For a kid that got his X-Men start in 1991, I have to question now (20 years later…as much as it pains me to type that) just how I went so long without noticing some of the questionable costumes of the era. Perhaps it was that I started reading when the team went those questionable seven issues wearing the blue/yellow matching generic outfits. Maybe it was because I was just eight years old when I picked up that copy of Uncanny #278.
Whatever the reason, when the X-Men returned to their own individual costumes (with only Rogue, Cyclops and Jean Grey getting new outfits – Iceman and Storm don’t really count) I was far too awe-inspired to stop at the very, very odd costume selection that sat right there on the cover on X-Men #1 along with the rest of the team. No, it wasn’t Colossus sporting rounded-off shoulders on his costume rather than the classic pointed ones (something I made sure to draw when using my time in class far more wisely than merely “paying attention”). And it wasn’t even Psylocke’s bathing suit look with the five leg straps – a look that has questionably stuck to this day.
No, it was more than this. How did I not ever question this?
As if I even had to tell you, this Cajun charmer is Gambit, who at the time was still a new acquisition to the franchise. He had debuted back in Uncanny #266 the previous year (Uncanny, like today, was churning out two issues a month frequently back then) decked out in this number, complete with pink top, strange tubed neck armor-ish additions and metal knee-high boots that had to be tough to run in. Though you hardly ever saw them, his arms were either solid pink or black with pink stripes like his legs, depending on who drew them. The whole thing was certainly an odd number, thankfully covered up by his trademark trench coat.
Though, I have to say it’s better than Andy Kubert’s cover art on his debut issue.
And you think Superman’s underoos outside of his tights were bad? Just try the man-thong.
Gambit’s color selection might have just been a sign of the ages. He did make it for the start of the 1990’s, and that’s not a decade exactly renowned for its impeccable sense of style.
Gambit also had numerous cover-ups to distract the reader from his fashion faux pas. He had the “charming thief” ruggedly handsome look. He was the first X-Man since Wolverine to frequently smoke (something done away with in the more PC world of today). He was ridiculously mysterious for no good reason (hell, he was around for over a year before someone decided to give him a real name). But probably it was because he always wore the trench coat, which allowed the artists not named “Jim Lee” the opportunity to not draw as much of the thing as they possibly could.
But for whatever reason, the pink number managed to stick around – he kept wearing the thing until Chris Claremont returned to revamp the line and all of the characters got a new look (except for Wolverine, of course).
But designing a new look for Gambit seems to be as difficult as explaining the appeal of his old look. After a couple attempts, it looks like creators have simply given up on the matter and now just put him in a solid black number.
After all, all you really need with Gambit is the trench coat and the headgear. Who else notices anything else? Certainly not this kid for nearly two decades.