When it comes to X-Men characters who were big in the 1990s, perhaps no mutant epitomized the era more than Gambit. Brought to stardom largely through his role on X-Men: The Animated Series, the crafty Cajun was a hit with fans, who responded positively to his Southern charm and explosive ability. Unfortunately, the decades since then have not been kind to Remy LeBeau, with the character something of an anachronism.
Ever since the 90s, Gambit hasn’t been as integral a member of the X-Men as he once was. This was reflected in the team’s adjustments and it created an environment where he can’t seem to grow. Despite that, he has had some development in recent years, and that gives the opportunity to actually do something with him in a bigger way again.
Gambit is synonymous with the 90s X-Men – for better or for worse
Created by franchise writer Chris Claremont and legendary artists Jim Lee and Mike Collins, Gambit fully debuted in Creepy X-Men #266 (by Chris Claremont and Mike Collins). He was characterized as a nervous, rough ladies’ man with a mysterious past. He was very much done in the Wolverine mold, which was probably part of his appeal. Adding to the appeal was his complicated relationship with Rogue, all of which was combined in his iconic portrayal in X-Men: The Animated Series. That show put Gambit on the map and made him, in the eyes of many fans, so central to the X-Men are older heroes like Cyclops, Wolverine and Storm. Towards the end of the 90s, this would manifest itself in miniseries and an ongoing title, although this success did not continue.
The late 90s/early 2000s was somewhat of a stagnation point for X but, with the failed “Revolution” remake that brought Chris Claremont back to the property not quite taking off as expected. This would lead to the iconic Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely New X-Men era where said book redefined the title and its mythos for a while. The book focused on Wolverine, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast and Emma Frost, with other iconic X-Men members mostly relegated to side titles. This included ’90s staples like Cable, Bishop and Gambit, with the latter two slowly fading more and more from the limelight. Gambit would be a part of Brand new X-Factor book, but its cancellation due to low sales cemented that he was not quite the prominent hero he had once been.
Marvel needs more than nostalgia to push Gambit forward
Gambit’s muted stardom in comics was coupled with his not being used in film adaptations X but property. He had much smaller parts in the two new cartoons that came out after X-Men: The Animated Seriesand that was even more the case in live-action Fox X but universe. All in all, it seemed like Gambit couldn’t outgrow what he once was, especially when some retroactively began to see him as more flash than substance. However, in the case of other ’90s icons, they were allowed to return to prominence and afford some great stories. Such was the case with Cable and especially Deadpool, with the former being shown as much more than just a hardened commando from the future.
This is the kind of “fix” that Gambit needs, and his current status quo could make it happen. Now married to longtime love interest Rogue, this development has been praised by fans who are happy to see them together. Unfortunately, it has also had the effect of simply making him “Rogue’s Man”, which shows how little has been added to him in his 3 decades of existence. Given that the current X but titles usually relate to threats to Krakoa, a Gambit ongoing or miniseries might do best by focusing on more street-level concepts. Gambit is the King of Thieves, so it would be a way to use this concept to show him dealing with the seedy underbelly of the Marvel Universe alongside Wolverine, Daredevil, and even The Punisher. Likewise, it would be great to make him a more central part of the X-Men and show how he’s seen among the wider team. This revamp of Gambit could help him regain his lost star power and move his character forward.