The ‘Women of Marvel’ Guide to Rogue
In a new episode of the ‘Women of Marvel’ podcast, our hosts explore the dynamic dichotomy that is the X-Man Rogue!
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The X-Man Rogue is a walking paradox. She is one of comics’ most romantic characters, yet her powers come with physical barriers that cut her off from others. And for most of her mutant life, she has struggled to control this remarkable gift: The power to absorb another being’s lifeforce, memories, or abilities through any physical touch. Although Rogue once rolled with the Brotherhood of Mutants, now she’s a veteran X-Man and a leading Avenger. She’s overcome her lonely, criminal past with humor (and a hairpin trigger).
In the (super-sized!) eighth episode from the latest season of the Women of Marvel podcast, our hosts Ellie Pyle and Preeti Chhibber examine how Rogue’s complex dichotomy has spelled success—and trouble—in her redemptive journey from criminal to hero. Joining them are writer and Rogue super-fan Kelly Thompson (ROGUE & GAMBIT, MR. AND MRS. X), clinical psychologist and intimacy expert Dr. Orna Guralnik, and Lenore Zann, the beloved voiceover actor behind Rogue’s iconic performance on X-Men: The Animated Series!
Listen to Rogue’s full Women of Marvel spotlight, then catch our episode highlights below!
WRITING A ROGUE
Kelly Thompson, the writer of Rogue’s co-starring series ROGUE & GAMBIT and MR. AND MRS. X, spoke to our hosts about her teenage love of Rogue.
“The time when I connected to [Rogue] she was very much brassy, sassy, headstrong,” Thompson recalled of her first impression. “First of all, she’s got an incredible design. She's no-nonsense. She 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.”
Back in 2018, the writer got a call from Marvel Comics editorial: Rogue, and her (then) on-off boyfriend Gambit, were getting a solo series. Thompson jumped at the chance to write the couple she’d long adored as a fan.
“This was [a year] to two years before the big [Jonathan] Hickman HOUSE OF X/POWERS OF X relaunch. Rogue and Gambit had definitely fallen away from each other for a long time, and Marvel knew I was interested in both characters. And so that was how [ROGUE & GAMBIT] came to be.”
But reuniting a couple as fraught as these two presented some challenges.
“We were leaving it kind of open as to whether [the series] would actually get them back together or they’d just sort of come to an understanding and then go their separate ways,” Thompson explained. “And then while I was working on [ROGUE & GAMBIT], Marvel [had the idea] to get them married. And so, we were like, ‘Well, I guess we're getting them back together at the end of this!’”
“ROGUE & GAMBIT really delves into a lot of their past stuff,” Thompson said. “They go to therapy while they're trying to rescue some mutants, and it excavates some of that old stuff to bring it all together. And then MR. AND MRS. X starts out with them getting married and their space honeymoon that goes awry. And they're bouncing through space, and they confront some inner stuff: Gambit with his Thieves Guild and Rogue with her power control. We had a lot of fun. I loved writing those characters.”
UNDERSTANDING A ROGUE
Dr. Orna Guralnik, who some listeners might recognize from Showtime documentary series Couples Therapy, joined Ellie and Preeti to analyze the intimacy issues—and romantic hurdles—that come with Rogue’s unusual powers.
Immediately, Dr. Guralnik exercised empathy:
“First of all, [Rogue] has to be very careful and boundaried and not allow her impulses to take over, because if she allows too much feeling to take over, she will destroy her loved ones,” Guralnik said. “And how difficult that is for her; how sad she must be in [this] constant state of longing that she has to suppress. I feel bad for her.”
Thankfully, Dr. Guralnik did offer insight on how Rogue, and her partner Gambit, might be able to express their needs outside of physical touch.
“There must be so much passion brewing between them because you can’t ever get there. You can’t consummate the relationship,” Guralnik reflected. “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 longing, wanting, desire, and then having to not go there. 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?”
Ultimately, Dr. Guralnik thinks the success of the relationship hinges on respect. And teamwork.
“They’re a team in dealing with this impossibility between them and being able to appreciate all the good that it does would probably bruise a lot of passion,” Guralnik said. “And also, the fact that they can’t touch, maybe it provides a certain 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 a really interesting gift for them, especially if they’re both intense characters.”
VOICING A ROGUE
Ellie and Preeti could barely contain their excitement while speaking to Lenore Zann, the award-winning actor (and activist!) who’s known by X-Men fans worldwide for her iconic performance as Rogue on 1992’s X-Men: The Animated Series.
“I wasn’t really into cartoons at that time,” Zann remembered upon first hearing about the role. “I was mainly a serious actor doing movies, television, theater, 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, get your ass in gear and get down to the studio and audition for this part.’”
Zann recalled that audition vividly: “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 Los Angeles, 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!’ And when I said those lines, I heard the screams on the line from L.A. and the producers and the director going, ‘Don’t let her leave! That’s the voice we’ve been looking for! That’s Rogue!’ And that’s how it happened.”
Like viewers, Zann deeply related to Rogue’s inability to get close to others despite her enduring need for connection.
“Rogue is like a mythic hero in that most mythic heroes are super-strong, and they have all these powers, but they usually have what traditionally in ancient Greek tragedies is called an Achilles’ heel,” Zann reflected. “And the Achilles’ heel is your vulnerable spot. Her Achilles’ heel is that in spite of the fact that she’s the strongest woman in the universe, she can never allow herself to let her guard down, to fall in love, to get intimate and close to [someone] because she’s afraid she will kill them. That’s a pretty heavy responsibility to be carrying.”
For Zann, Rogue’s tumultuous journey in becoming an X-Man also played an important role.
“You know, she got kicked out of her house by her father who couldn’t handle the fact that 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, ‘You don’t understand this power that you have. But I do, and we do. And you are loved.’ And that’s where she starts to feel like she belongs and feels like she is part of a family or however we want to call it.”
The latest season of Women of Marvel has arrived! Tune into upcoming episodes spotlighting a new hero each Wednesday, available wherever you listen to your podcasts!
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