A couple of weeks ago, my plan to write this post was unseated by a pressing need to comment on the rather more temporally relevant news that Thor is going to be a Lady. Now that nerdsplosion has passed, I can get back to something really important: 90s Gambit.
Gambit was my favorite X-man as a kid. He was witty, charming, roguish, and involved in the sort tragically doomed romance with Rogue that inspires endless volumes of fanfic.
This year, I finally had the skills, materials and opportunity to make a proper Gambit costume, and it forced me to reflect on the icon of my youth. It turns out that he is a terribly designed character, top to bottom.
Good costume designs say a lot about a character, like how they want to be seen, where they come from, and what they hold important. They complement and visually reflect their wearer’s personality and role within the fiction. Costume design requires a thorough dialogue between the writer and artist to create something meaningful and suitable to the world, artistic direction, and audience of the work.
It would seem, however, that Gambit’s creators were working in active conflict with each other. His costume not only fails to compliment his role, it actively opposes it.
A quick summary of Gambit for the uninitiated: he is a professional thief, raised in the New Orleans Thieves Guild. His mutant powers allow him to charge up objects, which then explode. He typically uses playing cards for this purpose, which he throws with startling force and accuracy. He is also extremely acrobatic and agile. His most notable physical feature is his eyes which are all black, with a red iris.
To summarize, Gambit is a stealthy criminal that throws stuff. He therefore needs a costume that will conceal his identity, not impede his movement, and have easily accessed storage for cards, tools of the trade, and plunder.
Picture that for a moment.
Let’s see what he actually wears.
Allow me to dissect this train wreck:
First, the face hat. Gambit is a professional criminal and also a member of what an organization that waffles between international terrorism and illegal vigilantism. Obviously the best thing to wear is a mask that covers only the least distinguishing features of his head. He can’t even be bothered to hide those freaky eyes. He wouldn’t want to cover up that pretty face or gorgeous hair now would he?
Next, let’s talk boots: His are metal. Yup. He has knee-high metal boots, typically drawn with metal soles. METAL SOLES! You can’t sneak with metal soles. You can barely walk with metal soles. Imagine him on a marble floor, or worse, a tile roof. It would be like a dog on an ice rink. Ridiculous. Also, they’re articulated all the way up his leg. Why? Is he expecting a need for his shin to bend? The whole point of wearing greaves is to put a solid barrier between a shin and violence. Making it flexible would ruin half the benefit. Also, there is no way to take them off. No seam or clasp. Those things were welded in place and are stuck there permanently. I’ll give him a pass on the knee pads, though. They seem like a good idea.
On to his body suit…
I know it was the nineties. I know that we had collectively, as a society, contracted a virulent form of colorblindness. I accept that. But fuchsia? Sure, Wolverine can wear bright yellow, but he doesn’t mind getting shot. But Gambit, skulking in the shadows, blending in to the crowd and vanishing into the night, wears bright fuchsia body armor? My desk cannot handle the force with which my head hitting it. Just to add insult to injury, let’s add a metal belt and shoulder thing just in case he wasn’t shiny enough. That makes sense right? No. It doesn’t. It’s barely even physically possible.
How about gloves? Gambit wears gloves. Seems like a good idea for a thief for cover up his fingerprints, right? But he also throws things with pinpoint precision, which is hard to do with gloves on. The obvious solution is to cut half of the fingers off and lose all of the benefit of wearing gloves while totally failing to make it any easier to throw cards.
Finally, Let’s talk about that coat. Again, the man is a thief. He needs to be stealthy and unobtrusive. I’m sure that a long, noisy, and extremely distinctive trench coat will serve that purpose well. It certainly won’t get caught on stuff or get tangled. Also, it usually isn’t drawn with pockets. He is typically shown pulling things out of an internal pocket. Gambit seems to have a magically unlimited supply of cards, his extendable staff, lock-picks, telephone, glass cutter, all of it in one pocket. It’s not like they couldn’t be bothered to draw pockets. His contemporary, Cyclops, was filthy with pockets. What does he do with them? Hold his various sunglasses?
So clearly, everything about Gambit’s design is embarrassingly wrong, pointless, and runs counter to good taste and good sense. SO WHY DO I LOVE IT SO MUCH?
I give up.
Tomorrow, how I built the costume for myself.
Photo by Jamie Bernstien. All other images belong to Marvel, to my knowledge, except for the Frozen ones, they’re from Disney, which also owns Marvel, so I guess Disney owns them, too.