Bruce Wayne is Irreplaceable as Batman

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A catechism: Who is Batman? He is Bruce Wayne. Who is Bruce Wayne? A billionaire fighting crime under a secret identity. Why does he fight? In memory of his parents, murdered in an alleyway mugging when he was a child. How did he react? He swore by the spirits of his parents to avenge their deaths by spending the rest of his life warring on all criminals. How did this event and oath change him? He became dark, obsessed, dour. How will his quest end? Only with his death or exhaustion. Will another replace him when he dies? No-Bruce Wayne's origin, history, talents and resources are unique, others may imitate, but none can replace him.

Another catechism: Who is Bruce Wayne? He is Batman. Who is Batman? A vigilante crime fighter, a haunter of the urban night. Why does he fight? For justice, for virtue, for Gotham City and all who inhabit it. How does he fight? With force, but without fatal violence, he apprehends, but he does not punish, he rescues all who need rescuing, even criminals. How will his task end? It will not end: crime and injustice are forever. Will another replace him when he dies? Perhaps, perhaps not, if injustice is forever, then so too should be the hero who fights it.

Complementary catechisms, but concluding with inconsistent dogmas. And before Batman Beyond extended Wayne's life and career into an unimagined future, the question about the survival of the Batman persona would have had only speculative interest. But with mortality beckoning and a putative heir in the waiting, it acquires new force. Does "Batman" end with Wayne, or does he continue through the efforts of Terry McGinnis? Is Batman merely an extension of Bruce Wayne, or in creating Batman has Wayne inaugurated a hero that transcends himself and ...

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... peculiar power also resides in his tendency to continue forcing choices to the very end. At the moment of his death, both he and his creators would finally be unable elide the tensions. Spirit or flesh, one or the other must ultimately prevail.

This essay comes to its own end without choosing one alternative or the other and contents itself with continuing the evasions by emphasizing the fact of the two alternatives. To be sure, in its very title the future-day series seems to choose the second?after all, it is called Batman Beyond and not Batman Culminated. And so it would be one of the tasks of that series to give us not only the beginnings of the new man beneath the mask, but the final parting of the old, gently guiding Bruce Wayne to his proper end. It is merely one of many pities that Batman Beyond comes to its own end without being given the chance to do so.

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