EXCLUSIVE: Asmus Plots a Dangerous World Wide "Gambit"

When you're charged with protecting a world that fears and hates you, as well as training the next generation of mutants, you live a life that's equal parts exciting and mundane. Some of Marvel Comics' X-Men enjoy that combination, but for Remy LeBeau AKA Gambit the life of a teacher is a painfully dull existence. So in the debut issue of his new self-titled series he decided to search for additional thrills elsewhere by resuming his old occupation of professional thief.

Gambit's initial return to his old job provided the excitement he was looking for, but it also led to numerous unintended and painful consequences. Dealing with those consequences has created even more fallout as well. In Gambit's most recent adventure he extricated himself out from under the thumb of a powerful criminal only to wind up in the debt of the British Intelligence Agency MI-13 and on the World's Most Wanted List. Comic Book Resources spoke with writer James Asmus about this situation and his upcoming plans for "Gambit" which involve sending his protagonist to a number of dangerous locales across the globe.

CBR News: James, Gambit was forced to pull off a couple of heists in this past arc in order to keep himself alive, but as MI-13 head Pete Wisdom suggested in "Gambit" #7 his expressions and body language during these thefts suggest he was enjoying them on some level. What was it like for Remy to get called out like that?

James Asmus: I think we all have qualities we know are true about ourselves, but we don't like to be confronted with. So I think when Gambit is trying to figure out a direction for his life it's a rude awakening to be called out on the fact that you kind of cause your own problems. [Laughs] Remy's love of high-stakes games like he went through with Cich is at best counterproductive and at worst self-destructive given the personal crisis he's going through.

Gambit getting on Pete Wisdom's bad side is dangerous. It seems to me that as a spy Pete Wisdom would be in need of an independent operator that he could send on a dangerous mission in the name of plausible deniability. Am I correct in this assumption?

Yes. Selfishly, I wanted to build a back door for myself to bring Pete back into things. And leaving Gambit in Pete's debt is the perfect way to do that. It won't be in this next arc, but I fully expect Pete to call in that marker.

And Pete Wisdom is a character who was always very loyal to the people he cares about and works with. So truthfully, if and when he would make Gambit do something for him, it would be because he sees it as a suicide mission and he sees Gambit as expendable.

It felt like you really enjoyed writing the dynamic between Pete and Gambit. How was that?

I had a blast writing them! And honestly, what came out was not what I expected their relationship would be like. I reread all of Paul Cornell's Pete Wisdom stories and some of Warren Ellis' stuff before I started scripting those issues just to get a feel for him back in my head.

He definitely came out as the angry version of himself [Laughs], but I sort of liked that as a foil for Gambit's devil-may-care attitude through most of the arc. And considering Gambit was messing with Pete's people, he's going to be more than a little pissed.

Plus I love writing smart, mouthy people in general. I loved writing Emma Frost for that reason and Pete Wisdom is kind of another one of those characters.

With their clashing attitudes and shared background as mutants Pete and Gambit would make great protagonists in a buddy book.

That may have been a fantasy I was indulging in the back of my head as I writing these past few issues -- I imagine the arc of their relationship would start off poorly, and then later Wisdom could use Gambit for a mission in which he'd redeem himself in Pete's eyes. And then I'd get to write an ongoing series where Gambit is part of MI-13 or the two run covert missions! [Laughs]

Is there any other fallout from the story that ran through "Gambit" #5-7 that we may not have seen yet?

I can tell you that Pete deliberately leaving Remy on the Wanted List for a while to make his life difficult is going to actually help him in issue #9. And then it's going to lead to a particular someone coming after him in a later issue.

In "Gambit" #8 you tell a one-off story featuring a character who needs Gambit's help, the ESU professor we saw in "Gambit" #1. What can you tell us about this story?

Gambit started the series wanting to get away from what his life had settled into -- students, spandex, and super-heroing. So I thought, midway through our first year, it would be good for Gambit to have to rescue a bunch of students!

Other writers at other times may not have had him bristle against teaching, but it's never made sense to me that he would be a teacher. I just don't believe he'd show up at 9 A.M. to talk to a bunch of children. I think he'd be sleeping off a hangover or ducking out to do something he'd find more interesting.

So issue #8 is a story that forces him to act like a super hero to save students and a trust-worthy woman. He rejected all of those things at the beginning of this series. So this gives him a chance to look at that again and ask himself if it's something he wants or not. By the end of the issue he makes a choice that sends him down the direction for the next arc.

Where does this story take place?

This story takes place in the High Evolutionary's Forever City from Jonathan Hickman's "Fantastic Four" run. When I put together my first proposals for the "Gambit" series one of the things I did was think about some of the crazy elements of the Marvel Universe that I love and would make for some interesting and very unique heists. Right at the top of that list was the Forever City with its engine that evolves or devolves people inside its walls. It was a great addition to the Marvel Universe.

