Friendships are wonderful little things. Anyone can form friendships with anybody. Maybe they have similar interests and/or backgrounds. Maybe they have some similarities and differences and those differences do not hinder a healthy friendship.
Friendships can be found anywhere. School. Work. At the park and so on. Even online. So long as people can interact with each other, friendships can be made. You’ll even find friendships in media, be it shows like Degrassi, movies like The Outsiders, or books like Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants.
The point is, friendships can be found anywhere and everywhere. They are a significant relationship in everyday life, and can be with anyone.
Now, there are a lot of friendships in media that people will know of and/or enjoy. A few examples include, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson from Sherlock Holmes, Meriadoc “Merry” Brandybuck and Peregrin “Pippin” Took from Lord of the Rings, Samwise “Sam” Gamgee and Frodo Baggins from Lord of the Rings, Han Solo and Chewbacca from Star Wars, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) and Flash (Barry Allen), and Woody and Buzz from Toy Story.
If there’s one friendship that might not get as talked about, especially outside of the X-Men sphere, it’s the friendship between Logan (Wolverine) and Kurt Wagner (Nightcrawler). Compared to the likes of the Scott, Jean, and Logan trifecta, Wanda and Pietro Maximoff (Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver), Mystique, Rogue, and Destiny, Mystique and Kurt, and the Erik and Charles friendship, this might not be a relationship people think about when someone says “X-Men relationships”.
So I thought I would take the time to discuss what I believe one of the best friendships in comics. These two have such a close friendship and is one that should be appreciated for what it is. Because even with how different these
Isn’t that just a passionate quote? And it really says a lot about how people view Logan and just how different Kurt was in that regard. This quote also says a lot about being human, something both characters have an odd relationship with.
But what does it mean to be human? That’s something that can cause confusion or understanding depending on how you approach the question.
There’s the physical/biological side, where one would be able to identify the differences between say a human and a panda for instance. Or in the case of Science Fiction and comics, the differences between human and alien. Some aliens look human, but have superhuman abilities (Superman) and those that don’t (Martian Manhunter) and have different abilities and anatomy.
In a metaphorical sense, ‘being human’ can refer to imperfections or emotions. As the old saying goes, ‘nobody’s perfect’ and that seems to be synonymous with being human. And the emotional side of it refers to how, as human, people are supposed to have emotions. People are not robots and emotions are a key factor into that.
For X-Men, and more specifically Logan and Kurt, being human seems to refer to how good/kind hearted/pure a person is. And despite mutants being, well mutants, they are as human as anyone else. And considering X-Men was inspired by and originally an allegory for the Civil Rights Movement, being released on ’63, its safe to say that a feeling of being human is prevalent for this series.
And in the case of Logan and Kurt, being human has a double meaning. Both characters are known for being human (pure/integral or in appearance) in one sense and monsters in others (appearance and actions).
Logan: Human in Appearance, Animalistic in Nature
Starting with Logan, one would say he looks generally human. Barring the adamantium skeleton and claws. He could pass for human more so than Kurt, not even needing an image inducer to do so. When it comes to looking human, Logan certainly passes the appearance portion, much like a great number of other mutants. It’s only when the claws are drawn when he doesn’t.
But on the inside , he would be considered a monster. A man with a violent streak, who isn’t afraid to kill and with a berserk mean streak, it easy to see why people would be more scared of him and see him as a monster. And Logan knows it. He also has a more cynical world view. And while not inherently bad, it may make approaching him that much harder.
Kurt: Demonic in Appearance, Saintly at Heart
For Kurt, it’s the exact opposite. Being labeled as a monster and a demon were things that he grew up with. He was drugged by the circus, abandoned as a baby, even chased by a mob when they thought he killed some kids despite only killing his adopted brother in self-defense and a promise (if his adopted brother ever went insane, he promised to do whatever it took to stop him).
Yet, Kurt is the most pure hearted mutant out there. Logan even went as far as to say Kurt was the closest thing to a saint there is. While maybe not perfect, he is a wonderful human being. And that’s even more apparent when you consider who his parents are. He represents never judging people based on their appearances.
Time and time again, they show that there is good in them. Even if Logan is harsher in his methods, he does have a kinder side. And Kurt, despite looking like he would hunt someone down and kill them, has a heart of gold.
