Ever since his appearance back in Batman: Zero City, we’ve been intrigued with the path that Duke Thomas would take. Seeing him go from victim to apprentice, to Robin (sort of) and now The Signal, it’s been exciting ride for Duke. With issue #2 dropping, things are only getting more exciting for him and we got the chance to speak to the co-writer Tony Patrick.
Black Nerd Problems: It’s rare to see Gotham in broad daylight and you’ve managed to give daytime Gotham a voice of its own. Why is it important for Daytime Gotham to be established as its own character.
Tony Patrick: Every city has its own character. Its own voice. There are so many parts of Gotham to play with. Daylight Gotham is unexplored and so easy to play with.
A lot of people have the misconception that daylight Gotham would be like Metropolis. But I don’t think so. So we wanted to make the distinction. It suffers from the same type of crime that happens at night, but just in a different manner. Is daytime Gotham more corrupt than nighttime? I think it might be. But is it white collar or violent. That’s what we wanted to explore with The Signal.
BNP: We are huge fans of We Are Robin. One of the most gully team books from DC in years. What made you have Riko and Izzy return as support for Duke and can we expect to see more members return down the line?
Tony P: Scott [Snyder] allowed me to pull in whoever I wanted to. He opened the door for me to bring back those characters. They were in the initial pitch and I got to pursue that.
Years ago: At NYCC. I remember passing by a booth and seeing Duke Thomas as a Robin on a convention t-shirt. I talked to the person at the booth and said who is this? Now, I knew who Duke Thomas was at the time — I didn’t know that he had become a Robin and that it was him on a convention t-shirt.
I missed those characters. To talk about a group of autonomous Robins, I just thought that was the coolest thing ever. And I don’t want to give anything away, but we might see more of them.
BNP: There’s an obvious trait that separates Duke from most of the other members of the Bat-family, and while he’s not Batman’s Robin, it’s hard not to compare him to the previous Robins. Did you set out to make Duke completely unique or did you lean on certain aspects of the previous Robins at all in shaping him?
Tony P: We wanted to make Duke unique and we set out to do that back in issue #1. We wanted to make sure that Duke had a specific role and personality. That’s what the series is about. He is the daytime protector and Batman’s daytime emissary.
Race is of course apparent. But we’re also talking about someone’s parents who are still alive. He was an autonomous Robin so he’s really interesting. It’s also an opportunity for Batman to train a meta. It’s like, what would it have been like to train Superman when he was just young Clark Kent.
When I was in the [DC Writers] workshop, I wanted to play around with someone else in Batfamily that might be able to engage Duke. In the showcase, I worked with Red Hood and The Signal. In many ways, Red Hood was Batman’s biggest failure, so who better to play some role in guiding Duke.
BNP: You mentioned Duke’s parents being alive which obviously is another thing that separates him from most family members. Most have experienced a trauma and training with Batman is part of that initial healing process. But with Duke, it’s still ongoing. Which also means that Duke has a lot going on. How do you manage all the things he’s going through.
Tony P: We’re touching on the balance of what Duke does, trying to solve the mystery of curing your parents, while also trying to protect Gotham by day is something we’re going to see. We haven’t even gotten to Duke going to school yet. What happens when he’s balancing that and his relationship and his parents?
I guess its one of those signs that your writing is on the right track because I was empathizing with Duke for all the things he was dealing with. Being the signal, his parents, his own abilities. It was just a huge responsibility trying to shoulder. And I felt that. It’s going to be exciting to see how he handles all the challenges because at some point he’s going to have to make some choices. And I just can’t wait to see the eventual time where Duke faces off with the Joker.
BNP: Wait, what?!
And that’s where he left us people, but really, the Joker?!