'Iron Man 3' still has a firm grip on the box office, grossing $72.5-million in its second week in North American theaters and nearly $1 billion worldwide in the three weeks since its release. While the special effects are certainly a draw, Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of Tony Stark has been the main catalyst behind the success of all three Iron Man films, as well as 'The Avengers.'

Fans don't have to stretch their imaginations to imagine Donwey as a charming, handsome playboy living an all-too-flawed existence, because he is nearly exactly that in real life. Downey Jr. fits the role of Tony Stark as defined by Marvel in his comic back story nearly perfectly — perhaps better than any other actor ever cast as a superhero in a film.

But, is Downey Jr.'s Stark better than Christian Bale as the brooding and mysterious Bruce Wayne in Christopher Nolan's Batman films?

While Bale physically transformed himself for the role, it's his projection of Wayne's enigmatic charm laced with Batman's dark intensity that helped carry the Dark Knight films from popcorn movies to higher art. From Bale's chiseled build and intriguing demeanor to his pervasive steely gaze, no movie-goer has ever questioned if he was believable as Batman, which wasn't the case for George Clooney, Val Kilmer, Michael Keaton and, yes, even Adam West.

While both actors aced their roles in multiple films, which actor was a better fit as their respective superhero character: Downey Jr.'s Iron Man or Bale's Batman? We asked the experts to weigh in…

  • Downey is 'perfect'

    Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man is the most brilliant comic book movie casting since Michael Keaton as Batman.

    Downey Jr. took a B-level hero that nobody cared about and injected him with wit and soul. It was a risky casting move too, considering how closely Downey Jr's real life demons parallel Tony Stark's. His performance is a dash of acerbic tonic that lends gravity and edge to the Marvel movie-verse and keeps it from veering into over-the-top camp.

    Many actors have played Batman, and many will after Christian Bale. But as Tony Stark says in the film, Downey Jr. is Iron Man.

    Nick Nadel, Editor-in-chief, TheFW

  • Downey is 'inspirational'

    The best? Who can say? Most aspirational? Downey, surely. Bruce Wayne has all this money and is basically a mope who hangs out in a cave with bats. Bats are scary and cool on the screen, but it real life they are gross and they sh*t everywhere. He has this fake persona as a hot-shot playboy, but that's just his cover story. Stark, on the other hand, IS a hot-shot playboy, and still manages to find time to be a superhero. There's no comparison.

    Jordan Hoffman, ScreenCrush

  • Brooding Bale

    In the end, it really comes down to the script for these guys, because there's only so much an actor can do.

    Christian Bale has to play a man who solves his depression by sulking a lot and being grim and serious, and who decides to Howard-Hughes it for eight years because his hot girlfriend died. He could just quit being Batman, or maybe just hire a new Batman and start banging models, but nooooooo, Mr. Sulky has to go hide in his hole. The fact that they basically have to put Anne Hathaway on a string to lure him out tells you a lot.

    Robert Downey Jr., on the other hand, gets to solve his problems by blowing s**t up and being a douchebag to a icky-sweet kiddie sidekick.

    Who's better? The guy who actually bothers to solve his problems. Iron Man all the way.

    Dan Seitz, Gamma Squad

  • Bale Can Be Replaced

    They're both great casting. But Bale is more easily replaced; all he really has to do is pace back and forth, squint, and sometimes scowl like something smells bad. This role could, theoretically, be replaced by the likes of, say, George Clooney or Michael Keaton.  But Iron Man? Who else could deliver those comedic fastballs?  If Vince Vaughn lost 70 pounds, maybe.

    Jeff Wilser, author, Maxims of Manhood

  • Is This Even a Debate?

    It's hardly a fair comparison: Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man is the clear winner. Downey Jr.'s neurotic yet awesomely cocky persona is particularly fitting for the Tony Stark character. His flaws as a character and person are also more relatable--who isn't a womanizing drunkard? Batman--and the way Christian Bale portrays him--is just too serious. And that "Batman voice?" It's ridiculous!

    Ben Berkon, HuffPo