Rogue Returns to GAMBIT at the 'Worst Possible Moment'

Gambit #9 cover.

Gambit has had quite a few solo series over the years, both ongoing and limited — and for the latest, writer James Asmus has made a concerted effort to take Gambit in new directions, ones that don't necessarily have a lot to do with his familiar X-Men surroundings.

That said, a very popular X-Men character with a very close connection to Gambit is appearing soon in the book: Rogue, Remy LeBeau's star-crossed lover that's currently starring in Uncanny Avengers and the upcoming X-Men series by Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel.

We talked with Asmus about Rogue's upcoming guest appearance, plus Gambit's polarizing nature, and the irresistible impulse of bringing Batroc the Leaper into the series. Courtesy of Marvel, we're debuting brand-new interior pages from February's Gambit #9, presented throughout the article.

Newsarama: James, Gambit was announced at C2E2 in April of last year, which means it's approaching a year that it's been coming out, and likely more than a year that you've been working on it at this point. What has the experience been like writing the series? You did a good amount of Marvel stuff before, but this was the first thing that was yours since issue #1.

Gambit #9 interior

art.

James Asmus: It's been a delightful learning experience. [Laughs.] I have loved the experience of getting to really play, and chase down some weird ideas.  And it's been a thrill getting to work with a bunch of different artists whose work I've loved. It's been an interesting responsibility to define a book, and then try to continue in that vein of choices that I made in the first place. Coming on to pre-existing things before, my brain just sort of knew, "Oh, these are the kinds of stories we're doing." Launching the book, I had ideas for a lot of stories. But I hadn't quite known the trick of balancing how to keep introducing new things while also making sure it's the same book that people signed up for. That's a new consideration for me, because all my previous work was approached as a single story.

That said, I've love the beneifts of an ongoing. I feel like this is the first chance I've had to address things — "Oh, I didn't do enough character stuff for him." "Maybe I overshot in one direction, I can go to the other side next time." Just feeling like I have the freedom to continually explore and balance things out is actually a relief. I feel tremendous obligations to my audiences as a writer, which I know some writers don't. I can't help but keep them in mind.

Nrama: And Gambit is such a fan favorite character — the people who like him really like him — so presumably there's something of an added bit of pressure there.

 

Asmus: This is definitely the most sizable, passionate, vocal fanbase that I've worked on. Issue #1 was very telling to me. I am someone who looks around online to see what is being said. In some ways, it's a bad habit, and I should get over it. On the other hand, I have a pretty good internal gauge where I'm like, "That person is using criteria I don't subscribe to." Other times I find it valuable, to be like, "Oh, sh*t, you're right, I totally misjudged this moment."

Every reviewer pretty much started their review with either saying, "I've always hated Gambit," or, "I've always loved Gambit." That right there is very telling. They had very strong opinions of what a Gambit solo story should be. If he wasn't in New Orleans in a pink costume with the Thieves Guild, they thought it was totally wrong-headed. Or, they were psyched that it was not that thing for the 10th time. It's been interesting having everyone have an opinion of what the book should be, and then still have to go make my own choices and follow my own impulses.

Nrama: Have you gotten any particularly interesting reactions from Gambit fans — or haters? Any notable interactions or feedback?

 

Asmus: The thing I thought was funniest was when we announced that Rogue is coming up in this next story arc. The people who had really been vocally supporting of the book — watching them then split in half between the people who are "Yay, Rogue," to the people who essentially declared at that moment that I ruined my own book.

I think their relationship is an interesting and important one. But I'm still following the progressive storyline that's been happening. I'm not just going in to write fan fiction. I mean, I write fan fiction on the side, I just don't put it in the book. [Laughs.]

Nrama: Right. It wouldn't be appropriate for the Marvel audience.

Asmus: Marvel already has their hands full trying to rein in my inappropriate impulses in scripts and issue titles.

Nrama: But Rogue is coming to the book — around issue #10 or so?

 

Asmus: Yeah. Especially #11-#12. This is another weird thing for me, doing ongoings — realizing that you're going to spoil your own reveals by virtue of marketing. I initially scripted her appearance to be, "reveal!" but then it became clear that she needed to be on covers of the subsequent issues.

