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On Trial: Gambit

Welcome to Comical Musings.  We are excited to bring you the first entry in a brand new monthly column.  Each month, we will be taking a character or concept from comic books and putting it “On Trial.”  We will state who or what is on trial and why and then your favorite Writer’s Blok writers will weigh in with their opinions on the side of the prosecution or the defense.  Once you have finished reading the report, you will decide by voting in the comments section and we will establish if the accused is really guilty.  This month’s plaintiff is Rémy Etienne LeBeau, better known as Gambit.  He is a sexy Cajun and a reformed thief with the mutant power to charge objects with kinetic energy.  Created by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee, he has been a staple on the X-men and really, in comics lore for decades.  He steals hearts and blows things up all with the suave French debonair befitting a true child of the streets of New Orleans.  However, it is not all fireworks and beignets for this popular X-man.  As a character who, lately, seems to be more famous for being famous than doing anything extraordinary, some have even called him the Kardashian of the Marvel Universe.  Today, Gambit stands before you accused of being over-rated.

 

The Prosecution-

 

Hal: 

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, Remy “Gambit” LeBeau deserves about as much respect as Jean-Claude Van Damme portraying the be-mulleted, Cajun protagonist in the John Woo film, Hard Target; in other words, not much.  He is basically an assemblage of traits that comic book writers identified as cool, allowing fanboys to vicariously live out their fantasies of being a master thief, card shark, ladies man with an accent.  The real travesty is how successful this ploy has been over the past two decades.  I GUA-RAN-TEE, Gambit is guilty of being overrated, cher, and I roux the day he was created.

 

 

Scott Deaux:

Gambit is over-rated.  Not only is this true, but he is a famous version of Marvel’s clearinghouse policies in the 90s where they would have a lot going on at the “House of Ideas” and pour all of the “ideas” into one character.  If you look up Gambit’s history on Wikipedia.org and go to “Early Life,” not only will you be slightly bored three sentences in, but it will sound like some sort of crazy story that an over-active 10 year old would tell after reading The Hobbit and mainlining sugar.  For such a smooth character, Gambit’s story is incredibly bumpy.  He has rolled through power changes, bedded many a lady, and ironically never achieved anything that notable in the Marvel Universe.  Between being ret-conned into various past events and having his most memorable moment being when Apocalypse used him as a Horseman, Gambit comes out as a flat, worthless character.  Sure he has great hair, somewhat undefined powers, a cute accent, and many pointless occasions in his past, but it seems that Gambit has now become famous simply for being famous.  He is the Kardashian of the Marvel Universe.  Gambit is over-rated.

 

The Black Ness Monster:

Gambit iz EXPLETIVE DELETED. I dont like him. Kinectic energy is dum and playing cards aren’t koolz like wolverine’s claws.  Their supa sharp and admantium buty gambit is just a EXPLETIVE DELETED dumb ginga EXPLETIVE DELETED from new orleans he cant even speak good english!!!!!! he was in2 Jubileee in the cartoon and she looked like a dude :):):):):):)XDXDXDXDXDXDXD (>’ ‘)><(‘ ‘<)(^’ ‘^) (>’ ‘)><(‘ ‘<)(^’ ‘^)  (>’ ‘)><(‘ ‘<)(^’ ‘^)  (>’ ‘)><(‘ ‘<)(^’ ‘^)  (>’ ‘)><(‘ ‘<)(^’ ‘^)  (>’ ‘)><(‘ ‘<)(^’ ‘^)  (>’ ‘)><(‘ ‘<)(^’ ‘^)  (>’ ‘)><(‘ ‘<)(^’ ‘^)  (>’ ‘)><(‘ ‘<)(^’ ‘^)  (>’ ‘)><(‘ ‘<)(^’ ‘^)  (>’ ‘)><(‘ ‘<)(^’ ‘^)  (>’ ‘)><(‘ ‘<)(^’ ‘^)  (>’ ‘)><(‘ ‘<)(^’ ‘^)  (>’ ‘)><(‘ ‘<)(^’ ‘^)  (>’ ‘)><(‘ ‘<)(^’ ‘^)  (>’ ‘)><(‘ ‘<)(^’ ‘^)  (>’ ‘)><(‘ ‘<)(^’ ‘^)  (>’ ‘)><(‘ ‘<)(^’ ‘^)  (>’ ‘)><(‘ ‘<)(^’ ‘^)  (>’ ‘)><(‘ ‘<)(^’ ‘^)  (>’ ‘)><(‘ ‘<)(^’ ‘^)  (>’ ‘)><(‘ ‘<)(^’ ‘^)  (>’ ‘)><(‘ ‘<)(^’ ‘^)

 

Hal (again):

