Read Rogue’s Full ‘Women of Marvel’ Podcast Episode
In this episode of the ‘Women of Marvel’ podcast, our hosts explore the dynamic dichotomy that is the X-Man Rogue!
FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:
LENORE ZANN: She can never allow herself to let her guard down, to fall in love, because she's afraid she will kill them.
ALISA KWITNEY: Nothing is more deliciously tense-making than the thought that not only could this hot gambling outsider be dangerous to you and your emotional well-being, but you could be dangerous to him.
KELLY THOMPSON: If you can't be touched you can't be hurt. And so, shields up.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Welcome to Women of Marvel. I'm Preeti Chhibber.
ELLIE PYLE: And I'm Ellie Pyle.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Now, Ellie, you have a lot of thoughts. I think we all do. But I really want to hear your thoughts on this week's character.
ELLIE PYLE: Yeah, Preeti, I was going to say, don't pretend you don't. Like, let's not pretend that. Who doesn't have thoughts about Rogue? And in fact, so many thoughts that this episode is going to run a little long.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Both of us did go a little "Rogue" on this episode.
ELLIE PYLE: And it's not just us. I have a friend who might be even more passionate about my favorite X-Man than I am. I'd like to introduce novelist Cass Morris, who I have known since high school.
CASS MORRIS: Hi, everyone. Thank you so much for having me.
ELLIE PYLE: So, Cass, we've known each other forever, as I just mentioned. But our listeners don't know you. Can you introduce yourself to them?
CASS MORRIS: Absolutely. I am a writer and educator in many different stripes. I write The Aven Cycle, which is historical fantasy set in an alternate ancient Rome. I currently work for a company that produces mythology-themed summer camps for children. We give them swords to play with-- foam swords, not real swords.
So, my day job is helping to train young heroes, which fits in weirdly well with the entire rest of my life and the things I've always been interested in. I have always existed, I think, at the intersection of education, performance, and storytelling. And yeah, we go way, way back. It's been longer than I think I would care to count up.
ELLIE PYLE: We don't do math here.
CASS MORRIS: No, no math. No math. We do words, not math.
ELLIE PYLE: Exactly.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Well, you're also here because you share a love of the character that we're here to talk about today, Rogue. So how did you first discover her?
CASS MORRIS: I owe a lot of it to Ellie. I first encountered the character-- and I remember this really specifically-- in the 1993 Pizza Hut tie-in comics. That was the first time I saw any X-Men ever. When I was like-- what was I, seven then? I guess. Yeah.
And I liked Rogue immediately because she wore green, which is my favorite color. And she was Southern, which I also am. And then I watched the TV show, the old cartoon back in the day. But I didn't really get into the comic books until I met Ellie.
And Ellie had boxes and boxes of them that we spent a number of sleepovers just poring through, and I just devoured them. Because most of what you had was, like, the height of the 90s angst arcs, I feel like.
ELLIE PYLE: 100%.
CASS MORRIS: The deeply emotional-- everything with Rogue and Gambit, just everything, all of that stuff. And I ate it up. I have always been something of a Rogue hyper-specialist, I think, when it comes to the comics. But--
ELLIE PYLE: Yeah. So, it wasn't my comic collection. It was another high school friend of ours had-- it was Thomas's collection. That he had loaned me his entire comic book collection on the condition that I would put them all in order.
CASS MORRIS: Oh.
ELLIE PYLE: Yeah, and then he wouldn't take them back, which was great. But also, in addition to reading these comics on sleepovers, as I recall, we also read a fair amount of fan fiction.
PREETI CHHIBBER: I did want to ask about this.
CASS MORRIS: Yeah.
PREETI CHHIBBER: I noticed it didn't come up naturally. And yeah, let's dig into the fan fiction a little bit.
CASS MORRIS: Well, it's because there's a progression, you know. You find the canon sources first, and then you're like, “but wait. What happened between these two scenes? Wait a minute. I feel like this scene cut out a little early,” especially for teenagers with . . . burgeoning interests in things that might often happen off-screen.
PREETI CHHIBBER: In the ‘fade to black.’
CASS MORRIS: Yes, exactly! What exactly happened in that cave in Antarctica?
ELLIE PYLE: Which we're going to hear about that cave again later this episode, so everyone-- everyone remember --
CASS MORRIS: Remember the cave. Yeah, so-- and this was the dawning days of the internet, as well. And I had been reading and writing fan fiction for a few years at that point. And this is-- we're talking AOL chat boards, we're talking Web Rings, we're talking Yahoo groups. Like, this was almost even pre-- fanfiction.net had just gotten started, really, at this point in time.
But so I knew that surely there had to be stuff out there as we were discovering Rogue and Gambit and all the others and their wonderful adventures. And I was like, “well, surely there's fan fic for this.” And there was. And it answered so many questions and opened so many more doors, really, in so many ways.
ELLIE PYLE: And then you went on to write some X-Men fan fic yourself as well, right?
CASS MORRIS: Oh, gosh. I sure did. Most of it was really, really terrible. But I absolutely champion young people-- especially girls, especially queer folk, especially other marginalized populations-- writing fan fiction, no matter how bad it is. Fan fiction is an act of joy.
So yeah, I wrote a lot of very silly ones that were focused on Rogue and the other X girls, the other X-Women. And then there was the romance elements. And even more than the romance, the angst elements, the things that lead up to the romance. The pain and the drama, which when you're 15, is just—“put it right into me. This is what I'm living right now.”
All the emotions are so big. And in fan fiction, the emotions can be as big as you want. And it's sort of a safe place to explore all those big emotions.
ELLIE PYLE: So on the topic of romance, I'm going to go into my Ted Talk a little bit here about what I like to call Rogue's Law, which is that a ship is only as compelling as the reasons these two characters cannot be together. And I think that this is why Rogue and Gambit are the most enduring of ships, is that it is just a perfect alchemy of characters who have incredible chemistry, who you can't even pretend that these two people don't want to be together.
But the reason they can't is just so compelling, at least in the early days. Do you all have thoughts about this? Like, what was it that really captured you about this romance between these two characters?
CASS MORRIS: I think early on, yes. It's so much of that. It's that delicious tension where they can't touch, therefore, can they ever truly be together? And they want to, but they can't. And that's the surface-level barrier between them. But there are then all these other things, right?
There are the secrets that Gambit keeps. The tension between her sort of wanting to be the hero, wanting to follow the rules even though she's a girl named Rogue. And then, he is much more of a chaotic disaster. Love him. So, there's tension there between what they want, what they feel they have to do. And there's all those juicy, fun things that keep them apart.
But what I also like about their relationship as it's evolved sort of past that point, and as she's gotten control of her powers so that's no longer the barrier, I think a lot of what's appealing about this ship is that it is an emotional power fantasy. In much the same way that I think a lot of romance novels are, where you've got this one untameable man who-- ladies man, but no one ever really gets through the exterior. But there's this one woman who can bring him to his knees.
And that's the essence of so many romance novels. And it gets me every time. Because I love Rogue so much, so I love the idea that she's the one who has that power. I love that such a physically powerful character also has this emotional power fantasy baked in. And I think that's where you keep getting a lot of good drama and good juice out of the relationship.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Yeah, it's funny. I feel like that sort of not being able to touch and that power fantasy all play into so much of what we love about them. But I just finished Love Unlimited: Gambit and Rogue. And something while I was writing that I really enjoyed bringing to the surface was the equality between the two of them, and how on the surface there are these sort of-- Gambit thinks this, Rogue thinks this.
But there are these wonderful similarities that you can touch on, even if the two of them don't always maybe necessarily think that those similarities exist. And it's so fun to dig in those points because they might deny it or not understand the other one, but they'll always find their way back to the same place. And it's just such a sweet position for them to be in.
CASS MORRIS: I love, too, how evenly matched they are and how that makes them such a great battle couple. I'm a sucker for a battle couple.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Yes!
CASS MORRIS: Any sequence where they're fighting back-to-back and working together so well. I love the fight sequences they get to be a part of. And I love how often their high-tension emotional conversations happen in the middle of these fights. Like, apparently that's the best time for them to work out their issues is when they're beating up on the villain of the week.
