Duke Thomas is The Signal, the teenage metahuman vigilante and daylight protector of Gotham. Following the loss of his parents' sanity at the hands of the Joker, Duke joined and led the We Are Robin movement, hundreds of civilian teenagers who donned the Robin R and fought for their city in Batman's absence. Eventually, Duke left the movement and briefly struck out on his own, before being offered to train under Batman and join his family officially. Duke is now a member of the newly re-formed Outsiders team led by Black Lightning.
Duke is the biological son of Gotham City social worker Elaine Thomas and the villain known as Gnomon. Prior to his birth, Elaine fled to Gotham while still pregnant with Duke in order to escape Gnomon, as well as the various secret wars between immortals; involving individuals like the Immortal Man, The Infinite Woman, Ra's al Ghul and others. Elaine went on to become a social worker and marry Doug Thomas, a humble construction worker, and together they raised Duke in Tracey Towers in the Gotham Narrows. Duke grew up to live a relatively uneventful childhood, completely unaware of his mother's previous life.
When the terrorist Edward Nygma, aka the Riddler, shut off all the power in Gotham City, the madman challenged the city to get smart or die by natural selection during what would later be called the Zero Year. Riddler told the city that if anyone could ask him a riddle that he couldn't answer, he would restore power to Gotham. Duke, who was a confident young student at the time, began to train his mind with brain teasers in anticipation of accepting the Riddler's challenge. Duke and Bruce Wayne met for the first time when the Thomas family rescued the unconscious billionaire when Hurricane Rene began its rampage on Gotham simultaneously during the Riddler's plot. Thanking Duke for his kindness, Wayne departed to take on the Riddler himself.
Several years later, the Joker had returned to Gotham with an endgame for Batman in mind. Figuring out the vigilante's secret identity, the Joker kidnapped Duke and his family, and planned to recreate Bruce Wayne's parents' murders right in front of him using the Thomas family. Batman managed to rescue Duke and save the Thomas family from the murderous plot, but he was ultimately unable to save Duke's parents from succumbing to the mind-controlling gas Joker had released. Batman and Duke managed to make their way through the chaos on the streets of Gotham, and Batman left Duke in the care of Julia Pennyworth before setting off for a fatal showdown with the Joker; Batman went missing shortly thereafter.
Becoming a Robin
Following the disappearance of his parents after the events of Batman: Endgame, Duke was placed into the foster system. Duke grew jaded after it became apparent that the authorities were not making any progress in locating his parents and, desperate to find them, began regularly breaking away from his foster homes to investigate for himself. During his time in foster care, Duke went from an upstanding student to becoming a bit of a delinquent, receiving poor grades and racking up an extensive police record due to his investigations into his parents. Because of this, Duke was constantly circulated back into the foster care system.
Dr. Thompkins was placed in charge of his social case, and tried to keep him from getting into trouble by reassuring him that the police were still looking for his parents and would find them. In the meantime, she asked him to stop picking fights and try to be respectful to his foster parents. She then placed him with Joanne and Roy Dawson, after telling him that police had found some of the Joker's toxin victims wandering in the sewer system. Joanne showed Duke around the dirty apartment, telling Duke that he would need to babysit the other kids and clean the bathroom. Then she left him alone for a few minutes to organize his things into a drawer in the bedroom.
Feeling guilty about letting Leslie Thompkins down, Duke climbed out the window and left the apartment behind in order to go search for his parents in the sewers. As he made his way to the sewers, he thought about his mother and how she was so clean in every part of his life. It made him sad to imagine her wandering the sewers because he knew that that meant she was extremely far gone on the Joker's toxin.
While in the sewers looking for his parents, Duke accidentally stumbled into an underground meeting of homeless people who had created a small city. There, he overheard their plan to bomb different landmarks in Gotham, starting with the Hall of Records. Just after hearing this, he was discovered and attacked. Luckily, this was also when the Robins joined the fight to save him.
Together with the Robins, Duke fought his way out of the sewers, only to lose consciousness after a blow to the head. When the police came, the other Robins were ordered by the mysterious "Nest" to abandon him and run. Reluctantly, they did as they were told.
