Marvel put Gambit fans in a tizzy last week with the release of a teaser image featuring the X-Man’s logo, along with the promise of more information to come at the C2E2 convention in Chicago. And as history has shown, Gambit has a good amount of fans, and their tizzies can be quite vocal.
Marvel delivered on that promise at their ”Next Big Thing” panel on Sunday, with the announcement of a new Gambit ongoing series debuting in August from writer James Asmus (Generation Hope) and artist Clay Mann ("Age of X"). The book takes Gambit back to his thieving roots, showing the often unsavory activities that he gets up to when not teaching at the Jean Grey School.
Newsarama spoke with Asmus and Mann via email to dicscuss their Gambit plans, the character’s unique appeal and the introduction of a “new femme fatale” set to enter Remy LeBeau’s life. And don’t fret — Asmus made it clear on Sunday's panel that Rogue will play a part in the series (eventually — and at the worst possible time for Gambit).
Newsarama: James, Gambit is obviously a very popular X-Man, but he's also something of a polarizing one — what's your perspective on the character? Were you a fan before taking on the series?
James Asmus: I’ve always loved Gambit! He’s a mysterious, flirtatious, thief — with a sense of humor. I can hardly imagine a character more tailor-made for awesomeness. I think what makes some people not like him is when he’s laid on a little too thick. (Or when his accent is.) But come on, if you like heists and sexiness — and really, who doesn’t? — then Gambit’s your guy.
I will admit, there’s a tricky balance to getting him right. Especially when a big part of his appeal for so long was his mysteriousness. It’s hard to really deliver that when he’s the main character. (And I want the reader to be able to connect enough to care about what he’s going through every month.) But I couldn’t be more excited for the challenge.
Nrama: It looks like the book will take Gambit away from the Jean Grey School — will any of the rest of the X-Men still play a part in the book, or is this Gambit fully on his own?
Asmus: This is Gambit as his own man, thieving his way through the larger Marvel Universe. I will be pulling in some other X-Men characters a little further down the line when the story demands it. His status quo in the X-Men books is still a part of who he is here — but these adventures could almost be thought of as his reaction to his sudden position as teacher and role model. When being a school teacher gets a little suffocating for him – he slips off to indulge in this addiction in order to feel like himself again. And make no mistake, for most professional thieves, the work is an addiction. Gambit is no exception, and it’s going to bring a whole lot of trouble down on him — and eventually on the Jean Grey School.
Nrama: Clay, what's your visual approach to Gambit in this series? Will he pretty much be in his classic look?
Clay Mann: I'm not going to mess with Gambit too much. From afar he'll be the same Gambit, but there will be a few changes. Just a little more practicality to him.
Nrama: James, how do you see Clay’s strengths being utilized in this series?
Asmus: Hilariously, my first question when offered the book was — “Can we redesign his outfit?” After the relief of getting a “yes,” my second question was “Who’s the artist?” Once I found out it was going to be Clay, I wanted to redesign everyone and every part of the Marvel U that might come into the book! If you saw his work in "Age of X," you know that the guy has a phenomenal ability to design characters and even settings that is both tremendously evocative and entirely believable and engrossing. He really blends a dramatic visual flair with practical design that lets you both buy into the reality of the characters and the world, while simultaneously tapping into what’s appealing with each character.
And with Gambit — a big part of that is a sexiness that Clay’s art delivers in spades! Which is good, because I’ve honestly lost count of how many women I know who get uniquely excited when you mention Gambit. I think a lot of young girls felt something for him in the 90s cartoon akin to the strange feelings I had for Chetara on Thundercats as a kid...
Nrama: Clay, has working with James been thus far? What kind of exciting artistic opportunities has the story presented?
Mann: So far it's been great. We've been able to talk on the phone and over email about what we each want to put into the book. It's exciting to see what he's cooking up.
As far as opportunities, I'm just looking at the entire book as one. Gambit, has a huge fan base, and if I can make them happy then that's exciting.
Nrama: The series brings Gambit back to his roots as a thief. Would that be the "steal from the rich to give to the poor" type of stealing attached with a sense of nobility, or Gambit returning to the morally ambiguous territory of his origin?
Asmus: Moral ambiguity, all the way! Gambit may well benefit the less fortunate along the way — but this is not Gambit fulfilling his “hero” quota for the week. This is purely Gambit’s avenue to chase his personal demons, vices, and grudges — and to find trouble and beautiful women at every turn. There’s going to be plenty of occasions where what Gambit’s after will actually put him on the wrong side of the law and the “hero” community. And not in a “fight first, then realize we’re on the same side” kind of way.
Nrama: Gambit's quest will take him across the world — what are some of the settings we'll see in the story?
Asmus: Well, the first issue will be what kicks off a long train of falling dominoes that will launch Gambit into his globe-hopping. Ironically, it’s the least exotic locale — but it does tease some locales we’re looking to take him. You’ll see signs of ancient cultures’ ruins, the High Evolutionary’s Forever City, alien worlds, and more! So like I said, we’re looking to run him rampant through everything awesome the Marvel U has to offer! And in the second arc, we’ll be sending Gambit overseas in the second arc to run afoul of one of my favorite foreign good guys...but I should save some fun for the solicits!
Nrama: And with new settings, will we also see new characters joining the cast and interacting with Gambit?
Asmus: Oh yes! There’ll be some new villains, an introduction of some of Gambit’s contacts from his thieving days — and most importantly — a new femme fatale for Gambit to roll around with in every sense possible. To inject the mystery and sexiness that I think is so key to a good Gambit story (as well as a great heist story) – you need the character you aren’t sure whether or not to trust. So you may as well make her an incredibly attractive woman who just might be smarter and more dangerous than Gambit — and let the sparks fly.