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Pro VS Con: "The Wayne & Terry Show" Part 3
by THE OLD MAID

(Note : as of this writing, "Unmasked" has not been aired. Therefore no developments introduced by this episode have been included.)

THE PROCESS OF EMOTIONAL TRANSFORMATION

This is the process fans are most likely to underestimate. And yet this is the process which makes the "heart" of the Batman.

First let us consider why that heart matters.

The Justice League, in its secret heart, is a support group for misfits. These beings were mostly born with their powers and must cope as best they can. Their defining choice is whether they should reveal themselves to the public, and if so, as what. Would they rather be heroes or villains? That is the extent of their decision. Unable to change their physical natures, they get a job. They make the best of it. When overwhelmed by their enemies, they call for physical backup.

In contrast, when a Batman is overwhelmed, he examines not merely his methods but his motives, his goals, and his life. Bruce Wayne may consider himself to be drafted by cruel fate, but it's not the same as having powers. Wayne is a disturbed man who chose this life instead of choosing therapy. Terry is an ex-con driven by shame who chose this life because he feels he has ruined the one first given him.

As with Terry's moral choices, viewers propose that Terry feels as Bruce feels because Terry is only imitating Bruce. However this is different. No one can enter into another's suffering. When Terry CAN d is to bring suffering upon himself by becoming the same kind of man as Bruce Wayne.

A Batman operates on intelligence, stealth and skill, not on sheer emotion alone. However it's a mistake to say that the heart plays no part in it. Terry needs things that only Wayne can provide. There's more to it than advice from an Alfred, or even advice from one Batman to another. What Terry needs is a man he can look up to with respect. One who can show him how to be a man himself. In other words, a father.

It took Terry less than a week after losing his real father to latch onto another one. But if Terry is to learn from him, he must treat this one better than he did the last one.   Warren McGinnis : the man in the middle.

How did Wayne come to be a father figure to Terry? First, let's consider what kind of father Warren was and what the characters meant to each other. This requires connecting several loose ends.

It has been mentioned elsewhere that Warren tutored Terry in math ("Earth mover") and probably organic chemistry as well (implied in "Rebirth," "COTK"). To what end? To save Terry from himself.

In "Eyewitness," "Big Time" and "ROTJ" we are told Terry spent three months in Juvie Hall. The time of year is never specified. It probably doesn't matter ; for all we know Gotham has year-round schooling in the 2040s. (Summer vacations were only created to accommodate the children of farmers.) The odds are that Terry did miss ninety days of school. But who knows how many classes Terry missed before he was finally incarcerated. How often did he skip school? When he did attend, how often did he a start a fight and get suspended? And how much homework did he fail to complete or comprehend because he was committing crimes instead of staying home at night? Over the years Terry may have fallen a full grade behind or more.

Such developments would leave Terry so shamed and enraged that he might drop out altogether. In his mind better to quit school than to be publicly humiliated. Warren tutored or home-schooled him because it was the family's last chance to keep Terry from dropping out. It's only a theory but it fits the available facts. Terry is simply not a strong enough student to absorb an absence of three months.

How did Warren propose to do that? Not by textbooks alone. If textbooks were so riveting, Terry would not have been able to tear himself away from them. Warren probably taught in a hands-on fashion instead. We know his interests were all related to science or nature ("Revenant," "Speak no evil"). So he probably combined field trips, tutoring, family activities, and taking his son to work. This would also keep the boy nearby, where Warren could keep an eye on him.

Two things about Terry's education stand out to an observer. Dana remarks in "Earth mover" that the multiplication tables are no longer taught in the 2040s. Warren taught them anyway. "My dad was a scientist. Guess he wanted me to be ready for anything." Warren probably agreed with this writer that the Gotham school system is utterly inadequate. It is one thing for a school to sell its lasts when students don't make their own shoes anymore. It is quite another to produce students who cannot count.

