talent in the US, relates, "Kevin Conroy is still the definitive Batman voice. Perfect casting."

In accordance, American voice talent, Jim Feldman offered, "Kevin Conroy really hits it out of the park. He definitely gives the impression that Bruce Wayne and Batman are 2 different people... and it doesn't even sound forced."

Batman: The Animated Series has set a number of benchmarks in the minds of those who follow the Batman franchise, even crossing expectations in the realm of film. Belgian voice actor, Philippe Bernaerts noticed a discrepancy between certain roles, noting that the voice casting in TAS was superior to how the characters' vocal performance translated onto the silver screen.

Bernaerts said, "I think the voice-acting, voice-casting and voice-directing on Batman: TAS was outstanding. In fact, Batman: TAS had such outstanding characterization that it made the movies look pale. Thumbs up for Andrea Romano!"

Diedrich Bader in Batman: The Brave and The Bold

Andrea Romano cast more than one Batman cartoon, including, "Batman The Brave and The Bold", featuring the voice of actor Diedrich Bader, a series based upon the DC comic book of the same name that debuted in 1955. So far, there have been about 16 episodes, embarking in 2008 into 2009.

Norm Hayden chimed in, "I think Diedrich Bader is doing a good job as Batman in Batman: The Brave and The Bold. I like the darker Batman myself, but the new show is aimed at younger kids. It's fun and the art design is fantastic."

Reviewer, david929, at IMDb shared, "This cartoon is absolutely fantastic and mind-blowingly good. Sadly, it isn't Batman: TAS, but it doesn't pretend to be either. Instead, it is a perfect blend of modern and retro that doesn't take itself too seriously but is clearly articulate and deliberate... The only reason I'm not giving this wonderful cartoon 10 out of 10 is because it doesn't at all attempt to incorporate Bruce Wayne. I think there could be plenty of opportunities to include something with the comic and clumsy Bruce Wayne that the story writers probably intentionally left out to further the dichotomy between this show and our old and beloved Batman: TAS."

Batman in Film

Most of us probably don't think much about how Bruce Wayne / Batman's voices differ in film because we are so focused on the action, but if you've been paying attention over the years, each actor has brought their own interpretation to the cinematic version of this troubled hero.

Christian Bale's Batman

Of all the Batmans, I would say that Christian Bale has stood out most for his vocal interpretation above all others, perhaps because his creative choices became very different in The Dark Knight from previous Batmans. When you do something differently and break the mould, people take note, and, they also take sides.

I have read a number of articles about Bale's Batman voice, and while it is admittedly more gruff, scary and intense than previous Batman voices, it does match the setting, both physical and literal, that Christopher Nolan set for his films Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

Dave Kendricken's article "Defending Christian Bale's Batman Voice" is extremely interesting and a worthwhile read. He discusses much of what I said a paragraph ago but in far greater detail, specifically:

"The Batman of Nolan's films strives to be a shadowy, stealthy, ghostly apparition of unflinching justice and a symbol of dread to any and all criminals. To those he ambushes, Batman exists as a terrifying entity that cannot be killed, harmed, or pinned down. Using the disorientation he creates with his physical skills, Batman completes the psychological effect on criminals by using the harsh yell."

The Huffington Post took a different angle altogether, offering the Associated Press' observation, "Why does Batman talk like the offspring of Clint Eastwood and a grizzly bear?"

True, Bale did reach deep into his lower register to create the voice, but I've also heard that there may have been some audio engineering at work, too. Sarah F. Sullivan, featured on Associated Content, was quick to note the following, "While the voice is completely Bale's, director Christopher Nolan and supervising sound editor Richard King adjusted the voice, exaggerating it through modulation."

Fans apparently thought that Bale's voice lacked a certain "meatiness" in the first movie so extra measures were taken to ensure that it surpassed the previous interpretation with a deeper, darker, raspier and eerier sound.

Sullivan went on to say, "Looking back at the history of Batman films, Christian Bale is the first Batman to fully alter his voice between Bruce Wayne and his alter-ego. While Michael Keaton's voice as Batman was different from Bruce Wayne's, they were still close enough to make the connection. Val Kilmer and George Clooney did little to modify their voices for the character."

Michael Dobson in Batman: Black and White

Last but not least, Batman: Black and White, available exclusively on Apple iTunes! I happened to cover this series on Voice Over Times a while ago.

Released in 2008, the collection consists of animated adaptations of ten short stories bundled into five episodes. Batman: Black and White takes place in and around Gotham City featuring Batman and a number of villains including Harvey Dent (Two-Face) to name just one.

