THE X-PERTS: ROGUE
Mike Carey, Jason Aaron, Kieron Gillen, and Daniel Ketchum talk about this veteran X-Man and her place in Regenesis.
X-MEN: SCHISM winds down a startling metamorphosis in the mutant corner of the Marvel Universe that will split the Children of the Atom and lead to Regenesis in the fall along with two new ongoing series, each featuring its own distinctive team: UNCANNY X-MEN and WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN.
With change in the air, here on Marvel.com we’ll be regularly gathering the creators and editors responsible for guiding the X-Men’s destiny to dissect each of their charges to examine what makes them tick and perhaps lend some insight into where they will find themselves once the Schism ends and the Regenesis gets underway.
This week, we focus on Rogue, a one-time villain who has become an X-Men mainstay, leading teams, forming friendships and finding romance on more than one occasion. Where will she throw her considerable power and influence as Regenesis evolves?
How would you describe the core of who Rogue is and what is most important to her?
Mike Carey (writer of X-MEN LEGACY): I see Rogue as a true maverick among the X-Men: someone who unquestionably belongs in the team and is comfortable there, but has never stopped being her own woman and following her own instincts. There’s a limit to how far you could ever get her to tow the company line, whatever that happened to be, as Cyclops found during the events of Second Coming.
As to what’s most important to her: people. Her personal loves and loyalties are the very essence of her. Though she had to learn reserve and containment over many years, because of how her powers worked, the passion that underlies that self-control is immense.
Jason Aaron (writer of X-MEN: SCHISM and WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN): Like all true Southerners, she just wants some peace and quiet; and the occasional opportunity to beat someone up.
Daniel Ketchum (X-Men editor): Rogue is the southern bombshell who over time has become one of the X-Men’s most valued members. She’s deeply woven into fabric of the team, proving that wrongdoers can live down the mistakes of their pasts and mutants whose powers have estranged them from the rest of the world can transcend their limits and find control and, in the process, community. She’s won that for herself and now she wants to extend that chance to others.
Kieron Gillen (writer of UNCANNY X-MEN): This is a tricky one. If we were actually sitting in a pub, I’d sort of say “This is an interesting one.” And then glance in the direction of Mike [Carey], and stay very quiet, and nod along at whatever he says. I know my place.
Really? She’s a character who’s had the core of her attacked and reformed time and time over, both by her rough experiences and the very nature of her powers. And, perhaps most surprisingly, dealt with it all and come out the other side surprisingly balanced and temperate. For me, that she’s been able to maintain that must make it the core of her, yeah?
What matters to her? True friends, loved ones and those who need her help, especially those who may be suffering in any way. She, more than most, has been good with the kids and good for the kids.
What is Rogue’s view of how the mutant race should conduct itself moving forward? How does this contrast or conflict with others?
Jason Aaron: Rogue’s been butting heads with Cyclops for quite a while now, so it makes sense that she might go a different direction, post-Schism. I think she feels like Logan feels, that Cyclops’s way hasn’t been working. And even if the Schism hadn’t come along, I think she was ready to chart a different course.
Mike Carey: When Cyclops gave Rogue responsibility over the younger mutants, he was consciously tapping into a core of empathy, concern and sensitivity in her which makes her very well suited to that job. For the same reason, I think she understands the logic of the mutants’ retrenchment and isolationism since the move from San Francisco, but only up to a point. I’d say she’d be among those most ready to go back out into the world and engage with it again.
Kieron Gillen: Mike’s doing an arc about this! Man! Leave me alone, Ben Morse, you big bully. You’re not my real mum and dad.
Do Rogue’s beginnings as a super villain still play any role in her decision making? Is that still part of who she is or a long buried piece of the past?
Daniel Ketchum: Being raised by super villains and then becoming a villain herself have certainly influenced the decisions Rogue has made as an X-Man. Consider Ms. Marvel. During the time Rogue was a villain, she absorbed Carol’s psyche and powers, an action that nearly ruined both women’s lives permanently. Rogue’s learned from those mistakes and those lessons inform the decisions she makes today.