I can understand many of the points raised in Gambit’s defense.  And I concede that (with the possible exception of Deadpool) Gambit is one of the most popular and recognizable characters created in the last twenty-five years.  My problem is that he seems to be popular for who he is and what he can do, rather than what he has done.  I am not here to argue the merits of his character concept.  Everyone seems to agree that he has a variety of qualities and attributes which would be attractive to readers of super-hero comics, and so it is no surprise that he is a popular character.  My point is that a truly quality character cannot stop there.  Gambit has a back-story rife with conflict and intrigue.  He has taken part in heroic (and not so heroic) exploits with the X-Men and on his own.  The problem is none of them are that memorable.  I find it is telling that among a group of people who write for a blog about comic books he is best remembered from his appearance on a cartoon show and for having a relationship with Rogue.  As the defense stated, he has largely been “underwritten.”  This means that while he may be a cool character, he hasn’t been used to his fullest potential.  As a result, he often comes off as fun but frivolous.  He is a fan favorite, not for what he has done, but for all that he could do in the hands of the “right author.”  In this sense, he is undeniably overrated because he is popular as a concept, as opposed to a character with a life story that has shaped his world or made a memorable impact on readers.  Don’t get me wrong; Gambit is not a bad character.  (I don’t actually rue his creation, although he may have inspired the Rob Liefeld trend of bushy hair on top-no hair on the sides that plagued comics throughout the 90’s.)  For this reason, I am also looking forward to the forthcoming Gambit title, in the hopes that it will give him more substance and make him more of a “meaningful, poignant character” rather than just a flash in the deck.

 

JK Leo:

When considering the question of value, the object of assessment must be analyzed within the consistent structure of some objective system. When I consider the almost Swiftian appeal of MTV’s Teen Mom series, I can look at the Nielsen ratings (which I never, ever will – the flaws in such a system are too glaring to justify its use in any serious undertaking) – and I can use that number to make a judgment.

“Too many people like this.”

“Not enough people like this.”

“This object gets exactly enough attention.”

But I’m not sure how to fairly quantify the amount of love people have for Gambit. I know for a fact that X-Men was one of the hottest teams of the 90s. The first issue of volume two sold something like a million copies. They put out a popular cartoon, of which Gambit was a major character. I don’t have the numbers to back it up, but it’s apparent that X-Men was highly relevant back in the day.

As part of the team, Gambit, the Ragin’ Cajun, seems to embody a lot of the tropes that were really popularized in the early to mid nineties: Liefeldian costume design – trenchcoat, pouches, headbands, etc. Gambit, specifically his relationship with Rogue, was a cornerstone of Chris Claremont’s run on the title. Gambit was a major character in the cartoon. While it’s easy to identify the appeal of X-Men as an intellectual property, it’s much harder for me to see whether Gambit contributed to that.

Did anyone actually buy a copy of X-Men because of Gambit as a character? I certainly never did, and I’ve never spoken to somebody who considers him a “great” character, unlike Batman, Superman, and some of the more “literary” superheroes. What I’m saying is that fans like X-Men in spite of Gambit, not because of him.

Think about it. Does Gambit survive the Plinkett test? That is, can you describe Gambit as a character without touching on his appearance, powers, or occupation?

Go.

…mutant? That’s all you got?

Me too.

Gambit ain’t a great character. Any love people have for him, I’d wager, comes more from nostalgia than from an intellectual appreciation of the nuanced writing of Chris Claremont and the rest. [Note: this may be the first time ever Chris Claremont’s writing has been described as nuanced.]

That’s right, folks. I don’t know if people love Gambit, but if they do, Gambit is overrated.

 

 

 

The Defense:

 

The Black Ness Monster:

Perhaps, Gambit gets by in my eyes on nostalgia. I cannot remember any incarnation of Gambit in recent history that has gotten me excited like Animal Man has recently or Wolverine or just about any other major/minor character in either universe, but I still have fond memories of tuning in Saturday mornings to watch the X-Men cartoon. Back then, I didn’t care about anyone else. I didn’t read comics either … I was a Saturday morning cartoon child, and Gambit was the man. He was the Cajun Batman as far as I was concerned, only, you know, with actual super powers rather than a super bank account. What 9 year old X-Men fan didn’t run around his home throwing playing cards at his cats, dogs, and mom? Even now, having not seen the cartoon in years and having glanced at a Gambit comic book once or twice, I still have fond memories of that glorious Cajun. And I don’t even have any qualms with using glorious in this context. Okay, maybe a little.

 

Romeo Sid Vicious:

Remy Etienne LeBeau, is not any of the things the opposition has accused him of being. Given the right author Gambit becomes a character that is very easy to fall in love with. And what’s not love about a rogue that can change potential energy into kinetic energy, speaks with a Cajun drawl, and is almost irresistible to the ladies? From a guy’s point of view Gambit should be a slam dunk for a character. From a lowdown thief to X-23’s big brother figure he has come a long way through the Marvel universe. This month he’s launching his own title for the third time. It is my opinion that up until now, with rare exceptions, that Gambit has been underwritten and not overrated. But let’s look at some of the evidence presented, shall we?