Duke awoke inside a police interrogation room. There, a skinny man with facial hair and dark glasses asked him what he was willing to do in order to find his parents. When Duke expressed confusion and told the man that that was the police's job, the man left the room. After waiting and then getting frustrated, Duke tried the door handle only to find it unlocked. When he stepped out of the interrogation room, he realized that he was not in a police station at all, but actually inside an abandoned warehouse.
This was when he discovered the red biker jacket with a yellow R on the breast, atop a motorcycle. Inside the jacket, he found a cellphone.
The cellphone in his new jacket instructed him to go to a new location where he met the Robins who had saved him earlier. Together, they found the bombs Duke had heard about, beneath the Hall of Record. Using instructions sent to their phones from a mysterious sender called the Nest, they were able to disable one of the bombs. The second bomb proved more difficult, however, as it was on a subway train track and they had to jump out of the way of trains every few moments.
Finally, the Nest instructed them to get on the next train and leave the second bomb there. However, one of the Robins, Troy, refused to leave. Determined that he could disable the bomb himself, he stayed behind alone. As the others rode away, he was caught in the blast and killed instantly.
After one of the Robins was implicated in the shooting of a police officer and a robber in a convenience store, the We Are Robin movement comes under fire by the public. This leads to a member of the city council, Councilwoman Noctua, implementing the Robin Laws. The Robin Laws made it illegal for anyone in Gotham to wear Robin paraphernalia and encouraged police to stop and detain anyone who might be a Robin.
Duke began spending his time at the Lucius Fox Center for Gotham Youth, where he found himself working alongside Bruce Wayne, who had become an amnesiac since the events of Endgame. Commissioner Gordon, who had become the new GCPD-backed Batman, came to Bruce with a seed that belonged to a new villain wreaking havoc in Gotham called Mister Bloom, hoping to spark his memory in order to take him down. While Bruce was of no help, Duke stole the seed off Bruce and took it to Daryl Gutierrez, an engineer working with the new Batman and longtime friend, to learn more about the seed and its origins. Later, Duke broke into the Penguin's Iceberg Lounge following a lead on Mr Bloom, stealing Bloom-related documents before quickly escaping the crime boss and his supervillain associates. Duke was spotted while making his escape, but before he could be taken out by Penguin's armed guards, Bruce Wayne narrowly saves his life, having tracked Duke when after he stole the seed.
Although safe from the bad guys, Duke was not safe from Bruce's talking-to, where he warns Duke of the dangers of crime-fighting. In this confrontation, Duke gets a text from Daryl that his parents have been found, but Bruce won't let Duke leave, continuing his lecture. Frustrated, Duke insinuates to Bruce that he knows he is Batman, and questions how Bruce can give up that life to work at a youth center, not understanding how the events of Endgame have erased Bruce's memory of being Batman. Bruce tries to reason with Duke, but Duke ultimately leaves, stating he believes that Batman will one day return, but in the meantime, he recommends Bruce stay out of his way. This confrontation between Bruce and Duke would set Bruce down the path back to being Batman.
Duke finally found his parents at a local psychiatric hospital, only to discover that it is too late to save them—they are permanently jokerized. Meanwhile, Mr. Bloom has unleashed his grand scheme upon Gotham and the streets erupt in chaos. Duke goes to confront Daryl; using the data from the files taken from Penguin, he'd discovered that Daryl is the creator of the Bloom seeds and is the original Mr. Bloom. Daryl subdues Duke, revealing his motivations and that he doesn't know the identity of the imposer Mr. Bloom, but Duke managed to turn the tables on Daryl before jumping from the GCPD airship. Unfortunately, a stray Bloom monster cuts his parachute, sending him free-falling until he is saved in the nick of time by Bruce Wayne as the newly returned Batman. Now secured, Duke watched as both the Batmen saved the city.
Once Bruce returned to the mantle of Batman, he offered Duke a position as his new protege. Duke accepted, under the condition that he did not want to be yet another Robin. Batman agreed, revealing a yellow crimefighting suit and telling Duke that he didn't want to train him to be Robin; he's trying "something new."
