Gambit – In Need of Redefinition

Written December 18, 2014 by Satish Jayaraj

Fox studios have finally announced a Gambit movie, and I’m hoping that – aside from me – there are more than a dozen people who care.

Though he is one of the most known X-Men, the Rajin Cajun is far from being one of the most popular, and it seems that he only becomes less popular with age. The older we get, the less it seems Gambit’s gimmicks work.

I’ve managed to hold on to my Gambit love since I first saw him in the Genesis X-Men game. It hasn’t always been easy, but I believe that with a well done retcon, Gambit could reach a potential equal to Wolverine’s. I hope that the movie will be the first step towards a positive revamp. In the meantime, however, here are some things that I would like to see kept and some things I would like to see changed for a new and improved Gambit:

First off, I’d say get rid of the playing cards. If there is one thing that Gambit fans of my generation don’t understand anymore, it’s the playing  cards. With the ability to turn anything he touches into a kinetic bomb, Gambit has one of the most handy and explosive powers on whatever team he is on. Tables, chairs, pens, bottle caps; put him in a room where he can grab something and he’s immediately 100 times more powerful than Bullseye. In the first issue of the 2000 Gambit series, LeBeau gets out of a tough spot by charging up a chewed up stick of gum with his tongue and spitting it into the Executioner.  I’m sure there has been some information on what materials charge better than others, but its hard to take him seriously when his weapon of choice is a deck of cards.

I’m not saying I don’t want him to be fun. One of my favorite moments is when he hands Logan a time delayed charged cigar, but its hard to take him seriously as a superhero when he and the Joker share a trademark. Even X-Men Origins: Wolverine could only justify him throwing cards by having Logan confront him during a poker game. I’m guessing the studio demanded he throw cards at least once so that a deck could be included as an action figure accessory. How about something more suitable to his gift that could also be better defined; like the lean metal spikes he threw in the Age of Apocalypse storyline? I’m pretty sure he made those himself, and any superhero who makes his own weapons gets bonus stars in my book.

I started watching the TV show Leverage, a show about an assorted group of thieves with different talents and my first thought was: “This is Gambit divided into 5 people”. A good Gambit story must have him exercising all his thievery skills. We need to see him gliding past lasers, hacking security networks, conning information out of officials through guile and subterfuge, and – of course – bo-staff fighting his way out when it all goes wrong.

I might be over the playing cards but I will never get bored of seeing some acrobatic bo-staff action.

Leverage is essentially about a group of professional thieves who fight for the little guy against the rich and powerful. With all the rage against todays infinitely wealthy 1%, there is no better time than now for a superhero Robin Hood. There’s no reason why Gambit shouldn’t be that hero in the Marvel Universe. After all; he was brought up by the Thieves’ Guild.

To come across as real character we need to see Gambit’s heritage – that means New Orleans and the Thieves’ Guild. LeBeau is as strongly tied to New Orleans as Spider-Man is to New York. The difference is that hundreds of superheroes claim New York as their home base and the only other character I can think of who claims New Orleans as their home is the obscure Brother Voodoo. A redefined history of the Thieves’ Guild is also an opportunity to combine real and comic fantasy.

  • At what point in New Orleans history did the Thieves’ Guild originate and why?
  • Did it come out of the civil rights movement?
  • How did the the Guild react to hurricane Katrina?
  • What affect did it have on Remy?
  • What does LeBeau love and hate about his home city that helped define him?

These are some of the questions that ought to be addressed in a modern Gambit origin tale.

My apologies in advance if this offends, but I’ve heard Gambit being called “the gayest X-Man” on more than one occasion. I’ve never referred to him in this way, but why not go for it, Marvel? Shouldn’t we have more a handful of non-heterosexual characters in comicdom, and especially in the X-Men Universe? I wouldn’t want to take him away from being a ladies’ man, which is an arguably core part of his character – positive or negative depending on your point of view. Why not make him bisexual? It is not essential, I guess, but there is definitely an element of femininity to Gambit which should not be lost in his story. Think about it; in the world of alpha male superheroes in colorful costumes, how many others dare challenge the status quo with a flatulent display of pink? Ok, I guess it’s technically magenta – a more rugged pink, but pink is still pink.

Let’s appreciate that Gambit became the new anti-Wolverine when he joined the team, able to use his cunning to bring his team to victory – usually by seduction instead of straight up chest impaling like Logan. His power and skill make him capable of violence but the fact that it’s not his first choice makes him much more interesting and frankly more intelligent.

Which leads me to my final point. Marvel and Fox, if you’re reading this, whatever you decide to do with Gambit in the future, in the interest of keeping him intelligent, please please please never have him speak of himself in the third person, like he did in the 90’s X-Men animated series. I’m not even going to go into detail as to why. Just know that as a Gambit fan who grew up with an anti-Gambit (pro-Wolverine) brother, this was the one thing that I could never justify.

Nobody likes someone who does this.