Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
And when I say “uncanny,” I really mean it, as the X-Men legend himself, Chris Claremont, is this week’s very special guest! It only took 145 editions, but we finally got him! (OK, technically, this is Chris’ second appearance if you count his four-word answer at Terrificon 2019 in X-Men Monday #23.)
Anyway, X-Fans had a lot of questions about Chris’ upcoming Gambit mini-series and his eXtremely popular co-creation, Remy LeBeau, so without further ado, here’s Chris!
AIPT: Welcome to X-Men Monday, Chris — truly an honor! Let’s kick things off with a question from X-Fan Emmanuel Boyd, who was wondering if you could share how you and artists Jim Lee and Mike Collins came up with Gambit, as well as his original purpose. Emmanuel mentioned you had previously stated plans to have him get close to Kitty Pryde in some way?
Chris: If memory serves (always an adventurous mountain path to drive along, especially with none of my story notes at hand), the idea derived from my original conception of Mr. Sinister — which has nothing to do with the character as he currently exists. Back then, the Classic X-Men reprint series contained original short stories derived from the issue being reprinted, some of which related to Scott Summers’ years in the Nebraska State Home for Foundlings, wherein it was established that he had a young friend — apparently his only friend. This ‘friend’ was in fact ‘Mr. Sinister’ — a mutant with a lifespan of well over a thousand years. However, he would age through that lifespan proportionally — which means that while he was born almost two centuries before the current comics continuity came into being, he would present himself physically as someone in the early middle of his first decade of life. Physically, at the age of pre-school, perhaps first or second grade. Mentally, though, he would be a fully functioning genius intellect. Knowing that he was no physical match for any adult, especially a supervillain, he created a simulacrum of himself that would function as his public face — a physical presence who would strike fear into the hearts of both his ‘employees’ and his adversaries, not to mention an appropriately terrifying name to go with it. Hence, the public persona of ‘Mr. Sinister.’ Compared to that, whoever would notice the little kid hanging around deep in the background? Why does Sinister look the way he does? Because, while his creator may be a genius, he is also a kid and this is his perception of what a world-class badass looks like. As the boy grows into adolescence or even adulthood, those perceptions — and the identity derived from them — might well change but for now, this is what strikes fear into his heart, and by extension those of everyone else.
Which brings us to Remy. Thing is, the initial encounters with the X-folk resulted in Sinister’s defeat. The young man he once thought would grow into the leader of his team of evil escaped the orphanage and matured into something altogether different, perhaps one of his greatest adversaries. Time then, to find another way to win. Instead of direct confrontations, time now to employ subterfuge — by generating an adult clone of himself and using that agent to infiltrate the X-team to seduce and destroy them from within. And what better way to do that than with the most charming of rogues and thieves? Hence, Gambit — the vision of Sinister as the young man he’ll likely be in perhaps a couple or three centuries. His mission was to rescue kid ‘Ro from the Shadow King and through her find a way to infiltrate the overall team. Once integrated into the X-community and earning a place as a trusted member of the team, he could turn his attention to his ultimate target, the young woman who would be the leader of the next generation of mutants: Kate ‘Kitty’ Pryde. He’d seduce her to the ‘dark-side’ (perhaps building off the damage-foundation already inflicted/laid on her by Ogun), or simply break her heart, or bring about her death, whatever it would take to eliminate her from the strategic equation and leave the team functionally crippled and thereby vulnerable to Sinister’s subsequent attacks.
Problem is, Sinister both designed and built too well. Remy came into the game already grown to maturity. (Perhaps we should look on him as the Gambit who might have been?) He starts as a bad-ass, but the longer he’s with the X-team, the more he begins to change. Originally, his intent was to keep Ororo as a pre-adolescent kid, in the time before the full manifestation of her powers, where she was still impressionable. He’d remind her of the thieving life she lived and loved as a girl and make her love that far more than the team her adult self joined, the hero she became, as an adult superhero — to the extent that she’d never want to rejoin the team and live that life again. Taking away their leader would be the first move towards shattering the team. Only things don’t quite work out that way. Indeed, once he ‘joins’ the team, and gets to know first them and then Kitty, he’s the one who starts to mature and to change. He finds himself feeling increasingly restricted by the demands Sinister has placed on him; surprise, he doesn’t like being someone else’s slave. Better to try to steal his own freedom and take things from there as a free agent. Doesn’t mean he’ll become a hero; quite the opposite in fact. Might be way more fun to steal away Sinister’s future and become the villain the kid just dreams of. Perhaps with kid-‘Ro and Kitty by his side. After all, who’s going to stop him? Logan’s the most dangerous among the hero-team and Remy beats him every time they get into a fight.
Or, even crazier by far, he might become a true hero.
Lots of options; even more possibilities.
Which of course makes him and Sinister the deadliest of adversaries — which in turn makes this the kind of game Remy just loves to play. Higher the stakes, more fun to be had.
That’s where I was going with my thoughts. From Jim came the visual. Mike had the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time to be responsible for visually presenting Remy’s first appearance.
AIPT: Fascinating — thanks for sharing all that. Now, X-Fan Vítor Dos Santos Raduszewski wanted to know what made you choose this period of Gambit’s life to focus on in your new mini-series?