What the schools do produce is students who cannot think. Warren probably borrowed his tutoring materials from the library. He tried to pass that love of learning on to Terry. Compare Terry's appreciation for the library with the lack of respect demonstrated by others. In "Speak no evil" Howard Groote whines, "I just don't see the point. All the information you want you can get over the net, books too." This sounds eerily similar to a remark by Bill Gates. Gates has proudly announced that he hopes to put an end to paper and then to books before he dies ("The New Republic," 14 May 2001). What a thought. Unlike knowledge in a book, information on a machine is data, utilitarian, and therefore a commodity to be influenced by the market. Commodities get regulated, restricted, stolen or altered. They also get too expensive. It's an effective strategy to make sure poor or marginalized people stay that way. To abolish books is to let those in power decide what you read, and by extension what you can learn. Warren has already demonstrated that he disagrees with that philosophy. That's why he refused to let Terry use calculators as a crutch. He cultivated knowledge for its own sake.

In our society Warren would be a typical good parent. In his society he's a free-thinker, almost a malcontent. Absolutely he is out of place in a company full of thieves and killers. This may be why Harry Tolley went to Warren for help instead of to someone else. Warren made up his own mind. He gave Terry the educational tools to do the same. Terry simply couldn't see that. He thought being a strong man was about physical prowess. True strength comes from the will.

Whatever his methods Warren was an involved parent. That raises a new question : why didn't this involved parent send Terry to a better school? Obviously Warren is dissatisfied with their curriculum. Also the environment is bad for his son. If Terry isn't being the bad influence, he's surrounded by bad influences. The school is a breeding ground for freaks and criminals. Best guess? Warren couldn't afford it. (Terry gives credence to the notion when he taunts Warren as less than successful.) There aren't just the expenses of the divorce. Someone also had to pay Terry's legal bills.

Another loose end that may or may not connect is Terry's fighting skills. Where did Terry learn the martial arts? One fan proposed that Warren taught him. ("We could have fought them off, me and Dad" -- Rebirth.) This is reasonable since we never got another explanation for it. (Although my belief is that Warren paid for lessons instead.) Besides, if Terry missed school then he also missed Gym class. Perhaps this was Warren's way of fulfilling the credit requirements.

Warren provided another possible motive in "Rebirth." "That's your problem, right there. You can't control your temper, and you'd better if you expect to get anywhere in life." There is precedent in the series. Kairi Tanaga taught Xander the way of bushido even though she knew it might make him more dangerous. ("He needed a code, a philosophy. A sense of right and wrong. I thought I could set him on the right path" --COTK part II). There is also precedent in the real world. In the African-American community parents frequently enroll their sons in basketball, with martial arts becoming a close second, to give them conflict-resolution skills and self-control ("Ebony," August 2001). This would explain Terry's erratic fighting style. Terry probably broke Warren's terms, so Warren stopped the lessons.

What is striking about Terry is that none of these anger-management techniques ever worked. Terry was already a notorious brawler in the seventh grade ("Last resort"). Going to Juvie Hall in eighth grade ("Big time") didn't help him. Taking up the martial arts didn't help him. Taking up school wrestling (another sport that promotes personal discipline) didn't help him. Going to regular counseling sessions didn't help him. (In Terry's defense, Spellbinder hated his job and didn't exactly give his best efforts.) Even Terry's first year as Batman did not calm him down. Nothing worked on him. The only way to settle him down was to dilute his character.

Skeptics complain Terry has no edge. For the fun-loving wannabe of the teen scenes, I'll grant that. Gone was the bloodthirsty, angry young man whom Warren, Dana, and Wayne were always telling to calm down ("Rebirth," "Ascension," "Hooked up"). Gone the menacing ex-con that Nelson Nash was afraid of ("Golem"). Gone also was the relentless Batman who drove Blight to screaming, "Leave me alone!" Instead viewers saw a Batman who asked bad guys to just run away and be good ("Hidden agenda," "Big time"). If it makes the skeptics feel any better, many Terry fans didn't like this cupcake either. But the bitter ex-con did exist.

We may never know if Warren was responsible for Terry's fighting skills. However Terry does owe his second chance in school to him. Therefore Terry-the-scientist can trace his foundations, his successes to Warren. Anything Wayne must make him unlearn, that traces back to Warren too.

Unlearn, you say? What would Terry need to unlearn? Let's start with how Warren would have responded to Terry's new job.  

Manipulating old ghosts.

Bruce Wayne loved his parents intensely but that doesn't mean he knew them. Most of what he knows of them came from old pictures, old friends and old newspaper articles. In a way, he can impose his own ideas upon their memories.

