The worlds of Marvel and DC Comics often draw from real life when constructing characters and themes.
Stan Lee’s X-Men were inspired by real-life civil rights activists, as explained in an article by History, whilst other themes have been used in the background of characters.
Bruce Wayne, for example, explored themes of loss and revenge, with his parents dying early and him later gaining revenge on evil characters from the same world. The Green Lantern, believe it or not, was inspired by a subway accident.
Often, these backstories draw on other themes too, with poker being one. There are obvious characters which have poker parallels or inspirations, with one or two others who have seen poker used as a mechanism for furthering their development or plotlines.
Poker is a game of skill, one many people can relate to, or pick up and learn. The different abilities required – cunning, plotting and even a little fortune, fit well with comic story development, but also draw people from all walks of life to the game and it has become increasingly popular and accessible in recent years. The variety of how to play guides on partypoker give beginners helpful tutorials and tips on how to become better players, meaning they can indulge in the game that inspired so much media. They might have been drawn to the tables by the film Rounders, a song such as The Gambler, or they might be there because of one of these superhero characters.
Gambit, from the Marvel X-Men stable, is an obvious choice when looking to poker-inspired superheroes. One of his weapons is a deck of cards charged with kinetic energy and he exudes the personality of a poker player; careful and cunning without ever giving much away. Whether it is the physical imagery or the more subtle elements of his personality, Gambit is instantly recognizable as having a poker influence.
Iron Man does not have the same imagery around him, but the character of Tony Stark is a keen poker player. He even missed an awards ceremony to play games at a casino, according to Iron Man Fandom. That fits with another superhero of sorts, although not a comic book one, James Bond. Both were international playboys of seemingly infinite wealth who often seek the refuge of a poker table as comfort, or as a plot device.
Avid fans will know that The Thing is a keen poker player, with one 2006 run showing him to be wealthy and indulging in a game or two of poker. The final issue of The Thing’s series is one giant game of poker, organized to celebrate his “Bar Mitzvah”, or the 13th anniversary since Ben Grimm became the mutant. It is a classic example of poker being used to strengthen a backstory and perhaps add a touch of human to a mutant.
Think of the word ‘Joker’ and you instantly think of either Batman’s nemesis or a deck of cards. Whilst that imagery is loosely based on poker, the Joker has been known to play cards and play up to his character’s devious nature. One episode of the animated Batman series had Joker playing with a range of other villains, whilst Alan Moore’s Poker Party painting depicts Joker as part of a game including Batman and freedom fighter ‘V’.