Rogue’s evolution as an X-Men and as a mutant has been fraught with many ups and downs. What does Claire Napier have to say about one of her favourite characters?
What is Rogue’s status in the most recent comics canon that you’ve read?
She is sitting in the congregation for Jean and Scott’s wedding, in an off-the-shoulder gown, next to Gambit, who is wearing a very compelling tweed suit. This is in 1994—when you say “most recent comics canon,” I reply in terms of what I consider to be ‘the end’ of the story “The X-Men.” For the sake of my own heart, mind, and reasonability I have a cut-off point of spring 1994 at which point the curtain comes down on the continuous narrative begun, by Stan & Jack, in September 1963. Everything prior to that, I read as a literary whole; everything after I consider a curiosity that may or may not be a good story in its own right. So, I’ve read Rogue appearances published later than that; my first monthly X-Issues were X-Treme X-Men, where she featured heavily. I read her solo series from 1995, as well as Gambit’s, and unhappily I read her solo series from 2004. I have some Uncanny issues from god knows when where she’s on the team, I think I read some of X-Men: The End, as well as tons more X-Product that didn’t feature her—but all of that’s whatever, though some is pleasantly dishy, because it’s as what if as any given fanfiction. It can be fun to read, but it is other than the story. Do I like the idea of tragedy-fucking in space? Yes! But mining-suit prison romance remains non-canon.
Perhaps some people can read ever-after twists and the machinations of a million lusty writers and stay cool, but there is no way to be a happy fan whilst also being myself, with my own brain, without defining for myself where the story stops. Luckily for me my end-of-X, where I can say everything coming before seems like some kind of completed cycle, coincides with a peaceful, promise-filled wedding date for my fave.
How did you first meet this character and what have they come to mean to you?
On the animated series, on Saturday morning, on Live & Kicking. To be perfectly honest, my reading of the comics is probably inescapably infused with my viewing of this cartoon.
By reconsidering Rogue, which I have done with regularity since first encountering the character, I understand myself better. People are easily “too much” for her—for Rogue it’s a result of absorbing their psyches via skin-to-skin touch; for me it’s simply nervous introversion and a preference for privacy regarding the stress that causes. She’s not uncommonly found making an exasperated noise and unstoppably leaving, often by air or through a wall, which is an attractive powers fantasy. I could relate to her comfort in flashy clothes and with verbal affection, two things which I like but have also feared, because she’s “safe” from boundary-interlopers due to the aforementioned power: if anyone grabs her, they’ll get knocked out and/or feel deeply sick, instant revenge. Understanding that this was a part of my appreciation of her character allowed me to understand, actually comprehend rather than simply reflexively exhibit, that fear of being grabbed was so much a part of mine, and begin to deal with that—it goes on and on. It’s cathartic to see her lack fear of, and even enjoy, catcalls, because I can understand how someone—to be blunt—“unrapeable” might be able to appreciate being noisily appreciated by strangers, and I can appreciate how it feels good to be wanted when you know you can’t have. She has experiences that are jumbled, jigsaw versions of my own, and that helps me sort out my own puzzle.
What is your ideal vision for this character? Have there been any moments in this character’s existence that have met or come close to these ideals?
My vision is less projective than observational, in my opinion—I don’t have a need for her to exist in further comics (in fact, frankly, I’d prefer the opposite), but I do consider her character to be well-defined on the page(s), and that’s what pleases me. She’s expressive but self-isolates and has a threshold for outward emotional honesty; she’s done evil by dint of ignorance and carelessness and is dedicated to the protection of the vulnerable despite a distaste for some of the specifics of interpersonal reparation; she chases feelings of confidence to escape the fear of worthlessness. She wants to be appreciated and is frightened that she isn’t. She really wants a boyfriend. But also important is the surface detail: she’s “feisty,” I guess is the word—sassy, fun-loving, casual, flirtatious, rowdy, a bit of a bleeding heart, easily hurt but brave with it. Her visual development over the late eighties to early nineties, as she came into her majority, traces a sort of Joan Jett to Cindy Crawford beauty trail, a mixture of fix-your-truck with sell-you-oranges feminine sexual appeal. There’s a lot about Southern Belle and Southern class indicators I don’t comprehend (my South is “of England”), messages I may be missing that would make other interpretations make sense to those people who are making them—I’m not saying visions other than mine are judged, by the Universe, to be Wrong. But to me, Rogue is necessarily a fox in ways that many more recent depictions, including Korday’s in X-Treme, the covers for Fiona Avery’s Rogue miniseries in 2001, and every popular redesign I’ve seen go hard on twitter, are missing. This is a hard matrix to define, but I know it when I see it (or don’t).