ELLIE PYLE: From the first Rogue and Gambit comic that I read, which was actually the first comic I ever bought, there was a line in that about how they both had a lot to learn about how love was more than the physical. And I think that is also a great side effect of the fact that they cannot touch, of this drama that her powers create, is that it then forced these two characters who are so rash, who are so emotionally complicated-- both within themselves and in how they deal with other people-- to need to learn to navigate some of that stuff without just jumping to the kissing part.
One of the editors that I work with is a big believer in the idea that kissing sells comics. And I actually disagree. I think it is wanting characters to kiss that sells comics. But that's actually where my thesis on Rogue came from, was the idea that the kissing doesn't sell nearly as many comics as the hoping-the-kiss-will-happen-and-then-maybe-it-doesn't.
CASS MORRIS: The moment right before. That moment right before the lips touch is-- that's what gets you.
ELLIE PYLE: So Cass, we brought you here today not just because you love Rogue, but because we think you can convince other people to love Rogue. Not that people should need convincing, but if they do, what are your top five reasons everyone should love this character?
CASS MORRIS: All right. We're going to go from what I think is 5 to 1. We're going to do it Letterman style. Number 5 is just how physically powerful she is. She's a brawler. I love that she's a brawler. Early on, the female heroines always had sort of more ephemeral powers or healing things, stuff like that. It's, like, “no. Rogue just punches people when she doesn't like what they're doing.” And I respect that. It's so great to see a female character get to do that.
Number 4 is that she was raised by lesbian terrorists and I think that's great. Her whole background is being raised by Mystique and Irene, who I adore as well, as characters. I they're fantastic. And I love their dynamic with Rogue and how it has shaped and changed over the years. And I think that's a great background for her to have.
Number 3 is her overall sass. I love that this girl will sass absolutely anyone. Does not matter what kind of cosmic being or primordial deity or whatever it is she might be dealing with, she will give them backtalk. And I think that's wonderful.
Number 2 is the way we've seen her develop over time. And this is where I think if you start earlier in the comics and move forward, you get a really rewarding experience. Because she starts out as a teenager and she has lots of teenage problems. And there are ways in which her powers reflect a lot of the fears of teenagers and the emotions of teenagers.
But we also then get to see her grow and develop. And I love in the last couple of decades, where we've seen her become a leader. We've seen her become a teacher. I love the moments when she gets to be a teacher. I think that's some of my favorite material she's been in.
And we see her come to terms with her power and learn how to use it and not be at its mercy. We've seen her grow in so many emotional ways and learn how to communicate, and I find that so rewarding as someone who's been invested in the character for decades myself at this point.
And then, number 1, my number 1 reason is the romance. Rogue and Gambit are my OTP forever. I think it's a wonderfully building romance that has a little bit of everything you could want if you are the kind of sap that I am, who also does read romance novels, who does love the emotional power fantasy.
They're so much fun. I can't wait to see what they keep doing. I literally screamed when I found out they were getting married several years ago. Actually, I'm not even sure scream is the right word because that's a very human word. I'm not sure-- I'm not sure the noise I made was fully human.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Inarticulate yelp, perhaps?
CASS MORRIS: It was absolutely some just primal noise that came out of me because I've been waiting for it for 25 years. And I like that they are being allowed to have a marriage that still has its challenges, but that they always come back to each other. And that is the thing they have promised, is that they will always find their way back to each other. And I love that.
ELLIE PYLE: I can't argue with anything on that list. That's amazing. Thank you, Cass, so much for coming to hang out with us today. It was great to see you.
CASS MORRIS: Thank you so much. This was super fun. I am always delighted to talk about my best girl.
PREETI CHHIBBER: So like Cass said, I think we really love the love that is between Gambit and Rogue. There's something so fun about watching and writing that kind of tension. But honestly, it would be pretty tough to actually be in that relationship. Rogue definitely has what we might call intimacy issues, to say the least. So to help us understand that part of it, we got to talk to a certified relationship expert.
ORNA GURALNIK: Hello, I'm Orna Guralnik. I'm a clinical psychologist, I'm a psychoanalyst, and I'm the couples therapist on the show "Couples Therapy" on Showtime.
PREETI CHHIBBER: So we're here to talk about couples and therapy and relationships. Specifically, you know, this episode is about Rogue and her relationship to Gambit. So Rogue is a character in the comics whose-- one of her biggest issues and her anxiety around her power comes from the fact that she can't touch anyone. She physically cannot touch them.
ORNA GURALNIK: So sad.
PREETI CHHIBBER: It's so tragic. And it brings this tension, obviously, to her romantic relationships, especially with a character like Gambit. How could you see this kind of particular power affecting her relationships?
ORNA GURALNIK: I can imagine that, first of all, she has to be very careful and boundaried and not allow her impulses to take over. Because if she allows too much feeling and too much impulse to take over, she will destroy her loved ones. And how difficult that is for her, how sad. She must be in a constant state of longing that she has to suppress. I feel bad for her.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Yeah.
ELLIE PYLE: So how would the inability to physically touch her partner affect her relationship with him?
ORNA GURALNIK: Again, I think she would have to be in a way contained and on guard and never let herself-- truly let herself go. Because she always has to protect. She can't just let her feelings go. She has to be guarded, protective, contained.
I would imagine that she also in a way could feel like there's something toxic about her, that there's something bad about her that she has to shield her partner from. And again, this endless kind of longing and deprivation that she has to contend with.
PREETI CHHIBBER: We have this relationship in the comics that is long standing between her and a character named Gambit. And Gambit is sort of-- he's like a ne'er do well, he's a bad boy with a heart of gold. His powers are kinetic energy, meaning he can transfer kinetic energy to static items and then use them as weaponry.
So you have somebody who can transfer their kinetic energy, and then you have Rogue, who pulls energy in. And they have a wonderful relationship. It's one of the most, I think, exciting ones that readers love. And long-- as Ellie and I can both speak to-- long, long history of loving these two. Because it's like they want to be together, but they have this thing that stops them from being able to be together and it's wonderful.
ORNA GURALNIK: Yeah, amazing.
PREETI CHHIBBER: So for characters like that, imagine you had characters like Rogue and Gambit in your office for couples therapy. How might you approach this sort of situation in working with them?
ORNA GURALNIK: First of all, there must be so much passion brewing between them because you can't ever get there. You can't ever, like, consummate the relationship. So, the passion is probably intense.
How would I approach it? I guess I would want them to find a language that they can agree on to describe how they're managing this tension between them-- this tension of longing, wanting, desire-- and then having to not go there. Like, do they blame each other for it?
What do they do with their frustrations, with their deprivation? How are they managing it, both internally and do they take it out on each other? I would want them to be able to talk about it and somehow get to the point where they're both on the same side. They're a team in dealing with this impossibility between them. And being able to appreciate all the good that it does, but it probably brews a lot of passion.
And also the fact that they can't touch, maybe it provides a certain kind of built-in distance between them that allows them to see each other, respect each other, appreciate each other without getting lost in each other. So it might be, actually, a really interesting gift for them, especially if they're both kind of intense characters.
ELLIE PYLE: Yeah, to explore all of those other aspects of love and appreciation.
ORNA GURALNIK: Right.
ELLIE PYLE: So in addition to being a married couple, they are also superheroes who fight alongside each other. So what kind of advice do you give to couples who end up working together, particularly in intense environments?
ORNA GURALNIK: I love this. I would give them the advice to keep their private home life separate from work life. So, work on boundaries. When they're done with some kind of mission or something that they're doing, to create kind of clear boundaries of when the mission is over and when work is over and when they're moving into domestic home life, love life.
I would hope that they don't take disagreements or frustrations from battles and missions into their home life. Usually I say to people, don't take it to the bedroom. But boundaries, I'd say boundaries.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Well, this was amazing. Thank you so much. I was smiling a lot because I could hear your answers and think of pieces of story that we've seen with Rogue and Gambit, so it's so cool that it's so spot on. Thank you. This was so delightful to have you here.
