COMICS WARS Marvel vs. DC 1st Edition!

COMICS WARS Marvel vs. DC 1st Edition!

Posted by on Sep 6, 2017 in Home, News, Opinion

 


COMICS WARS! Marvel vs. DC  

WHO DID IT BETTER? RESURRECTING SIDEKICKS

FEATURING 

WINTER SOLDIER VS. THE RED HOOD

 

By Iron Age Editorial

Welcome to the first edition of COMICS WARS! We compare similar stories and/or characters featured by two different publishers (i.e. Marvel, DC) to determine WHO DID IT BETTER! Two or more Iron Age staffers will read ALL the comics in question and weigh in with balanced arguments to determine a winner!

Weighing in:

 

 

 

Jon Santana – Writer/Creator – Jaded, The Wordsmith

 

 

 

Drew Mollo – Freelance comic news writer for ironagecomics.com and aggressivecomix.com

 

Intro

In late 2004, Marvel and DC concurrently published the now-famous resurrections of their most infamously dead sidekicks, Bucky Barnes and Jason Todd (Robin).

While we at Iron Age Comics pit the two storylines against each other to find out WHO DID IT BETTER? – ponder another question for yourselves…. Could the release of these simultaneous and ironically similar storylines truly be a COINCIDENCE? We at Iron Age certainly think NOT…

On with the battle!

This is what real comics research looks like!

Round 1: Who came first? Which character appeared in their resurrected state in real time first (not retconned continuity)?

JON: This one’s cut and dry: Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes cameos in Captain America vol. 5 #1 (published Jan. 2005)  in suspended animation, and later in the issue (albeit in shadows) murders the Red Skull. The resurrected Jason Todd/Red Hood first appears in Batman #635 (published Feb. 2005). Winter Soldier wins by a mere month.

DREW:  Winter Soldier appeared as a character in January 2005; while the Red Hood was published in a Batman comic for the first time a month later, it’s good to remember that according to Batman Annual #25 (May 2006), Jason Todd was lurking in the background of Batman issues #217-218 (Sep-OCT ‘03). Both of these characters were part of an aphorism called the Bucky Clause that stated in comics “Nobody stayed dead except Bucky, Jason Todd and Uncle Ben.” Both characters had been considered by various editorial and creative teams to return to their respective continuities but it never happened for a variety of reasons. In the case of Jason Todd, his death had already solicited such hate mail and reaction regarding how it occurred that, in the words of former editor Denny O’Neil, “It would be a really sleazy stunt to bring him back”. In the case of Bucky, both writers Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had a dislike for teenage sidekicks and the idea of bringing Bucky Barnes back had been an idea that had crossed the mind of other writers but never materialized.

Point – Winter Soldier (unanimous)

 

Round 2: Which had the greater impact in continuity?

JON:

This one’s tough – the character of Red Hood as we knew him was relatively new before DC revamped its whole continuity with the New 52 and retconned his origin (a retcon of a retcon, if you incorporate Batman Annual #25’s reveal that a Superboy-multiverse-punch reset the DC universe and resurrected Jason in his grave…. Yeah. That happened). So while I feel the Red Hood is a staple in the DCU and an important part of the current Bat-Family, I never felt the full impact of his involvement as I thought I would when he was first introduced in 2005.

Bucky as Winter Soldier not only becomes part of Cap’s most trusted inner circle in subsequent stories, he actually takes the mantle of Captain America. He carries the shield well during his tenure as Cap and is far from a Cap fascimile – he carries a gun and visually looks strikingly different, all while conceding he will never truly fill Cap’s boots. For this, I give the point to Winter Soldier.

DREW:

After his reappearance in Under the Red Hood, Jason resurfaced during One Year Later as a murderous Nightwing copycat before returning to the Red Hood identity. He was a prominent character in 2008’s Countdown and even wore the Red Robin suit as he attempted to return to his crime fighting ways. Bruce Wayne’s advice to seek psychiatric help in his Last Will and Testament apparently sent him over the edge as he reappeared dressed as villainous Batman in a failed attempt to usurp the title of Batman from other members of the Bat Family. He would plague Dick Grayson as Batman in a more unstable role as the Red Hood with his new sidekick Scarlet. After the New 52, Jason’s role in the Bat Family changed as his origin was retconned. He was revealed to be both a member of the Outlaws and Batman Incorporated under the codename Wingman. His relationship with Bruce Wayne and the other Bat Family members was improved as he was featured in Batman Eternal, Batman: Death of the Family, Batman and Robin, and Batman and Robin Eternal. He would continue to return to the Red Hood identity and was described by Bruce Wayne in and issue of Batman and Robin Eternal as “Jason is willing to do what Batman can’t, when the world needs it.”

