One of the main themes of Batman Beyond is the struggle of Terry McGinnis (the new Batman) to live up to legend of Bruce Wayne (who will forever be remembered as the original Batman).
Terry's struggle is one of the more enduring aspects of the show, and it's a shame that the writers never got the chance to answer the question: "Who is the better Batman?" Because the DC Animated Universe ended after Justice League Unlimited.
But with a bit of hindsight and a lot of overanalysis and opining, we can come to that conclusion on our own. Between Terry McGinnis and Bruce Wayne, who was the definitive Batman of the DC Animated Universe era? Let's find out!
Why Bruce Wayne Is a Better Batman
Its hard to argue against the original. Armed only with his wits, a belt of gadgets, and more money than God Himself, Bruce Wayne spent years keeping the streets of Gotham clean.
Though he was often joined by the likes of Robin, Nightwing, and Batgirl, Bruce was ultimately a solitary fighter against one of the most dangerous and diverse rogues gallery in comic book history.
Bruce Wayne was driven by the death of his parents to don the cowl, using his vast fortune to fund his training and equipment, working to ensure that no one would ever have to endure the same pain he felt when he saw them gunned down as a child.
He was a master of multiple martial arts and stealth techniques, making him the perfect defender of Gotham. But it was his mind that made him the most formidable opponent.
His status as the world's greatest detective allowed him to pull his weight as a member of the Justice League alongside people like Green Lantern, Superman, and Wonder Woman. It even earned Bruce the respect of villains such as Ra's al Ghul.
Even without his gadgets, the Batmobile, or his allies, Bruce Wayne was one of the world's greatest heroes all by his lonesome.
Bruce's greatest weakness, however, was his drive. He was consumed with the role of Batman and used it as an excuse to push away everyone around him...
...so much so that even years later, when he was long retired and mentoring Terry, he still referred to himself as Batman in his own mind and wouldn't hesitate to throw himself into danger for the sake of protecting people.
Why Terry McGinnis Is a Better Batman
Unlike Bruce Wayne, who had a lifetime of training from some of the world's best martial arts teachers, Terry McGinnis was still in high school when he took up the mantle of Batman in order to avenge his father's murder.
Balancing his home life, the demands of school, and keeping the city of Gotham safe from a host of futuristic threats, not to mention enemies from Bruce's past like Mr. Freeze and Ra's al Ghul (hiding in his daughter Talia's body)? That's not easy!
Terry had the benefit of cutting-edge technology in his suit, Bruce's lifetime of experience backing him up from the Batcave, along with a flying Batmobile that could traverse the city with relative ease.
But the enemies he faced were also armed with futuristic technology. From gene-splicing mad scientists to bodies augmented with chainsaws and electric whips, the threats of Gotham only became deadlier over the twenty years that Bruce was retired.
How much of Terry's skills came from the suit? How much were his own instincts? That's a difficult question to answer. The advanced Batsuit he inherited/stole from Bruce Wayne went a long way to making up for his own shortcomings and lack of training.
With camouflage technology, he could be just as stealthy as Bruce was in his prime. With the suit's augmented strength and speed, he could hold his own against people juiced up on Bane's old venom formula.
One thing that made Terry a greater Batman, however, was his grit and determination. He wasn't born rich like Bruce; he learned to fight on the streets instead. He wasn't as skilled or polished as his mentor, but he also wasn't afraid to fight dirty.
Plus, Terry had a knack for getting inside people's heads and making them slip up. This worked especially well against the original Joker, who made a return to Gotham after years of being dead.
Bruce Wayne vs. Terry McGinnis: The Verdict
Both Terry and Bruce are bonafide heroes in their own right, but the comparison is inevitable as far as the title of Batman.
Bruce has the training, skill, and intelligence to go toe-to-toe with the most frightening villains of all time, while Terry has to rely on his suit to keep up with what Bruce could do naturally.
But we mostly seen Terry at the start of his crimefighting career, with short glimpses of the hero he would eventually become outside of the Batsuit as well as in it.
So who is the better Batman? My money is on Terry. Bruce might have had the skills and experience, but Terry had to survive in an age beyond the heroes we know and love.
Terry tackled the worst that Gotham had to offer with no backup and no allies on the streets, not even able to rely upon the GCPD for help and support (since the new commissioner took an even more hard-nosed approach to vigilantes than her predecessor).
And, unlike Bruce, Terry managed to live a life outside of the Batsuit, even as far as having a family and getting married to the woman he loved. Of the two, he's the one who lived as Batman rather than the one who let the cowl rule his life.