Duke Thomas’ debut as a solo hero has been a long time coming.
From his roots as the leader of a renegade gang of Robins in We Are Robin to his time spent as Batman’s apprentice throughout All-Star Batman and finally to his shocking potential metahuman reveal in Dark Nights: Metal, the Bat Family creative teams have been working for years to build Duke into a character who can mesh with Gotham City in a way that lasts.
Now, it’s time for the real test: Batman and The Signal by DC Talent Workshop alum Tony Patrick, co-written with Scott Snyder and illustrated by comics veteran Cully Hamner is set to unleash Duke in his newly crafted heroic identity as Gotham’s first proper “hero by day.”
CBR sat down with Patrick and Hamner to get their take on Duke’s trajectory in the DC Universe, as well as tease some of the upcoming challenges he might face along the way.
CBR: To start things out, talk to me a little about how you see Duke’s dynamic with the rest of the Bat Family working out. If he’s Gotham’s hero by day, when and where does he intersect with the heroes by night?
Tony Patrick: You’re talking about, well -- first, Duke’s a teenager, so there’s gonna be some teen angst, of course, especially amongst his peers. But also you’re talking about a teenager who is really trying to find his role in the Bat Family, which is it’s own struggle. And then there’s the other element of Duke being a teenager with no parents -- but with parents who are still alive.
Cully Hamner: That’s the interesting thing. It’s not like he lost his parents the same way that Batman or Nightwing did; his parents are right there, but they’re still lost to him. It’s interesting to talk about that dynamic, finding his place in the Bat Family because literally that’s there from page one. It’s front and center. It’s Duke asking, “Where do I belong? Do I have a place? Have I earned a place?” It’s there.
Now, Tony, you came to this project from the talent workshop, correct? Can you talk a little about your process with Scott Snyder on this book and how things came together?
Patrick: Well, it was a little cave where they made us work on our first draft, no windows, no coffee… [Laughs] No, no, that experience was phenomenal. It was out of, I think, twelve hundred applicants? And they picked eight of us. I had some very talented workshop classmates that I think you might be seeing some stuff from very soon.
But working with Scott? That’s a once in a lifetime opportunity -- and I don’t say that to blow smoke. I mean, he’s the guy who comes in at the last moment and says, “Hmm...I have this idea…” and then this one note unfolds into this whole universe. And usually? He’s right. I just feel like I leveled-up simply by being part of that workshop.
Hamner: Scott’s great at writing out loud, I’ve found. When you talk on the phone with him, it’s like, “So I was thinking we’d do this, which would lead to this, which would -- and what do you think if we did this?” I’m always like, [Nodding] "Yeah. Okay." Just trying to keep up.