After having his memories restored, the Winter Soldier helped Cap and even asked for employment from Nick Fury. During Civil War, he was a part of a failed rescue plan for Captain America before he was assassinated. After a battle against Iron Man (whom he blamed for Steve’s death) Bucky eventually agreed to become Captain America honoring Steve’s wish for the mantle to continue. He would officially become Captain America in Cap #34. He would continue to wear the mantle of his friend and partner for years even after Steve Rogers returned in Captain America: Reborn in 2010. He would relinquish the role of Captain America in Cap #619 and return to his Winter Soldier identity after “his death” in Fear Itself. He would continue as the Winter Soldier alongside Black Widow and even inherit the role of Earth’s brutal guardian from Nick Fury himself in Original Sin. The point goes to Winter Soldier.

Point: Winter Soldier (unanimous)

 

Round 3: Which has the greater legacy?

JON:

Winter Soldier looks like an easy winner in this category. There was an MCU film with his NAME in the TITLE…. he had a prominent role in Civil War…  both those films are arguably in the top 5 best of the Marvel Movie pantheon. Thanks to Marvel Studios, his character is relatively well known outside of the comics community. THAT’s legacy.

Jason Todd has yet to surface in the DCEU motion picture realm…. BUT: Not only is the DC Animated adaptation of Under The Red Hood possibly one of the best DC animated films ever produced, but Jason Todd as the titular villain in Rocksteady’s Arkham Knight – is a pedigree that cannot be understated. Add to that the awesome playability in the Red Hood costume proper within that game and you have an experience unmatched by his opponent in this category. Point to Red Hood.

DREW:

After his re-introduction in Captain America, Bucky Barnes popularity continued to grow after he accepted the mantle of Captain America from Steve Rogers. In comics, he would be a member of The New Avengers, the primary Avengers team, and later assist other superheroes as The Winter Soldier in events like Original Sin and Avengers: Standoff! Bucky Barnes or The Winter Soldier would show up in a number of Marvel What If? stories imagining different outcomes to classic Marvel stories or in other alternate realities like the Ultimate Marvel or Marvel Zombies universe. He would appear in a number of Marvel inspired video games such as Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, Captain America: Super Soldier, and Lego Marvel Superheroes. Barnes would also appear in multiple Marvel animated television series like The Marvel Super Heroes or Avengers Assemble and he is portrayed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by actor Sebastian Stan. His next appearance will be in the upcoming Marvel mega-blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War and its sequel.

After his re-introduction in Under the Hood, Jason Todd’s popularity toyed with the idea of him as a villain or a hero depending on the storyline. He would appear in other Bat-family related titles such as Nightwing, Batman and Robin or even company events like Countdown until he got his own title Red Hood and the Outlaws during the New 52. He would juggle his time with the Outlaws and the Bat Family for the next few years and Red Hood and the Outlaws would continue in DC Rebirth with a new team. Jason would appear in a few Elseworlds or other DC alternate realities such as The Dark Knight Returns, Flashpoint, and the Amalgam Universe. He was alluded to in animated shows such as Teen Titans and Young Justice and made his official debut in 2010’s Batman: Under the Red Hood which received critical acclaim from fans and critics. He was a primary antagonist in Batman: Arkham Knight and a vandalized statue of Jason Todd as Robin was featured in 2016’s Batman v. Superman.

In this category, although Jason Todd has both a successful animated film and video game gaining him recognition, Bucky Barnes wins considering his popularity from the television and specifically the MCU movies, a leap Jason Todd has yet to make in the DCU. Although Jason Todd is a better known name now than when he first reappeared, Bucky Barnes and The Winter Soldier is a household name thanks to Sebastian Stan’s performance in the Captain America movie trilogy.  Point to Winter Solider.