Wayne can impose on them his wish that they would approve of him. He looked to both Alfred and Jim Gordon as father figures and possibly Leslie Thompkins as a mother figure. Alfred and Leslie support and encourage him. They worry, but mostly they're proud of him. Batman and Gordon also support each other (see "I am the night"). Jim says he wishes he could have been a "hero" like Batman. This touches Batman deeply. Though that's not what drives him, it matters to him what other people think of him.

So if Wayne/Batman has doubts about what his parents would think of him, he also has a strategy to trample thouse doubts. He has surrounded himself with people who tell him what he wants to hear.

Terry/Batman hasn't got that luxury. He knew his father well. Warren seems to have been a prudent, thoughtful man. While he might approve of Terry becoming a policeman, it's doubtful he would approve of vigilantism. Terry's temper was dangerous enough when he was just another thug in the streets. How smart is it to give him cutting-edge technology and weapons? Terry stopped Powers from selling nerve gas. That's good ; Warren died trying to do the same thing. So Warren would probably approve of one night's intervention, but not of the method, and certainly not of anything that came after.

Thus Terry will get mixed messages about his calling. His father figure teaches him, challenges him and praises him, but his real father would have been horrified. ("As far as I'm concerned, you just found another excuse to beat people up.")  

Voices in one's head.

The series did not develop it, but Terry's choices created paradoxes capable of compromising his sanity.

It has been developed elsewhere ("Target characters I") that Terry can be blamed for almost every bad thing that has ever happened to his family. Terry either caused his parents' divorce or accelerated it. (If they could not control him, it would give them one more thing to fight about.) Because of Terry's criminal activities, Matt ended up living elsewhere, even though Warren seems to have been a better parent. But because of those things, Mary and Matt were not with Warren the night he died.

This paradox should have been explored. Mary and Matt are alive only because they moved out. They may have moved out because of Terry. Therefore it could be argued that Terry saved their lives by destroying their family. However Mary and Matt might not see it that way. They don't know Fixx was behind Warren's murder. What they do know is that Terry confessed to provoking the Jokerz repeatedly until one day the gang did something about it.

At first Terry insisted his presence would have made a difference. It would not. It wouldn't matter if Fixx found one person at home, or two, or four or ten. If the odds were too formidable, all Fixx had to do was drop a lighted match into the building's gas main. Terry would die without ever seeing his killer.

Terry could not have saved his father. In time he came to acknowledge that. But what about saving himself?

Warren grounded him. Terry was supposed to be home that night. He was supposed to die that night -- but he didn't. Why didn't he? Because he was selfish, because he was cruel. His life was saved out of selfishness, out of contempt for a brave and honest man. What kind of world kills a man like Warren but lets a man like Terry live? Why is Terry alive?

Bruce Wayne has tortured himself with the same questions. Would his parents have gone to that theater, that night, if not for him? Why did the gunman let him live? What kind of world kills good and decent people who were just trying to do something nice for their child? Why is Bruce alive?

Bruce Wayne was at least a small boy. Terry is a grown man (well, old enough to be tried as an adult, anyway). When Terry sees a loved one slaughtered he has the added burden of blaming himself for not preventing it. It doesn't matter that he could not have done so ; the Batmen do not think that way. They choose this life because they believe it will impose order on a world that makes no sense.

Bruce Wayne has become everything to Terry. He is Terry's master and mentor, the original Batman. In spite of their shouting matches Wayne is also the true Alfred of the series.

New viewers may not know that Alfred was a retired spy ("The lion and the unicorn") and combat medic (the mainstream comics). Alfred was a father figure who raised Bruce. He had earned the right to give advice. Alfred often said things no less piercing for being soft- spoken. He could diagnose the Batman's flaws, not as a casual observer but as a teacher who has actually done this job before. Terry sometimes hesitates to consult this incredible resource because of the third relationship between them.

