Comic books and the casino game roulette are two subsections of the entertainment industry that wouldn’t initially appear to be related to each other at all, with no obvious link between the two. However, a significant amount of evidence suggests that comic book creators have a curious fascination with the popular game of chance; for their part, casinos, too, seem to have more than a mere passing interest in comic book characters.
Once confined to land-based venues, the rise in popularity of online casinos has led to increased mainstream attention for roulette over the past several years, which may go some way to explain its rather recent breakthrough into popular culture. The total size of the online iGaming market is expected to reach $56.05 billion by 2018 – more than double its 2009 revenues – with casino games taking up the single largest market share of this, on 23%.
As far as online roulette is concerned, many operators now offer multiple variations on the original game: 32Red’s selection of roulette games, for instance, includes virtual versions such as Premier Roulette, French Roulette Gold and American Roulette, as well as a live variant in which a human dealer is responsible for hosting the game in real time. You don’t have to look far to see the influence of comic book franchises on online roulette, with entries such as Playtech’s themed variation Marvel Roulette, which is hosted by operators including Titan Casino and Genting Casino.
On the other side of the coin, there are multiple examples of comic book creators being inspired by the game. For instance, DC Comics’ Roulette is a super-villain who appears in multiple comics as an antagonist to the Justice League of America, having debuted in September 2001’s JSA Secret Files and Origins #2. The character’s connection to the casino game goes beyond merely her name, however: Roulette runs a gambling society in which fellow villains can bet on the outcome of fights they have orchestrated between superheroes.
Moreover, while Roulette features no conventional superpowers, she is extremely gifted at calculating odds and winnings. More recently, the character came to prominence during season nine of Smallville and season two of The CW’s Supergirl. In the latter, she appeared using her full name, Veronica Sinclair, a socialite who achieved her wealth through running a betting ring for an illegal alien fight club.
Similarly, Marvel Comics also features a female character named Roulette, albeit slightly lesser known than her DC counterpart. First appearing in 1984’s New Mutants #16-17, Roulette is a mutant who has the ability to alter probability by firing black “bad luck” and white “good luck” energy discs at her allies and opponents.
Furthermore, iconic comic book writer and former Marvel president Stan Lee also seems to have been inspired by roulette in one way or another: the season premiere of his 2016 Sky 1 drama, Lucky Man, saw roulette play a central role in the show’s plot. James Nesbitt’s detective Harry Clayton found himself on the receiving end of good fortune after finding himself in possession of an ancient bracelet; his winning big on a roulette table was used to illustrate his new-found luck to the reader.
If we take a moment to consider the origins of roulette, its ties to comic books may not actually be that far-fetched. According to the history of the game on 32Red, for instance, the co-creator of the game, Francois Blanc, was alleged to have sold his soul to the devil in order to learn the secrets of winning at the game – a plot that could well have been conceived by a comic book writer. With such a storied history, and with roulette now being embedded in the entertainment industry thanks to the rise of online casino games, it is likely we’ll start to see it appear even more in various forms of popular culture.