ORNA GURALNIK: This was so fun. I wish all of my gigs were like this.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Writer Alisa Kwitney has thought a lot about Rogue's intimacy issues. She wrote the prose novel Rogue Untouched about exactly that.
ALISA KWITNEY: Hi. I'm Alisa Kwitney. I am the author of Rogue Untouched. For me there could be no other title because I mean, obviously, I'm going back to sort of the start of Rogue as a character when she doesn't have control over her powers. And I remember having this epiphany that that is such a female fantasy and nightmare of sexuality.
I touch you and I absorb your powers and abilities, but I lose myself in the process. And so, for me, I wanted to explore rogue at the very beginning. And I loved the idea that perhaps she could have met Remy, met Gambit earlier.
And then I started to play with, if I were starting Rogue from scratch, where would I start her-- which was what I got to ask-- I wanted to start her really on the journey of getting to know herself and not being frightened of herself. So I started out-- I wanted her working at a diner as a waitress, a high school dropout.
And I just started to think about some of the Rogue canon, you know, that she kissed the high school quarterback and put him in a coma. And I thought, “OK. What would that do to your reputation? What would become of you if that-- and how would you feel about your own sexuality?”
I love sexual tension. And nothing is more deliciously tense-making than the thought that not only could this hot, gambling outsider be dangerous to you and your emotional well-being, but you could be dangerous to him. And that weird feeling of guilt and shame and power -- she has been recoiling.
She herself doesn't think of herself as having a power. And yet, she's already being careful. I think bawdy, bold, wisecracking women is very much my sweet spot. So, I think the book is for sale in all the usual bookish places. And you can find me on my website, www.alisakwitney.com. Thanks for having me.
ELLIE PYLE: Writer Kelly Thompson also knows a thing or two about writing Rogue's thorny relationships. Between her 2018 series, Rogue and Gambit and Mr. and Mrs. X, she is a self-proclaimed expert on Rogue, specifically her relationship with Gambit.
KELLY THOMPSON: My first love is Rogue and the X-Men, in comics at least. But honestly, it's probably the real first love. I got to write some X-Men comics. I got to write a Rogue and Gambit series that sort of brought them back into focus a little bit. And then I got to write Mr and Mrs. X, the first year of their marriage. So big fan, big X-Men fan, and very excited to talk Rogue.
PREETI CHHIBBER: So for Rogue and Gambit and for Mr. And Mrs. X, can you give us a quick primer on what the X-Men universe looked like when those series came out?
KELLY THOMPSON: This was all before-- it was like the year to two years before the big Hickman-Krakoa relaunch, House of X, Powers of X. But Rogue and Gambit had definitely sort of fallen away from each other for a long time. And Marvel came to me. They knew I was interested in both characters.
And they were like, well, “OK. Well, maybe we're thinking about something for Rogue and Gambit.” And so, that was how it came to be. And then we were leaving it actually kind of open as to whether it would actually get them back together, or just sort of come to an understanding and they'd go their separate ways.
And then, while I was working on it, it was the idea from Marvel to get them married. And so, we were like, “well, I guess we're getting them back together at the end of this.” Which was, of course, what I wanted. So Rogue and Gambit really delves into a lot of their past stuff. They go to therapy while they're trying to rescue some mutants.
And it sort of excavates some of that old stuff and tries to bring it all together and be like, “listen. We've been through hell and we still really love each other. So maybe we should keep fighting for this thing.”
And then Mr. And Mrs. X starts out with them getting married and their sort of space honeymoon that goes awry. And then they're sort of bouncing through space and they really confront some inner stuff-- Gambit with his Thieves Guild stuff and Rogue with her power control. We had a lot of fun. I loved writing those characters. It was a total joy.
ELLIE PYLE: You actually sent them to marriage counseling pretending to be a couple. How did you navigate that and then kind of bring them back together over the course of that series?
KELLY THOMPSON: Well, it's funny. When I talked about putting them in therapy, Darren Shan-- who's my friend and the editor of the Mr. And Mrs. X series and the Rogue and Gambit series-- he did an amazing job. Which is shocking because he started off by saying he didn't think anyone would be interested in seeing them in therapy. He's like-- he's like, “who's interested in that?”
PREETI CHHIBBER: Me!
KELLY THOMPSON: I was like, “no disrespect, Darren. Everyone. You are-- you are out of pocket on this one. You are not in touch with what the people want.” I mean, and the mark of a good editor, he knew when to listen to his creator when they felt really passionate about something.
And so, he let me have my way. And I let him have his way on some things. And yeah, it's probably a better book as a result. I mean, that's always what you hope, right, is that it's the two of you pushing and pulling, and also the other rest of the creative team. He was like, “you've done a crazy, esoteric thing that's going to sell about 10 copies.”
And I was, like, “oh, all right. All right, we'll give a little of yours and-- you give a little to me and I'll give a little to you.” And I think we ended up in a good, happy medium that really is about the couple, but it's also about the couple dealing with their problems on the fly while they try to be superheroes, you know?
PREETI CHHIBBER: It's one of my favorite series, honestly. I just reread it recently. And what I love is it does create this wonderful sort of basis for what comes after. So in that series, how do you then build on what you've created as this basis in Mr. And Mrs. X?
KELLY THOMPSON: Well, I think one of the things that was really great accidentally-- and you always love when that happens-- is that because we didn't know for sure whether we wanted them together or not at the end, the way I was building it was really organic to solving these problems, regardless of whether we're going to be together. And it was solving some of those problems.
I mean, I'm not going to pretend we solved all the problems, but solving as many problems as we reasonably could, both for the characters and also for the meta aspect of the narrative. Because it becomes so hard, especially when you really love a character and you've been following them or both of them together in their relationship over the decades. It gets very messy.
Not all of those stories work. Not all of them should be remembered. The ones that are great, sometimes get the edges filed off with time or other circumstance or other stories that come in and contradict them. But I also realized as I was going through it-- because the first impulse was, “well, I'm just going to get rid of everything I don't like.”
You're like, “oh, someone gave me the keys to the castle. So let me go and raise up all this stuff I really like and get rid of this other stuff I hate.” But as you're doing that, you realize every story is somebody's favorite. Every character is somebody's favorite. And so, maybe don't stomp around with your big boots all over a thing that maybe is really important to someone.
So if I don't like it, it's hard for me to raise it up. But there's no reason I have to do anything with it. Just let it live there. It's not hurting anyone, right? So I just tried to lean into the stuff that I thought really worked, the stuff that was sort of fundamental in their history that were sort of turning points of where things went wrong or where they went right.
And I just tried to bring those things back together for them to deal with as characters and us as readers, to be like, oh, yeah. They've been through all this stuff. I just wanted that to be the feeling when we came out of it, was not to dredge this stuff up and relitigate it, but just to bring it all back to the forefront so we could all see, like, “oh. We've all made these mistakes. We all will continue to make these mistakes.” And all we can do with people we care about is try to work through it and move on to what we're going to do next. And because that was how I built it, it happened to work very well for, “hey, let's get 'em married, and let's really say that this worked, and they really did work through this stuff and rediscover each other.” And so, it just was really organic. It doesn't always fall that way, but I was glad it did that time.
ELLIE PYLE: So do you think that marriage changed their dynamic at all?
KELLY THOMPSON: Not for me, but for other writers, maybe. I don't know why marriage has to be boring. I don't get it. It's the same relationship it was before, why would that change it? And, you know, I like Scott and Jean. I also like Scott and Emma, let's not get into that. But they're naturally a little more-- they're the good guy leader characters that we've known for years.
And I'm not saying Rogue and Gambit didn't grow into more interesting and complex versions of their brash, younger, slightly more villainous and interesting selves. They're very true heroes to me, both of them. But they have interesting angles all over them. And they're super hot!
Why would anyone try to shave off those angles or make them not hot because they're married now? Like in soap operas, which comics so often get compared to -- or used to maybe before soap opera started sort of going away. A lot of the problem with sort of aging a married character or giving them kids or whatever, a real problem with that in soaps is that now that woman has to stay home and take care of that kid.