Wayne is unmistakably Terry's second father. Terry's behavior toward Wayne echoes his behavior toward Warren : he is sarcastic, defiant, and rarely chooses the easy way to do something if there is a harder way to do it. Warren and Wayne even suffered the same fate. In "Rebirth" and "ROTJ" Terry fights with his father, and new father, over his choices and his worth. They trade vicious remarks ; the overwrought Terry runs out to console himself with Dana. The Jokerz attack Dana and then Terry. He returns home to find a trail of devastation and Joker graffiti leading to the body. One man dies horribly. The other clings to life. Unable to beat up the real monster, Terry beats up himself. "I'm not afraid of those guys. I should have been there. I could have done something. We could have fought them off, me and Dad, we could have fought ..." As if that is not misery enough, Terry engages in a coverup to save his own life. But after what he's done (or failed to do), he's not convinced his life is worth protecting.

Terry ran because it was easier than arguing. That act of emotional cowardice, of giving up on a relationship, saved his life. He wasn't there when the killer attacked. This paradox tortured him in the beginning, and it haunts him in the end. If Terry had stayed home and stood his ground, tried harder to work things out, he would have been killed too. Doing the wrong thing saved his life. This would be enough to warp Terry's mind once. And so it happens twice?

The change in Terry's attitude.

I've mentioned elsewhere that Terry has a guilt/inferiority complex that has gradually gotten worse -- and that this is a good thing. Why is it good? It shows that Terry is beginning to take his work seriously.

One of Terry's weaknesses is that he's at that age where he still knows everything. It's what you learn after you know everything that counts. Try telling him that, though. From the start Terry has struggled with an arrogance manifested in the form of "so whats." In "DMH" and "Spellbound" he wants time off. If Wayne thinks the criminals will strike that night, so what? "I put my life on the line all the time." Only by coincidence do the villains interrupt his evening.

In "Payback" Terry beats an innocent man and destroys his apartment. So what? Terry has "got more important things to do." After he acknowledges Wayne's good instincts (again), he still has to get in one last dig at Wayne's expense. This too is a so-what, Terry indulging in a Pyrrhic victory.

In "TFDAR" Terry fights three synthoids created to look like Riddler, Two-Face and Killer Croc. He defeats them but some of his methods are lethal. Terry's reaction? So what. "It gets the job done." It's one thing to destroy equipment, but the point of this episode is that Terry won't always know who or what he is fighting, until it's too late. What if his guess is wrong?

Terry threw so-whats in Warren's face most of his life. By the time he realized his father had his best interests at heart, it was too late. It took Terry less than a week to latch onto a new father figure, and then what does he do but make the same mistakes. Gradually he came to understand that he needs at least one father to be proud of him.

In time Terry's obnoxious habits are replaced by doubts and a growing sense of inadequacy. One could debate whether this feeling is guilt (which rightly follows bad choices) or shame (which makes one feel bad or worthless). My vote is for shame. His feelings make him overcompensate for his so-whats of the past. He blames himself for everything, whether he is at fault or not ("Rebirth," "Lost soul," "Sneak Peek," "Big time," "Betrayal," "COTK I & II, "ROTJ").

When Wayne calls Terry a stupid kid ("ROTJ") it's a low blow. Wayne's cruelty is motivated by bad memories. He's trying to save Terry's life, and he can't get rid of him except by pushing that button. Terry doesn't run out because he's offended. (Terry's reaction to being offended usually involves threats and fists.) He runs out because he opened up a part of himself to Wayne and the man used it to hurt him. Terry has made mistakes. But this time he thinks Wayne never really respected him or had any hope for him.

Of course Terry must come back, but he still blames himself for the attack and his inability to solve the problem. "I don't know, pup. If I was the Batman I was supposed to be I'd have cracked this (case) by now. I would've punched exactly the right data into the computer or remembered that one little clue that everyone else overlooked." Wayne reassures him that it's rarely that simple. He also defends Terry's worth as a person. "I've been thinking about something you once told me. And you were wrong. It's not Batman that makes you worthwhile. It's the other way around. Never tell yourself anything different."

So. When Terry began to take an honest look at himself (and decided he didn't like what he sees), he became receptive to Wayne's instruction, even anxious for it.  

Timeless.

Terry reveals his vulnerability to Wayne only to see it used against him. Thanks to outside meddling he has the same problem with the audience. Skeptics propose that Terry feels he's not good enough because he really isn't good enough. Therefore they believe that either he will quit or he should.

Well, if that's the reason Terry feels that way, how does one explain it when his predecessors feel exactly the same way?