Each story was written and told from the unique perspective of different writers and artists presenting their own interpretation and spin on the world of Batman with voice actor Michael Dobson performing multiple roles in addition to Batman including the voices of Alfred, Joker, Thomas Wayne, Doctor Rubin, Ahmet, Winsor Munsell, David Thompson, and the Scientist.

Final Thoughts

As we have just seen, Batman, and the numerous interpretations of his voice, have been of great interest and yielded much debate. I think what we can all agree on though is that this interesting topic is a healthy thing for the voice acting community to explore and warrants further discussion.

Any Comments?

Whether you'd like to discuss your favorite Batman voice, talk about the article in general or compare Batman voices, I welcome your comments below!

Thank you in advance for joining the conversation.

Best wishes,

Stephanie

Related Topics: Adam West, Apple, Batman, Brave, Bruce Wayne, cartoons, Christian Bale, Diedrich Bader, Kevin Conroy, TV, voice acting, voices


Comments


    Greetings, all...
    What a tremendous article! Being an old comics collector ( I loved the old Marvel titles which are now box-office gold) I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion. Batman has always been DC Comics most intriguing hero, hence all the productions and interpretations. Which leads me to my next question(s). Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk and other Marvel franchise titles have been the subject of poor (does anyone remember the old 'hand held' animated stories of the late sixties?)animation and big screen, big bucks productions. Would anyone know or remember some of the actors involved with those Marvel series'?
    Oh, by the way...Thanks to Christian Bale for making the Dark Knight...well...dark!

    Posted by:

      Great article, Stephanie! Batman may have many gadgets and tools in his utility belt, but the one tool he uses the most -- and the one many people usually overlook -- is his voice.

      Posted by:

        I'm a big fan of Adam West and think his was the best by far!

        Posted by:

          For the free online audiodrama podcast Batman: The Ace of Detectives (http://www.pendantaudio.com/batman.php), I take into consideration a bunch of actors who have donned the great cape and cowl - Adam West, Michael Keaton, Kevin Conroy and Christian Bale all have influenced my reading of the character. But I would have to say my biggest influence was voice artist Bob Sessions, who played the role in the oneshot Audo Drama release Batman: The Complete Knightfall Saga.

          In episode 110 of the Pendant behind-the-scenes show This Week In Pendant, also available free from the Pendant Audio site, I give a more detailed interview of my take on the legendary character. I can honestly say it's been an honor and a priveledge to lend my voice to such an internationally known and beloved icon.

          Posted by:

            Thanks for this outstanding article Stephanie. I'm happy I got quoted. As I recall, the conversation on Facebook went on forever. And yes, interesting conversations about interesting topics with people who also have an interest in the subject are the very things that make the internet the most interesting place in the galaxy.

            Posted by:

              I have to agree with those who dislike Batman's voice in The Dark Knight. It was too forced, too fakey. It appeared that Bale was physically struggling to get that voice out. Worst of all, it called attention to itself. It got noticed as a separate thing, jarringly dissonant compared to the reality of the moment it was in.

              In the previous previous movie there was a great moment where Bale as Batman yelled "DO I LOOK LIKE A COP?!??" to some petty crook. That was not only perfectly apt but genuinely scary. Batman seemed angry, provoked and outraged that anyone would take him as a typical police officer. In short, the emotion was *real* and so did the voice. That, IMHO, was a far better performance.

              Posted by:

                This was a great article, Stephanie.

                My personal favorite is Kevin Conroy. Not just because I grew up watching the show but because his Batman has "evolved" over time. Granted, he's spent the most time in Gotham (nearly twenty years now).

                When you watch the early B:TAS episodes you can spot a vocal difference in his Batman/Bruce voice from the way the portays the character(s) now.

                Nowadays his Batman is scarier and (depending on the project) his Bruce has grown colder. I've often wondered if this was intentional to reflect Batman's/Bruce's continued decent into a darker world (as he does in the comics).

                Posted by:
                • Jakari Jackson
                • April 15, 2009 8:21 PM

                  Excellent article! Thanks!!!

                  Posted by:
                  • Norm Hayden
                  • April 15, 2009 9:23 PM

                    Wonderfully well scribed, Steph.
                    So happy to have helped connect.
                    Lovely way to honor a legend & also a true gentleman.
                    Thxxx!

                    Posted by:

                      As a HUGE Batman fan I have to say I very much enjoyed reading this article. Batman is one of those Superheroes where the voice is really prominent, and it was fun to read about the different takes actors have had on it through the years. :D

                      Posted by:

                        That's a top article, Stephanie!

                        I'm with Barry - I didn't like Bale's Batman voice in the Dark Knight. It was really overdoing the current 'gruff and gravelly' hero/villain trend, that has been cruising around Hollywood. For actors who can't comfortably get that low and achieve that tone, it can be really hard to understand them. I find myself trying to figure out the lines, rather than watching the movie!