And now that kid is aging her, or now they're married and so we think they have to have these kind of fights because this woman's an accountant and this guy's a nurse or whatever. But our characters are superheroes. Their lives are already filled with action. They're already filled with drama. They're already filled with high stakes. We don't have to make the marriage boring. It can just be part of who they are.
ELLIE PYLE: And unlike soap operas, with comics, we don't have the challenge of inherently these actors are going to age.
KELLY THOMPSON: Yes.
ELLIE PYLE: So it's a different challenge.
KELLY THOMPSON: Yeah.
ELLIE PYLE: I'm curious in your take on this. You are keeping these characters in their ambiguous 30s, 20s, what have you for decades. How do you go about keeping that relationship fresh when it has been explored for so long?
KELLY THOMPSON: I think it's really, really difficult. That's the game. Like, when you're talking about that, part of me-- the nostalgic fan in me, the reader in me-- is like, “well, I just want to read Rogue and Gambit forever. And I just want to read them sort of circling each other and being that.”
But that's also diminishing returns because that's not real growth. I think comics, for good or ill, took exactly what you said, Ellie. Like, they have this superpower where their characters don't have to age. And they were like, great, and they just ran with it. And I get why it's very appealing.
But it's probably one of our biggest problems that all of us have with comics at some point or another, right, is that an amazing story ends, and the character really grew and changed, and it's such an important, powerful story to you. And then now, somebody has to come in and do what's next. And what's next maybe doesn't-- go back.
But how do you go back? If you go through huge, legitimate change, it's hard to just go back. What's the old adage, right? Your greatest strength is your greatest weakness. And I definitely feel that for comics. This is a thing that is comics’ greatest strength, and also its greatest weakness.
It's a beautiful, storytelling thing to be able to reinvent these characters over and over and over again for decades. But it's also a thorn in our side. Some of the best, most powerful stories have very clear cut endings. People die and don't come back. All of these things that we've broken for comics. And I'm a part of it. I do it, too.
And I want it, too. I want it all. I'm the same way. I'm just like any fan. You don't want your favorite character to die, but also is that the more powerful story that feels like your real life because your aunt just died or whatever? Like, they're supposed to reflect our lives. And if nobody can die and nobody ages, it's hard to feel like that's true.
ELLIE PYLE: Well also, I think the idea that you can step away from characters and then come back to them.
KELLY THOMPSON: It's beautiful, isn't it?
ELLIE PYLE: Yeah. And have them still resonate with you, but in new and different ways.
KELLY THOMPSON: I tend to agree with you. I think one of the amazing things that happened to me through writing Rogue and Gambit was so many people came to me who sounded like fans like me, who loved Rogue and Gambit since they were teenagers or something. And they were like, oh, I stopped reading comics. But I saw this and so I came back.
And it reminded-- and I've been that fan. It wasn't through Rogue and Gambit. I think Walking Dead brought me back one time. Alias brought me back one time. Things have brought me back into comics because they were intriguing. And then you sort of rediscover everything you loved. It's beautiful. It's beautiful.
But I do think maybe we ask too much of it. We're wanting it to be something for all of us all the time. And “don't ever kill my characters, don't ever change them in ways I don't want. But also, they have to grow and change.” Like, these are impossible demands. And I think as readers, we have to think about it a little bit. It's such a beautiful medium. I wish everyone could appreciate it.
PREETI CHHIBBER: We've talked a lot about Gambit and Rogue for obvious reasons. But for you as a fan and a writer, what is it about Rogue herself that you love so much? What are your favorite things about her?
KELLY THOMPSON: Well, I think the time when I connected to her, she was very much the sort of brassy, sassy-- I don't know that she was supposed to be a teenager but she was so headstrong and whatever. I clocked her as a late teen, early 20s when I was first reading her and experiencing her in the X-Men Animated Series and stuff.
First of all, she's got an incredible design. She's a sexy, adorable little thing. She's very no-nonsense. She sort of believes in herself or is great at pretending she does. She's afraid of everything and pretending to be afraid of nothing, which I always find intriguing.
For me, as a girl, my teenage years, I was living in Utah so while I was very liberal and progressive, it was a pretty repressed place. It was very friendly and polite. But there wasn't much that was interesting going on. And I wasn't really able to date -- a combination of being surrounded by Mormon guys and also being a girl not pleased inside her own body like so many of us are at that age.
And I think I really connected with her not being able to be touched. It was core. You can make it about a lot of different things. And for me, it hit that that was a protective way for her to live. If you can't be touched, you can't be hurt and so shields up. And I think a lot of kids would find that relatable in a lot of different ways. It applied for me romantically but I think it also applied just kind of across the board. And so she was an incredible character to connect with.
And it was also really, that sounds like a really dark depressing sad way to connect with her, but I could also see-- and that was why the Gambit and Rogue relationship in part became so core to me and my fandom was that he loved her anyway. And you felt in his sometimes annoyingly dogged pursuit that doesn't look as great in a 2023 lens, I think we would all agree. But there was something very reassuring about this idea that he wasn't going anywhere.
Even though he was supposed to be the guy who goes somewhere, for this girl, for whatever reason, he could see-- and maybe it was as shallow as it was a challenge. I mean thought that when I was a kid too. I was like, “oh, he just likes this challenge that he can't get her.” And maybe it was that for a while but it becomes something else.
And so there's something really intoxicating about the idea that you could be protected but that someone would still come for you and see how special you were. So yeah, I mean was all in.
I used to buy a couple issues of-- issues that I knew had them in it. Not just to keep one bagged and boarded in my pristine—“that's my one that's never been opened.” But I'd cut them up and make collages and [BLEEP]. I mean, they were my ride or die. So, it was a dream come true to get to chart their course a little bit.
PREETI CHHIBBER: That's so wonderful, and I think a perfect way to wrap this up. Thank you so much for talking to us about Rogue and Gambit and for your input because like I said, I love that series so much. And I love Mr. And Mrs. X. And I love them. [CHUCKLES]
KELLY THOMPSON: Thank you, me too. They will remain my number one ride or die, for sure.
ELLIE PYLE: [CHUCKLES]
PREETI CHHIBBER: If I could live in the world where Kelly Thompson's version of Rogue and Gambit's relationship existed, just literally live inside of those comic book pages, I would choose to do so.
ELLIE PYLE: Totally understandable. That's a good goal. That's a solid aspiration.
PREETI CHHIBBER: If I could Mary Poppins my way inside, just jump on it and sing that song, I would do it.
PREETI CHHIBBER: That balance between crafting a compelling romance for Rogue while maintaining her individuality and independence is key to making her the beloved character that she is. And it's something Julia Lewald thought about a lot when writing her character for X-Men: The Animated Series. This version of Rogue is really the way a lot of fans, I think ourselves included, were introduced to her. So it's such a treat to hear about where she came from.
ELLIE PYLE: Julia, welcome back. This is the third time that we get to talk to you this season so we will not make you introduce yourself again. But just to remind our listeners, Julia was a co-creator and writer on X-Men: The Animated Series, a.k.a. who I wanted to be when I grew up.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Yeah.
So much fangirling but think well deserved and necessary fangirling. [CHUCKLES]
JULIA LEWALD: I'm loving it. Thank you. Thank you both so much.
PREETI CHHIBBER: [CHUCKLES] Of course, we talked about Jean Grey and we talked about Storm and now today, we are going to talk about our girl Rogue. When I was a kid, she was my favorite, like, favorite, favorite character. That's who I wanted to be was-- she was so cool. What aspects of her personality and story did you really want to bring to the forefront when you were developing her and writing the series?
JULIA LEWALD: You know, X-Men itself had had a good 30 years of comic book life. And so it was more a question of picking players for the team. And Rogue just has the most spectacular powers, let's be honest, and just this-- is the word delightful inappropriate? -- but a delightful personality.
Doesn't take crap off of anybody but is a well-mannered Southern person.
But the thing that kills me about-- and again, we're talking about a Saturday morning kids show, but we're talking about the X-Men. And there is true heroic story stuff here in this world.
