After readers watched the evolution of Batman's young ally Duke Thomas over the last few years, Bruce Wayne finally said to the teen, "I have an offer for you."
But that offer wasn't the name "Robin." Instead, Duke is calling himself the "Signal," and he's the officially sanctioned representative of the Bat-family during the daytime in Gotham City.
His new mission began last month when Batman and the Signal kicked off by relocating Duke from Wayne Manor to his former home in the Narrows and surrounding him with youthful characters as a supporting cast.
With this week's Batman and the Signal, co-written by Scott Snyder and newcomer Tony Patrick, the mystery of Duke's origin - and the strange appearance of new superpowered teens in daytime Gotham - will be explored as the series introduces a new villain named Gnomon.
Named after the projecting piece on a sundial, Gnomon continues the theme of "daytime" in Duke's new direction.
Newsarama talked to Patrick about the new series, what it's like to work with the book's artist Cully Hamner, and what readers can expect from the future adventures of Duke Thomas in Batman and the Signal.
Newsarama: Tony, this character has been around a while, but this series represents a different approach to the character, with his new powers and daytime mission. It's been fun to read his adventures so far. How did you get involved in the development of this character and the Batman and the Signal title?
Tony Patrick: Coming from the Writers Workshop and being one of Scott's students, when he mentioned that there might be a possibility of more Duke stories - because I had asked about Duke during a workshop - he told me that there was an opening to possibly co-write, which I didn't believe at first. But I said, "Hey, let me volunteer myself!"
Once the process began, I was kind of given carte blanche to play around with a lot of different themes. One of the things we discussed was Duke being Batman's daytime emissary. I ended up centering everything around that new responsibility.
But of course, the exciting aspect of this, because it happened in Dark Nights: Metal, is the emergence of his new powers and the fact that Duke is a meta-human. We knew this was a great opportunity to play around with these powers while also shrouding him in some mystery.
I'm glad you said it was fun to read, because that's part of our goal too. We hope we can transmit our excitement and the fun we have working on this to the book, to infuse it into our work.
Nrama: You've also brought some characters into the book from Duke's last gig as one of the Robins, adding them to the supporting cast and moving Duke into the Narrows. How did you pull together all these characters who surround Duke?
Patrick: Yeah, I'm a big fan of We Are Robin, so there's no way we could talk about Duke's supporting cast without having some of those former members of We Are Robin along for the ride, without including them.
Also, we wanted to follow up on the fact that he has two parents that are affected with Joker toxin. And cousin Jay - what is his present-day living situation?
So he's back in the Narrows. He's living with his cousin Jay. He's still affected by his parents' condition.
We also figured that he's not in the mansion anymore, so he's got to go back to high school. And that can generate future stories.
Nrama: You mentioned his mission of working in the daytime, but it's more than just the "time of day," right? Riko mentions in issue #2 that even his attitude comes at things from the "daylight." Do you think that differentiates him from the nighttime characters - his perspective being from the daylight?
Patrick: Well, Duke has an evolving perspective, and I also believe Batman has an evolving perspective, when we talk about protecting Gotham. Batman has a by-any-means methodology, but one of those gaps is the daytime. Batman is technically Bruce Wayne during the day, and Batman operates at night.
So to cover that territory, Batman has evolved to this point of realizing that he needs a daytime representative, and that is the Signal.
Duke Thomas has evolved over the years too, right? We're watching his evolution, through each series he's been in, whether it be Batman or All-Star Batman or We Are Robin. We're watching him evolve into, hopefully, one of the greats and a top-tier hero of the DC Universe.
So his perspective has to embrace the light, and he has to unravel the mystery of daytime Gotham.
One of the things we decided to play around with in the new series is giving daytime Gotham its own eco-system, its own voice. Heroes and villains can grow in the daylight, grow in the sunlight.
So daytime Gotham, to me, is its own character, and I think we're watching Duke grapple with this kind of new territory, new eco-system, and expand his own perspective during his first shift - that's what we're watching and experiencing in the first three issues.
Nrama: Gnomon, this new villain you're introducing, has a lot of mystery surrounding him, since he appears to be the one behind this influx of meta-humans – even hinting that he's instrumental in Duke's own evolution. Can you talk about who Gnomon is, or what he represents?
Patrick: Yeah! And no! I can't give away too much. But Gnomon has some of our answers to the central mystery of the mini-series.
Obviously, someone has helped engineer this new meta-human teen population. And he's also ballsy enough to hack the Bat-computers. So wow, good luck to him.
He is part of a pre-existing history that perhaps even Batman has very little knowledge of. And if Batman doesn't know about it, that's a serious issue.
So I'm looking forward to unraveling some of those aspects of Gnomon's back-history.
Nrama: You're working with Cully Hamner on the book.
Nrama: He brings some experience with him, giving new life to young characters like Duke. What does he bring to the title you're co-writing?
Patrick: I feel like I hit the jackpot with this team of people, and I feel very lucky and grateful to be part of this team. Cully's artwork is fantastic. And he is our collaborator. So he's part of the process.
To see concepts and ideas and dialogue brought to life by Cully Hamner's art is an honor. It's a privilege. I couldn't ask for a better artist on this series.
He's also one of the best character designers in comics, so I also hit that jackpot as well.
Those Arkham juvie kids? I'm like, wow! When we worked on them and started seeing these designs coming from Cully, they're just priceless.
Nrama: Can you tease what's coming up? I know Batman's appearing in the series soon.
Patrick: Yeah, we'll see a lot more Batman in issue #3. Duke will also be faced with some heavy decisions in #3, in regards to his role and his first shift.
And I think we're watching the beginning of a new status quo in issue #3.
Issue #2 is cranking it up and getting closer to the central mystery of our series, and getting a more in-depth look at the Signal's life and the challenges he faces in our series - and new threats as well.