Longtime Batman star Kevin Conroy understands why some audiences took issue with the R-rated straight-to-DVD animated adaptation of famed DC Comics graphic novel The Killing Joke.
"It wasn't that I wasn't happy with it, it just was that I was aware of how controversial it was. I appreciated that a lot of people were disturbed. I wasn't, but I just appreciated the fact that people were," Conroy told Red Carpet News TV when asked about mixed feelings over the darker-than-usual tone for an animated Batman project.
"Batman has a very broad audience. It was originally — the first Batman animated series was on prime time on FOX. It was never designed to be a kid's show, but they knew that they were going to have a kid's audience, too. So they had to keep it a very adult show — which it obviously is, with very adult storylines and sophisticated artwork and sophisticated music — but they could never show a child in danger. They had to go by certain standards and practices in the States that you have to respect if you know you're gonna have audiences under 12. You just have to do it."
Conroy, who has voiced the Dark Knight across multiple forms of media for 26 years, took issue with young viewers watching Batman: The Killing Joke despite its adults-only R-rating.
"So The Killing Joke, the issue I had was that — it was a great, mature story for Batman/Joker, but I know that a lot of the audience is still under 12, and that's rough. That's a rough story for people that young," Conroy said.
"And I have a lot of friends who said, 'I love that movie you did, but I'm not gonna let my kids see it for ten years [laughs]. I have it in a box, and he'll see it when he's older.' But no, I didn't have problems with the story, I just understood people who did."
The controversial animated movie came under fire for its depiction of an onscreen sexual relationship between the middle-aged Batman and young crimefighter Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Batgirl (Tara Strong), who is later shot and paralyzed by the Joker (Mark Hamill) in a vicious act meant to terrorize Batman and drive Gotham City Police commissioner Jim Gordon (Ray Wise) mad.
Honest Trailers later took The Killing Joke to task and criticized its handling of the already-controversial iconic 1988 graphic novel by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland and its sexist depiction of Batgirl.
"Warner Bros. is fighting fire with gasoline, by adding even more Batgirl, except now she also gets roofied, flirts with a criminal who is giving her attention, has sex with her boss, complains about men and gets talked down to by a grown man in a batsuit," the Honest Trailers narrator says, "prompting this strong female character to just give up and quit, and only then get victimized in the exact same way as the original source material."
Producer James Tucker told ComicBook.com last April Warner Bros. Animation continues to remain open to producing more R-rated animated features for its line of DC Universe Animated Original Movies.
"I will say this, that they have said that if the content merits the R they'll look into it, they're open to it, which was not something that was a part of the landscape until recently," Tucker said. "I like having that option because there's certain things that you just can't do without being a little edgy, without being a little more violent."