                        Posted by:

                          Stephanie,
                          Thanks for another great article! In the late 1960's, I was a kid...just the right age to get totally immersed in Bat-mania. Back then-Batman was on TWICE a week(Kinda like today's American Idol), and one show was a cliffhanger, while the following show was the wrap-up.
                          While my preference will ALWAYS be the Adam West Batman, I have come to appreciate the on-screen acting of Michael Keaton, Christian Bale, Val Kilmer, and others.
                          I'm reminded of BATMAN every time I drive by a local firehouse here in Manchester NH...where there's a bat-signal prominently displayed on the side of the firehouse!
                          ...TO THE BATCAVE, ROBIN!

                          Posted by:

                            From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

                            Batman was a 15-chapter serial released in 1943 by Columbia Pictures. The serial starred Lewis Wilson as Batman and Douglas Croft as Robin. J. Carrol Naish played the villain, an original character named Dr. Daka. Rounding out the cast were Shirley Patterson as Linda Page (Bruce Wayne's love interest), and William Austin as Alfred. The plot is based on Batman, a US government agent, attempting to defeat the Japanese agent Dr. Daka, at the height of World War II.

                            The film is notable for being the first filmed appearance of Batman and for providing two core elements of the Batman mythos. The film introduced "The Bat's Cave" and the Grandfather clock entrance. The name was altered to the Batcave in the comic. William Austin had a trim physique and sported a thin mustache. The contemporary comic Alfred was overweight and clean-shaven prior to this serial's release. The comics version of Alfred was altered to match that of Austin's. This is the way he is usually portrayed now. The popularity of a re-release of this serial in the 1960s, called An Evening with Batman and Robin, directly lead to the Batman television series starring Adam West and Burt Ward.

                            The film's plot dealt with Batman and Robin's struggle against Dr. Daka, a Japanese spy who invented a device that turns people into pseudo-zombies.

                            Cast
                            Lewis Wilson as Batman/Bruce Wayne
                            Douglas Croft as Robin/Richard 'Dick' Grayson
                            J. Carrol Naish as Dr. Tito Daka/Prince Daka
                            Shirley Patterson as Linda Page
                            Production
                            The film was made at the height of World War II, and like numerous works of popular American fiction of the time, contains anti-Japanese racial slurs and comments (in one scene, one of Daka's henchmen turns on him, saying, "That's the kind of answer that fits the color of your skin."). The film also suffered from a low budget, just like other contemporary serials. No attempt was made to create a bona fide Batmobile, so a black Cadillac was used by Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, as well as Batman and Robin. Alfred chauffered the Dynamic Duo in both identities.

                            While many serials made changes during adaptation, to the extent that they were "often 'improved' almost out of recognition", Batman "fared better than most" and the changes were minor. A normal limousine replaced the Batmobile, the utility belts are present but unused and Batman is a secret government agent in this serial instead of an independent vigilante. This last change was due to the film censors, who would not allow the hero to be seen taking the law into his own hands.[1]

                            Several continuity errors occur in the serial, such as Batman losing his cape in a fight but wearing it again after the film only briefly cut away.[1]

                            Press releases announced it as a "Super Serial" and it was Columbia's largest-scale serial production to date. The studio gave it publicity campaign equivalent to a feature film.

                            Posted by:

                              Hi Everyone,

                              Thank you for your comments and sharing your Batman memories!

                              Roy, thank you for pointing out that entry from Wikipedia. It was certainly the forerunner of what we know Batman to be today, stemming from the iconic Batman series of the '66. It's interesting to hear.

                              Any other comments? Looking forward to continuing the conversation!

                              Best,

                              Stephanie

                              Posted by:

                                "Batman was a 15-chapter serial released in 1943 by Columbia Pictures. The serial starred Lewis Wilson as Batman and Douglas Croft as Robin."

                                How many people know that James Bond producer (and step son to Albert R. Broccoli) Michael G. Wilson, was the son of Lewis Wilson, the first screen Batman?

                                Posted by:

                                  Stephanie,
                                  What a marvelous and interesting article. You brought up questions and insight that I have only wondered about quietly to myself.

                                  Seth MacFarlane discovered Adam's talents too and I laugh every time I see him portray the mayor of Quahog. What a guy.

                                  Thanks Stephanie!

                                  JG

                                  Posted by:

                                    Hi Johnny,

                                    Thank you for commenting :) I will be writing another article about Adam West and his recent work in animation voice over. He's got quite the list of credits in that field now! It's very exciting.

                                    Best,

                                    Stephanie

                                    Posted by:

                                      I understand that Christian Bale's interpretation is more vicious or aggressive sounding. When comparing Michael Keaton's to his, it's like Bruce Banner to the Hulk. Personally, I don't like Christian's because, especially after the last film, he sounds like he could sing for a death metal band. I would think, a deeper, non-distinguishable, yet bone-chilling tone and delivery would make an excellent Dark Knight!

