By Ben Morse
This July, X-MEN: SCHISM kicks off a startling metamorphosis in the mutant corner of the Marvel Universe that will split the Children of the Atom and lead to ReGenesis in the fall along with two new ongoing series, each featuring it’s own distinctive team: UNCANNY X-MEN and WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN.
With change in the air, here on Marvel.com we’ll be regularly gathering the creators and editors responsible for guiding the X-Men’s destiny to dissect each of their charges to examine what makes them tick and perhaps lend some insight into where they will find themselves once the Schism ends and the ReGenesis gets underway.
This week, we take a look at Gambit, the thief-turned-X-Man who currently serves on the mission squad led by his on-again, off-again love, Rogue, while also mentoring the unpredictable X-23.
Marvel.com: How would you describe the core of who Gambit is and what is most important to him?
Victor Gischler (writer of X-MEN): Self-reliance.
Mike Carey (writer of X-MEN LEGACY): Gambit’s a guy with a core skill that he glories and excels in, and his sense of himself has formed around that, to some extent. He’s not just a thief, in the sense of having earned his living by stealing—he’s a Thief in a self-defining sense that’s halfway between family and ethnicity. [He was] raised by thieves, in a city where thieves were a clan with clan loyalties. So I think that’s his core, and his instincts and identity and an X-Man were grafted onto that.
Kieron Gillen (writer of UNCANNY X-MEN): Gambit's just one of those classic conflicted characters, torn between a fundamental selfishness—or, at best, self-interest—and the realization that [this] isn't right. His shows of genuine compassion are all the more striking now because of where he's come from. I mean, put aside his recent interactions with Rogue. Look at his interactions with X-23. A man of experience who is man enough to realize that not all experience is worthwhile. He'd roll his eyes at anyone who takes the Sinatra-ian "Regrets? I've had a few, etc" line.
Marjorie Liu (writer of X-23): At his heart, Gambit is a good man who believes in taking care of his friends, and his friends are what's most important to him. People are his home. He will do anything for those who matter to him.
Marvel.com: What is Gambit’s view of how the mutant race should conduct itself moving forward?
Kieron Gillen: Any future of the X-Men that involves having a future and keeps him out of long, boring meetings is probably good with him.
Mike Carey: Arising out of his childhood experiences, I think Gambit is fairly tribal in his gut instincts. Protecting his own, and keeping faith with his own, are core values for him. He’s also perfectly comfortable with a sort of under-the-radar lifestyle, and he knows first-hand that it’s possible to live invisibly among others who don’t share your values or your lifestyle. I’d say Gambit would be comfortable with a strategy that saw mutantkind dropping right out of the rifle sights of the various nut jobs out there and going underground until its numbers are up again and it can confront the world on its own terms.
Victor Gischler: I think he knows that difficult things need to be done, but he wants to see the mutant race finally push through those times so things will be better for the next generation.
Marjorie Liu: The thing about Gambit is that he's a man who knows how to adapt to survive. He plays things by ear, depending on the situation, and never feels obligated to follow the rules, because the only rules that matter are his own sense of honor. Ultimately, that sense of honor includes 'doing no harm'—at least, not to the innocent.
Because of that, however, I don't think he has a firm idea of how the mutant race should move forward. There's no overarching philosophy, no set of rules. Again, he adapts, he plays by ear. I think he would be more likely to say that the mutant race is filled with individuals, and each situation needs to be taken on an individual basis, without imposing some master plan.
Again, though, he's a survivor, and if the world turned on mutants as a whole, his approach would change, as well. He'd fight. He'd protect.
Marvel.com: Does Gambit like being a member of the X-Men? What keeps him affiliated with them?
Mike Carey: He likes the excitement. He likes the company—or some of it. He likes the sense of family. I think those would be the most important things for him. Having said that, he’s definitely someone who would be able to step into another life if the X-Men folded. He’d miss it, but he wouldn’t mourn it. He’d survive perfectly well.
Kieron Gillen: Honestly, I could spin out an enormous answer about how he sees himself in relation to mutants—though it suddenly strikes me that I see Gambit as one of the mutants who least self-identifies as "mutant"—but about 85% of it boils down to the following: One word, five letters.
Marjorie Liu: I don't know if he likes being a member of the X-Men, so much as he likes some of the people there, and feels obligated to stick by them, and guard their backs. It's a 'people' thing that has him sticking around, and not philosophical.
Victor Gischler: There is kind of a lone wolf aspect to Gambit, but I think deep down all lone wolves really want to be part of the pack. They just don't want to get burned or have their trust betrayed. Gambit has been an X-Man too long not to be a team member in his heart.
Marvel.com: What are Gambit’s most honorable qualities? His least honorable qualities?
Mike Carey: His chimerical gallantry. His insane courage. His anarchic shrewdness.
