Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Batman's voice

Batman is widely known as a character that has many faces and many different portrayals, but he also has many voices as well. While it's obviously impossible to hear the voice while reading the comic books, the voice did have some pretty consistent descriptions within the stories and was also changing in time along with the character

At first the voice was referenced but not described. Since it was referenced in specific manners ("Then a voice...Batman's voice!") it most likely meant it's something distinctive 

The voice wasn't really described or specified until the Silver Age.

The 60's Batman voice was described multiple times as calm, and sometimes as masterful (skillfull, controlling). This is exactly the voice Adam West used in his portrayal of Batman in the 1960s TV series, reflecting the comic books of the time. It's somewhat important to note that the idea of changing of the voice from regular Wayne's to Batman's wasn't really referenced at that point, therefore not really existing yet and not utilized in the series.

One of the first references of the voice changing was in Detective Comics #532 in which Batman changes/hardens his voice so Vicky won't recognize him

When usually described as calm, Batman's voice in the comics was often referred to as 'cold' in the 80's starting with 1980's Untold Legends of Batman. He was also described as softly muttering, or in other words - whispering

More examples. Panels below from 1985's Detective Comics #550 and 1989's Secret Origins Special #1 where it's also described specifically as whisper

The cold whisper is the voice used in Tim Burton's Batman movies by Michael Keaton, which of course reflected the 80's portrayal of the Bat-voice. The movie also marked the first time in any sort of mass media where Batman had a different voice than Bruce Wayne

In Joel Schumacher movies neither of the actors changed their voices when in costumes, however note that in the 1950's portrayal that the Schumacher's movies were harking back to Batman wasn't changing his voice yet

In 1990's the Batman voice changed. It was now more rough and growling. Here we have an example of the bat-voice being likened to frosted razors

That roughness of the voice stayed in the comics and was later described multiple times as being as hard as steel

In later issues it was further described as deep and rough (panel from Batman #530)

The more recent issues likened his voice to Clint Eastwood's

This is the voice used by Christian Bale in Christopher Nolan's Batman movies, reflecting the most modern and recent depiction of Batman's voice
After the movies the bat-voice was specifically referred to as 'growl' in some issues

An almost sole credit for research goes to SilverNemesis


  1. Christian Bale's Bat-voice is the most underrated thing ever. Sure many times in TDK it's too much, too over the top and too effect-laden. But those times are way fewer than all the brilliant Bat-voice moments of his from both BB and TDK.

    I will also add that I really enjoy and appreciate Keaton and Conroy a lot. But they both get their fair share of praise. And none of them has reached the brilliance of the best Bale Bat-voice moments. Then again none of them has reached the awkward lows of Bale Bat-voice moments either.

    But all in all I prefer an uneven but at the best times brilliant voice to the more constantly great ones.

    I really hope Bale can find more dynamics and differences according to situations in TDKR, if so he will be the definitive Bat-voice for me personally.

    I also blame the effect guys for some of the worst moments of TDK when it comes to the Bat-voice.

    Anyway, excellent post as always.

  2. Bale's voice doesnt bother me like it does other people. Its the way he opens his mouth ridiculously wide that ruins it for me

  3. Replies
    1. Well, your ass is hilarious!

  4. ''I also blame the effect guys for some of the worst moments of TDK when it comes to the Bat-voice.''

    Actually blame Nolan since he is responsible, as he did okay the the final product in post production.

  5. I can see what Bale is trying to do, but it's a bit too affectatious at times. The change should be more subtle, with less effort.

  6. It's not actually Bale's voice when he's Batman, its a post-production thing done by Nolan himself to sound more 'gritty'.

  7. I like Bale's voice. I think people dont like it because they got so used to the whispery voice of Conroy and Keaton and now after all these years any change would feel a little off

  8. No people don't like because often times it sounds silly and out of place, not really because people are more used to 'whispery' interpretation of Keaton, or Conroy.

    Its sounds a like really sloppy Clint Eastwood impersonation with a soar throat.

  9. Bale took the most artistic risk with his interpretation of the voice, so on those merits alone he's my favorite. Whether it alienates certain viewers, whatever, I never found it over the top or goofy. He's trying to potray a monster to Gotham, is that any less "silly" than a dude in Bat-suit merely whispering? Either you're full in or full out with the theatricality angle. The voice was only slightly enhanced in TDK, people act like it's been super edited and changed. It's not all that significantly different from BEGINS. They just added more bass to it, and a bit more "boom" ... the fact his voice has been so replicated (Watchmen, Green Lantern, TV shows) ... pretty much has been established as an iconic version of Batman's voice, which is an expression of his rage and demonic like qualities. If the voice is silly, why isn't the mere fact of a man standing there in a bat costume not silly? Oxymoron a bit much? Bale's been the best actor, BY FAR to play the role. Easily the most talented of all those actors. He's virtually a modern day equivelent to Robert DeNiro.