Training with Batman
Bruce moved Elaine and Doug into a facility on the Wayne estate, and Duke moved into the manor to begin their training together. Batman taught Duke everything he learned from his training abroad and over the course of his career as Batman, using a program Alfred called the "Cursed Wheel." One of Duke's first missions training under Batman involved following a string of murders committed by Victor Zsasz. Though Duke was gravely injured in the process, he learned an important lesson about the psychology of criminals and who he would become as a hero.
The "wheel" was forced to turn faster, according to Alfred, when Duke was thrust into a real adventure after the re-emergence of Two-Face's. Having heard a rumor of a cure that could fix him, Two-Face fought but reluctantly befriended Batman and Duke as they tried to locate the cure together with a hoard of assassins on their tail. Once the adventure ended, Duke was commended for his actions in his first real mission.
Continuing his training under the Cursed Wheel program, Batman and Duke tried to investigate how the Riddler was managing to terrorize the city from his cell in Arkham to celebrate the anniversary of the Zero Year. Following the clues, Duke discovered that the Riddler had secretly allied himself with Duke's former friend and the original Mister Bloom - Daryl Gutierrez; Daryl being the conduit for Riddler's schemes. While Batman dealt with the Riddler at Gotham General Hospital, Duke came face to face with Daryl when the villain ambushed him as a civilian at Wayne manor; taking Duke's parents hostage. Daryl taunted Duke, telling Duke that his biokinetic powers had sensed something unusual in the physiology of Duke and his mother and that he had come to demand answers to the same question he is; 'what are you?' He even offered to use his powers to heal his parents if Duke could tell him what he and his mother are. Duke didn't understand what Daryl was getting at and rushed him head-on, but he is quickly overpowered. Although she's still jokerized, Elaine came to her son's aid, distracting Daryl for a moment before being knocked unconscious. This bought Duke enough time to rally, his eyes began to glow, and he took down Daryl. Duke is left dumbfounded, unable to understand his new vision.
While Batman was on a mission somehow related to the mysteries of Nth Metal, Duke was tasked to guard the cave. This put this at odds with Hal Jordan who had been sent to investigate by The Guardians, who had received strange omens that pointing to that location. Together they found a secret level of Batcave and attempted to decode the clues that the Bat had collected and stored in the cave, only to discover that Bruce had captured and hidden the Joker there too. Accidentally freeing the madman, the Joker revealed he knew more about the mystery of Nth Metal, that Duke is connected to it, and that Duke and his mother are actually metahumans, before vanishing from the cave entirely.
Joining the Outsiders
Some time after the Justice League saved the earth during the No Justice incident, Batman and Black Lightning began development on the reformation of the Outsiders initiative in order to spearhead emerging clandestine threats and covert operations. This team became active after the villain Karma lured Duke into a trap, blowing up a building and killing a civilian in the process. This attack left Duke in critical condition and kicked off a Karma's terroristic assault on Batman to isolate him from his allies using telepathic alien technology from the Markovian black market. Fearing he might compromise the team, Batman conceded leadership of the Outsiders to Black Lightning and called in the help of Katana and Orphan after taking some time to recover, Duke was joined the team and together they took down Karma, officially forming the latest iteration of the Outsiders.
Ra's al Ghul and The Outsiders
Powers and Abilities
Unique Physiology: Duke is a metahuman with the ability to manipulate, absorb, and redistribute both light and shadow. Duke's powers are essentially photokinetic in nature and originally only allowed him to manipulate the way he processes light. However, after experiencing the touch of Ishmael, his powers have since "evolved" to manipulating light and darkness more abstractly. Duke's metahuman abilities come from the metagene, a genetic variation caused by naturally occurring traces of Nth metal in the bloodstream. Duke inherited this genetic trait from both of his biological parents: Elaine Thomas and Gnomon. Duke's physiology appears to be unique in comparison to other metahumans. Metahumans' cells become reactive to his presence and their abilities may become amplified. Gnomon also claimed Duke possess his "infinite blood", implying Duke may potentially be immortal.
- Photokinesis: Duke's primary ability is photokinesis, which he can use to manipulate light as well as the way he process light. Due to his body's unique photokinetic properties he possesses enhanced photo-sensory abilities. His photokinetic senses can detect changes and variations in light invisible to the naked eye, and he can absorb and process light faster than humanly possible. Particularly powerful forms of Nth metal can amplify his photokinetic vision, allowing longer more vivid visions and even some audio.