POINT: TIE

Round 4: Who had the better creative team? Out of Time and The Winter Soldier team Ed Brubaker/Steve Epting VS. Under Hood and Family Reunion: Judd Winnick/Doug Manke (and Paul Lee).

JON:

Skillfully written by a then new-to-Marvel Brubaker, the Winter Soldier story arc is sharp, tonally dark, and full of the espionage and intrigue we have since come to know and love from Captan America comics (and films!). The pencils by Steven Epting are fitting for the story – dark and clean with bent towards realism most mainstream comics at the time shied away from.

Energetic and fun, Winnick’s storytelling is a blast to read from start to finish. Manke’s strong lines and dynamic comic-style angles never disappoint throughout the run.

Brubaker has the advantage of fewer story interruptions (his story gets hijacked by a House of M tie-in and one other interlude issue; Winnick has to deal with 2 issues of the forgettable War Crimes Bat-book crossover and a guest killer Croc issue penned by someone else), but spends those issues taking his time and systematically plotting out, issue by issue, what we already know: the mysterious dark assassin is Bucky. Brubaker steers clear of classic comics tropes like big-hook cliffhangers – though Winnick uses them with such mastery you can’t deny his last pages always leave you wanting more (freaking AMAZO? How could you NOT buy the next ish?). Winick also gets points for hooking you in the opening pages of more issues than Brubaker does – using meaningful action to bring you into his story in nearly every issue of Under the Hood. Artistically, Epting and Manke couldn’t be on two farther ends of the spectrum – but Epting’s action sequences, while grand in scope (Cap vs. a HELICOPTER) look completely static compared to Manke’s energetic fight sequences. Point to Red Hood and Winnick/Manke for this one.

DREW:

Ed Brubaker was a DC writer known for his work at DC and Wildstorm and his first job for Marvel was relaunching Captain America with artist Steve Epting. In the first issue alone, Winter Soldier kills Red Skull. He took a simple reveal and made it into a twelve issue conspiracy which was appropriate considering the content and the kind of reveal he was attempting. None of the conflict or situations felt forced and everything was nicely explained without deviating into unnecessary tangents. You meet a new character but through Brubaker, it becomes an international conspiracy with deep political roots that shakes Captain America and his allies to its core especially when the new is actually something old. Steve Epting’s artwork plays with shadow and action so well that it fit like a glove to Brubaker’s style. It has a nice stylized feel that is serious but has an almost animated simplicity that really makes the story pop. Epting would continue to work with Brubaker throughout his run on Captain America as an artist or cover artist. Even with the restoration of his memories by the Cosmic Cube of all devices, Bucky’s reaction was completely normal and it was clear the influence of his past as he struggles with his responsibilities both in and out of costume would be something Brubaker would continue to develop throughout his run on the character.

After his intial Batman run, Judd Winnick said himself that he wanted to do something big for his editors. This story involving the Red Hood reinvented as the new identity for a resurrected Jason Todd. You saw him systematically take down Black Mask’s organization, fight assassins and even beat the Joker with a crowbar before we knew who was under the hood. When Red Hood is revealed to be Jason, it is devastating which you can see when Alfred considers taking down Jason’s uniform from the Batcave. Although Bruce convinces him not to, you see the conflict and how it wears down on the Dark Knight who considered Jason’s death one of his greatest failures. Artist Doug Manke did phenomenal work with this series. Doug has always had such a great command of body language, emotion and detail in his style and his work really accentuated every panel. You could feel the emotion, you could see everything as clear and realistic as possible and you got a great sense of the action and movement. Jason’s resurrection which was later revealed to be because of Identity Crisis’s Superboy Prime punching reality but more importantly his time with the League of Assasins which helped restore his body and mind but leave him mentally unstable is made amazingly clear. Jason Todd’s role as a villain would be continued in other series and Judd Winnick returned to the character years later with a mini-series that further explained Jason’s return, training and journey that eventually lead him to his collaboration with Hush.

