SPOILER WARNING: The following interview discusses plot points from Marvel Comics’ Rogue and Gambit #1, on sale now.
Romances between superheroes are complicated and sometimes even dangerous. When they go right, they empower the heroes involved and give them a reason to keep fighting. But when they go wrong, they can shatter the dynamic of a group and even get members injured or killed. Former X-Men power couple Rogue and Gambit understand that destructive potential all too well. That, and the baggage between them, is why they’ve kept their distance from each other the last several years, but sometimes the Marvel Universe reunites former lovers whether they want to see each other or not.
In the debut issue of writer Kelly Thompson and artist Pere Perez’s Rogue and Gambit, fate stepped in and the titular characters found themselves on a mission together that will force them to deal with the issues between them and a dangerous mystery. CBR spoke with Thompson about her title characters reuniting, the way they feel about each other, the role their tumultuous past will play in the story, and the inspiration for the mystery Rogue and Gambit are investigating.
CBR: Kelly, at the end of Rogue and Gambit #1, they have a heart to heart on the beach where, between the dialogue and Pere Perez’s great facial expressions, you sort of summed up where the state of the relationship is at. What I took from that conversation was that, based on the loss of control over her powers and everything that’s happened to them in the past, Rogue feels hsher and Gambit should move on even though she might not really want to. Meanwhile, Gambit thinks they’re still worth fighting for.
Kelly Thompson: It was important before we did a deep dive into our story — and into these characters — that we set the table for where they’re both at right now in their lives and in their relationship with one another. We need that to be clear so that we’ve got somewhere to go, something to build to, y’know? Rogue and Gambit have had a few on panel conversations where they talk plainly about their relationship, but not a lot considering the decades they’ve been together (and not together). Definitely expect some serious soul-searching about their relationship from both characters.
The idea of Rogue and Gambit posing as a couple to investigate the disappearances surrounding a resort that relieves mutants of their trauma seems like something that both grew out of the character’s relationships and uniquely catered to Gambit’s skills at deception. What can you tell us about what inspired the plot and sort of genre elements of the story?
I think that, for starters, any story that can lean into a mystery readers are hooked with to figure out right away, is a good thing. And when you add to that the natural action component of superheroes and the sort of sneaky “undercover” strengths of Gambit, a plot like this just seemed like a really natural fit. I also think there’s a long history of fun stories (in lots of mediums) with couples – especially those who have a lot of sexual tension – going “undercover” as something they aren’t (or aren’t quite). Whether you’re doing X-Files or Moonlighting, it’s just a genre that maximizes fun and romance…or at least the potential of romance, and thus it fits Rogue & Gambit especially well.
In this initial issue, we got hints and glimpses of your title characters’ pasts. And if the first page and the later covers in this series are any indication, you’re going to be diving headfirst into it in a big way. Can you talk at all about that and what it means?
The big challenge to me when I was asked to pitch the book was that these characters are not currently together and have a ton of really bad baggage that we’d love to leave behind – to give the characters a nice clean slate. But jettisoning continuity is a bit of a cheat, and one that doesn’t always work in my opinion since fans always like different stuff. What I hate, the next guy may love, etc., into infinity.
But it felt really important to me that we sort of “clear the field” to make room for new stories for Rogue and Gambit. It was also important that we find a way that readers could jump in without having read everything that happened – good and bad – to these characters for the last 20 years. So what I did was just build addressing those issues directly into the plot – their baggage is literally the crux of this miniseries – but in a way that I hope is enlightening instead of overwhelming.
I can’t say too much more without giving too much away, but I hope we’re successful in both bringing in lapsed fans who may have lost touch with the characters, and also the die-hards that have followed these characters religiously and know every panel of their history, but that would also like to see these characters forge a new path – together. Time will tell how successful I was in that mission!
One great thing we had working for us I think is that I’m at least a little bit of an expert on Rogue and Gambit. My editor Darren [Shan] is newer to the characters, and so he’s a great guide for when I was getting too deep in the weeds. More than once on the phone he had to reel me back in. “Kelly, I have no idea what these characters are you’re talking about.” “Okay, Darren, good note… good note.” And then it was back to the drawing board for me! [Laughs]
The exact threat and antagonists Rogue and Gambit are up against are still mysterious by the end of issue #1, but can you talk about how much danger your title characters are in going into issue #2? Will the nature and agenda of their enemies be part of the larger mystery of this story? Should readers continue to look for clues?
I think Rogue and Gambit are in extreme danger but in an… unexpected way. There are some non-linear elements to this story, as you might have gleaned from the opening pages. So the cliffhanger we leave them on at the end of issue one is not necessarily where we pick up with them in issue two. But if we’ve done our job well, then it’s all going to make the best kind of sense.
And yes, savvy readers will be rewarded. I think every writer hopes to get a reader saying “Ah! I can’t believe I didn’t see that…it was there all along!” But readers are extremely sharp these days… you gotta bring your A-game to get that moment.
What I really enjoyed about Pere Perez’s work in this first issue was the acting and he really conveyed the sense that these were two very attractive people headed to this very lush and lavish place. What’s it been like working on further issues of this series with Pere? How much direction do you give him on things like action and character outfits?
Pere has impressed me so much on this book. You know, you naturally expect comic book artists at his level to be great at superhero stuff – and he is, his fight scenes are excellent – especially when the fight scene intensity really gets extreme around issue three. But what you don’t always find in comic book artists is the ability to do real romance and what I’ll call…extreme sexiness? And Pere shocked me (in the best of ways) with the heat he brought to this book. I can’t say enough nice things about it. And y’know, for a couple that’s been on again/off again for more than two decades, Rogue and Gambit were READY for extreme sexiness. I’m so glad Pere and I can give it to them (and the fans of course). I should also add that Frankie D’Armata is doing amazing things with colors too. For… reasons… this book is sort of an extra pain to color, but he’s killing it!
Any final hints and teases you can leave us with? Issue #1 suggested this will be a story that has quite a bit of humor to it, but quite a bit of emotional intensity as well…
Tonally, I think Rogue & Gambit is primarily a very fun action-adventure caper with a strong romance element. Jokes are certainly my favorite thing ever and I had a lot of fun finding that chemistry between Rogue & Gambit – something that I think has always been there, but has maybe not always been taken advantage of? And yes, I think there’s some good emotional stuff here too – something for everyone. And for readers that want to look for it, I think there’s also a secondary layer that’s a bit more esoteric…that has some deeper meaning about life and love, about how we’re all twisted together, like it or not.