- "You're a metahuman hero forged in the shadows who can crack the codes of daytime. You're a gift to this city."
- ―Bruce Wayne
Duke Thomas is a vigilante and a member of the Batman Family. He joined the We Are Robin movement and became one of hundred of civilian teenagers to don the Robin R and fight for their city. Eventually, he would leave the movement and join the Batman Family as the vigilante called The Signal.
When the terrorist known as 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 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 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 from the murderer, but Duke's parents succumbed to the mind controlling gas Joker had released.
Becoming a Robin
After the events of Batman: Endgame, Duke was placed into the foster system. He became desperate to find his parents after it became apparent that the authorities were not making any progress in locating them. During his time in foster care, he went from an excellent student to having a heavy police file because of all of the fights he got into. Because of this, his temporary foster parent, Raymond Mendez, sent him back into the system.
Leslie 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 Dr. 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 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.
We Are Robin
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.
Training with Batman
Once Bruce Wayne returned to the mantle of Batman after he had previously lost his memory, the Bat offered Duke a position as his new protege, which the boy accepted under the condition that he not become just another Robin. Handing him a yellow suit instead, Batman agreed to teach him as something else.
Beginning their training together in what Alfred Pennyworth called the "Cursed Wheel", Batman taught Duke the basics of becoming a professional vigilante by first following a string of murders committed by Victor Zsasz. Though Duke was injured in the process, he learned an important lesson about the psychology of criminals and who he was as a hero.
The "wheel" was forced to turn faster, according to Alfred, when Duke was thrust into a real adventure after Two-Face's return. Having heard a rumor of a cure that could fix him, Two-Face simultaneously fought and 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. Together, Duke and Batman saw that the two villains were stopped.
Dark Nights: Metal
While Batman investigated the mysteries of Nth Metal, Duke and Hal Jordan attempted to decode the clues that the Bat had collected and stored in the Batcave, 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 and that he knew that Duke was actually a metahuman before vanishing from the cave entirely.
Batman & The Signal
After studying under Batman for over a year, Batman gave Duke an upgraded Batsuit and the Hatch, his own full stocked secret base, as a present for completed his training. Newly graduated from sidekick to full time hero. Duke took the codename "The Signal" and reunited with his former Robin gang members, Riko Sheridan and Izzy Ortiz, to aid him in his new role as Gotham's daylight protector of. For his first solo mission, The Signal had the solve the mystery of "the dail" and the dead metahuman bodies suddenly appearing throughout Gotham. This led to a confrontation with The Null, an escaped metahuman from "Juvie Arkham", which pointed him to the Arkham Juvenile Detention Center. Using his Ghost Vision, Signal infiltrate Juvie Arkham, which had been being used to house metahuman delinquents, but walked straight into an ambush. luckily, Detective Alex Aisi arrived just in time to help Signal make a narrow escape.
The Signal and Detective Aisi to compare notes, and he uses his photokinetic sight to discover trace amounts of Nth metal embedded in the skin of the metahumans. The metal, and the metahuman bodies, were reacting to both Duke and something in the air; the sunlight. noticing a strange solar pattern radiating from the Gotham Proper housing project, they theorized someone is using Gotham Proper to create metahumans using sunlight. Duke returns to the Batcave to bring his new theory to Batman when the bat-computer a villain calling himself Gnomon. He unleashes innumerable metahumans, all chanting Duke's name, to wreak havoc on the city. Gnomon created the metahumans for Duke and demands he join him. Batman and The Signal head out to stop the villain.
When they arrive on the scene the Bat Family are spread thin. The duo split up and Duke makes his way to confront Gnomon on the solar observatory at Gotham Proper. When face to face Gnomon reveals his plans. He reveals that he is an immortal being and that years ago Duke's mother, Elaine, fled to Gotham to hide Duke from him; he is Duke's biological father. Signal's metahuman powers can sense can sense that everything Gnomon says is true, due to their genetic connection, but he summons the strength to stop Gnomon anyway. Signal is initially outmatch but, with some surprise assistance from Detective Aisi, he's able to subdue Gnomon and survive his first day.
The next day, after a breakfast with the Bat Family, Bruce congratulates Duke on a successful first day. Duke then goes to see his still jokerized mother, hoping to get some answers to no avail. Duke then meets up with Detective Aisi to start a new day as the Signal.
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 series of terroristic attacks by the villain to demoralize Batman. Seeing the villain wants to isolate him from his allies, Batman re-formed The Outsiders and, fearing he might compromise the team, conceded leadership of the group to Black Lightning. Enlisting the help of Katana, Cassandra Cain, and a recovered Duke, the Outsiders took down Karma and officially forming the newest iteration of The Outsiders.
Still traumatized from the Karma attack, Duke and the Outsiders find themselves in a proxy war between Batman and Ra's al Ghul over the metahuman Sofia Ramos. Ra's Al Gul manipulates the Outsiders in order to keep them busy and disrupt their teamwork, planting the cyborg Kaliber in their ranks in order to get to Sofia and plotting to recruit both Duke and Cassandra. With Katana and Black Lightning preoccupied by Sofia Ramos and Kaliber, Duke was captured by Ra's' acolyte, Ishmael, who has the ability to steal metahuman powers and vitality or evolve and change metahuman powers. Ishmael and Ra's, seeing potential in Duke, sent Ishmael to evolve Duke's powers for Ra's ends. Tortured, chained, and beaten by Ishmael, Duke's powers are modified from being light-based to manipulating darkness. Cassandra Cain tracks down Ishmael, defeating him in single combat, and rescuing her partner. Duke tells her he is no longer able to see the light and all he can see is darkness.