In this category, both teams are matched with talented artists who truly made their characters memorable. Regarding its writers, both writers successfully brought back two characters whose status had remained unchanged for decades, a rare achievement in the comic book medium. But although Judd Winnick had already written Batman before, Captain America was Brubaker’s first Marvel job and to come into the job with such a story that radically changed the character and the entire Marvel Universe, it’s easy to understand the high regard Ed Brubaker is held in the comic industry. Point: Winter Soldier (Ed Brubaker/Steve Epting)

POINT: TIE

Round 5: Wild Card Round: The Reveal

JON:

After re-reading both series for this article (one issue of each series at a time, so back-and-forth, just as I read them in 2005) I was surprised how easy this one was to score. I remember upon first reading how easy it was to deduce what was so clearly telegraphed by both writers – “Hey! Check this out! We’re doing the unthinkable! We’re resurrecting Bucky/Jason!” – while still reveling in the juicy story turns of each issue.

Winnick understood that the audience is smart enough to figure out that Red Hood was Jason – so he gave us the reveal the fourth issue of the run (Batman #638) – without giving us Batman’s reaction and the drama to follow until the end of the 6th issue (Batman #641). While this technically means that in real-time, Jason gets his reveal to the audience before Bucky does – it takes away some of the emotional punch by not giving us Batman’s immediate reaction (save for “Oh God” line from the first issue in the run).

Brubaker marches along dutifully – revealing the surprise to Cap in issue #6 but delaying the confrontation between the two until the very last issue of the story (#14). This builds the tension and the desire from the audience by giving them what they NEED first (the reveal) but building the tension for what they WANT (the confrontation between Bucky and Cap). Brubaker and Winter Soldier get the point.

DREW:

Although the Winter Soldier’s first appearance was in Captain America #1, let’s focus on the moment in Captain America #14 when Bucky Barnes memories are restored by Captain America with the help of the Cosmic Cube. Upon having his memories restored, Bucky is so overwhelmed with guilt and horror over his past actions that he destroys the Cosmic Cube. He crushes it with his bare hands before teleporting away.

 

 

For Red Hood, let’s focus on the moment in Batman #638 where the Red Hood unmasks himself. After avoiding an assassination attempt by Mr. Freeze orchestrated by Black Mask, Red Hood tracks down t

he Joker who was hiding out in an abandoned amusement park after a brutal beating from Hush in a previous story.  He proceeds to beat the Joker with a crowbar before revealing himself as Jason Todd, the Robin who the Joker beat almost to death with a crowbar before killing him and his mother in an explosion a decade or two ago.

In this category, Jason Todd wins points for the brutal symbolism before his reveal but Bucky Barnes crushing the Cosmic Cube with his bare hands after regaining his memories takes the cake. Crowbars are one thing but shattering an all-powerful weapon capable of warping reality with your bare hands? That’s definitely one way to make an exit.

POINT: The Winter Soldier

 

The Verdict: WINTER SOLDIER WINS!

JON: I’m not surprised by the outcome, but I WAS surprised by how much more I enjoyed myself reading the first 6 issues of the Under the Hood story arc than Out of Time. While I’ve revealed I’m a bigger fan of Winter Soldier coming out of this exercise, I’ve surprised myself by revealing I’m a bigger fan of Winnick over Brubaker! I’d have never guessed…

DREW: Jason Todd aka The Red Hood put up a good fight but Buck Barnes aka The Winter Soldier won in a landslide victory. Although I’ll admit I own far more comics that feature Bucky than I do Jason, Jason has grown on me as a character and I’m glad that he found his place as an anti-hero in the DC Universe and that he has gained a strong and vocal fan base. The real winners are the creators who took two characters whose death had remained traditionally unreversed and not only brought them back but made them relevant again. Like many before them, they freed themselves of the shadow cast by their sidekick status and found their own identities which continue to evolve in their respective universes today. In the end, Marvel simply has done more with Bucky/ The Winter Soldier in regards to other media such as television and movies and I truly hope that Jason Todd can find such popularity, no matter what role he plays, in future DC animated and full length films.

Comics by Jon Santana

Check it out on ComiXology!

IronAgeComics.com EXCLUSIVE!

IronAgeComics.com EXCLUSIVE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Articles by Drew Mollo

Kenobi Film Announced

Gotham by Gaslight Batman Revealed

 

 

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“Gotham by Gaslight” Batman revealed!