Logan and Kurt
For them, being human is less of a feeling of normalcy, but something that shows how good they are as people. That while having faults and at times making not great choices, they are no less human than the average person and deserve respect.
Seeing their humanity is something that makes their friendship worthwhile. In a world where people’s humanity can be forgotten at times, friendships like these can help humanize people. That’s not to say that everything that criminals have done should be sympathized with, and that certain actions are inexcusable. Merely that the average person is human and should be understood, and sometimes it can be easy to forget a person’s humanity in the heat of a moment. And that’s what this friendship can symbolize.
This ties in with the previous point, but in regards to how well both characters understand each other and respect their humanity. Humanity and psychology is something that’s noted when it comes to Logan and Kurt, but it’s not always understood. Not every X-Men will have as deep of an understanding as these two do as friends. Even less so for the average non-mutant. There are a few people who have a general understanding of the two and why they are the way they are.
One example would be Storm. When Kurt died, she understood that Logan was grieving despite disapproving that his anger was getting the better of him with some of the students. Yes, he shouldn’t have been on the offensive when they were just trying to light some candles, but she knew he was grieving and that he thought they were taking Kurt’s belongings. She also understood Logan wishing he had killed more people if it meant Kurt lived. Even if it meant this moment would have been their last. She also understood where Kurt was coming from when dealing with a case with a child and demons. He was taking his time, but understood why he was.
Out of the two, Kurt would probably be considered the morally pure of them. Not just because he’s Catholic and that somehow gives him higher morality (people can be kind hearted whether they are religious or not), but because his character has always been presented as forgiving, kind hearted, and wanting to understand. Him being Catholic may be part of the reason, but not the only reason.
That doesn’t mean he is without flaws. Like everyone else, he’s not perfect. He has flaws and has made mistakes.
His biggest personal struggle comes in the form of his trauma growing up and showing his true colors. Because the mob was so intent on killing him, and the circus treating him as less than human, being self conscious about his appearance is reasonable.
Logan, meanwhile, is the more pragmatic of the two. Having lived for more than a century, it should be no surprise that he views the world more coldly. He experienced wars starting with the Civil War, was experimented on, suffered losses, and was used as a government tool.
That’s not to say that he isn’t a good person in some ways. He may choose to kill, but his motive is not one of malicious intent or animalistic desires (anymore).
Like Kurt he has his own internal struggles. His memory being one. Being treated as an animal and experimented on is another. The world he was exposed to makes him a lot more cynical and the horrors he’s seen traumatic. Yet, it’s being treated and perceived as an animal that really strikes a nerve. Logan knows he’s done a lot of things in his life, some that can be more rationalized than others. And while part of him may be used to the reactions he gets, he seems to have this drive to prove he’s not some animal that kills for nothing.
Some people may be able to understand their plight, however, the people who seem to understand the most about Kurt and Logan is Logan and Kurt. There’s at least one instance for each that stand out (though there are more). Wolverine (2003) #6 and Classic X-Men #4 The Big Dare.
Wolverine #6 (2003) by Greg Rucka
In Wolverine #6 (2003), when discussing how Logan killed twenty seven men to rescue hostages of a cult, Kurt tries to understand the reasoning behind it. He wasn’t looking for an excuse, but to better understand of Logan’s situation. He argues that had Logan acted in malice by killing innocent people, Logan would become the very thing he hated, and Kurt would try to stop him.
However, if the men needed to be punished for their evils, they got what they got what they deserved. Considering what Logan witnessed, justified would be pretty accurate. Kurt then uses a wolf allegory, asking if a wolf is evil for culling the sickness out of a heard. Said allegory can be interpreted as wolves not being evil for plucking off the weakest link. Or in the case of Logan, how killing the sicknesses (evils) of the world he is not evil for doing so. Probably a little bit of both.
After having time to think it over, Logan states how he’s not an animal, to which Kurt affirms that he isn’t. Because while Kurt’s allegory was metaphorical, one of Logan’s struggles is being seen as an animal. Something he has issue with in the past. Kurt knows this and has never once seen Logan as an animal (confirmed by Logan at Kurt’s funeral).