Chris: The layout of the original story established this as a (significant, depending on how long it takes ‘Ro to grow her hair from a buzz-cut to her traditional hip-long ‘Ororo’ coiffure) point in time where the two of them were on their own, happily robbing their way along the Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast. Once ‘Ro gets her memories back at story’s end, we’re back in the overall series continuity, with visually no free-time at all to spare.
AIPT: While we’re talking about ‘Ro, X-Fan @ororoswind was curious about young Storm’s involvement in your story. What did you want to revisit about this era of Ororo’s history?
Chris: Because I considered it somewhere that provided the opportunity for a whole-lotta-fun to be had by all involved. Think about it: who notices kids? The way Remy dresses, not to mention his great body and gorgeous looks, most of the time all eyes turn towards him. ‘Ro — very much like my concept for Sinister — remains functionally invisible. Target looks to Remy, ‘Ro picks his pocket.
But the true reason, frankly, is that the story turned out to be a whole lot more fun this way.
AIPT: Beyond the fun, as a writer, what appeals to you about the dynamic between Gambit and ‘Ro?
Chris: Great characters having a great time with power dynamics (including, in ‘Ro’s case, a lack of powers) that make each confrontation with adversaries a ‘fair’ fight. For me, stories with suspense are so much more fun than those where the heroes are chockablock with power and abilities.
AIPT: X-Fan Craig Velaris (Tauna) wanted to know what your favorite aspect of Gambit as a character is to write in this mini-series.
Chris: He’s a rogue and a charmer — but he also has people he cares for and when they’re in danger, all bets are off. Even with that, there’s room for surprises. Imagine the master thief finding himself the victim for once. Or something he never figured would be swiped being snatched from him right under his nose, leaving him forced to face the consequences — which might involve far more pain than ever he realized. And no, I’m not going to tell you that that might be — heh heh heh.
AIPT: OK, something you probably could tell us about — what’s it like collaborating with artist Sid Kotian on Gambit?
— Sid Kotian (@kotianart) January 1, 2022
Chris: Sid’s a Marvel! Among the best I’ve worked with this millennium! He can handle humor, drama — but most of all, he’s brilliant at bringing characters to life. Adventure scenes can have you on the edge of your seat while the heartbreaking ones do just that — and bear in mind, I’m having all these reactions after writing the whole story, when I know how everything’s going to turn out. Matter of fact, as I write this, I’m waiting for the last chapter of the last issue, on tenterhooks to see how everything looks at story’s end. If that’s my reaction, after working on this for way better than 6 months — well, I hope that gives y’all a proper sense of just how good Sid’s work is.
AIPT: Now, we can’t have a Gambit-focused interview without a little Rogue talk. X-Fan Jacki (AppleJ) said that in X-Treme X-Men and X-Men: The End, you wrote a delicious dynamic between Gambit and Rogue — they even had kids. What do you think makes them a good match and what do you think they would struggle with as a couple aside from Rogue’s powers?
Chris: Well, I have to say, Rogue’s powers are a pretty impressive challenge in their own right. On the other hand, over the years — for example, in X-Treme X-Men — there have been occasions where one or the other, or both, have found themselves without super-abilities. Seems to me they’ve handled things just fine. I think what makes them a good match is embodied in both their names: one’s a ‘rogue,’ the other runs ‘Gambit’s’ galore. In short, at heart-’n’-soul, they’re both thieves. What more fun could be had by either, yah?
AIPT: Going back in time, before X-Treme X-Men, X-Fan 1407 Greymalkin was curious to learn why you chose Gambit to lead the X-Men back in your “Revolution” X-Men era?
Chris: Seemed like a fun idea at the time, just like drafting Rogue into the same position with the other team.
AIPT: And while we’re back in time, X-Fans Corrine S. and Nobin Khan asked if there was a Gambit story you wanted to tell in your original X-Men run but couldn’t?
Chris: Simple answer, the story told in the first answer above, which was my original vision for Gambit (bearing in mind that among the synonyms for ‘gambit’ are the words ruse, trick and ploy.)
AIPT: As we wrap up, X-Fan Vit was wondering if the treatment you wrote for the unmade Channing Tatum Gambit movie had any influence on your new Gambit mini-series?
Chris: Nope. Would make a helluva movie, though.
AIPT: Finally, in January, you teased a “really cool concept” you’re working on featuring some of your favorite characters on your Facebook page. You said you’re not supposed to talk about it… but… we really love teases here at X-Men Monday. So, any updates you can share?
Chris: Where the X-Canon’s concerned, ‘favorite characters’ covers a whole lot of ground. Trust me, I’ve dumped so many proposals on CB’s desk … heh-heh-heh … well, it’s kind’a hard to know what you’re referring to. Trust me, the minute anything fun gets a green light, I’ll likely be yelling it from the cyber-realm rooftops. ’Til then …
AIPT: We’ll be sure to keep an ear out. But for now, Chris, thank you so much for swinging by X-Men Monday at AIPT to field these X-Fan questions! And as if this conversation wasn’t enough of a treat — here’s an eXclusive look at four of Sid Kotian’s pages from Gambit #1!
Gambit #1 goes on sale May 11, 2022, so be sure to reserve your copy, X-Fans!
Until neXt time, X-Fans, stay eXceptional!
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