- Ghost Vision: Duke's most notable ability is what he calls his "Ghost Vision". By manipulating the way he processes light, Duke can use his photokinetic vison to perceive the "ghosts" of where light has been in his vicinity, allowing him to see a few minutes into the past. he can also use his vision to glimpse into the future by sensing the "ghosts" of where light will be.
- Cosmic Perception: Duke can perceive the entirety of the electromagnetic spectrum and can even see beyond the known Electromagnetic spectrum. He's able to perceive light originating from across dimensional boundaries into the history of a previous universe.
- X-Ray Vision: Duke is able to track, follow, and detect someone through walls, ceilings, smoke, and most other materials.
- Telescopic Vision: Duke has the ability to focus his vision to see things at great distance, even at high speeds. Duke is capable of tracking the movement of light (or a person moving at light-like speeds) as it passes over the horizon.
- Microscopic Vision: Duke also has the ability to see extremely small objects and images down to the subdermal level.
- Invisibility: Duke's photokinesis powers can be used for invisibility.
- Umbrakinesis: Having experienced the touch of Ishmael, Duke's photokinetic powers "evolved" to include the ability to command, absorb, and redistribute darkness. He describes the ability as "behaving like a tide" that pushes and pulls shadows.
- Shadow Absorption: Duke can pull shadows toward and into himself to reveal more light in his vicinity.
- Shadow Generation: Duke can expel darkness from himself, enveloping everything in a wave of darkness. He can also charge up his darkness before sending it at his target.
- Shadow Bending: Duke can shape and manipulate shadow like a physical object.
- Shadow Traversal: Duke can move though shadows and darkness to traverse distances quickly and discretely. he can also use this ability on his allies to safely retreat or to perform coordinated attacks.
- Photo-Umbrakinesis: Duke can combine his light and darkness powers. Envisioning a path, Duke can then travel through light and shadow simultaneously to follow it. While traversing through light and shadow, everything around him appears to stand still.
- Power Amplification: Metahumans in Duke's presence react on a cellular level and their powers begin to increase. We see this while examining Null's blood cells and it's later confirmed by Gnomon; however, it is unclear how much he affects their actual powers.
- Healing ability: it has been discovered that Duke's powers allow him to heal rapidly in dire situations.
- Creative Writing: Duke shows potential as a writer, with a talent specifically for poetry, although he'd never admit it.
- Indomitable Will: Duke's proven himself to be an exceptionally strong-willed individual. During the events of Robin War, Duke was the one to face off against a rogue Damian Wayne and, despite Damian's best efforts, refused to go down until he convinced Damian to fight alongside him and the Robins. Duke was also able to create a complex construct of Batman's machine using a power ring loaned to him by Hal Jordan on his first try.
- Genius Level Intellect: Duke has been shown to be exceptionally intelligent even from a young age, having trained his mind as a child to challenge the Riddler. Duke was exceptional enough to go on to qualify as a finalist for the Gotham Genius grant at the age of 12. While his academic performance did not match his potential in his later school years, Duke's sharp mind and intelligence made him a natural fit for detective work, able to figure out the identities of Alfred Pennyworth as "The Nest", Dick Grayson as Agent 37 Bruce Wayne as Batman and Damian as Robin.
- Polymath: as a protégé of Batman, Duke is a skilled detective with a diverse skillset, capable of forensic investigation, observation, inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning of the highest caliber. Through Batman's "Cursed Wheel" program Duke learned all of the fundamental skills Bruce Wayne studied in order to become Batman, such as Escapology, Psychology, Biology, Chemistry, Criminal Science, Mathematics, Physics, etc. and has also studied records of every contingency plan and personal insight created by Batman throughout his years as a vigilante.
- Leadership: Duke's ability to rally and coordinate people under his command makes him an formidable field commander. Under his leadership, Duke's faction of the Robin gang were the driving force behind the We Are Robin movement. Batman recognizes Duke's leadership abilities and has been training Duke for Justice League-level leadership. Duke has been known to take the lead even when working with more experienced heroes like the Batgirls, Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown, and Red Robin, Tim Drake.