“Gotham by Gaslight” Batman revealed!

Posted by on Aug 26, 2017 in Home, News, Opinion

 

Click for Youtube Trailer


Gotham by Gaslight: First Look and Trailer 

By Drew Mollo

Warner Bros. and DC Animated Films just released an eight-minute behind the scenes feature discussing the  upcoming animated film Gotham By Gaslight, its origins, and why (in the words of iconic creator/animator/producer Bruce Timm) “Batman versus Jack the Ripper. Duhhh, what a great idea.”

My thoughts: Already I’m seeing great potential in this “Batman in a Sherlock Holmes era”.

  1. Writer James Krieg, who is no stranger to writing comic screenplays, seems confident about the staff bringing their “A+ game” to this project. Amongst his writing credits are episodes of Batman: Brave and the Bold, Green Lantern Animated Series and Spider-Man: The Animated Series but most importantly he shows a real love for the material, heck Timm, Krieg, and Creative Director Mike Carlin all show such an appreciation for the original comic written by Brian Agustyn and drawn by Mike Mignola and want to do it justice.
  2. This Bat-Man shows his eyes. We remember how Batman’s mask gives him the illusion of white slits which add to his symbolic spooky appearance but this Bat-Man you can see his big ol’ blues. This is something I’ve seen in other Batman Elseworlds but the most recent story that comes to mind is the Batman in the Earth Two line. As Timm explains, seeing his eyes makes him more accessible and humanizes him although as we can see, his appearance still scares the crap out of the criminals and citizens of Gotham City.
  3. The featurette shows an evident appreciation of Elseworlds. Mike Carlin not only explains Elseworlds as “Imaginary Stories” but he also explains the purpose of the stories and how that purpose evolved as DC Comics published more and more of them. If the character was successful, comics continuing the story could expand that particular story while encompassing characters who are familiar to the characters backstory as well as to their fans.
  4. Batman is not the only familiar face we will see in this comic. One of the things I loved reading Master of Future or the Gotham by Gaslight story during 2008’s Countdown was seeing other familiar Batman characters emerge in this new frontier. I saw villains like Ra’s Al Ghul, side characters like Kirk Langstrom or even new heroes like The Blue Beetle but with their own unique backstory and the new movie continues that trend. Already in the trailer we’ve seen Selina Kyle, Hugo Strange, Detective/Chief Bullock, Inspector James Gordon, Barbara Gordon, Harvey Dent, Hugo Strange, Pamela Isley, Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and even the Gaslight version of the Bat Signal. All of these characters we know and love but within the context of this 19th century world and connected to the mysterious Bat-Man.
  5. Catwoman plays a more integral role in this story. Selina Kyle plays both a well-dressed figure of desire but also a protector of Gotham’s women since Jack the Ripper has made them his target. Although I’d love to see the Gaslight version of her Catwoman, Selina wielding her iconic bullwhip against Jack the Ripper is a pretty great scene to witness especially considering gender politics of the period. Selina has always had great chemistry with Bruce and I look forward to seeing how they depict and evolve that relationship in this environment.

 

-Drew Mollo is a freelance writer specializing in Comics media

 

 

 

 

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Top 10 DC Elseworlds that Deserve an Animated Makeover

Top 10 DC Elseworlds that Deserve an Animated Makeover

Posted by on Aug 15, 2017 in Home, News, Opinion

 


10 Animated Elseworlds we want to see

By Drew Mollo

 

Back in the early Nineties, DC Comics wanted to continue to experiment with the stories they could tell with their massive universe of powerful and interesting characters. They wanted to tell new and interesting stories but place iconic characters such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman or other Justice League characters like the Flash or Green Lanterns in alternate timelines or realities. Without the constraints of present day continuity, you could do things to the character that wouldn’t interfere with the current storylines or could be the complete opposite of everything defining the character in the present day. They tested the waters with Gotham by Gaslight in 1989 and when that was a success, they continued to publish various Elseworlds comics until the early 2000s. With Gotham by Gaslight announced as the next DC animated film, there is the possibility that other Elseworld titles could be considered as full length animated films. With that in mind, here’s my list of Top 10 Elseworlds that should be produced as animated DC features.