Following the transformation of his powers, Duke defied Batman's instruction and starting going out with Cassandra to test his new abilities on the streets of Gotham. After Kaliber's ousting, and Sofia and Lady Shiva joining the team, Shiva took Duke under her wing and took over guidance of his and Cassandra's training from Katana. The Outsiders eventually re-group and defeat Ra's before pairing off and going their separate ways. Duke is seen taking to Lady Shiva about the duality of his new abilities, feeling his light powers coming back, before meeting up with Cassandra to head back to Gotham.
Batman is proud to see Duke and the rest of the Batfamily pushing beyond their limits fight against The Darkest Knight and his forces, during the events of Death Metal.
Powers and Abilities
Metahuman Physiology: Duke is a metahuman with the photokinetic ability to absorb, redistribute, and manipulate both light and darkness. Duke's powers 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 parents, Elaine Thomas and Gnomon, and his powers are photokinetic in nature. His powers were originally limited to manipulating the way he processes light, but have since evolved to manipulate light and darkness more abstractly. Gnomon claims Duke has his "infinite blood", implying Duke may potentially be immortal.
- Photokinetic Vision: Duke's most notable ability is what he calls his "Ghost Vision", the ability to perceive the "ghosts" of where light has been or will be. By seeing where light has been and has been absorbed Duke can see in order to see a few minutes into the past to see the history or an area, and by sensing where light will be Due can see the "ghost" of danger before it happens. Duke's photokinetic vision isn't limited to his Ghost Vision, his eyes possess a superior sensory array that can detect variations in light invisible to the naked eye. He can process light faster than humanly possible, track the movement of light, and even manipulate the way he processes light for a variety of visual tasks, such as:
- X-Ray Vision: Duke can see through walls, ceilings, smoke and most other materials.
- Telescopic Vision: Duke can focus his vision to see things at great distance, even at high speeds.
- Microscopic Vision: Duke can see extremely small objects down to the subdermal level.
- Cosmic Perception: Duke can perceive the entirety of Electromagnetic Spectrum and perceive light beyond the known spectrum. Duke can even perceive light across dimensional and temporal boundaries, into the history of a previous universe, under the right conditions.
- Umbrakinesis: Duke's photokinetic powers include the ability to manipulate shadows and darkness. Duke describes the ability as "behaving like a tide" that pushes and pulls shadows to himself.Duke can pull shadows toward and into himself, revealing more light, or expel shadows from himself, enveloping everything in a wave of darkness. He can shape and move darkness like a physical object, able to use shadows to augment his melee combat, or ensnare a target. When generating shadow in a concentrated manner, the darkness releases small bursts of photoelectric discharge. Duke can also use shadow to cloak his allies and allow them to traverse the battlefield quickly and discretely for coordinated attacks.
- Leadership: Duke's greatest asset is his ability to lead. He has developed into a charisma leader who is able to easily gain the trust of others, persuade them over to his cause, and inspire loyalty from those under his command. Under his leadership, Duke's faction of the We are Robin gang rose were the driving force behind the entire movement and played a pivotal role in keep Gotham safe in the absence of Batman. Duke's ability to coordinate and rally those under his command makes him a formidable field commander, even when working with other, more experienced, Batfamily members like Cassandra Cain, Tim Drake, and Stephanie Brown.
- Genius Intellect: As a child he mentally trained himself with riddles and puzzles, in order to one day give the Riddler a riddle he couldn't solve. Duke went on to develop into a child prodigy, going on to qualify for a Genius grant against the likes of Daryl Gutierrez at age 12. His quick-wit makes him a talented detective, figuring out the identities of Bruce Wayne as Batman, Dick Grayson as Agent 37, Damian Wayne as Robin, and Alfred as "The Nest" behind the We Are Robin movement.
- 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.
- Hand-to-Hand Combat (Advanced): Duke is a seasoned fighter and proficient melee combatant. Duke is a natural athlete, having been a part of multiple sports teams in high school before being expelled from the teams. As part of the We Are Robin gang, Duke became skilled in the use of Nunchaku while fighting crime on the streets and was eventually instructed by Agent 37 and the rest of Batman's former Robins during the events of Robin War; receiving one on one training from Dick Grayson. Duke went on to becoming Batman's protégé, completing "The Cursed Wheel" program and learning everything Bruce learned to become Batman and studying longer than most other trainees; including training in Muay Thai and other martial arts. Duke has also trained under the guidance of Red Hood, Katana, and Lady Shiva, as well as a regular field and sparring partnership with Cassandra Cain. Duke's precognition and enhanced visual senses make him uniquely perceptive in a fight, able to react to attacks faster than normally possible, detect weak points in an opponent, and catch projectiles mid-flight..
- Martial Arts
- 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 bullet proof, even against multiple bullets at close range.
- Unnamed Costume: (Formerly) When Duke went to live with Bruce Wayne, he was gifted a new yellow and black costume. It included a yellow helmet with a black bat-shaped visor.
- 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 technological 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 render him totally invisible.
- Signal-cycle: 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.
- Bat-chat Sticks: Duke's primary weapon of choice are a pair of modified Esckrima sticks that connect to function as nunchaku. The sticks come with spring loaded hatchet blades that allow them to be used as slashing weapons or as a grapple hook.
- Nunchaku (Formerly)