And I have often said that the X-Men Animated Series team of players, each one of them is the absolute coolest at what he or she can do with their particular mutation their particular power. But that thing is also, as cool as that is, that is a thing on the inside that breaks each of their own hearts. And if you swap their powers out, they'd be very different people.
For example, if Rogue and Wolverine could swap powers. If Rogue could heal and even if she had adamantium, she would be clam happy. She could be hugging people. She would fight when she needed to. She would do damage. But she could touch someone. Whereas, if Wolverine could never touch anybody again, he'd be happy. He'd go off and live in the woods, bye!
See you never.
So the very thing about each of them personality-wise, personally is the thing that each of their mutations just causes so much heartbreak. And I think of all the characters, I mean she can't touch anyone. And there are plenty of people who are not comfortable being touched or touching others, and especially the last three years in the whole world, it's just been crazy out there.
But all Rogue would want to do would to be able to hold someone's hand, to be able to give someone a hug, to be able to kiss someone on the cheek. And it's fundamental. And she can't do it.
And watching her move through the world, watching her be an X-Man giving her all, always there for the team but knowing that that's the thing that's on her heart, it makes her such a compelling character. Such a compelling character.
And then with the episode in season two called "A Rogue's Tale," written by Bob Skier and Marty Eisenberg, going back into that, how she was manipulated into what she ended ultimately doing, sucking the juice out of Ms. Marvel and Rogue's realizing what she's done but can't undo it, that's something she's always carrying with her. And it makes for a very compelling character.
ELLIE PYLE: So you talked about Rogue's heart and about this deep conflict of her wanting to touch someone and just not being able to. And we have to acknowledge that part of what makes that so compelling is that you gave her such a foil in Gambit and we all wanted them to touch so badly.
PREETI CHHIBBER: So badly! [CHUCKLES]
ELLIE PYLE: And so, talk to us a bit about that relationship and how you approached that. And I'm sure it must have been fun.
JULIA LEWALD: Oh! [LAUGHTER] Can I recommend, just for the fun of it, if folks haven't, if you go back and watch the opening two-parter, Night of The Sentinels Part 1 and 2, when young Jubilee runs away and finds herself in a mall and gets attacked by a Sentinel, moments earlier it's been set up that Storm in civilian clothes and Rogue in civilian clothes are shopping. [CHUCKLES]
And elsewhere in the mall at the playing card store, which apparently they had a lot of back then, Gambit is in there just making “small talk” with the young lady behind the cashier's desk. Oh, buying himself multiple decks of cards. Again, what?
But hey, that's his thing. So he's a wastrel. He's a ne'er do well. So he talks about, “oh, I like playing solitaire unless I got someone to play with.” It's OK. All right. We got it. We got it.
But then in the moment-- [CHUCKLES] in the moment when the Sentinel starts blowing stuff up and everything goes to hell, I fell in love with Gambit in that moment where he throws himself over the gal behind the counter as things are blowing up and then see you later, but he didn't just leave her to let the chunks of concrete fall on her.
It was a small moment but you know? But then he and Rogue, they're so simpatico. They both come from other places in the country. Different kinds of South but parts of the South. They understand each other. They have the same sly sense of humor. Come on, they-- [SIGHS] just brutal, brutal that they can't be together or touch.
Now, as we flash forward to the end of season two when we have the wrap up for Savage Lands and the X-Men are all in the Savage Lands. Reunions, Part 1 and 2, written by Len Wein and Michael Edens. I just want to throw that out there. So they all end up at Savage Lands.
And for whatever magic reasons, their powers aren't working in the Savage Land. The team's powers are not working. And there's a magic moment when Gambit and Rogue are in the cave with the bars and bad things are about to happen and they don't have their powers.
And Rogue voiced by Lenore Zann, the great Lenore Zann, "Gambit, I'm scared." And Gambit voiced by Chris Potter, "Gambit love you." And so he doesn't even say I love you. He says Gambit love you. It's like, oh my god.
But they get their one kiss and then they're pulled apart by the bad guys. So we have that moment with the two of them. And then later, she puts her hand over his mouth when she tries to kiss him in a fit of rage. But they had their moment. I love that moment.
And I love his, “Gambit love you.”
Oh my god. So OK, this is getting silly. But yeah, it's all there. It's all there. Enjoy.
ELLIE PYLE: And you have to have that one moment to keep it going. If it's all just that this is impossible, but it's that moment of, “oh, no, but there are ways—"
PREETI CHHIBBER: There are moments. You can have it.
ELLIE PYLE: --that buy you more years, that we could string this along.
JULIA LEWALD: There you go.
You understand. You understand.
ELLIE PYLE: Oh, I deeply understand.
PREETI CHHIBBER: I wish everybody could see just the immensely wide grins on all of our faces right now. I know you can hear the joy in our voices. I could listen to you talk about Rogue, or any of these characters, or this TV show, but especially Gambit and Rogue, I think after this, forever.
JULIA LEWALD: Oh, don’t make me cry now.
PREETI CHHIBBER: No, thank you so much for coming by and talking to us about all of the characters and about Rogue. It's so delightful listening to you.
JULIA LEWALD: Well, listen, it's delightful to talk about them. And again, if anyone had told me 30 years ago that we'd still be talking about these characters with this much richness, and enjoyment, and delight -- I'm honored. Honored again to have been a part of it.
ELLIE PYLE: Preeti, I can't believe we got to talk to Julia. It was so amazing. And the only thing that could just make it even better is if we also got to talk to the actress who played Rogue with that iconic accent, Lenore Zann. Lenore was many of our first introduction to Rogue and she's still the voice a lot of us hear in our head when we read Rogue in the comics. And it all worked out. We got to talk to her. We tried not to fangirl too much. Give it a listen.
LENORE ZANN: Howdy, sugah. [CHUCKLES] This here is Rogue, a.k.a. Lenore Zann coming to you today from beautiful Nova Scotia up in Canada.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Oh my gosh.
ELLIE PYLE: I love it. We were asking, we were like, “are we going to be able to get her to say sugah?”
PREETI CHHIBBER: My whole face just like rose. That was so exciting.
LENORE ZANN: Well, that is my signature and I stick to it. [CHUCKLES] I love Rogue and I love everything about her, so yeah, it comes pretty naturally.
PREETI CHHIBBER: That's so wonderful to hear. I mean, as both Ellie and grew up on the series and Rogue was pivotal for us as readers, as creators, as people in the Marvel Universe. And one of the questions that I definitely have is before you got cast in this role, before you came into it, how much, if anything, did you know about Rogue and the X-Men before you joined X-Men: The Animated Series?
LENORE ZANN: Yeah, to be honest, I didn't know anything about the X-Men. All I knew was that I was auditioning for a show that they were calling an X-Project, which could be anything. I saw a drawing of her in the studio when I was waiting to go in. And that was the very first time I ever saw her.
And they had the drawings of the characters and a short description of them. And I'd been told by my agent that they were looking for an actor who had a deep, husky, sexy voice who could do a Southern accent.
I wasn't really into cartoons at that time. I was mainly a serious actor doing movies, television, theater, doing radio dramas but I wasn't doing animation. And so I didn't go to those first auditions. And then about a month or so later, my agent called me again and said, “Lenore, they still haven't found the right actor for this role and I know it's because it's you.”
“So your ass in gear, and get down to the studio, and audition for this part.” And that's when I walked in and I saw this drawing. And I went, “oh, yeah, I think I can do that. I can relate to this sassy character with a bit of attitude.” And I just walked into the booth and put the headphones on. And the producers and director were in LA. I was in Toronto at the time.
And they had a little paragraph for us to read. And my first lines were something like, “my daddy liked to kill himself when he found out I was a mutant. I remember, I had me a boyfriend when I was 13. Had me a boyfriend till I kissed him. Poor boy went into a coma for three days.” [CHUCKLES]
“It got so if I touched anybody, it just drove the life right out of him. I don't know, Beast. You know everything. What makes us like the way we are anyway?” And when I said those lines, I heard the screams on the line from LA and with the producers and the director going, “don't let her leave! That's the one. That's the voice we've been looking for. That's Rogue.” And that's how it happened.