This shows how understanding, in this case Kurt, can be. Having an understanding of people is something worth having. Especially in friendships. Even if agreement isn’t always in sight, understanding and respecting friends is something worth knowing. And while there are lines, it never hurts to better understand another person.
The Big Dare (Classic X-Men #4, 1986)
One notable way that Logan accepts Kurt’s humanity comes in the form of The Big Dare. While he would later go on to say that Kurt is the closest thing to a saint there is, it’s this issue that cements their friendship while also trying to help Kurt get more comfortable walking around as his true self. Blue fur, tail, and all.
So Logan dares Kurt to walk around a town they were in without his image inducer. Note that he did not inherit Mystique’s shapeshifting, so he uses an image inducer to blend in. Logan wasn’t being malicious in doing so. He is well aware of how people treated Kurt in his past and doesn’t berate Kurt for hiding because of it. Logan just wants Kurt to be confident in his own skin, and to do so, needs to get comfortable being around people without hiding his appearance. Which is also gets brought up in the previously cited Wolverine issue.
Kurt agrees, and is surprised when most people seem unbothered by his appearance. Compared to the mob who attacked him, most people were either unfazed or curious about Kurt’s appearance, not malicious in either case. The only exception was with a gentleman who, upon realizing Kurt wasn’t wearing a costume, was going to attack Kurt. Logan retaliates by tackling the guy and going on the offensive, to the point Kurt has to separate the two.
Even though there was a bump in the trial, Kurt appreciated what Logan did for him and Logan replies with, ‘what are friends for?’ So not only does this issue confirm their friendship, but shows how having Kurt walk around as himself helped Kurt gain some confidence with it back.
Logan does this to help Kurt accept the part of himself he’s had to hide. He questions how Kurt expects to be accepted when even he won’t accept himself. There are things in life and relationships that will have to be accepted. Why that’s important in a friendship is because, whether it be a boundary, a limit, or what have you , being able to accept who you are is important. And sometimes it’s a friend that can helps you see it.
Both characters have died. Both have been revived. The reason I bring up death in regards to their friend is how they approached the others’ deaths. It was never brushed aside, even with how meaningless death can be in comics at time, they grieved, and they never forgot how impactful they were.
Now Logan has died a few more times than Kurt has, with the whole soul shenanigans that rendered Kurt nigh-immortal. But that’s not to say Kurt never grieved over the loss of Logan. While I may not have read every Logan death, one that sticks out as far as Kurt grieving is in Nightcrawler #7 (2014). This series picks up after Kurt’s revival at the beginning of 2013’s Amazing X-Men.
About half way through this short lived series (issue #7 from what I recall), readers get to see Kurt processing the death of Kurt. And though we do not get to see Kurt shedding any tears, we do get to see how he processes the loss via an internal conversation. In a similar way to Logan, he wonders what he could have done differently to prevent his death, but with the added acceptance/hindsight to know that there was nothing he could do.
Using Jean as a comparison, readers get to see how Logan’s death hurt him. He’s a good friend to Jean, and did miss and grieve for her, but the fact that he admits that losing Logan in the present, hurt so much more. That alone, goes to show how much he cares about Logan. And though expressed more than shown, it doesn’t need to paint a picture to know how good of friends they are. The last few decades already helped establish it. Though we would get little things here and there that references parts of their friendship. Like when he gives Old Man Logan a framed picture of himself, much like Logan had decades prior.
And then there’s Logan. When Kurt died while protecting Hope Summers, loss only begins to describe how much Kurt’s death effected him. He nearly attacked a student, thinking they were going to take stuff from his room when they were only going to leave a candle. He regrets not killing more people, feeling like if he had Kurt would be alive. He bitterly hopes that his sacrifice was worth it
But most of all, the connection they made is significant to Logan. Not many people have been close to Logan, whether it be out of fear of him or Logan generally being a loner. Logan has a hard time making connections with people, so when he loses one of the few people he has, it only makes sense that he’d be broken up about it.
While showing emotion between friends is always a good thing, how the characters express them is one thing. And while they might not always express their emotions to each other, they know them well enough to recognize it.
Logan is typically known for exhibiting one of three kinds of expressions. Hardened realist, gruff loner, and angry. He’s not one for expressing emotions a lot. Love seen in a few instances, and sadness even less. The usual picture viewers get to see is a stoic or angry character hardened by his life experiences.
