The Big Easy by Alex Correa
As a young Donatello fan, Lil' Alex immediately took to Gambit after watching only a couple of episodes of the Fox Kids X-Men: Animated Series. What started as a superficial interest in the character's preferred and expertly use of the bo staff soon evolved into something more.
Up until this point in his young life, Lil' Alex had grown up as a fan of fun-loving, dashing heroes with devil-may-care attitudes like Robin Hood and Peter Pan (yes, all thanks to Disney). The shift in interest was only natural as Gambit had all these characteristics down and exhibited much more of a rogue personality than Rogue.
Lil' Alex soon graduated from cartoons and moved on to the comic books. The first one to ever catch his eye could be attributed solely on the sheer insanity that was the now-classic Jim Lee cover (X-Men 8). At the very top, a header that read: Gambit vs Bishop. Tucked away at the corner: "'Nuff Said!'" But it wasn't "'Nuff"! Another X-Man, amnesiac mulleted cop from the future Bishop, stood over Gambit holding a smoking shotgun, seemingly just moments after shooting Lil' Alex's favourite. How could this be? Was Gambit dead? Did Bishop figure out Gambit's one weakness were bullets? Why is Ghost Rider tucked away in the corner? Who cares, back to Gambit and why are the X-Men standing around hopeless to do anything? How is Rogue going to react? How does a black man with an M-brand on his face grow a mullet in the future? Lil' Alex took a deep breath, asked his father to buy it for him, took it home and for the next few years wondered what the hell was a Thieves Guild and how he could join.
Lil' Alex turned into Pubescent Alex (no chance on a "Pube' Alex," sorry) and dealt with his awkward high school years by burying his nose in X-Men comics and X-Men novelizations. Gambit's story became increasingly more complex, or convoluted, depending on who you ask, but his fascination for the character remained.
His heart froze momentarily, making way for a rush of adrenaline, as he stood inside the mausoleum that's become a 90s arcade and saw Capcom Japan's faithful rendition of Gambit in X-Men vs Street Fighter.
Pubescent Alex coaxed (or forced) his friends into buying decks of Marvel Overpower, a Marvel Comics-based card game, just so he can use Gambit and his various attack cards.
When he finally got his first job and saved enough to buy a trenchcoat, he didn't. Because trenchcoats are tacky. However, he did splurge on posters and paraphernalia any chance he got.
Time to play fifty-card pick up with the third person narrative gimmick. We've reached the part where I turn into an adult (sort of) and a bit of a comic book snob. I didn't really find myself following the X-Men much, opting for the Vertigo and Wildstorm and Dark Horse and Image and so on of “grown up” “graphic novels”. Any chance I would get to delve back into the character that was my gateway into the genre, was met with tired or unimaginative stories. They ranged from focusing heavily on Gambit's time in N'awlins to the tired angle of questioning his allegiance between the X-Men or the Thieves Guild to him just plain brooding and pining over Rogue.
Many who used Gambit as part of whatever story they were writing could only see him as his detractors do. Which is a skeletal frame of stereotypes, tics and unrefined tropes which would keep him stagnant and underdeveloped for quite some time. He would just be an accent and a deck of cards that would hit on any woman he came across. It's akin to seeing Peter Parker still wearing a cardigan sweater accompanied by a buzzcut and Harry Potter bifocals. Just completely out of place and part of a lazy paradigm.
Had changes been made to the character? Had he developed or grown? Yes. Did anyone notice? No.
Let me take you to 2005 and the Ultimate X-Men, as part of the once revered Ultimate Marvel universe. Taking classic and even contemporary heroes and placing them into a modern setting free of the baggage that is continuity. Who better to benefit from such a setting than Gambit? No more goofy accent and Guild complications, Gambit was free to grow as a character for as long as the writer wanted. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the guiding hand of this resurgence was a rising star by the name of Brian K. Vaughan who, upon leaving the title, killed the character off. It left a giant void in the hearts of Gambit fans everywhere but a reaffirmation of their love and conviction.
With news from the recent MTV Movie Awards of Channing Tatum (Hollywood action movie star, underrated actor and overall cool dude) being in talks with Lauren Shuler Donner (X-men movie producer) about playing the Gambit, a collection of fans across the internet simultaneously raised their fingerless-gloved hands and rejoiced. Along with happiness and adulation of the “ragin' Cajun” came much hatred. So much hate. Like a pack of mutant-hunting Sentinels with specific modifications to hunt, pee on and bury Gambit.
At his core, Gambit is still the roguish acrobat with the funny quips and audaciousness that lives up to his namesake. He has a dark side that he hides behind a welcoming grin, like a Wolverine who doesn't take himself too seriously. A swashbuckling mutant that isn't blue, furry or smells like farts all the time (there's canonical evidence of this, sorry Nightcrawler). His powers are of a flashy and fun sort with the potential to be the most resourceful and creative when penned by any capable writer. Just think about it: anything is a weapon in his hands and he isn't restricted by something as arbitrary as where his face is turned (sorry, Cyclops). In terms of pure escapism, who wants to be short and hairy or in constant need of a giant visor or covered in fur or a four-fingered alien sporting a Bon Jovi-mullet? The best option was clearly the suave, good-looking charmer of many an X-woman.
There is a great opportunity to be had in the cinematic X-universe, especially with Tatum attached. If his past roles are any indication, he has the basics of the role down to a T. This isn't a case of can they or can't they but will they or won't they?