ELLIE PYLE: Oh, I love that story so much. Let's talk about the accent. This was an accent you had already worked on. You had already-- did you have a dialect coach on the show or was this an accent you just brought with you?
Because I grew up in Richmond, Virginia and was watching this show from there. And we all loved you. [CHUCKLES]
LENORE ZANN: Thank you. To be honest, I had played a few Southerners in television and film. And so, I had an accent that I felt pretty comfortable with. And that's what I went with. And to be honest, they liked it. And that was it.
ELLIE PYLE: It was just a perfect match.
LENORE ZANN: Plus, I think oftentimes people are cast because they are in some ways similar to a character. And for me, Rogue is like another version of myself. I can really relate to her. I can relate to her fears, her anxieties, her strengths, and also her vulnerabilities. I can relate to it in many different ways.
PREETI CHHIBBER: What are some aspects of her personality and story that you wanted to bring out in your performance of her?
LENORE ZANN: Let's put it this way, I loved it when I finally got a chance to show her backstory in A Rogue's Tale, which is the episode from the original series where you finally get to hear what her origin story is. And I really love being able to show her vulnerabilities and her sensitivities in my voice rather than just being your regular, “here, superhero, I'm here, I'm strong, I'm tough, I kick the ass out of the bad guys, and that's it.”
I have a range of emotions myself, as most people do. And I really played with that and really enjoyed being able to put those layers into my voice so that the audience could sense what she's thinking and what she's feeling, even if the words don't necessarily describe it to a T. So that the sound of my voice would resonate with kids, and with adults too, as it turned out, who could then feel it in their hearts and it would be like a heart-to-heart contact.
I think that that's a skill that actors have and singers have. And I'm a singer as well. I started off singing. I started off doing musicals, actually. And then went into straight acting. And so, I utilized those skills to try and make her more real, and human, and more approachable.
ELLIE PYLE: Speaking of heart-to-heart, we're going to talk about Rogue and Gambit a little bit.
LENORE ZANN: Okay!
ELLIE PYLE: And I'll put my fangirl cards on the table, though I've told this story several times on the podcast, that you are actually probably part of the reason I'm here working for Marvel today.
LENORE ZANN: Really?
ELLIE PYLE: Because I bought my very first comic book because I saw the cover to X-Men 24 where Rogue and Gambit were just about to kiss. And because I had watched the show, I knew how important this was. This was a big deal! This was a high stakes situation! So that's how I ended up buying my first comic and they are still one of my very favorite ships.
How do you feel about that relationship? How was building that chemistry and that dynamic with the actors who played Gambit? What was your experience of building that dynamic between them?
LENORE ZANN: I think that the Rogue-Gambit love story is a really beautiful one because it's so clear that they love each other but they have that teasing. They have that teasing back and forth going on all the time.
And Rogue is like a mythic hero, in that most mythic heroes are super strong and they have all these certain powers, but they usually have what traditionally in ancient Greek tragedies is called an Achilles heel. And the Achilles heel is your vulnerable spot that is where it could lead to you even being destroyed.
Her Achilles heel is that -- in spite of the fact that she's the strongest woman in the Universe, supposedly -- She can pick up buildings and throw them. She can do all this stuff physically. And yet, she can never allow herself to let her guard down, to fall in love in the way that she would allow someone to get intimate and close to her because she's afraid she will kill them. That's a pretty heavy responsibility to be carrying.
And in that first little monologue that I did for you where she says, “yeah, I had a boyfriend when I was 13, but I had him until I kissed him.” She almost killed the poor guy, Cody. And that has stayed with her.
So if she has the power and she knows that she has the power to destroy somebody that she loves, she has to always keep her guard up and not allow people in close enough in case she lets her guard down and lets them kiss her, or somehow falls into an embrace, or whatever. That's pretty tragic. And it's pretty lonely.
So, she spent a lot of her time as a young woman when she got kicked out of her house by her father who couldn't handle the fact she was a mutant. She spent a lot of time searching for herself and trying to figure out where she belonged in this strange universe.
And it was when Professor X called out to her and said, “mutant, you're tired, you're lonely, you're scared, you're angry. You don't know what's going on. You don't understand this power that you have but I do, and we do. And you are loved, and we have a place that you can come where you can be accepted and you can have a family.” And that's where she starts to then feel like she belongs and feels like she is part of a family or however we want to call it.
So she has that, but she's always got to be on her guard when it comes to falling in love. And that's where I think it's so beautiful between her and Gambit because even when she goes to Muir Island to try and get rid of her powers in the episode called "The Cure," in the end, she says she just wants to be normal. She just wants to be able to touch people like everybody else. She wants to be able to probably make love and have children. And she can't.
So she goes there to try and get rid of her powers. But then she discovers that it's actually her powers that make her unique and that make her who she is. And that's when she finally realizes to embrace her differences. And when she says, “there ain't no cure for who you are.” And I think that's so beautiful. That speaks to so many people and so many young people out there who are struggling with their own identity and the LGBTQ2+ community.
She's a really complicated and interesting character. And I love her for that. I'm fascinated and I love all of these different issues. And so, it gives me a great opportunity to be able to channel my own passion about all these things into one specific character and hopefully, touch a lot of lives, and a lot of hearts, and make people feel good about who they are.
PREETI CHHIBBER: I can't stop thinking about you saying you're a singer and having done musicals. And I'm imagining this musical episode of X-Men: The Animated Series.
LENORE ZANN: That'd be fun!
PREETI CHHIBBER: Is there a song, any song you would have killed to sing as Rogue? I'm just dying to know.
LENORE ZANN: Funnily enough, I did do a song. I've got an album coming out. I've been recording an album. But on that album, I wrote a song about Gambit.
ELLIE PYLE: What?
PREETI CHHIBBER: Oh, my god.
LENORE ZANN: I did. I wrote a song about Gambit. And I actually released that song as a single. You can get it on Spotify or any of those streaming platforms. It's called Mojo Man. And in brackets, An Ode to Remy LeBeau.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Yes!
ELLIE PYLE: Yes, OK!
PREETI CHHIBBER: This is the best.
LENORE ZANN: It's really a funny, cute song. And I do it as Rogue singing about my relationship with Remy as if we do have a thing and that we can actually get together and get physical. Check it out.
PREETI CHHIBBER: I'm so happy right now.
ELLIE PYLE: Amazing. I am so excited. I'm so excited.
You worked with a couple of different actors as Remy. Did you all do chemistry reads for those or did you just find it in the performance?
LENORE ZANN: Well, when we first got the roles, we all got called into a studio in Toronto. And all the main leads. And we all met each other there. And we did table reads. And then we went into the studio. And we did it like a radio drama where there were seven microphones set up in one room and we were all behind the mics acting out the scenes and so we could see each other.
And Chris Potter, he's the only one I actually worked with in that format. But Chris I had known for a while as a young actor in movies and television. We'd all been working in movies and TV together. So I knew him. And basically, we were all kind of scared those first few times because we were trying out different accents.
I was doing the Southern he was doing Cajun. But we were all scared that we were going to get fired. [LAUGHS] We were all scared that one of us would be the one that wasn't there the next time or something like that. So I think we were more focused on just trying to do the best job we could with what we had rather than anything else.
But after a while, it just got to be lots of fun playing opposite each other, all of us. I mean, we'd make fun of each other in between takes and cut each other down. But really, we all loved each other. We really formed a bond very quickly. And we still have that to this day, which is great. So, when we do go to Comic Cons and things like that, it's like a big reunion.
PREETI CHHIBBER: This is so nice because it's taking all these memories I have of watching the show and just putting this lovely filter over it, of -- the people who made it enjoyed it.
LENORE ZANN: And after we would do a session, oftentimes we did it at this place called Sounds Interchange in Toronto. We would, oftentimes, afterwards go for a few pints afterwards and hang out together, which was really fun too. And our cast parties, when we do them at the end of each season, were always a lot of fun.
We didn't know how-- and this is kind of interesting, we didn't know how popular the show was. We were all actors who were mainly based in Toronto doing a lot of other things and doing the show as well. And there was no internet. And there was no social media.