Let's move on to your next arc running through "Gambit" #9-12. We understand this story will reunite Gambit with Joelle, the mysterious femme fatale from the book's first arc, right?

Yes! She will come back. Their dynamic is going to keep evolving, and we'll learn a lot about her secrets. But there's a ton of other stuff happening in the arc, too! Something for everyone.

What else can you tell us about the story, and just how do Gambit and Joelle meet up in this story?

Gambit kind of goes looking for this fight based on what's already happened and the decision he makes in issue #8. So he goes looking for her only to find her in a den of super villains!

Since it seemed like that dingy super villain watering hole, the Bar With No Name, kept getting destroyed, I thought they might upgrade and become the Club With No Name. So in this story it's now a full blown night club where they actually let civilians come in and socialize with super villains. They're under the assumption that the Punisher won't come in and gun down a bunch of dumb socialites just to get to the villains.

It's also a fun way to shine a light on the nature of Gambit's reputation as both a hero and a criminal. And it let me get my hands on some of the quirky Marvel villains I love like Batroc, Boomerang, and Lady Stiltman.

I was excited to see that Batroc the Leaper is one of the villains on the cover of issue #9.

[Laughs] Then you should be really happy because he's one of the villains that gets a lot of character time in the issue! It's funny because I had batted around different characters I'd love to see Gambit interact with and Batroc was one of the main ones I thought would be great because they're both agile fighters and the frienemy quality of the way Cajuns view the French felt like a good dynamic to play with.

Plus, in an earlier "Gambit" series, Batroc had accepted a job to try and kill Gambit. And attempted murder is always a source of laughs in my world. [Laughs]

Exotic locales and daring heists have been a big part of this new "Gambit" series. Where else are we going and what are we stealing in this next story?

In addition to the madhouse that will be the Club With No Name in issue #10, Gambit and Joelle will be heading to an abandoned HYDRA base in the icy tundra of Canada. It's a base that Baron Strucker had kept up as a secret project for himself. They're going to have to break in and steal the secrets that it holds, and it's far from unprotected.

What about the other supporting character in this arc? Will we see much of the man who's become Gambit's chief confidant and science advisor in this new series, Fence?

I've really loved writing Fence. So he definitely keeps coming back and they're relationship gets a wrinkle in this next arc for sure.

It's funny, we were never really sure the degree to which he'd stay in the series, but so many people have been really positive about the character when he appeared that I'm more than happy to keep making sure he's a part of the book. I even worked him into "A+X" just to give him a larger audience.

Are there any other supporting players in this arc you want to mention or draw attention to?

SPOILER ALERT for people who don't read the previews -- Rogue is going to be in this arc. I'm very happy to say that we're bringing her in at the exact time and in the exact way that I wanted to. I've joked that I was waiting to bring her in at the worst moment possible in terms of how Gambit would feel about it. I had a specific thing in mind and that's exactly how it's happening.

It's interesting she's coming into the book right around the time she's living a very public life as a member of the "Uncanny Avengers." She's become a sort paragon for mutant-human relations while Gambit has gone back to a life of crime.

Exactly, and that's no small part of what's prompting her to confront her ex-boyfriend -- who, last arc, had some fairly public bad behavior. Rogue is in a position where she's worried about the world's impression of mutants in general and Remy in particular.

You're working with two great artists the next few months. Pasqual Ferry is drawing "Gambit" #8, and then Clay Mann returns for the arc that begins with issue #9. What do they bring to the stories they're drawing?

I feel like I'm getting to dance with all the prettiest girls at the prom. [Laughs]

I was blown away the minute I saw Pasqual's work on "Mighty Thor." So it was great to work with him on issue #8, which is a little crazy with its creatures and has a lot of scope for a 21-page story. It certainly has some of the splashiest imagery of any "Gambit" stories we've done so far, and that's really where Pasqual's work thrives. Plus the nature of that story is a perfect fit for him. No one does strange worlds and landscapes like Pasqual Ferry.

Then with Clay, the truth is that he's a major part of this book. I feel like his work helped me find the tone and style for this book. His work is smartly sexy, grounded, and just super cool. I have to aspire to live up to that in my scripts.

Finally, you'll be celebrating the book's one-year anniversary when the upcoming arc comes to a close with "Gambit" #12. How does it feel to have that on the horizon?

It's wild and wonderful in that this is definitely the longest I've worked on any one comic. I still love the character and I can't believe where the time went because I still have a million ideas that I would love to write for him.

I'm trying to get real aggressive about making sure we get some big developments in for Gambit's character by our next arc. So expect to see some exploration of and additions to the character's history and cannon coming soon.

It sounds to me like you're hinting at the possibility of a story where Gambit runs afoul of some of the illicit guilds from his past?

It's hard to imagine how I could do something core to who he is without finally going over and spending some time with the guilds, isn't it? But that's all I can say for now!

"Gambit" #8 is on sale now, with #9 set for release February 27.

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