10. Superman: Last Son of Earth (W: Steve Gerber/ A: Doug Wheatley) In a complete role reversal, Superman is not sent from a dying Krypton but a dying Planet Earth. His vessel crash lands on Krypton and he is raised by scientist Jor-El but remains different from his super powered people. This changes when he discovers the existence of a Green Lantern ring which enables him to fly like the other Kryptonians and after saving the planet, he becomes the Green Lantern of Krypton. This switch of planets and identities could prove an interesting change to a classic character who always drew his powers from his environment and shed light on the society of Krypton which until recent years we had only seen in flashbacks and origin stories.

 

9. JLA: Age of Wonder (W: Adisakdi Tantimedh/ A: P. Craig Russell and Galen Showman) In this story, Superman arrives in Kansas but during 1850s. Twenty or so years later, he reveals his existence as Super Man to the world during the 1876 Centennial Exposition. From that point on, Superman and other heroes like the Flash, Star Man, and the Green Lantern help usher in an age of technological advancement alongside other famous inventors such as Nicola Tesla. As other heroes slowly emerge, the progress these heroes represent is met with opposition from Lex Luthor and other figures who are suspicious and paranoid of the power this League of Science possesses. Focusing not solely on Superman or Batman, this team-centric Elseworld story shows a world where the super human and technological progress go hand in hand and what difference it would make in the early 19th century and beyond.

8. Flashpoint: (W: Norm Breyfogle/ A: Pat McGreal) Yes, there WAS already a Flashpoint animated film… but that’s not the Flashpoint we are talking about. Before there was a Flashpoint changed the DC Universe (i.e. the birth of the New 52 in 2011), there was originally an Elseworlds story about Barry Allen (aka The Flash) who was the only costumed hero in existence. After he loses the use of his legs preventing the JFK assassination, his superpower becomes his quick mind and his inventions advance humanity further especially in its exploration of space. When a mission to Mars involving his nephew Wally West uncovers a strange artifact but at a terrible price, Barry’s investigation puts him on a collision course with the immortal Vandal Savage and will test his understanding of himself as the Flash but also his place in his universe and more. This Flash Elseworld tests the sanity of Barry Allen as he examines his role as the Flash but also what the Flash could mean in other universes full of superpowered allies, family and friends.

 

7. Legacy: (W/A: John Byrne)  Unique in that this Elseworlds story was published as an Action Comics annual issue – Man of Steel writer/artist John Byrne reimagines a Superman who arrives on Planet Earth in the late 17th century when the American Revolution was just around the corner. Siding with the British, this relative of the House of El completely changes the course of the American Revolution resulting in the quick demise of many significant figures in American history. Years later when his actions have resulted in a world devoid of liberty or freedom, his almost human descendant, horrified at the price his legacy has demanded of Earth and its people, leads a rebellion against him. Just like Red Son, Legacy challenges the ideals of Superman with his limitless power and shows what a difference such a person could make in a very vulnerable time in world history.

6. The Devils Workshop: (W: Howard Chaykin and John Francis Moore/ A: Mark Chiarello) This story recounts an encounter between the mysterious Bat-Man and the famous escape artist Harry Houdini in the early 20th Century. Children have been disappearing in Gotham City in the area of the city known as the Devil’s Workshop. Exploring Batman’s detective nature as well as Harry Houdini’s later interest in spiritualism, the investigation takes a quick turn into the paranormal and requires our heroes to work together in order to save the city. Narrated by Harry Houdini, this Elseworld entry continues the clever trend of real historical figures working alongside fictional characters.  

 

NEXT 5 ==>

 

 

 

 

 

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NOPE, NOT WOLVERINE… But who IS Batman’s new SIDEKICK?

NOPE, NOT WOLVERINE… But who IS Batman’s new SIDEKICK?

Posted by on Aug 10, 2017 in Home, News, Opinion

 


The Signal: The Evolution of Batman’s sidekick Duke Thomas

By Drew Mollo

Dark Knights: Metal #1 drops in comic shops next week and this highly anticipated series reuniting Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo has already highlighted important changes ahead for Batman and the DC Universe in general.