That said, I still love the scene, and I feel like the specifics of what is happening when she shows up is really what twists the knife. I still feel like it'll read well, thankfully.

Nrama: Before the series even came out, you said that you'd wait to bring Rogue into the book until the worst possible moment.

Asmus: What criteria am I using for that term? People will find out.

Nrama: You should probably keep some secrets at this point, yeah. And though Rogue is on the way, you definitely have been keeping Gambit away from typical X-Men matters and typical X-Men villains. Coming up you've got Tombstone — and Batroc the Leaper?

Gambit #10 cover.

Asmus: Yes! Issue #9 takes place at the Club with No-Name. I decided after the dingy Bar with No-Name where all the villains hang out has been blown up 10 times, it could use a Marvel Universe upgrade. I figured they would get smart and make a nightclub where a bunch of civilians would hang out, too, to rub elbows with villains —so that the Punisher won't just come in and kill a bunch of dumb socialites, just to get at Boomerang or something.

That gave me an opportunity to play with a whole host of non-X-Men Marvel villains, and to riff off, "What are Gambit's two different reputations?" as a hero and as a criminal, and really turn that into explicit conversation with some very weird people.

Batroc was just too irresistible of an idea, just to have two dueling French-ish accents. In an earlier Gambit solo series, Batroc had been one of a few people who took a contract to try and kill Gambit. I liked the idea that as criminal professionals, at the end of the day, they could get back and have some chilly camaraderie with someone who previously had agreed to kill them for money.

Nrama: There are a lot of faces on this cover — is that Mandrill?

Asmus: Yeah. I didn't get to write as much for the Mandrill as I would have liked, but he's there. Ruby Thursday.

 

Nrama: One thing that's interesting is that since the series has started, though he's been in Astonishing X-Men a good deal, it really seems that you have free reign over Gambit, to an extent I don't think people would expect of a character known primarily as part of a team.

Asmus: That part surprised me, and I think, speaking candidly, I wasn't taking all of the liberties with the character early on that it turns out I could've, because I didn't realize the degree to which most other people were being hands-off with him.

That has encouraged me to really make some more status quo choices with some things for him lately. I like to think it means that people are letting my book take front and center, as opposed to thinking that other writers are in the "hates Gambit" club. [Laughs.]

I was happy to put him in a place where the world at large is thinking he's returning to his criminal ways, and certainly his absence and silence can start to worry people, and that'll have some consequences for him.

 

Nrama: Though there have been a couple different artists on the book, the bulk of the issues have been illustrated by the original series artist, Clay Mann. How important is having that type of consistency, which obviously can be rare on superhero books?

Asmus: Yeah, right now he's slated to do eight of the first 12. His art was so instrumental to my own understanding of the book we were doing. I feel like the qualities in his work have a sort of grounded realism in a strange way, as well as a sort of tight, sexy style. That influenced how I plot. A room full of supervillains aside, I try to lean it more towards feeling like the real world, with some heightened elements.

I've certainly tried to lean on the sexiness, too, particularly when [Mann]'s drawing — I know he makes an evocative eye candy of Gambit. And honestly of Joelle, too, but I feel like there's enough fan service over female characters that I try not to script those moments as explicitly. But for Gambit? There's a lot of ways to get that guy shirtless, I'll just say that.

Nrama: Hey, that's a big draw.

Asmus: In a serious way, I will say that I've had more female readers reach out to me over this book than anything else I've done. Even more so than Generation Hope, which is a largely female cast. This book really has some very vocal female readers, in a way that proves to me that this is a real audience for comics, and they're being underserved.

Nrama: Yeah, X-Men in general, and Gambit specifically, have always had a lot of strong female support. On the other hand, I think most of the people in the "hates Gambit club" are dudes.

Asmus: I think they feel threatened! They're made to feel intimidated and self-conscious by just how cool and sexy Gambit is.

Nrama: Well, it's good that the female audience has found the book and is enjoying it.

Asmus: Dudes like it too! I don't want to scare any dudes reading this interview off from reading the book. There's still a bunch of football and beer-chugging and stuff like that. [Laughs.]

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