Comic book characters come and go. They change with the times, finding themselves replaced by new blood for a usual run of between 18 and 24 issues before they eventually make a return. It’s something that the big two in the comic book industry have done often and regularly as of late, swapping out classic characters in favour of a newer generation of crimefighters.
For Marvel, the results have been mixed. The chief complaint is that these replacements feel like ham-fisted alternatives whose inclusion feels somewhat forced and entirely at odds with decades of continuity. DC Comics on the other hand, has had a better approach so far. Yes they’ve got new characters circling the cowls and capes of your beloved icons, but their growth so far has been entirely natural.
Take Duke Thomas for example. Introduced during the Zero Year of Scott Snyder’s run on Batman, Thomas represents the best of his generation: Courage, commitment and motivation. DC Comics have been building him up for a few years now, first as a new breed of Robin and then as something else. Not a Batman nor a Robin, but the future of Gotham City. Duke’s journey into the main event spotlight however, is just beginning.
“Issue #9, the next issue, is where there are some big revelations about him, and he ends up understanding what his role in Gotham and in the DCU is going to be,” All Star Batman writer Scott Snyder said to Newsarama.
And it continues into some of the material we’re going to do over the summer, where he really lands officially.
I’d like him to be a character that we give someone new a chance on — you know, and I’ll help with it. But really try to take a risk with him and try something and see if there’s room for somebody who has a different mission, different take, different things.
But the idea with this story arc is, I wanted to bring back a lot of elements from his past, so this brings back Izzy from We Are Robin, a series I really loved. It brings back his origin — the first time he appeared in “Zero Year. He meets Batman in the opening pages of “Zero Year,” but his actual first meeting with Batman, in the narrative, is when he’s trying to solve a crossword puzzle to help Batman defeat the Riddler, to help Bruce defeat the Riddler.
So in that way, we’re trying to bring a lot of that material back here to make it sort of come full circle so we can launch him forward at the end.
I think Duke’s time is right. The character has more than proven himself so far, to be someone who embodies the new ideals of Batman and DC Comics since their Rebirth: Hope, inspiration and the fact that the world needs heroes more than ever. He’s a new hero for a new era. “His core belief is that this generation’s heroes need to find their own way, to do thing independent of the heroes that came before,” Snyder added.
That’s why he was always talking about how Robin doesn’t need a Batman. He loves the heroes that came before, like Batman, but he’s very independently trying to find a place that doesn’t make him a proxy or a kind of extension of the family as we’ve seen it so far.
It’s that independence which makes Duke such a great character, even though he may be an agent of the Bat. Whatever the future holds for Duke Thomas, I can’t wait to see it as he leads the charge as a standout example of DC’s new generation of heroes.