                                      Posted by:
                                      • Howard Yates
                                      • April 16, 2009 12:50 PM

                                        Funny thing is, I never looked at it so much as a vocal acting choice as a deliberate character choice by the writer.

                                        If you watch closely in the first Bale film, there's a schematic/tech rendering of a "voice modulator" in his stack of "toys to be built". It's a blink of the eye moment, but it's there. It basically sits on his throat and gives him the guttural quality needed to enhance Batman's rep and exploit the "criminals are a cowardly, superstitious lot" mindset.

                                        Posted by:

                                          An interesting and well-researched article, Stephanie, and it inspired the geek in me to do a blog in response to the unmentioned Batman performances in your article:

                                          http://voiceactors.wordpress.com/2009/04/16/vox-daily-blogs-about-batman-voices/

                                          Posted by:

                                            Hi Craig,

                                            Thanks for mentioning my article and also for catching Bat Fever along with the rest of us! I also enjoyed reading what you thought of other Batman performances that were not included at VOX Daily.

                                            Great job,

                                            Stephanie

                                            Posted by:

                                              I actually wrote a sketch about Christian Bale's voice for the show I work on that you might enjoy: http://g4tv.com/attackoftheshow/videos/35418/Batmans-New-Voice-Over-Career.html

                                              Posted by:
                                              • KR
                                              • April 16, 2009 4:52 PM

                                                This is a fascinating article! And it was an honor that my article was quoted!

                                                Man. . .now I want to write more about Batman! :)

                                                Posted by:
                                                • Sarah F. Sullivan
                                                • May 21, 2009 11:49 AM

                                                  Nice article. Being a huge Batman fan, I have often marveled at the varying vocal interpretations of Gotham's vigilante and his alter ego -- both those I liked and those I didn't. Conroy's voice epitomizes it for me. The gentle humor he brings to Wayne versus the intensity of Batman without any jarring alteration to the voice is superb. Bale has grown on me -- though the modulation draws a little too much attention to itself. West, though...he stands alone as the most "fun" Batman ever. What about a similar article on the various vocal interpretations of The Joker??? Mark Hamill is amazing here. Why not compare the vocal nuances of his performance to Burgess Meredith, Heath Ledger...and...who else am I missing? Off the google, I am!

                                                  Posted by:

                                                    Hey all,

                                                    As an old-time radio fan, I can recommend the Caped Crusader's guest appearances on the 1940's "Adventures of Superman" radio program, featuring performers Matt Crowley, Stacy Harris, and, perhaps more notably, Gary Merrill in the role--look the episodes up, if you can, they are pretty entertaining!

                                                    Dan

                                                    Posted by:

                                                      yes bruce wayne is the most "human" superheroes of all,he can fall asleep,he needs to eat,he doesn't has any superpower ability...but the thing is ..he has a lot of toys !the combination of his gadget and his brain is just great !thats why he could outsmart DARKSEID ...

                                                      Posted by:

                                                        Jeremy Sisto was a great Batman in Justice League: New Frontier. But for me, the most iconic voice for Bats is Conroy. I was pleasantly surprised by Diedrich Bader.

                                                        Posted by:
                                                        • Adam Luckey
                                                        • November 18, 2011 2:00 PM

                                                          ADAM WEST !! ! !!! ! !!!!

                                                          Posted by:
                                                          • richard dejonge
                                                          • November 18, 2011 6:50 PM

                                                            Yet another example of how the voice is integral to the entire project.

                                                            Posted by:

Leave a Comment



Recent Articles

The 3 Things Voice Pros Can Learn From Sir Jony Ive

Don Pardo's Final Voice Lesson

iPhone 6, 6 Plus & Apple Watch: Studio On The Go for Voice Pros

Apple iWatch Could Drive Voice Over Market

How Localization Unlocks Business Growth Potential

Are You a Self-Made Voice Over Actor?

Slate In Character Or Don't Slate At All

Most Common Languages Other Than English and Spanish Spoken in the US

Who's the Voice on the MLB Perfect Inning App?

Dissolve: The Rest Is History

   

Translation Services

Professional Translation Services

Looking for professional translation? Voices.com Translations is provides language services including translation and localization to help you expand into new markets

Get a quote on translation services

Subscribe by Email

About Vox Daily

Vox Daily offers a daily dose of voice acting news, articles, tutorials, interviews, intelligent conversation and business ideas for voice talent and voice actors.


Follow Us

   

Our feed & social options update you with special offers and news as it happens.

New YouTube Video

Watch videos on YouTube