Terry's emotional transformation parallels a storyarc from the Nightwing series. The issues have been repackaged as the graphic novel "Rough justice" by Chuck Dixon.

"Die trying" : Scarecrow torments Nightwing to learn his deepest fear. That fear is to watch innocents die because of him. Nightwing's deepest fear is of being Not Good Enough.

"The neighborhood" : Nightwing decides that even if he is Not Good Enough, he must keep fighting.

"Shadows over Bludhaven" : Batman assists Nightwing on a case. Still disoriented and paranoid from his ordeal, Nightwing assumes Batman came to supervise him.

"Dead meat" : Batman leads the assault on Deever's henchmen. "This is what I was afraid of. He's showing me how it's done." Nightwing explodes. "You don't think I can handle it. You don't want Bludhaven's problems spreading to your precious Gotham." His tirade hurts and surprises the Batman. And so Batman gets in the car and drives home. Nightwing regrets it instantly. "You were a prince in Gotham. You're king here. No backseat vigilantes. No friends. Way to go, Dick Grayson."

Dick later admits to Alfred that he's still sensitive about the job he lost to Jean-Paul Valley. It made him feel Not Good Enough. At Alfred's urging Batman returns to Bludhaven. The two men get back to work.

"Warriors two" : In a quieter moment, Dick reflects on why this bothers him so much. "I never thought about it at first. I was just happy to be his partner.

"But he got all the attention. He turned their guts to water. He struck fear. I tagged along. And I fought all the harder because of it.

"He was the only one who acknowledged me. ('Great work, Robin.') Sometimes that only made it worse. Like he refused to see what the world already knew. Like he wanted so bad for us to be partners. Even though he knew we'd never be equals.

"I know that's why he's here in Bludhaven. Even though he'll never say it."

But there is one more exchange in this issue, one that makes all the difference in the world to Nightwing.

Nightwing : "Guess you saw what you came to see, huh."

Batman : "I confirmed my suspicions, if that's what you mean." (Nightwing tenses -- here it comes.) "You've got a handle on things here. I'm proud of you."

Nightwing (stunned but happy) : "Huh. Oh. Yeah?"

And they go their separate ways.

Note what else happens in this storyarc. Nightwing is unsure of his purpose and his worth. But his greatest enemy, Blockbuster, repeatedly offers him the affirmation he seeks. In "Fear takes flight" Blockbuster says, "I feared the attention of the Batman. It turns out this Nightwing is just as dangerous." Four witnesses hear it. In "Warriors two" the villain says it again before two witnesses. But in "FTF" Blockbuster also says it to Nightwing's face, with eight witnesses present. "I underestimated you, hero. And I am not happy about that. You are the equal of your mentor." Nightwing hears but does not listen. It's water off a duck's back ; it doesn't sink in. He needs to hear it from Batman.

Consider the similarity to Terry's relationship with Blight. Derek powers snickered when Batman returned to Gotham ("Rebirth"). In "Black out" he is not so arrogant. Inque asks, is this fellow "the" Batman? "What difference does it make?" snarls Powers. What Powers is saying is that if this isn't the original Batman, he causes as much trouble as the original would. In "Shriek" Powers says it again. "Batman's everywhere these days. Everywhere." By the time "Ascension" airs Blight is howling with misery. "Why do you persist in tormenting me? All I want is to be left alone!" Terry has earned the respect of his greatest villain. Why isn't that enough for him?

In both storyarcs the vigilante defeats his foe, but that triumph is insufficient compared to his needs. He is unsure of his place in the world. He needs his partner, someone who is down in the trenches with him, to reassure and support him. Terry avenges his father, but he doesn't quit being Batman because his needs have not been met. What he needs is Bruce. Terry will never be able to show Warren that he has changed. Instead he feels he must prove himself to Bruce Wayne.

Now skeptics will argue that this only proves Terry is Nightwing Beyond and not the Batman's successor. Such fears and doubts, they say, are for sidekicks. A "real" Batman does not have this problem. But Nightwing is not a sidekick. And if Dick and Terry felt they were Not Good Enough because they really weren't good enough --

Then how do we explain it when both Jim Gordon and the Batman ("No man's land") feel exactly the same way?