One such change has been revealed regarding Batman’s current partner, Duke Thomas. Duke will be given his own suit and codename. No familiar red, yellow and green colors… this is NOT Robin. Duke will be an original character called The Signal featured in the upcoming Batman and The Signal series written by Snyder and Tony Patrick debuting in the fall. Before the days get darker*, let’s look at Duke Thomas and see how he has evolved as a character under the eye of Gotham’s Dark Knight.

(*See what we did there?)

 

We were first introduced to Duke Thomas in the New 52 during the Zero Year storyline. At that time, Gotham was under the control of The Riddler who not only crippled the city but allowed it to become an overgrown kingdom where he challenged would-be contenders with riddles that could restore the city, but failure would cost them their lives. Bruce Wayne met Duke Thomas who not only saved his life but also was preparing to challenge the Riddler with a riddle he could not answer, Gotham ultimate salvation which Batman would succeed in accomplishing.

 

Years later, Duke’s life would be changed forever during the events of Endgame, which had the Joker returning to Gotham ready with the ultimate endgame for his battle with Batman. Duke ended up losing his parents in a similar scenario to Bruce Wayne’s, an act meant to insinuate that the Joker knew Batman’s true identity. While his parents did not die due to Batman’s intervention, their minds were forever lost in the madness of Joker’s trademark laughing gas and Duke ended up an orphan.

 

While attempting to adjust to foster care, Duke Thomas ended up stumbling upon a plot to bomb Gotham’s landmarks while searching for his foster parents. He would help the Robins prevent the destruction from befalling the city, earning him a spot on their team. His assistance to the vigilante team would continue in the We Are Robin book until The Robin War storyline. Duke would also make appearances in Batman’s Superheavy arc investigating the mysterious Mr. Bloom and his connection to other Gotham crime bosses. During an escape gone wrong, he is saved last minute by Bruce Wayne slowly returning to his role as Batman.  Later as a reward for his bravery and assistance, Duke would receive an invitation from Bruce Wayne to be his new partner initially helping him with a case involving Calendar Man. When asked if he was going to be just another Robin, Bruce Wayne (and in some ways Scott Snyder) said “No, I’m trying something different. Something better, I hope.”

 

 

During DC Rebirth, Duke Thomas’s training was featured in main storylines as well as back up stories in Snyder’s All-Star Batman. Wearing a modified yellow and black suit with a Bat symbol and helmet, Duke was training under Alfred’s “Wheel of Pain”, a compressed variation of all the training techniques used for Batman’s previous partners.  Recently in Dark Days: The Casting, it is revealed by the Joker who was imprisoned in a secret compartment in the Batcave that Duke’s place as Batman’s partner is not random. Duke is revealed to be a metahuman with a connection to the mysterious metals serving as important clues to Dark Days: Metal. Duke’s codename is a reference to a label given to him by the Joker, stating that his concealed role in the upcoming event made him a target from the villain who was simply seeking to avert it.

As a character, Duke Thomas has similarities to previous Batman sidekicks but also characteristics that are more aligned with what DC Comics is attempting to do since Rebirth. Like Dick Grayson, he was orphaned by crime; an event he was borne to witness. Like Jason Todd, he struggled with being an orphan and did his best to master survival on the streets of Gotham. Like Tim Drake, he has a level of intelligence and adaptability that with the right training could surpass Batman given time. In some ways, his time as a Robin helped him transition beyond sidekick into the role of partner. It would be so simple to make Duke Thomas a new Robin (which brings to my mind Marlon Wayans unexploited opportunity to play Robin in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns) but instead, he wasn’t a sidekick but an equal partner. Duke had the opportunity to build upon a relationship with Bruce Wayne that took the other sidekicks years to reach. Duke is a new character and that is what DC Comics is trying to attempt with their comic book universe now: pushing classic characters to new heights while respecting their past but also creating new characters that can stand on their own. In the last four years, we’ve watched Duke evolve from a bystander to equal partner in Batman’s world. Hopefully his involvement in Dark Days: Metal will continue that transition and by then optimistically his codename will have grown on me.

 

-Drew Mollo is a freelance writer specializing in Comics media

 

 

 

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