When he first joined the X-Men, Gambit served as a cynical and occasionally ruthless counterpoint to their stern virtue. They’ve met him more than halfway now—in fact, in some ways, they’ve surpassed him: the X-Men’s moral mainstream has changed so much that Gambit now seems more like a Robin Hood among them, a principled thief with a paradoxically strong code of ethics. He’s still got that ruthless streak, and he can be dishonest both in concealing information and in lying outright. And he has a weakness for going it alone when he ought to trust the people around him. That was what got him sucked into Apocalypse’s wake.
Victor Gischler: He's honest about who he is, warts and all.
Marjorie Liu: Most honorable qualities? Least honorable? Sometimes I think those are one and the same. He'll take care of his friends, no matter what. That's great. But what's not so great for everyone else is that he'll take care of his friends -- no matter what. Even if it means an act of betrayal.
Marvel.com: Do you think the rest of the X-Men really trust Gambit?
Kieron Gillen: Dark, tortured past. Propensity for playing on the other side. Will make out with your other half behind your back. A big part of me thinks they trust Gambit more than they probably should.
Or maybe they don't. The Utopia-era Cyclops-condoned Wolverine-lead X-Force—Gambit wasn't on that team.
Marjorie Liu: No, not really. I don't think they know him, that's the problem. The individuals who do—Storm, Jubilee, X-23—would trust him with their lives, without question. Everyone else? Not so much. To them, he's a wild card, so to speak. They see his reputation first, before they see the man.
Mike Carey: I think they didn’t, and then they did, and now they don’t again. He’s got a lot of lost ground to make up after the Limbo debacle. His past as a thief doesn’t count against him any more, but his past as a Horseman and his past as a Marauder during Messiah Complex do.
Victor Gischler: As long as they keep one hand on their wallets at all times.
Marvel.com: Could Gambit ever be leader of the X-Men again?
Victor Gischler: I don't see it. But that's mostly because I don't think he’d ever really want the job.
Marjorie Liu: My first instinct was to say yes, but the more I think about it, issues of trust and reliability would undermine his position. I'm not sure all the X-Men would feel secure with him in charge, or be willing to follow him to hell and back—and that's a huge component of successful leadership.
That said, I do think he can lead, just on a smaller scale, with a team that would fit his highly adaptable nature.
Mike Carey: He’d never want that job. It’s too public and too constricting. He wouldn’t be afraid of the responsibility, although he wouldn’t exactly relish it, either—he would be afraid of having his hands tied in a fight by having to co-ordinate what everybody else was doing.
Kieron Gillen: It doesn't seem a natural fit, but I'd never say never. I wouldn't say he could lead the X-Men as they are now. But a hypothetical X-Men team of the future? Yeah, I can see him pulling that off. As long as it doesn't involve all too many of the aforementioned long, boring meetings.
Marvel.com: How does Gambit’s relationship with Rogue color his place among the X-Men?
Marjorie Liu: I wish it didn't! If this was real life, that relationship would be one of those bad running jokes that people tell each other around dinner, or when there's nothing else to talk about and so you go to the one topic that's only less boring than dull silence. Don't get me wrong, I used to be a fan of Gambit and Rogue, but the relationship doesn't do either of them any favors.
Mike Carey: It’s the main reason why the X-Men feel like home to him. If she left, his attachment to them would be significantly weakened.
Kieron Gillen: What can I say? Heavily.
I know I've been laboring it, but more than almost anyone else, his ties with the X-men are personal. He's happy to exist in a world with the X-Men. He's happy to do the X-Men's work. But he's an outsider, and I think that's a real core of who he is. He needs shadows to step out of.
Mike Carey: Who among the X-Men does Gambit trust? Who does he feel should lead the team?
Victor Gischler: I think he'd trust Storm under almost any circumstances.
Kieron Gillen: Rogue. That's about it. And I don't think he has particularly strong feelings about who should lead the team—but he is interested in the institution of the X-Men. I wouldn't say he's a "Doesn't matter who you vote for, the government always gets in" cynic, but as long as there's an institution which exists to do the job the X-Men have been doing, he's happy. If a leader appeared who changed that role entirely, it's only then Gambit would raise an eyebrow.
Marjorie Liu: I'm biased, but I feel he trusts X-23 and Jubilee, along with Storm. I'm not sure he trusts Rogue, even though he loves her—and I'm sure he's comfortable with Wolverine leading.
Mike Carey: I think he trusts Cyclops and is comfortable with his leadership. Certainly there’d be more tension for him if, say, Magneto had a leadership role. But the question of who leads isn’t a compelling one for Gambit, because he doesn’t see himself as being a follower. He follows his own conscience: sometimes that takes him outside the X-Men’s big tent. When he’s there, he toes the line, but his allegiance isn’t easily given or given without provisos.
X-MEN: SCHISM #1 hits stores July 13, ReGenesis commences this fall, and the X-Perts reconvene soon right here on Marvel.com! And be sure to visit our X-Men: Schism event page!