It might go without saying, but Nightcrawler is my favorite Marvel character. In my experience, I will find that one character that I really get invested in and want to read up on. When it comes to DC, that comes in the form of Tim Drake (Red Robin/Robin III), Roy Harper (Speedy/Arsenal), Joey Wilson (Jericho), and Ra’s al Ghul. Of course, I enjoy other characters from both Marvel and DC (ex. Wolverine, Evan Peters’ Quicksilver, Red Hood (Jason Todd), and Starfire), but there will usually be one or two characters that I will always return to.
I thought I would go over where my interest for Nightcrawler began, why I like him, and X-Men comics that I own, alongside Nightcrawler centered stories.
A Little Bit of Background on My Relationship with Marvel and DC
Before I jump right in, I feel like I should preface this stating how I was mostly a DC viewer growing up. A number of my favorite shows as a kid included Static Shock, Teen Titans, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, and Batman Beyond. I did watch Marvel shows like Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends and snippets of X-Men Evolution, enjoyed the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, as well as liking the first 2000’s Fantastic Four. I would certainly say I was more of a DC fan as a kids.
That kind of continued when I finally got into comics during the rise of DC’s Rebirth comic line after spending years as a slightly more avid manga reader. I started reading up on characters I liked and branched out and found new characters and series to enjoy. Recently, I feel like I’ve hit a wall with what to read next with DC. With Rebirth ending and not really knowing what to jump into next, I was at a bit of a stalemate. During this time is when I got interested in checking out Marvel content. More specifically Nightcrawler/X-Men. I cannot pinpoint exactly when or why it started, but it was in the last few months.
Currently, I’ve read through a good chunk of the original X-Men run, read through the 2003 run of Wolverine, a few smaller X-Men runs like X-Men Gold, X-Men Red, and All New X-Men, and am planning to jump into Sandman (DC/Gaiman) and getting into the X-Men run starting with House of X.
The Beginning: Where it Began
Jump to the latter half of 2021. I was trying to find more graphic novels to read, but I was at a bit of a stalemate. I fell into a bit of a DC slump. Rebirth was ending and The Joker War event, mainly what they did with the Nightwing portion, I think burnt me out a little. Nothing seemed to be grasping my interest except for Batman Urban Legends, which is where Tim Drake came out as bisexual. Side note: I actually purchased a hard copy of Batman Urban Legends not too long ago.
It would be around this time that I would start getting into Nightcrawler. And it involved a crossover in a DC community I am apart of. It’s there that this interest in Kurt returned. It would respawned an interest in Nightcrawler and be what lead to my getting into X-Men as a whole.
Then came the movies, which I am getting around to binging. I think the only reason I hadn’t was because of how the timeline diverged after First Class and/or Days of Future Past, and for whatever reason that confused me at first. That and the poor reception of The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Dark Phoenix. In hindsight, the timeline of the movies isn’t all that complicated, and I’m still going to watch all of movies, weaker ones included. The movies also had some stellar casting choices. Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy as Charles Xavier/Professor X, Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto, and Hugh Jackman were all iconic. A good chunk of the cast was also good. For instance, people really seem to enjoy Evan Peters’ Peter (Pietro) Maximoff, myself included.
And of course, there’s Kurt Wagner. Portrayed by Alan Cummings in X2 and Kodi Smit-McPhee in Apocalypse and Dark Phoenix, I would say both did well with the character. I kind of like Kodi Smit-McPhee’s a little better, but Alan Cummings did good too. I only wish either appearance confirmed Nightcrawler’s relation with Mystique, his mother. Heck, they could have confirmed both of Nightcrawler’s parents in Apocalypse and Dark Phoenix since Azazel, his father, appeared in First Class (and later confirmed dead) and Mystique was present since First Class.
That’s were it all began. An interest in Nightcrawler’s X-Men Evolution would go dormant until a crossover event reignited by interest in the character. And his portrayals in the movies have caught my interest.
The Character: Why I Like Him
Why do I like Nightcrawler? There’s a lot to like about him, I think. In terms of design, he looks pretty cool. His abilities are neat and his weaknesses make sense. For me, it comes down to personality, backstory, and what he represents.
