Playing on a Theme: Superhero and Villains with a Gambling Theme

There are a ton of themes that run through comics, from Spider-Man’s menagerie of animal themed villains to color themed characters, there are plenty of themes in comics. One that seems like it would be worlds apart from comics, often seen as a niche entertainment, if gambling themed characters.  Here we dive in to characters who have a common theme, gambling.

#1: Gambit – A gambit is an opening move that has a degree of risk that is meant to give someone an advantage, a gamble if you will. Double down with the fact that the mutant named Gambit uses energy-charged playing cards and you see the connection. Gambit first appears in Uncanny X-Men #266

#2: Black Jack – Black Jack is proof that the connection goes back a log way. First introduced in Zip Comics #20 in the 1940’s. Everything about his gimmick is related to gambling, Black Jack is even named after a casino game. Policeman Jack Jones used to love playing blackjack and was lured into the den of some mobsters – but was eventually left to die in the room. However, the detective has an ace of spades card in his jacket pocket and used it to break out of the room. The card, which is crucial for success in a game of blackjack, suddenly became part of his identity. Of course, Jack Jones brought those mobsters to justice in the end as well.

Superheroes aren’t the only ones who use this theme, villains do to

#3: The Joker – By far, the most famous villain to use the theme, the Joker may not be a huge gambler, but his identity is directly related to gambling and games of chance. Joker first appears way back in Batman #1 from 1940. For starters and the most obvious, he is named after one of the most unique cards in the playing deck. Secondly, especially if you worked for him, just being around him is a big gamble. Just like games of chance he is exceptionally unpredictable. This only adds to the appeal of The Joker character.  His destructive nature, as portrayed in both the comics and recent films,  actually leads audiences to empathize with him. While there aren’t many casino games that use the Joker in deck, Jokers have been used on many slot machines as a theme, such as the Jokers Jewels, one of the more ‘insane’ games that has come to market, a game that includes a multiplier up to 160,000x your bet. You can almost picture this game in Gotham City.

#4: The Royal Flush Gang – There have been two teams that have gone by this name. The first was started by Amos Fortune, a connection right there, and were made up of a team consisting of Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and ten. The original team first appeared in Justice League of America #43 and used the suit of clubs on their costumes. A second group was later formed and used the suit of spaded.

#6: Roulette –  Veronica Sinclair is also known by the name Roulette. She first appears in JSA Secret Files #2. She has appeared on both Smallville and Supergirl TV shows. her connections to gambling run deep, not just in her name only. Her grandmother, the Golden Age Roulette, even runs a casino. Roulette runs her own games of chance by capturing superheroes and making them fight each other in an arena while viewers place bets on the outcomes of these fights.

#7: Gambler – Not talking about Kenny Rogers here. Gambler was one of the initial members of the Injustice Society, Gambler is a flagship superhero villain. He is just one in a line of gamblers and also likes to take significant risks, first appearing in Green Lantern #12.  His name comes from his grandfather, who was a mastermind criminal taking his own chances in robbing banks. He was friends with Amos Fortune, who started the first Royal Flush Gang, and who had “luck glands” to decipher who was and was not a lucky person.

#8: Chance – Gambling is all about taking risks, often calculated and strategic ones. You could call this chance or Spiderman’s namesake arch-enemy who does the same. Chance is the alter-ego of Nicholas Powell and likes to take risks when he is in combat. Not to forget that Chance is a professional gambler as well. Those with a good memory will remember that Chance’s first run-in with Spiderman involved a double-or-nothing bet back in Web of Spider-man #15


6 thoughts on “Playing on a Theme: Superhero and Villains with a Gambling Theme”

    1. Two face is a great one as well. Total game of chance, 50/50 shot on whether you are going to get killed. I liked Black Jack the best because it was so obscure.

    1. Good one. I had a long list of characters I was going to do but ended up just doing the 8. Long Shot is a great one. I was going to add Ben Grimm as well. He used to be a cigar chomping poker playing character as well.

  1. The Scarlet Witch’s original power set was simply changing the odds or probabilities of outcomes. Disney certainly changed all of that….

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