"When the rumors had begun that the government was planning to abandon Gotham, Bruce Wayne had gone to Washington to plead his city's case. It had been a horrible experience for him, one where he had felt exceptionally off-balance, and certainly out of his element. To the public eye Bruce Wayne was a joke .... For the most part, it was an image that had served Bruce well, had kept his true identity hidden from the world.

"In Washington, though, it had worked TOO well, and Bruce Wayne's heartfelt pleas were dismissed out of hand. He had been utterly and completely helpless .... Congress had made him feel eight years old once more, had again delivered the lesson that life could not be controlled, and that even Bruce Wayne's billions, even the Batman's brilliance, could be brushed aside by apathy and self-interest. If Bane had broken his back once more, it would have hurt him less.

"It seemed, three months before, not just a setback, but a resounding defeat, indeed, a rout. It had crushed his spirit, and thus injured, Bruce Wayne and the Batman had both retreated. It was the kind of blow that didn't just call into question one's own actions, but one's own LIFE." (--Greg Rucka, pp. 78-80, "No man's land.")

Gordon and Batman spend a whole year apart. They try to make peace in LOTDK #125.

Gordon : "Are we friends?"

Batman : "Yes, Jim. We're friends."

Gordon : "... odd. I don't have many friends. I don't have many people I trust. But I trusted you. I trusted you. You say you're my friend, but I don't think you HAVE friends."

Gordon pauses. "When the NML was announced, Sarah and I tried to leave. A moment of weakness. I wanted to run away. Find a job somewhere else. Abandon the sinking ship. Everywhere I applied for work I got turned down ... NO one would give me work. They didn't want a cop who needed an urban legend to do his policing for him. They laughed at me. Some of them behind my back. Some to my face. And I started to wonder ... maybe you were laughing at me too."

Batman : "NO."

Gordon : "Really? You use me. You've been using me for ten years."

Batman : "Or vice versa."

Gordon : "Absolutely. Because I thought we wanted the same thing. I thought we wanted our city -- this city -- to be safe. That's what I thought. I thought we were in this together. WHERE WERE YOU?"

No answer.

Gordon : "THAT'S why I don't believe we're friends! You don't respect me. You don't trust me. That whole fiasco a while back, when you vanished and I had to deal with that parade of pretenders? Did you think I wouldn't notice that it wasn't you under that cowl? Did you think I was that stupid?"

Batman : "No."

Gordon : "You have your secrets. I've never pressed you for them. Maybe I should have. Instead of letting you turn me into your ... whatever it is you see me as!"

Batman : "You're my partner."

Gordon : "Don't blow smoke at me."

Batman : "It's true."

Gordon : "It's what you'd like to think -- that doesn't make it true. Partners are equals, Batman! When have you ever treated me like your equal? Partners, for example, tell you their plans! They keep you informed! And they don't walk out on you in the middle of a sentence!"

Batman wilts. Finally he says, "I've never been good at saying goodbye."

A pause. "You're the best cop I've ever known. And I've known a lot of cops, Jim. There's no man or woman living that I respect more than you. But like you said, saying it isn't enough. The words don't mean anything. They don't fix the damage. Actions ... speak louder ... than words." And Batman unmasks. But Jim Gordon won't look at him.

Batman : "It's the only thing I can give you other than my word. When the world abandoned Gotham, I had to find my reason again. My purpose. I need our partnership. We can save Gotham. We're so close, Jim. We can bring it back from the edge. This is the one thing I can give you."

Gordon : "I don't WANT it! If I wanted to know who you were, I could have discovered it ten years ago. And for all you know, maybe I did. Maybe I do. But that's not the point. Put it back on."

When Gordon finally turns around, both masks are back in place. Batman wears his cowl, and Gordon wears the face of the Commissioner again. Their private war is over. They plan their next move, together ... then Batman lets Jim watch him leave.

Rucka's novelization adds a small but crucial detail.

Gordon : "THAT's why I don't believe we're friends. You don't respect me. You don't trust me. That whole fiasco a couple years back, after Bane had been to town and all those rumors were circulating that you'd been defeated, broken. And you vanished ...."