And so we never really found out how popular the show became until about five years ago when someone reached out to us and asked us to do-- Michael Perez actually reached out to us and asked us if we wanted to come and do a Comic Con in Texas. And so, a number of us got together for the first time in years.
And we were told by the writers Julia Lewald and Eric Lewald about how they had gone into Fox Studio, Fox Kids at one point while our show was still airing and they saw all these piles of fan mail in blue bins going from the floor to the ceiling, all the way down one hall and all the way down another hall.
And they went into the room for a meeting and they said, “oh, wow, what's all that? What's going on there?” And they were told, “oh, that's the fan mail for X-Men, for all the actors and stuff about how much these kids from around the world loved the show.” We never got it. It was never passed on to us. We had no idea that we were affecting young kids in the way that we were. We didn't even know the story about all the mail until just recently.
So now when we go to Comic Cons, it's just so humbling and moving to meet the fans who are now older and now they have kids of their own, many of them. And they're introducing their kids to the X-Men on the Disney+ channel. And those kids are becoming huge fans. And now everybody's all excited about X-Men ‘97. So it's really interesting how it's come full circle.
And it's 30 years. In some ways, I feel like it was yesterday. I can close my eyes and it feels like it was yesterday. And in other ways, it feels like it was like a lifetime ago. But in some ways, that's kind of perfect for X-Men because they seem to have longevity, right?
ELLIE PYLE: As you said, that core metaphor will always be relatable. The “you can't change who you are.” The idea of the other in society. The X-Men will always be relatable.
LENORE ZANN: Yes. And trying to make people feel that they are not accepted, and they are not wanted, and they're not loved, and that they are somehow or other freaks, sadly, this seems to be reoccurring again today.
And I think that it really is time for the X-Men to come back and tell the kids of today, “hey, don't listen to those folks. You know what's right. And you're part of our X-Men community. And we love you and you're accepted no matter who you are or how you are.” And there ain't no cure for who you are!
ELLIE PYLE: Absolutely.
PREETI CHHIBBER: You have had this just fascinating career, and life, and I'm interested in the intersections of X-Men and these other parts of your life. So, you were a member of Parliament in Canada, which is awesome. Are there lessons that you think could be taken from the X-Men, as you were just talking about, for people who want to impact the world around them in a positive way and who want to be able to make that change?
LENORE ZANN: Yes. I reached a point in my acting career -- I'd been acting since I was 17. And when I turned about 47, 48, I felt like I needed to do something more in order to contribute to making the world a better place. And so, I moved home to Nova Scotia, Canada where I had grown up.
I was born in Australia but we moved to Nova Scotia when I was eight. So, I went to most of my school years here. And I was asked if I would run for politics. And one of my dear friends who was a mentor was a woman named Alexa McDonough. And she was the first female leader of any political party in Canada.
And her party was called the New Democratic Party, which is a little bit more left wing than say the Democratic Party. It would be like the Bernie Sanders party of Canada. Bernie Sanders or AOC, Social Democrat.
And so she had said to me when I was 23 or 24, “I'd love you to run someday. I'd love you to-- I think you'd be really good at this” and she took me to a session at the legislature in Nova Scotia where she was the only woman and the only New Democratic Party person, which is NDP, in the legislature. There were 52 members and she was the only woman.
It was International Women's Day. She was up on her feet giving these important speeches about women, and what we need to do, and rights, and human rights, and all these kinds of things. And the men around her from all the other parties were making paper Airplanes and throwing them at each other. I will never forget that as long as I live. That's what I observed from the gallery upstairs looking down into the chamber.
And afterwards, she had asked me to job shadow her that day. And I went with her, and she went, and she had to do a speech at a University. And in the taxi on the way over, she was crying. She was in tears. She said, “you see what I have to put up with?” She said, “I'm supposed to go and give a speech about how far women have come. And you see how I'm being treated in the legislature.” But she got up on her feet there. She gave an incredible speech. Had the whole audience on their feet cheering for her.
And I said, “Alexa, let me think about it. But I think I'm too young right now. But when I'm older and I have a bit more experience, I've lived a life, I've done a lot more acting and got that out of my system, and I have more gravitas and would be taken more seriously, then I'll definitely think about it.”
So when I moved back home at 48, I went to see Alexa and said, “I've been asked to run in my district. What do you think?” And she said, “yes, it's your time.” She said, “I'm ready to retire now. I'm a grandmother. I've given it 24 years of my life. I'm ready to retire.” She said, “yeah, do it.” And I won. I won four elections in a row.
And I was given the opportunity to introduce a private member's bill which was really important to me and to many others about environmental racism. Everything coming full circle. I'm no longer in that political system right now. I'm back acting again and playing Rogue again, but my bill has still got legs, and is still moving through, and hopefully will become law later this year.
So I feel like nobody should have to choose one career. You can choose a career. You put all your time, and effort, and energy into it. But then if you want to switch gears at some point in your life, there's nothing stopping you.
And sometimes, something that you really dreamed about when you were younger, you may not have the ability or be in the right position to be able to do that at that time. But later on in your life, you can. So again, what's stopping you?
Age is just a number. Don't ever let that stop you. Just believe in yourself and just go for it. Because if you don't go for it, you'll never find out what you can do and what may happen.
ELLIE PYLE: I don't think we can pick a better message to end on than that.
Thank you so much for coming and spending this time with us today. I'm sure we could go another two hours, but we won't --
LENORE ZANN: I can always come back.
ELLIE PYLE: We would love for you to come back!
PREETI CHHIBBER: Please come back.
LENORE ZANN: Anytime. Yeah. Bye, y'all.
PREETI CHHIBBER: I think that we could probably rename this episode of the podcast Ellie and Preeti squealing about being excited. That's just what this episode is, because I genuinely can't believe we talked to both Julia Lewald and Lenore Zann about X-Men: The Animated Series. [CHUCKLES] I don't know if listeners can tell just how much we love Rogue here at Women of Marvel. Maybe it's gotten through just a little bit.
ELLIE PYLE: I don't know, Preeti. I think we need to sell it more. I think people need more Rogue so Robyn--
--where should they start if they want to love Rogue as much as we do?
ROBYN BELT: We do love Rogue and we are going to start our Marvel Unlimited reading list, which I recommend you read in chronological order since we are going through her character history. So, we start our list with Avengers Annual Issue 10. This is Rogue's earliest history with Mystique, with Destiny, her adoptive moms, and her very unfortunate history with a former Ms. Marvel, now Captain Marvel.
As some of you may know, Rogue's origin is intertwined with Ms. Marvel, now Captain Marvel, because Rogue at one point completely drained Carol Danvers of her Kree powers. This was absolutely devastating to Carol for the obvious reasons and left a long-standing impact and trauma on her life. And it also traumatized Rogue.
And I think this issue is great because it really exemplifies how powerful Rogue is but how traumatic her power set is as well. It's as harmful to her as it is to everyone she touches. This is just an exceptional issue. I mean Rogue is just tossing around the Avengers like she's the Hulk.
She plants a kiss on Captain America and she saps him of his super soldier strength. She is playful, malevolent, a bit sinister in her earliest Marvel history. And I think it just speaks to her evolution as a character. So definitely start with this annual.
ELLIE PYLE: And that ties so well into what we've been talking about this episode with how her powers impact her relationships with the idea that in her earliest days, particularly with Mystique as a role model, that I can definitely see her believing that this power could only do harm and thus, her only choice was to be a villain.
ROBYN BELT: Yeah And it's an exploitative relationship. I mean, Mystique and Destiny shape Rogue very much in their image. But yeah, Mystique and Destiny really did a number on Rogue. And they found forgiveness and a new status quo. But they really used her in the beginning. And I think that made her a victim. So yes, she did villainous and horrible things. But she wasn't always acting on her own impulse and agenda. So I think that's important to note.
We follow up with Uncanny X-Men Issue 171. This is Rogue coming to terms with the fact that she needs help, big time. She turns to the X-Men for the very first time. Everyone has extreme mistrust of Rogue because of what she did to Carol Danvers. And Carol at this time was basically a de facto X-Woman, despite the fact that she was not a mutant.