That’s not to say that Logan is without any “softer” emotions. After all, he has had a few loves, almost marrying Mariko at one point. I can also think of emotions surrounding Kurt’s death that he exhibited. Guilt that he couldn’t prevent it. Sadness and anger as he tried to cope. The one tear shed when he was reunited with Kurt before they fought Azazel and Kurt was revived. He can be a little more open with Kurt, be it with his philosophy, thoughts or feelings.
Kurt, meanwhile, isn’t as closed off emotionally. He will get angry, flirty, and sad. And if there was one way he reacts that’s notable is his self-consciousness as a result of trauma. Usually, he tries to appear happy and friendly, but does experience negative emotions and dower moments.
So when he appears withdrawn and depressed, like after he was resurrected in Amazing X-Men or when he was unusually quiet in Nation X #1, it’s something Logan is able to pick up on. Not only that, but try to get to the bottom of what’s eating away at him.
They are able to read each other better than others might. Both know the other’s quirks and demeanor well enough to know when something is wrong. They also aren’t afraid to be open with each other.
It’s also worth noting that they aren’t afraid of things like contact. While Kurt is certainly much more approach able, scenes like the one pictured here show that they aren’t afraid to show how much they care. Or at the very least the writer’s and artists, aren’t afraid to express how deep of a friendship they have.
While not trying to overgeneralize male friendships as a whole, in media, I don’t think it’s wrong to say that it isn’t common for two guy friends to express certain emotions or ‘hug it out’. Unless it was played for comedic effect or the media allows it because of the content (like a drama or something). Of course, entertainment has evolved in a lot of ways, but typically, it’s more likely that viewers will see girl friends hugging than guys (with other gestures like fist bumps or something as an alternative).
So little moments like Wolverine and Nightcrawler hugging in purgatory upon being reunited, while not groundbreaking, are moments that can be appreciated.
I conclude with a discussion on why the friendship between Wolverine and Nightcrawler is important. I’ve gone over a few reasons why/how it works, so I will only recap those briefly, while also adding a few more comments.
In summary, the fact that these two characters are complete opposites, can understand their quirks, and do have genuine emotional reactions with each other, especially when the other dies, Logan and Kurt make for an iconic duo. They might not always agree or share the same beliefs, but they respect/understand them.
With that said allow me to close out with one last question…
What Makes Their Friendship so Important?
One thing that has been consistent about X-Men is it’s message of acceptance. Being created during the Civil Right’s Movement, it’s easy to see why it would be. And when compared to DC, some people may consider Marvel a bit more relatable (though that’s not to say DC doesn’t have relatability whatsoever). Of course, given the nature of comics and superheroes as a genre, they aren’t as relatable on a technical level, but readers may be able to relate to Peter Parker as an everyday Joey was compared to billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne.
Circling back to X-Men, it’s safe to say that acceptance is it’s biggest symbol/theme. Not only that, but it is a theme that is timeless and will always be relatable. That’s something that make X-Men as timeless as it is. Because beneath the adamantium claws, teleporting, and psionic prowess, are characters who fight for acceptance and equality.
Acceptance is also a big factor in Wolverine and Kurt’s friendship. Both characters have the hardest time being accepted by others. A big factor of that comes down to perception and how people could fear someone as violent and cold as Logan or as demonic looking as Kurt. Both deal with their fair share of grief and panic from the masses.
Yet, somehow, when these two are put on a team, they almost instantly connect. Logan quickly comes up with a nickname for Kurt (Elf) and Kurt isn’t immediately discourage by Logan’s gruff nature. Both characters are considered monsters by their peers, the average person, yet somehow found each other and connected. Kurt was the first to learn Logan’s name, and Logan the first to push Kurt towards self-acceptance.
The weight of the world’s perceived disdain with them creates a sense of loneliness. Yet, that distance created a relatability and spark between them. Both characters needed someone who could understand them. Someone who wasn’t afraid of them. Someone who cared about who they were as people. And that is exactly what they got when they met each other.
That’s what gives this friendship such an impact. When the rest of the world was against them, they found each other, saw the best in each other, and proved that neither were as monstrous as people made them out to be. They saw them as the people they were and accepted each other for who they were.