As Greg Capullo and Scott Snyder leave Batman after next month's issue #51, they'll leave behind a new generation of Batman allies. From Harper Row to Julia Pennyworth, the two creators and other Batman writers have populated the "New 52" with a significant list of new young characters who help Batman in Gotham City. At the end of this week's Batman #50, one of those young allies — Duke Thomas — became more official in his role as Batman's ally when Bruce Wayne specifically said to the teen, "I have an offer for you."
But the actual offer wasn't made in Batman #50, leaving readers wondering what that offer may be.
When Newsarama asked Snyder whether Duke would be the next Robin, he didn't deny that it was a possibility, but he indicated it's something new as well.
"I think you guys will be surprised," the writer said. "We wanted to try something a little bit new with this one. It has echoes of that, but it's actually something a little bit different that myself and the writer on Batman and a couple of the other writers came up with — a way of sort of spinning the mythology a bit. So we're really, really excited about it."
So what will Duke Thomas be?
Past DC stories have indicated that Duke was intended to eventually be Batman's sidekick Robin. And with Rebirth changing things in June, it would be fitting for DC to introduce a new Robin — one that adds diversity and a fresh look to the DC line.
It's also not the first time he would wear the mantle. The first time we met Duke back June 2013, he was a young boy who helped out Batman during Snyder and artist Capullo's "Zero Year" storyline. But the next time he showed up, he was in a "possible" story set five years in the future, wearing a Robin costume and fighting alongside Batman.
Most recently, Duke was joined by several other Gotham City youths to become part of the We Are Robin title, wearing a Robin costume and acting the part of Robin along with other kids, under the digital direction of an unknown coordinator (whom readers learned was Alfred Pennyworth).
So Duke already has the Robin costume, and he's already been teased as the next Robin. The offer from Batman could easily be the Robin mantle.
But Snyder's comments hint that, although Duke's new position has "echoes" of Robin, it isn't exactly the Robin gig.
"From the beginning, I've been hesitant about the possibility of him becoming officially Robin," Snyder told Newsarama. "I think that he would fit, because of the way he approaches the mantle. I think he'd make a great Robin for that reason.
"But I also feel like… I guess part of me wondered if there was a way to create something new with him as well, so that it would just be another figure in that role, as exciting as that can be."
There's one other reason Duke probably isn't Robin — Damian Wayne. He's still Batman's Robin, and now that Bruce Wayne has his memories back, he'll likely return to his father's side. Adding to that, a Robin is featured in the recent Rebirth video teasers looking like Damian Wayne.
Of course, it's worth remembering that Tim Drake, who was Batman's second Robin, didn't actually wear that name — he called himself Red Robin. If Duke is going to act as Batman's sidekick — or even a secondary sidekick — he could always simply wear a different name.
In a past Batman story by Snyder and Capullo, Duke showed up in a "vision" Bruce Wayne had, where he imagined Duke wearing the superhero name "Lark" — an identity that Snyder had been teasing for months.
There is precedence for a "New 52"-introduced hero getting a bird-related name. For example, Harper Row was given the superhero "Bluebird," and Calvin Rose was given the name "Talon."
But at the time Snyder revealed the "Lark" name, he minimized its eventual use as Duke's superhero name. "We have plans for Duke," he told Newsarama, "as hinted at in various versions, in various places, but you'll have to wait and see."
And although Batman saw Duke in a Lark costume, Snyder said, "The visions are more about how Bruce thinks things might end for him, rather than any concrete spoilers. But you can get a sense from that moment that Duke is important to him."
So Duke might become Lark. But that might be simply a vision that will never come to fruition, particularly now that Snyder is no longer writing Batman.
There's good reason to think Duke will get a brand new identity that has never been revealed before — one that wasn't invented by Snyder and isn't "Robin."
Not only is DC going through some changes thanks to the upcoming Rebirth storyline, but there's a new writer coming onto Batman. And Snyder said that writer was part of the decisions about Duke's new identity.
"I think we landed someplace that gives us an opportunity to do something with him that hasn't been tried before," Snyder told Newsarama. "And it opens up the mythology of Robin and that stuff a bit, and gives us a bit of history and interesting elements that have gone unexplored to this point."
But what will that identity be? There's a good chance it's a name that relates to birds. But as Snyder said, "We'll see. We'll see."