Kieron Gillen: You never quite escape it, but it’s ancient history. One of the very first things I wrote as an X-writer had it as something someone noted, and I got an editorial note back going “Dude!” A year or two down the road and I think back and go “Dude!” at myself. No-one thinks about that any more—which makes her an interesting compare and contrast with Emma. Ms. Frost has never quite put aside the demeanor of a villain, and Rogue certainly has. She’s someone you file with, say, Hawkeye—though obviously miles apart personality wise—rather than Emma or even Logan.
Mike Carey: Messing up spectacularly is the privilege of the young. I wouldn’t say she bears any terrible burden of guilt for the time she spent in the Brotherhood of Mutants. What is important to her, I’d say, is the fact that she was given a second chance—a chance to re-invent and redefine herself. Look at the people she allowed into her team the last time she was leading one: a large part of what she was doing was giving others the same opportunity that was offered to her. Of course, that kind of blew up in her face…
Jason Aaron: I think it might still make her a bit of an outsider, even within the X-Men. Or maybe that’s just the way she feels about herself, and not necessarily how she’s perceived.
What kind of influence does Mystique still have on who Rogue is if any?
Kieron Gillen: Avoiding quoting the obvious line of Larkin—and adding a bunch of provisos to make it fit the Rogue/Mystique situation—you never quite escape a parent-figure. Still, as much as someone can, Rogue’s done a good job of it.
Mike Carey: Of her two mothers, I think Destiny has the more enduring influence on Rogue. She reacted strongly against Mystique, and of course that kind of reaction is also one of the things that makes us what we are. Maybe Mystique represents a kind of memento mori for her; a reminder of the other path that diverged in the wood.
Jason Aaron: Mystique will always be a part of her. I think Rogue will always be striving to be better than her upbringing.
Daniel Ketchum: I mean Mystique is Rogue’s mother. No matter what terrible crimes Mystique commits—against Rogue or the world—there will always be that connection. The degree to which Rogue will let Mystique exploit that connection is where the story lies.
How do Rogue’s powers and the price they carried with them for so long make her stand out even among the X-Men? Has she suffered more than most?
Mike Carey: I’d say she has, yes. Her powers conflicted so strongly and so directly with her nature, made it impossible for her to act on her instincts and follow through on her emotions. Some people would have been bent way out of shape by that. She was able to deal with it and to see past it; to still be herself.
Kieron Gillen: This feels a little state the obvious, but yes, the emotional distance she’s had to deal with due to the requirement of physical distance is something that’s all kind of torment. Even amongst the ever-angsty X-Men, she’s got a rough roll of the dice. Equally, people know that about her and that she survived. I suspect she’s inspirational on the quiet.
How was Rogue changed since her powers altered and she became able to touch others?
Daniel Ketchum: Oddly enough, I don’t think Rogue has changed all that much since she became able to touch others. While she’s more at ease with the use of her powers—using them in ways we have not seen previously—she is still hyperaware of the power of a touch, and it’s not something she takes for granted.
Kieron Gillen: More making out. Honestly, it’s lucky I’m not Rogue. If I were Rogue and was suddenly able to touch people, the last few years of X-MEN LEGACY would [have been] “Rogue’s Make-Out Tour of the Marvel Universe.”
I am, in many ways, unlike Rogue. She has dignity. And hair.
Mike Carey: In most important ways, I don’t think she has changed; she’s got more freedoms now, but she hasn’t explosively de-repressed or anything. She hasn’t gone crazy. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that she didn’t immediately go back to Gambit, and maybe that’s where the years of enforced self-restraint did leave a bit of a scar. When the dam went down, she was so used to holding herself back that there was, in the first instance, scarcely any visible effect at all. Now she’s exploring those freedoms, but cautiously. Just as she wasn’t defined by the prison her powers made for her, she’s not going to get drunk on the new possibilities now.
Is Rogue a different person with Gambit? With Magneto? On her own? Is she in part defined by the man she’s with?
Jason Aaron: Well she’s certainly attracted to the bad boys. But she’s too strong an individual to be defined just by her love interests.
Kieron Gillen: I kinda disagree with the premise of the question. Everyone’s a different person with everyone. It’s not about being a prop. Humans are just different people, as interactions bring out parts of us. So, yes, different lovers generally lead to different bits of you coming to the surface. But I don’t think that’s a Rogue thing specifically.
