First Encounter with Batman (BATMAN vol. 2 #21-33, 2013-2014)
Duke Thomas first appeared as a young child during the flashbacks to Batman’s New 52-era origin story, called “Zero Year.” A bright student, Duke strived to become smart enough to take down the Riddler, who had Gotham City under his control. At this time, young Duke and his family nursed an injured Bruce Wayne back to health. Wayne would go on to have a profound impact on Thomas’ life.
Facing The Joker’s Twisted Game (BATMAN vol. 2 #35-40, 2014-2015)
When The Joker finally learned the truth about who Batman really was, he tried to break Batman down to nothing. He kidnapped an innocent family, the Thomases, and planned to murder them in front of Bruce, re-creating Bruce’s own parents’ slaying. Batman was able to prevent The Joker from harming Duke, but the boy’s parents fell victim to the mind-controlling gas The Joker had released. They subsequently vanished.
Joining the Nest (WE ARE ROBIN, issues #1-12, 2015-2016)
While searching for his missing parents, Duke joined a group of other youngsters fighting crime in Gotham City. Inspired by the legacy of Batman’s partners, they called themselves the Robins. This “We Are Robin” movement operated out of a place called the Nest. During a time when Bruce Wayne wasn’t able to be the Batman, they helped keep the peace in Gotham City. The Robins were even trained for a time by the actual Robins who had been Batman’s sidekicks.
After a time, one of the Robins was implicated in the shooting of a police officer and a thief in a local convenience store, and the We Are Robin movement found itself under intense scrutiny from the public. This led a member of the city council to enact “The Robin Laws,” which made it illegal for anyone in Gotham to wear Robin attire and allowed the police to detain anyone wearing the Robin insignia. This ended the We Are Robin movement.
Lighting the Signal (BATMAN AND THE SIGNAL #1, 2017)
After the dissipation of the We Are Robin movement, Batman realized Duke’s potential as a crime-fighter. He rigorously trained him and gave him a yellow and black costume, unlike those of the Robins in its design. He would not, however, give him a code name, making him wait until his training was complete.
During this time, Duke realized he had metahuman abilities and could see things other people could not. These abilities gave him an extra edge when it came to crime-fighting. Soon after this discovery, Batman gave Duke a code name—the Signal. It would be his job to represent Batman in Gotham City during the day, fighting the crime threatening Gotham when the sun is up and the night creatures are resting.