So the X-Men knew Carol, loved Carol. And when Rogue came into the mix begging for help, they understandably kept her at a distance ‘til she could show her true colors and build trust with her X teammates. This is a great issue.
And there is a fantastic moment where Rogue is just punched through the roof of the X mansion and just goes flying. And it's an incredible sequence. And it's basically Carol serving back what Rogue dished to her. So, it's a very juicy issue and Rogue's first brush with the X-Men. That turning point for her from villain to “you know what? There is a different potential for my abilities.” So, the makings of a superhero start in this issue.
We follow it up with X-Men Legacy Issue 220. This run is from 2008. And if you read nothing else on this list -- Rogue fans, right? -- This X-Men Legacy run is so character defining. It actually started off as a series about Professor X but right around issue 220, we get into Rogue.
And this is Rogue separating and isolating herself from the X-Men. She's been living in the Australian Outback. She is in danger because a sentient danger room has literally imprisoned her. And she requires the aid of Professor X and Gambit to show up and pull her out of these dire circumstances.
But it's also the run where she, for the first time, has a semblance of control over her abilities. So this is Rogue coming into her own, defining herself as a teacher on the mutant island Utopia. There's a lot of mutant islands, by the way. But at one point the mutants were living off the coast of San Francisco on an island called Utopia.
And Rogue was a teacher. She was a mentor. She was a leader. This is her series. This is Rogue fully accepting who she is and relating to her powers not based out of fear, but for the first time with a sense of control. I love this one. It's also a juicy love triangle with Magneto, with Gambit. She's volleying between these two like, “who's better for me now?” And there's a lot of exploration and discovery.
ELLIE PYLE: As much as we love Rogue and Gambit, and we do, the Rogue and Magneto stuff is always just an interesting extra layer of conflict in all of that. They're kind of an interesting pairing as well.
ROBYN BELT: They are. Do you guys like it? Because I'm not sure.
ELLIE PYLE: I don't think we're supposed to be sure. I don't think we're supposed to be sure. I mean, look, we all know who she should truly be with. But the Magneto stuff, the Joseph stuff - who's a de-aged Magneto - you need to introduce some other person for there to be a love triangle.
ROBYN BELT: Yes, exactly. I think it's on her way to finding that one true love, who we know is Gambit. We go through-- in our dating history, we make choices. And it's almost like, you learn what you want by learning what you don't want.
ELLIE PYLE: Yes, some of those choices have to be bad choices. But that doesn't make for a bad story.
PREETI CHHIBBER: That's a good way of putting it.
ROBYN BELT: No, and it's a great love triangle. Speaking of romance, I love these two. Rogue and Gambit, this dynamic is just absolute gold. This is an issue that I love, Extreme X-Men Exposé Issue 2. It's from 2003.
This is a limited series that takes place squarely in the continuity of the Extreme X-Men run from 2001. I chose this issue because it is slice-of-life Rogue and Gambit.
PREETI CHHIBBER: I love slice of life. [CHUCKLES]
ROBYN BELT: I love this one. I read this when I was a kid. And it was one of those singles that I kept. And the binding is so well worn. And I just keep-- I just loved it. I absolutely love this issue.
So Rogue and Gambit, for a time, lost their abilities in the Extreme X-Men run. And the two of them decided, “you know what? We've been fighting for the dream, let's start living it.” And the two of them go off to a place called Valle Soleada in California.
It's this Utopian little haven where humans and mutants are coexisting. And the two of them really have a chance at, quote unquote, "normalcy." This is them exploring what it would be like to have a civilian life together not defined by the X-Men, not defined by the constant threat of peril.
And it's just a beautifully contained issue. It is peak Gambit personality, being a rock, being a voice and a safe harbor for Rogue. And it's Rogue exploring what it is to be human, to touch, to have human relationships, and intimacy. It's a great issue.
The next issue on our list is Uncanny Avengers Issue 1 from 2015. This is Rogue, the Avenger. So she does have a long history with the X-Men but she has a pretty important history with the Avengers too.
She's recruited to be a member of Captain America's Unity Squad. So this is a commissioned Avengers team consisting of mutants and of superpowered humans coming together. So Rogue, the Avenger, Uncanny Avengers Issue 1.
OK, we love this one, Mr. And Mrs. X.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Yes! [CHUCKLES]
ROBYN BELT: Complete run. You've got to start at issue one. That's where you typically start. This is love and marriage Rogue and Gambit style. They were married in X-Men Gold Issue 30. But this run is the honeymoon. Such a great run by Kelly Thompson who knows these two inside out.
Our second to last issue on the list is Excalibur Issue 1 from 2019. This is Rogue in the Krakoan age. I call this series X-Men Sword and Sorcery because that's really what it feels like. But Betsy Braddock is the new Captain Britain. She was formerly Psylocke. And Rogue and Gambit are the husband-wife duo on the Excalibur team.
And their job on Krakoa is to be the defender of the realm Avalon, which is this mythic Excalibur-esque Arthurian realm of lore, and legend, and sorcery. It's a really fun run and it ties directly into the 10 of Swords Event, which you can read in full on Marvel Unlimited.
Our last issue, Preeti knows this one.
PREETI CHHIBBER: [CHUCKLES] A little bit.
ROBYN BELT: From our very own women of Marvel co-host, we have Love Unlimited, Gambit and Rogue, The Infinity Comic. This starts in issue 61, is the start of the Gambit and Rogue arc. And its six parts so you can read this exclusively on the Marvel Unlimited app. And Preeti, I can let you take it away but it's another heist.
PREETI CHHIBBER: It's a heist. When they asked me about potentially pitching some Infinity Comics, I was like, “Gambit and Rogue heist. That's what I want to do. I want fun and the two of them just playing off each other.” And that's what I wanted to do. And I think that's what happened. Carola Borelli's art is outstanding. They're so hot.
ROBYN BELT: So sexy.
PREETI CHHIBBER: [CHUCKLES] Carlos Lopez's colors are great. It's perfect.
ELLIE PYLE: Well, and I did want to throw in there for listeners who are not familiar with Infinity Comics, they are a lot of fun. They're exclusive to Marvel Unlimited. And they are formatted for you to read on your phones. So if you like webtoon style of scrolling comics, that's what Infinity Comics are and Preeti's written a really good one.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Yeah, if you want a romcom heist, this is the way to go.
ROBYN BELT: Oh it’s so good and they both look great.
PREETI CHHIBBER: We got smooches and fights.
ROBYN BELT: Yep. And a little getaway too. They finally get their romantic vacation, which they are long overdue for. Yeah, the Infinity Comics are great. And like Ellie said, perfect for mobile reading. And there's currently over 800 of them on the Marvel Unlimited app. So start off with the Rogue and Gambit arc in Love Unlimited. That's the romance anthology track.
And don't worry, listeners, you've been following along here. But if you didn't capture everything, we are going to break out this list for you and include it with the episode so you can read all of these issues on Marvel Unlimited.
PREETI CHHIBBER: As soon as we stop recording, I'm like, “what if I just go and read after we're done with this?” Thank you so much for this incredible deep dive into both Rogue and Rogue and Gambit's relationship.
ELLIE PYLE: So we mentioned several times this episode that Rogue's origin has some dark ties to another beloved Marvel character, Carol Danvers. And, Preeti, why don't you tell us who we're going to be talking about next week?
PREETI CHHIBBER: Well, of course, next week we are going higher, further, and faster with Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel.
ELLIE PYLE: Until then, Women of Marvel is produced by Isabel Robertson, Zachary Goldberg, Ellie Pyle, and Preeti Chhibber.
PREETI CHHIBBER: Our senior manager of audio development is Brad Barton, production manager is Emily Godfrey, and our executive producer is Jill DuBoff.
ELLIE PYLE: Listen weekly on Apple Podcasts and wherever you get your podcasts. See you next week.
PREETI CHHIBBER: This is Marvel--
ELLIE PYLE: Your universe.
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