Mike Carey: She’s not even slightly defined by the man she’s with. To take Magneto as the current example, he tempers himself to her rather than the other way around. He respects her instincts and opinions and, although he still speaks as bluntly as ever, reins himself in around her in ways that he wouldn’t dream of doing for anyone else.
Daniel Ketchum: Pushing out the boundaries of this question a bit: This is a huge subject that Rogue will be wrestling with in the near future. How does she define her own character, when by nature her mutant ability—one of the most defining things about her—entails adopting the memories and personalities of those she comes into contact with? How can you not question every thought in your head? Is that belief your own or a vestige of someone else’s psyche knocking around your head? We all experience self-doubt, the proverbial angel on one shoulder and devil on the other; Rogue’s got a lot more angels and devils to compete with.
I think she’s a touchstone for other characters, especially those who love her, precisely because her own nature is so vivid and indelible. She’s one of those people who’d break before they’d bend.
What role within the X-Men is Rogue most comfortable with?
Kieron Gillen: I think she’s been pretty comfortable where she’s been for the last few years. Defined responsibility and the ability to act according to her interests. Which, I suspect, is one of the reasons why Schism’s aftermath is so tricky for her. Apart from Cyclops being so abusive, she’s been fine.
Mike Carey: She loves what she’s doing right now. But she misses leading a team.
Jason Aaron: The voice of dissent, perhaps. The thorn in someone’s side. The devil’s advocate.
Would Rogue ever consider leaving the X-Men?
Daniel Ketchum: Yes. In fact, Rogue has left the X-Men on multiple occasions, trying to get her powers under control and find a “normal” life. I could see her doing that again.
Mike Carey: Yes, if she saw no honorable way of staying with them. But it would tear her apart.
Kieron Gillen: Yes, I think so. Of the characters, she’s one of the ones who struck me as being determined and self-sufficient enough to find a third way of her own choosing if she doesn’t like the way Cyclops and Wolverine are tugging people.
Who among the X-Men is Rogue closest to? Who does she trust most?
Mike Carey: All of Rogue’s friendships, all of her attachments, are really strong. Gambit, obviously. Iceman and Cannonball, obviously. Magneto, with all kinds of caveats, but still—yes, there’s trust there, now: a commitment made that’s not going to go away, even though she entered into it with reservations. She trusts Cyclops, and it hurt her when that trust stopped being reciprocated. But having said that, she doesn’t depend on other people’s good opinions of her. She does what feels right to her, and doesn’t seek or need approval.
Jason Aaron: Even though they’ve shared a long romantic history, I don’t think I’d say Gambit. I think she loves him but still knows deep down that she can’t fully trust him. I think Logan is one of the only ones she completely trusts.
Daniel Ketchum: At this very moment, she’s closest to Magneto, but she probably trusts him the least. She’s been burned by him before. And of course, there’s Gambit, which, oddly enough, is probably the exact opposite situation. Other than that, I’d say Rogue probably most trusts the X-Men that were willing to grant her that second chance back in the day and welcomed her amongst their ranks: Wolverine. Storm. Colossus.
Who does Rogue believe should lead the X-Men?
Jason Aaron: Herself probably. Beyond that, I’d expect she won’t have a problem with it being Wolverine. Not initially at least.
Mike Carey: She’s comfortable with Cyclops’s leadership, but conscious—maybe more conscious than most—of what it’s cost him. Her decision of which way to jump, post-Schism, is not primarily about following her favorite leader, it’s about going where she feels she’s needed.
Does Rogue have any desire to lead the X-Men again herself? Would she be capable of doing so?
Daniel Ketchum: Rogue has certainly proved herself a capable leader, but I don’t think she particularly covets the position. She’s more apt to defer to Cyclops or Storm, someone who has a broader, more informed view of what purpose the X-Men serve for the world at large. While she’s a great field marshal, I’m not sure that Rogue is equipped to lead on the world stage.
Mike Carey: The X-Men as a whole? The entire, all-inclusive X-Men? She’d be capable, but I don’t think she’d want to. I think she’d be very well aware that that wouldn’t play to her strengths. Team leadership is another matter.
Jason Aaron: Yes and yes. And I for one would love to see it.