Both men have hit bottom. Both have been publicly humiliated as failures, a joke. Gordon stays in No Man's Land because he has nowhere else to go. He had faith that at least Batman would be there, would respect him even if no one else did. Unfortunately for Jim, Batman retreats to the world because he has faith Gordon will hold the fort for him while he's gone. Gordon does hold down the fort, but not for the reasons Batman thought he would. As Foley so eloquently put it, "Assumption is the mother of all foul-ups."

Gordon is forced to rethink his relationship with the Batman. What he finds in his heart frightens him. At first he wants Batman to be invincible, both physically and mentally. Even if he, James Gordon, gave up, he could always trust Batman to never fail him. He could draw strength from him. But then Gordon saw proof that Batman is not invincible at all. Jim wasn't sure he could handle that. It made him doubt everything.

In the end Gordon decided that while he WANTED Batman to be invincible, he NEEDED him to be trustworthy. It took Batman longer to learn the same lesson. He too blames himself for not being invincible. Throughout the NML saga he berates himself for it. He needs Jim Gordon to set him straight. Gordon's definition of Batman is not about being invincible, but about trust, loyalty, being reliable, keeping faith. If he gave Gordon reason to give up on him -- that would be the definition of Not Good Enough. When each man hears this from the other, and believes it, their partnership is restored.

Not all readers found the NML saga to their tastes. They felt the concept was almost Elseworlds in the risks it took with the mythos. Was the NML interpretation of Batman really a risk? If NML-Batman could crumble because he felt Not Good Enough, then how does one explain it when BTAS-Batman feels exactly the same way?

In "I am the night," Batman doubts his mission, his worth, whether he has wasted his life.

Batman : "I'm tired, Alfred. A weary body can be dealt with, but a weary spirit, that's something else. Sometimes, old friend, I wonder if I'm really doing any good out there."

Alfred : "How can you doubt it? The lives you've saved, the criminals you've brought to justice --"

Batman : "I've put out a few fires, yes. But the war goes on, Aflred. On and on ...."

While Batman and Leslie Thompkins make their annual visit to Crime Alley, Jim Gordon is shot in another part of town. Batman blames himself -- and the fact that Bullock blames him too is no help.

Batman : "I should have been there. I let him down."

Dick : "You can't be everywhere! You're only human! You do all one man can do. More than any man's expected to do."

Batman : "I chose this life. I used the night. I BECAME the night. Sooner or later I'll go down. It might be the Joker or Two-Face or just some punk who gets lucky. My decision. No regrets. But I can't let anyone else pay for my mistakes."

Dick : "Jim Gordon's a cop, Bruce. He knows the risks."

Batman : "How long before I let someone else I care about down ... When all is said and done, how much good have I accomplished? They sell T-shirts of me! I've become a cliche. More good for the tourist trade than the streets. Maybe it's time for Batman to return to the night before anyone else gets hurt."

Dick : "You taught me everything I know about crimefighting, Bruce, but the most important thing was to never give up!"

In the end Batman decides that even if he is Not Good Enough, he must keep fighting. He returns to duty, then stops by the hospital.

Gordon : "The bust ... went down okay?"

Batman : "Yes. Get some rest now."

Gordon : "Gotta keep fighting ... never stop ... what I try to live by ... Maybe if I had been younger ... coulda been like you ... always wanted to be a hero ..."

Batman : "You are a hero, Jim."

It seems that no matter what medium, no matter which timeline one evaluates, these patterns of emotion persist.

"Of course it's the same old story. Truth usually is the same old story." (--Margaret Thatcher.)

*Section summary.

When Terry experiences the same emotional traumas his predecessors have endured, his fans state that it proves Terry is just like his mentor. Skeptics then argue, "No, his comfort level has been disturbed, nothing more." That is, Terry does not have the depth to be capable of transformation.

The Batman, who has battled fanatics all his life (Lock-up, The Judge) understood the problem of rules and absolutes. That is why Wayne has never defined a set of rules that Terry could fulfill with a sense of satisfaction. He never proposed that knowing the rules is all one needs to know. Such blind obedience is indeed possible.

The test of whether Terry is absorbing Batman's mentality is his consciousness of his failure to achieve Batman's goal : to put an end to all crime. The degree to which Batman nears his goal of perfection can never truly be seen. All he can see is the extent of his failure.

