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New ‘Gambit’ Writer James Asmus Talks The Big Sexy [Interview]

As announced at C2E2 last weekend, the X-Men’s smouldering fan favorite super-thief Gambit is getting his own title this summer. It’s not the first time the character has had a solo title, with previous runs in the late ’90s and mid-’00s lasting 25 months and 12 months respectively, but this time the approach sounds a little different; the creative team plans to tap into the bad boy sex appeal that arguably drives the character popularity.

The series marks former Generation Hope writer James Asmus’s first work on the character, while artist Clay Mann designed and drew an alternative version in Age of X (see image above). We spoke to Asmus about how he plans to set Gambit apart in a world full of superheroes, what sort of pace he’ll set for the character’s adventures, and whether he sees Gambit as a sex symbol.CA: Gambit has been described as “not a very good man.” We know he’s a con-man and a thief. Is he a hero?

Asmus: I’d say he can be a hero, and has certainly done heroic things. But he’s also been known to lie, steal, cheat, break hearts, and do almost everything else your parents told you not to. Certainly, here, Gambit’s wants and motivations will not always land him on the “right” side of the law. And that’s going to be a big part of the fun.

As for what I love about Gambit, the thievery fits in nicely. What I’m really drawn to with him is his nature as an antihero with charm. So many comic characters with a more complex moral ambiguity are dark and brooding. But Gambit manages to balance a more sophisticated depiction of right and wrong against genuine cool and a sense of humor. That’s a combination that’s incredibly rare and appealing.

CA: The character has a complicated back story — the Thieves Guild, the Mutant Massacre, Apocalypse — and some complicated relationships in the X-Men. Are you going to build on that, or are you hoping to take the character in a new direction?

Asmus: My biggest hope is that this book can and will appeal to old and new readers. I’ve honestly lost count of how many people I know freaked out when they found out about the new book, even people who aren’t regular comic readers. Something about Gambit seems to have struck a chord with people in the ’90s cartoon and comic that still has them excited about him.

So we’re gunning to make a book that delivers on all his quintessential qualities — the charm, the intrigue, the sexiness, the skill, the style — while still breaking new ground for Gambit. We’ll be thrusting him into the deeper Marvel Universe and discover new sparks and conflicts for him first. I do plan to bring the Thieves Guild and especially Rogue into the book a little further down the line. But when we do, those things will be important to both Gambit and the larger events in his life. I want to avoid simply doing a cheap cash-in on previous stories.

CA: When I was a kid everything I knew about Cajuns came from Dennis Quaid in the 1986 movie The Big Easy when he played another roguish guy named Remy! What are your cultural touchstones for this series?

Asmus: Well, first off, I lived in Louisiana for several years! So unlike almost anyone who’s written for Gambit, I’ve known actual Cajuns, and I’m happy to say I won’t have to base him off of other fictional portrayals of the culture.

CA: There have been hints at a female antagonist in the new series. Can you tell us anything about her? Will she and Gambit will be lovers, fighters or both?

Asmus: I can tell you that they’ll start off as uneasy allies, and the push and pull of attraction and antagonism will be a big part of the fun we’ll have between them. This is a crime story writ large, after all. And every good crime story needs the character we’re not sure whether or not to trust. But when you make that character a sexy woman who might be Gambit’s equal – then the trope becomes a lot more fun to play with!

CA: Speaking of Gambit’s seductive prowess; the character is known for his charm and good looks, and there’s room in comics for more male sex symbols. Do you see Gambit filling that vacancy?

Asmus: 100%! Gambit really is one of the few explicitly sexy male characters in mainstream comics, and that’s a major part of how I envision this book. Luckily, our artist on the book is Clay Mann. And he completely taps into the easy cool and good looks that help make Gambit such man-candy to his fans.

CA: We seem to live in an age of team books; solo mutants have a hard time supporting their own titles. Gambit has had two shots in the past. How are you going to make this series stand out?

Asmus: I think the initial angle that [editor] Daniel Ketchum envisioned — centering the book on Gambit-as-thief — really lets us carve out a very different type of style and story for the book. This won’t just be more tales of mutants or re-hashings of Gambit’s origins as had been done in the past. Instead, we’re looking to blaze a new path forward for Remy LeBeau, and churn up the coolest and strangest parts of the Marvel Universe in our wake.

CA: Gambit’s long jacket is iconic. Do you and Clay plan to make changes to his look?

Asmus: The good news is: We’re keeping the jacket. The better news is: We’re changing much of the rest of his costume!

Both Clay and I were very interested in altering Gambit’s usual costume for the purposes of this book. Partly, we wanted to give him a look that would mirror the stealthy, criminal work Gambit will be doing here (as opposed to his more public heroism alongside the X-Men). But also, one of Clay’s greatest strengths is his design work. And Gambit has been past due for a more contemporary look. (Sorry to all you fans of pink shirts, metal leggings, and a mask that covers everything but your face.) But we’ll be tweaking Gambit’s costumes as we go around (and off) the world.

CA: It sounds like this is going to be a globe-trotting book, and we’re hoping for a few heists. How are you planning to handle the scale and pace?

Asmus: The scale is going to start small, with Gambit thinking he can get away with one small job just to flex those old muscles and feel like himself again, but soon spirals out into bigger and more exotic dangers and locales. Meanwhile, I’m trying to do something a little different with the pace of the book. The individual issues are going to fire along pretty quickly every time. Gambit is a man who follows his impulses, so we’re not going to slow him down. And I’m doing my damnedest to make every issue feel like its own full piece of the puzzle with a real beginning, middle, and end that delivers your money’s worth, then spikes up to a cliff-hanger that’ll hopefully help keep you excited for more!

My sincere hope is that every month feels like a full chapter of our story, and that we never feel like “part three of four.” It’s something I tried to do with Generation Hope, but Daniel and I are working hard to make sure each issue could serve as someone’s first issue and make the regular reader feel like we gave them something worth their time and money.

CA: One last question: When it comes to playing cards, what’s your game?

Asmus: Euchre! I don’t know if anyone outside of the Midwest plays it, but it’s my Grandma’s game of choice. So it’s the game my family stays up late to play whenever we get together.

Gambit #1 is due in stores August 2012.

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