Hal your accusations aren’t proved out by the reality of the character. It almost seems like you haven’t even read a Gambit storyline but only seen him in the background in other stories. This is born out by your careless comparison to JCVD which is apparently only based on the fact that both characters sort of look alike and sound alike. Even your accusation that the character’s reason for existing is to allow “fanboys to vicariously live out their fantasies of being a master thief, card shark, ladies man with an accent” seems to show that you aren’t thinking this through. I say this because you use that point as a point against Remy. In return I posit that all superheroes are for exactly that purpose and if that’s the best you have, then you don’t prove that Gambit is overrated at all.

marvel.com which clearly outlines what he has been able to do based on any given story arc. The backstory at Marvel also shows that his story can be told cleanly which refutes your earlier wikipedia evidence even further. In fact on close examination it appears that the wikipedia entry is a bad rewrite of a fairly smooth backstory from the Marvel website. I am also willing to bet that there quite a few characters who “haven’t accomplished anything” still floating around in the X-Men crew aside from Gambit. I don’t think you proved much of anything much less beyond a reasonable doubt.

In closing I would say that Gambit is not overrated at all and the arguments for that position are at best not factual and at worst ill thought out. I except to be proved right with his new book due out this month. I sincerely hope that I have convinced our readers that my fellows musers are wrong and that Gambit is long overdue for this book and that he can be written to meaningful, poignant character.

 

Jim Tenkins:

I don’t honestly know much about Rémy Etienne LeBeau, aka Gambit. Most of my experience comes from X-Men: The Animated Series (1992-1997), and what stands out most prominently from that series is his relationship with Rogue. So, sure, maybe Gambit looks like Josh Holloway (Sawyer in Lost). I suppose he could be just a fanboy creation. But none of that matters, because, aside from the usual ways in which we validate a characters existence, Gambit is the much needed affection for the mutant Rogue, and that makes him a worthwhile character. Rogues’ inability to share physical contact (for most of her existence) has to be especially damaging psychologically. If Gambit serves no other purpose than to ease that hurt, his existence is not only justified but needed, and he should be celebrated.

 

Shiera Carter:

Rémy LeBeau accomplishes exactly what his writers set out for him to do: he is the everyman.

Gambit provides a foil for the other, more famous mutants like Wolverine, Rogue, and Professor X, in all their seething popularity, as someone who doesn’t have extraordinary enough powers to become a nationally celebrated character, but someone who is noteworthy enough to get his own minor roles in dozens, if not hundreds, of X-Men comics. He provides a deeply needed relationship for Rogue-he is a place of safety that she can come back to, and a person that she can care for without feeling taken advantage of. Gambit’s eternal quest for redemption and his battles with the darkness of his own heart resonate with readers who, like the character, are perhaps tired of reading about epic struggles. He is a character who is often overlooked but sorely needed, as the man who at once inspires readers to greater heights while not judging them for the frailty of their completely human condition.

 

YOU ARE THE JURY.  GAMBIT HAS BEEN ACCUSED OF BEING OVER-RATED.  HOW DO YOU RULE?

[cardoza_wp_poll id=1]

(Comments In Comments Section Please) 

About Scott Deaux

Favorite Comics: Lazarus, Essex County, Chew, Superior Foes Of Spider-Man, Age of Apocalypse stuff, The Nightly News, Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate X-Men, Pax Romana, Avengers, NEXTWAVE: Agents Of Hate, Sweet Tooth, We3, others... Favorite Quote(s): "Journalism is just a gun. It's only got one bullet in it, but if you aim right, that's all you need. Aim it right, and you can blow a kneecap off the world." - Warren Ellis "People who hold signs go on...to hold many other things" - Eddie Pepitone

7 comments

  1. Man that is a horrid picture!

    I’d have to go with the defense. Also, can’t you put an actual poll in here?

  2. Gambit is OVERRATED! I read the comics, watched the animated series, and also hated him in the Wolverine X-Men Origins movie. In fact, he and Jubilee made me want to throw up my fish sticks in hatred. They are both really annoying and less than effective characters. Jubilee and Gambit were equal to the Wonder Twins in my book. And I was…what…10-13 when I first started reading?
    I will NEVER be convinced otherwise. I cannot stand Gambit. And it’s mostly due to his stupid accent (not cool, wasn’t in the 90’s, even to an impressionable pre-teen girl!) and his really dumb abilities.

    I’m not saying that Gambit CAN’T be cool…with that respect I actually agree with the defense. He has the some good prospects. But I, personally, have never ever ever seen anything good come out of him. Maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places…but he just doesn’t engage me as a reader/viewer.

  3. @JK Leo: Cajun mutant

  4. Overrated=Bad. Nice logic there Scott.

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