  10. There's a moment in Knightfall where Tim tells Jean-Paul to use that "hoarse, grating voice Bruce uses" just before Robin and the new Batman meet Gordon for the first time.

  11. Yeah but in that case I think it was a reference to Bruce's sickness. At that point Bruce has been literally sick from Epstein Barr syndrome and there were several references to that describing him as moving differently and sounding sick. So I think in this instance he was describing Batman's sick voice

  12. GothamStreets,

    Batman's been described as having an animalistic growl, Clint Eastwood on steroids type voice, for YEARS prior to Bale's actual potrayl of the voice as Batman. I know for a fact it's described as a growl in YEAR ONE. To me it has always made more sense then a normal voice, or a faint whisper. Not only to protect the identity, but because it's full on theatricality, and like the Batman identity itself ... it's the conduit to his repressed rage from childhood.

  13. "Batman's been described as having an animalistic growl, Clint Eastwood on steroids type voice, for YEARS prior to Bale's actual potrayl of the voice as Batman. I know for a fact it's described as a growl in YEAR ONE."

    Absolutely. I hope the article doesnt make it sound like I say otherwise

    1. While the panel about Batman trying to sound like Clint Eastwood is a nice reference, it differs a bit from the "growl" as it's described in the comics. Additionally, that panel is from Frank Miller's All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, which has never been canon.

      Great article, though. I love the work that you do here.

  14. Keaton has the best Batman voice. Bale's sounds like a campy parody of it. BTW, in BATMAN FOREVER, Kilmer does do the Keaton voice for the first half of the movie, then drops it, speaking in his own voice for the second half.

  15. this comment section is a list of contradictory opinions presented as fact.

    bale has the best voice. keaton has the best voice. bale's voice is silly.

  16. Bale's voice in Batman Begins was good, but in Dark Knight was a little too much, at some points almost sounding like a parody of himself. I hope he's toned it down at least a little for DKR.

  17. The ONLY times in TDK where his voice even comes close to deserving the criticism it gets is when he's meant to be physically exhausted and out of breath, as in the Prewitt building finale. Throughout the rest of the film there is a great sound to it. It's not the most audibly pleasing thing, but that's not the point.

    The thing that irks me is how literally people take the parodies, as if that's what he actually sounds like. That's ridiculous. There's nothing wrong with having some fun with the things we like, but when people start acting as if that's reality it's plainly indicative of a mere hater, nothing more. When someone makes THAT much out of something as simple as a VOICE, I feel like there's more to it than them actually having a problem with it. I feel like they are, for whatever reason, just trying to bring Bale's great performance down.

    Fact is, to this point at least, Bale has given the most complete, most interesting, and most recognizable performance of the character on film. Add to that the physicality and intensity he has brought in and you really can't help but appreciate that they found the perfect man for the role. I understand that people have preferences regarding "their Batman", but I think it's pretty moronic to think that Bale has done anything other than a great job with the role.

  18. I think Kevin Konroy had the best Bat-voice

  19. I think Christian Bale had the best Bat-voice.

  20. He toned it down a bit for The Dark Knight Rises. Perhaps 1/10 less of a growl, not the growl bothers me much anyway.

  21. Bale had the most source-material-faithful Bat-voice.

    But Conroy really made the Bat-voice his own (thanks to BTAS, the video games, the animated movies).

    I appreciate BOTH greatly :)

  22. Correction: Val Kilmer did change his voice for Batman -- "deeper," which differentiated from his "softer" Bruce Wayne voice.

  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

  24. "The voice used by Christian Bale in Christopher Nolan's Batman movies, reflecting the most modern and recent depiction of Batman's voice.

    After the movies the bat-voice was specifically referred to as 'growl' in some issues. Here is an actual panel where it's said "that growl in your voice!"

    So again Bales voice was dead on perfect. IF you want to look at the comics as a way to see what they took from there to the movies than that is a mute point to even bring up.. That's where people fail in their nit picking of Bale's performance... To me it's pretty clear that ANYONE who complains about his "growl" simply have not read anything past 1990 clearly. Or have a very narrow view on who Batman is, and doesn't want to acknowledge that he's evolved over the last 5 decades.

    People who bitch about Bales voice need to shut their mouths up, and go read the fucking comics.