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Marvel: Back to the Big Easy: Layman on Gambit
Posted 11/06/2004
Source Newsarama

[Image: GAMBIT001_t.jpg]Announced last month, it took a few by surprise that John Layman would be writing a new Gambit series for Marvel for a few reasons – 1) this was his first big “break” at Marvel; 2) it wasn’t too long ago that Marvel ended it’s ongoing Gambit series; and 3) well, we couldn’t think of a third reason, but two reasons barely make a list no matter how you cut it.

The new series will kick off in September, with Georges Jeanty on pencils. Trading upstate New York and the X-Mansion for the Big Easy, Layman and Jeanty’s series will put the X-Men’s roguish mutant back into his own native milieu, and return him to the world of the Thieves Guild and a whiff of mystery and the supernatural. We caught up with Layman for more.

Newsarama: So how did you land the series? Did you pitch for it, get assigned to it, draw the short straw, what?
John Layman: I’ll take a “short straw” at Marvel any day, particularly one in the X-Universe. That’s like trying to pick the ugliest Maxim cover girl, you know? Or the funniest-looking person at the Millar family reunion! Pretty much as soon as I went freelance, just over two years ago, I’ve been trying to get to Marvel. I’ve been throwing out ideas and pitches, and Marvel asked me for a few specific pitches. I got my foot in the door with an X-Men Unlimited story, a Daredevil video game insert, and two upcoming issues of another book that I don’t think CB Cebulski wants me to mention just yet. Marvel asked me to pitch Gambit, and I think there was about two nanoseconds deliberation before I jumped at the opportunity, as all sorts of character and story possibilities sprang to mind.

NRAMA: As a character, Gambit’s got this weird love/hate thing with both fans and creators, with not much of a middle line. How do you tackle a character like that?
JL: Well, the fans who like Gambit really like him, and before I got this gig, since I started researching the character, I quickly discovered he’s got this utterly devoted fan base. And I can understand his appeal, because Gambit’s definitely got this likable, roguish - no pun intended - Han Solo/Matt Brady quality, a rascal who is slightly sleazy, comfortable on the wrong side of the law, a quick thinker, a smooth talker, a good liar, and a charmer with a continual wandering eye for the ladies. For this series, I tried to really accentuate those aspects of him. No cosmic B.S., no continual squabbles with various guilds, no persecuted mutant angst, no moping and pining over untouchable lost love. And yeah, there’s more than a few who seem to enjoy taking an active dislike of him. I’m reasonably certain Gambit fans are not going to be let down by this series, but I think there’s also a real possibility that people who didn’t like Gambit before might pick up the book and find this Gambit a little more to their liking.

NRAMA: With that in mind then, give me the soundbite for Gambit as a character in your eyes. What would you tell the man on the street what he’s all about?
JL: Well, when I was thinking about all those characteristics I thought appealing about Gambit, it was hard to disconnect him from New Orleans, the place where he hails from, since you can describe them both in the same way: sleazy, sensual, decadent, likeably corrupt, with equal potential for fun and trouble. New Orleans is one of my favorite cities in country, and has more of a unique personality than anywhere else - with the exception perhaps of Vegas, San Francisco and New York. I thought Gambit would best succeed in New Orleans, with the city playing as much a character as the rest of the cast. And Remy LeBeau, while he has a life with outside with the X-Men, ultimately always comes home. He’s like the John Constantine of New Orleans, but rather than the supernatural, he’s got his finger on the pulse of everything that’s sleazy and sordid and operating illicitly beneath the city’s surface.

NRAMA: So then, what kind of stories work best with Gambit – putting him in the criminal with a heart of gold role, or setting him up as the hero, albeit a reluctant one?
JL: Well, I’ve already mentioned what kind of stories don’t work. Or, at least, stories I have no interest in pursuing. Gambit’s a thief, and supposed to be a damn good one, not to mention a con man. So, at least when he’s at home, in his own element, he’s doing what he does best: hustles, big cons and elaborate larceny; Italian Jobs, Thomas Crown Affairs, things like that.