- Martial Arts: Duke has had multiple martial arts instructors and has become a seasoned combatant over his career as a hero. He demonstrated a natural skill for fighting prior to his vigilante career, able to take on multiple opponents at once without any training. During the Robin War, he and the rest of the We are Robin gang received a crash course in combat and tactics from the "original Robins": Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake and Damian Wayne. He went on to receive formal martial arts training from Batman as well as some one-on-one training with Red Hood before becoming The Signal. Duke then began training under both Black Lightning and Katana soon after joining The Outsiders and was even briefly mentored by Lady Shiva. Duke also trains with Cassandra Cain on a regular basis.
- Enhanced Combat Perception: His precognition and enhanced visual senses make him uniquely perceptive in a fight, able to react to attacks faster than normally possible, detect weak points, and slow down his perception to catch flying projectiles.
- Hand-to-Hand Combat (Advanced)
- Stick Fighting
- Robin Costume: (Formerly) After joining the We Are Robin movement, he was given a red leather jacket by the mysterious "Nest". The jacket proved to be bulletproof, even against multiple bullets at close range.
- Signal Armor: After training with Batman, Duke was given an upgraded version of his costume. The new suit is a slightly heavier plated version of his previous suit with some new technology updates. The suit has a reflective bat insignia that can blind or confuse an enemy as well as change color depending on lighting. His suit also has a built-in defensive electrical grid and a stealth mode that makes him invisible.
- Motocycle: Originally a yellow version of Batman's Batcycle, Duke has upgraded to a more streamlined motorcycle that can also cloak itself with Duke's suit; rendering it completely invisible.
- Eskrima Stick: Duke's primary weapon of choice is a pair of modified Eskrima sticks that connect to function as nunchaku as well. The sticks come with spring-loaded hatchet blades that allow them to be used as a grappling hook.
- Nunchaku (Formerly)
- Duke's first appearance in an early version of his iconic yellow costume was in one of Bruce Wayne's hallucinations in Batman (Volume 2) #35 - written and drawn by his original creators Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo respectively - in which Duke was referred to by the codename "Lark". Duke would never officially take the name during his crime fighting career but, according to Batman in Batman and the Signal #1, Duke seriously considered it in his personal notebook before it was shot down.
- Duke Thomas began dating Isabella Ortiz some time after leaving the Robin movement to train under Batman.
- Duke went to West Robinson High School, he ran track his first year and tried out for soccer, but was expelled from the team after a disagreement with the strength trainer.
- Duke's hobbies include collectible card games, puzzles, and film; particularly Quentin Tarantino films.
- Duke Thomas is a childhood fan of MMA, Luke Fox in particular meant a lot to him growing up.
- 141 Appearances of Duke Thomas (Prime Earth)
- 82 Images featuring Duke Thomas (Prime Earth)
- 9 Quotations by or about Duke Thomas (Prime Earth)
- Character Gallery: Duke Thomas (Prime Earth)
- Batman and the Signal #3
- Batman and the Signal #1
- The Unexpected (Volume 3) #4
- Detective Comics #987
- Batman and the Outsiders (Volume 3) #3
- Batman and the Signal #2
- Batman Secret Files: The Signal #1
- Batman and the Outsiders (Volume 3) #7
- Batman and the Outsiders (Volume 3) #8
- Batman and the Outsiders (Volume 3) #9
- Dark Nights: Death Metal Robin King #1
- We Are Robin: The Vigilante Business
- Grayson #15
- Robin War #2
- Batman: Rebirth #1
- All-Star Batman #1
- New Talent Showcase 2017 #1
- Batman and the Outsiders (Volume 3) #13
- Detective Comics #952
|Batman Family member |
This character is or was an incarnation of or an ally of Batman, and a member of the Batman Family. This template will automatically categorize articles that include it into the "Batman Family members" category.
|Outsiders member |
This character is or was primarily a member of the super-hero team known as the Outsiders, in any of its various incarnations. They are a black ops team dedicated to fighting evil and taking the fall in public opinion that bigger groups like the Justice League cannot, started by Batman to avoid being crippled by public relations needs. This template will categorize articles that include it into the "Outsiders members" category.