How do you feel about Rogue’s evolution as an X-Man? Is she where she ‘ought’ to be?
She doesn’t exist any other way, for me. This is pretty weird because I used to be very much a “the character is REAL & has INFINITE POSSIBILITIES” type of person/reader/fan, but I guess my psychic-separation efforts have not been for nothing.
How do you feel about the evolution of her abilities?
I can’t say as I’m aware of any evolution, to be honest. She touch, she suck out life & mind, she suffer and/or use the powers for a lil while. The long-lived additional powers of flight, strength and physical invulnerability both relate intrinsically to the dangerousness of her own power (they’re stolen from Carol Danvers, accidentally, as a result of over-exposure to Rogue, and come packaged with a retributional haunting) and serve to mock, agreeably, her emotional vulnerability.
She has control of her powers now, so while the ramifications of using them are there, she can touch without fear. Do you want to comment on that?
I don’t really see the point of this development. For me superpowers are mostly interesting in their natures as metaphors—Rogue’s power being uncontrolled was a part of that metaphor, a part of the psychological provocation. I’m sure there’s a story to be told about someone who has a very intimately destructive power and who can choose to use it or not use it, but it sounds quite horrible, to be honest. Rogue’s power is really a very aggressive, harmful one, and the fact that it’s there whatever she does, and that much of her story is about dealing with the negative effects it has on her, is about the only thing that makes her using it at all allowable. She’s an ethical quandary! If she’s an ethical question, she’s a whole other narrative tool. So, a Rogue in control of her powers is a character other to the character that’s my favourite.
Is she still afraid of being touched? Is she still provocative regarding touch? How much has her personality, behaviour, and approach to life and combat changed based on this change in state? These are questions that strike me mechanically, as a matter of superhero-writing craft, but I don’t really want to know the answers.
Do you feel the relationship with her mothers has been portrayed well?
I do, though Destiny doesn’t take too much of a front seat. Well, but not greatly.
How do you feel about (the concept of) Mr. and Mrs. X and the journey Gambit and Rogue have gone through as a couple?
I think it’s nice that it’s there for people who want it? I certainly don’t want to imply that it’s a bad thing to exist in the context of Marvel today, or that Kelly Thompson is anything but supportable—it’s just not for me. To acknowledge this book would be to acknowledge the entirety of the period of publication between ‘94 and 2018—that’s just how my mind works, and I’m aware that they discuss various of these events within the book—and to do that just strikes me as very depressing and stressful … and gainless.
Rogue and Gambit as a couple, to me as the 1994 cutoff-haver, have only had one, two or three writers. Claremont’s barest, barest of bones, then Lobdell, and perhaps a little Nicieza. This is few enough that there’s consistency and story, even plot, in and around their relationship: it has purpose and presence throughout. In those comics between 1991 and 1994, they have an arc that contains unstated future, and that is the arc which compels me. I know that Lobdell has since disappointed us with comments to women and presumably choices made elsewhere in his writing, and I find it perfectly possible that the arc of unstated future would have contained things that put an uglier face on those parts of their story contained within the issues I acknowledge. Gambit probably was supposed to be a liar, a cheat, a betrayer … but he’s not, in the story I have. He’s a kind of badish guy with a past who also is super in love with Rogue because of her own, personal, special qualities. She’s nervous and he’s wolfish and both those aspects lend integrity to their connection. That’s my flavour! I don’t want to add toothpaste to my lunch today simply because it may be present at breakfast tomorrow.
How do you feel about Rogue’s on-screen portrayals? What have they gotten right about the character? What have they gotten wrong?
In live-action, I have found her portrayal to be extremely bad. Anna Paquin could probably have done the job with a director or writer (and hairstylist) who understood the necessity of female joy, but—she did not get one, nor the other. This cinematic Rogue is sent straight from hell to bother me: a vision of dumpedness and unsurety, desperate for attention and affection in a way everyone can see and nobody can admire, defined by her desire for normativity without even a concurrent desire for fabulousness or spectacle. Flat, flat hair. Dreadful.
The Lenore Zahn-voiced cartoon is excellent; Evolution contains no seed of interest. Making Rogue a goth yet giving her small hair—an egregious offense. How dare you.
Unsure if she’s in the anime, but also unintrigued.
Tell us about a “what if” you’d love to see explored for Rogue.
Wrote my own, din’I? I mean, it’s basic. They bone. Happy. The end! Enjoying and navigating this character is a part of my life, but I don’t want or need it to get bigger than it is.