NRAMA: With what you’ve said so far, where and when do things pick up in the series? He’s going to be independent, and away from the rest of the X-Universe, right?
JL: Well, it seems to me that the X-Universe is not lacking for team books, and anybody who wants to see Gambit interacting with fellow X-Men, in a more superheroic context, is certainly going to have a venue for it. But this series showcases Gambit’s alter ego. Gambit outside of the tights. Or, at least, often outside of the tights. Is he the superhero that moonlights as a thief—or vise-versa?

NRAMA: So he’ll be working on his own? Any supporting cast?
JL: You can’t do the sort of stuff Gambit will be doing without assistance. But I’ve taken a different approach to the Thieves’ Guild. If there still is in-fighting and politics among the guild, it’s largely ignored by the more experienced members, who are more interested in the actual thievery than the guild hierarchy. Instead, the guild is more of a network within which each member has his or her area of expertise. At least in the first arc, Gambit is assisted by a mother/daughter team of mystic blackmailers, and an old card sharp who claims he gets messages from his poker hands.

[Image: GAMBIT001003_col_t.jpg]NRAMA: And you’re going to keep the accent as part of his flavor, mon chere?
JL: Yes, but the “deses” and “dat’s” might not be quite so prevalent as in the past. Plus que ca, ca m'ennerve que des characters qui sait plus q'un langue, dans le comiques, sait seulement quatre ou cinc mots de leur langue d'origine. I’d like to change that.

NRAMA: Wouldn’t we all…wouldn’t we all. So - tease the first storyline…what gives and what gets the ball rolling?
JL: Well, Gambit gets hired to steal something he shouldn’t, and if the person doing the hiring wasn’t so freakin’ good looking, he might have thought twice about what he was getting into. And it turns out Gambit’s not the only person who’s hired to steal it, or who wants it, so once he gets a hold of it all sorts of hell break lose.

NRAMA: How’s the series structured? Will there be an overarching quest, or just a series of missions/adventures?
JL: Well, the first six issues is a caper. Or more precisely, the caper and what-goes-wrong-after-caper. After that, I got a couple of shorter stories planned. My co-conspirator, Georges Jeanty, had a brilliant idea about a character who needs dusting off, and who would fit right in in the Big Easy. So that will come on the heels of the first arc. Georges, by the way, is a cat I first worked with when I was an editor on the Engineer story for the Wildstorm Summer Special. He’s a fantastic artist, and everything I’ve seen so far from him on Gambit is just stellar, maybe the best work of his career. Plus, editor Mike Marts told me we got Greg Land on covers for the book. How cool is that?

NRAMA: Quite. Any guest stars coming up?
JL: Yes. As long as I get to write an X-related book, you damn well better believe I’m gonna take advantage of that. Look for the first—and perhaps most obvious—X-guest to show up in issue #5. Or maybe the second most obvious, anyway. Snikt! The first most obvious guest-star will undoubtedly turn up at some point, probably not too happy about what Remy’s been doing behind her back.

NRAMA: Gambit aside for a moment, what else are you up to?
JL: Well, Thundercats: Enemy’s Pride on sale now, currently setting the comic sales charts on fire, and wowing even the most discriminating critics. Look for an Einser sweep next year. IDW’s Art of Sam Kieth WILL see the light of day, someday, I’m assured. And I’ve also got two three-issue Species mini-series, Naked Aggression and Hive of Honeys, finished and coming down the pike from Avatar, at a glaccccciiiiial pace. I think William Christensen wants to publish them after I die of old age so he doesn’t have to pay me royalties—the rat bastard!

NRAMA: Any plans on following up with more creator-owned projects, more in line with Puffed?
JL: As far as creator-owned stuff, I have three things actually written, but I’m too damn lazy to find an artist. A fully complete apocalyptic spy comedy graphic novel, a sci-fi western ongoing and very dark prison thriller mini. Anybody who’s fast, good and dumb enough to work for heaps of abuse and pennies on the back-end is encouraged to send me links to their stuff, or private message me on the Millarworld boards.

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