Therefore the proof of Batman's maturity is not how perfect he is but the awareness of his imperfections. That very awareness opens the door to growth.

Terry's critics have argued that Terry feels Not Good Enough because he really is not good enough. Instead, I propose that this cycle of internal devastation, persistence and renewal is normal and natural and even inevitable in the Bat dynasty.

Indeed it is those recruits who do NOT undergo this process who will eventually wash out of the program.

CONCLUSION.

Let us return to Jay Allman's assessment of Terry's development :

"Terry has not undergone the same process. He doesn't kill, but name the episode in which he decides not to. He now feels that Batman is part of himself, and not something to live up to; name the episode in which he had the attitude change. Of course, he's going to act that way because he is imitating Bruce -- AND THAT IS THE FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEM. Terry is only copying Bruce, instead of undergoing the tests and tribulations that would transform him into the same kind of person that Bruce is ...."

In the matter of skills, Terry rarely imitated Bruce, and it would be a better series if he had. True, Terry is the logical choice as successor in the business world. He is also learning to use his enemies' weapons against them. However he requires formal training in so many areas. To spend his life playing catch-up isn't just a matter of life and death ; it's also extremely bad for morale. It's not fun for viewers either. It's hard to cheer for a character who is denied so many chances for advancement. We start with Terry the street brawler ; we expect to see a finely sculpted Batman at the finish.

In the matter of acquiring Authority, Terry is certainly imitating Bruce, just not very well. He lacks focus.  He still struggles with small temptations, making it hard for him to focus on bigger issues. Also, too many episodes and characters which could have developed Terry's choices were watered down, removing any lesson they might have imparted.

In terms of emotional transformation, Terry IS undergoing the process that would transform him into the kind of man Wayne is. He is not copying him. They are simply walking the same path, which makes it inevitable that they will pass the same landmarks. However no one can enter into another's suffering. No one can walk your journey for you. This is something Terry is doing on his own.

There is one more quote to consider, one that addresses how a true Bat sees himself.

"His parents had died before him, and Bruce had been powerless to stop it. That single thing, more than any other, had created the Batman. He had dedicated his life to a mission ; what Bruce Wayne suffered that night no one else ever would.

"It was a fool's quest, and he knew it, doomed to failure before it had even begun. He could not police a planet, could barely police his own city. Yet he did it anyway, night after night, fighting through despair, returning again and again to the battle that consumed him.

"He did not think of himself as noble, nor even as driven. It was far more complicated, and yet far simpler, than that.

"He was the Batman. He had no other choice." (--Greg Rucka, p. 79, "No Man's Land.")

Is this what Terry sees when he looks in the mirror? Is this what viewers see when they look at him? The series could have done more to promote this vision. Terry was created to be Wayne's successor, extraordinary. Yet when one looks at some of the silly scripts he had to endure the question is, how can he get there from here?

Time and again the viewers debate whether Terry has "arrived." The evidence supports their position, they say ; if only one would consider matters with an open mind, all would agree. An open mind ... that's what it all comes down to, doesn't it. To believe in Terry-as- Batman is not unlike believing in a religion : we have been given too much evidence to ignore but not enough to be sure. It takes a leap of faith.

In the Family Business there is no such thing as Good Enough, for that would imply that Batman has achieved all his goals. The definition of Batman is not about being invincible, but about not giving up. It's about trust, loyalty, being reliable, keeping faith. This is what Terry desires to be. But in a way, that desire means that he already is.

I would like to conclude with the remainder of Allman's observation :

"Probably only 'Lost soul' really shows Terry grappling with what it really is to be Batman, that it is in the person and not the suit or gadgets or techniques or principles. But that only introduces the issue : What is so special about being that type of person, and why should Terry (or anyone) become that type, instead of becoming a Lock- Up, or a Magma? That is a more complicated kind of question (or set of questions), and would have taken up most of the series. But that's what I think the series should have been about."

May those who hold Bruce Wayne and Terry's future in their hands bear this in mind.

END.

(Special thanks to fellow poster Jay Allman [aka Maxie Zeus] who contributed "Terry's character development" to WF, February 7th, 2001, and graciously granted permission for its reprint.)  

Read Part 1 -- Read Part 2

 

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