His backstory. There is a lot that went wrong in his life, despite what his more positive outlook might suggest. His mother abandoned him as a baby. The circus that he was raised in drugged and used him. Said circus was also going to sell him to be a road side attraction if not for Margali Szardos, his adopted mother, freeing him. And because of a promise he made, Kurt had to kill his adopted brother when he lost his mind and killed a bunch of people, not that the mob knew.
I think his past is something that helps show how despite how terrible things can be, people can still come out of it on top. It might not be easy, but it is possible. Life didn’t give Nightcrawler much peace prior to joining the X-Men. Margali and her biological children certainly love him like family, but the circus they were apart of wanted to exploit him. And the reason Charles found him being pursued was because the mob chasing him thought he killed Stefan Szardos and the missing people, when in actuality, Stefan killed the missing people and Kurt only killed Stefan out of self-defense and a promise he made to Stefan, where if Stefan went off the deep end, Kurt would stop him. Yet, he never became cruel later in life, rather, he was a better person than those who wronged him.
I also kind of like how he got the last name Wagner. At least originally. I’m not sure if Marvel ever retconned the whole thing where Mystique was married to Baron Christian Wagner and had an affair with Azazel, which later lead to Kurt’s conception, and that being where Kurt got his last name despite not being the baron’s biological son. Originally, Kurt took on the last name Wagner because of a priest to housed him after Margali released him and he was being pursued. Father Wagner gave Kurt a place to stay, despite Kurt’s “demonic” appearance. This is also where Kurt’s teleporting would come into effect as he would use it when Herr Getmann’s men came for him. He did end up leaving the church, but Kurt didn’t forget the priest’s kindness, taking on the last name Wagner in his honor.
As for what Kurt represents, I feel he fits into a few different categories. I’ve mentioned how he represents good people rising up from bad situations, which is one thing he can represent. Something else he represents is how people shouldn’t judge things based on how they appear. The old Never Judge a Book by It’s Cover saying if you will. He might look evil/demonic, but is one of the most kind hearted and saintly people out there. That’s something that also makes his friendship with Logan great and so symbolic. Both of them are considered monsters in some way, externally (Kurt) or internally (Logan). Yet, both are also human. Logan has gone onto say how Kurt is one of the most saintly guys he’s met, and Kurt, despite knowing how gruesome his job can be, sees the good in Logan and knows that he’s not an animal or evil.
One other thing I feel Kurt represents, and this could just be me, is irony. He’s a “demon” yet he’s Catholic. He’s morally good, while his parents would be considered morally bad (though Mystique could be morally grey given she isn’t purely evil and has helped her children). Both of which I feel perfectly define what irony is.
Reading Between the Lines: Comics I’ve Read and Comics I Own
As far as X-Men comics with Nightcrawler as a central character, I’ve read and own several. Of course there is the X-Men run in the 70’s, starting with Giant Sized X-Men #1 by Chris Claremont. That run, which does go on for several years, is recommended by quite a few people who want to start X-Men comics. It’s a classic and a good place for a start. I don’t own any of the Claremont run, but I do have a list of issues that I’d like to purchase one day. A few other series I’ve read through in their entirety include X-Men Gold, Extraordinary X-Men. I’ve read some of Wolverine’s 2003 run, some of Wolverine’s first solo, Second Coming, the story where Nightcrawler dies, and one volume of Chuck Austen’s Uncanny X-Men. Specifically the Trial of Juggernaut volume since it had the notoriously bad story, The Draco, which I only read after I learned about Kurt’s father through the First Class movie and his appearance in Amazing X-Men volume one (the one where Nightcrawler is brought back to life).
I like Azazel, and don’t mind him as Kurt’s father. It’s a bit of an unpopular opinion, but that’s okay. I was going to read The Draco either way because I wanted to see how bad it was. But since I liked Azazel in his other appearances, The Draco didn’t tarnish it much, outside of thinking that the story could have been a whole lot better.
A few other comics I own, but have yet to start, include House of M, Inferno, Giant-Sized X-Men volume #1 (2020), Way of X, X-Men (2020) volume one, Amazing X-Men volume 1 The Quest for Nightcrawler, The Hellfire Gala, Wolverine (2020) volumes 1-3, The Death of Wolverine, The Return of Wolverine, Wolverine: Weapon X the Gallery Edition, and Wolverine the Deluxe Edition. I might be missing one or two, but those are the ones I know I own. Nightcrawler also appears in a number of them.
I would certainly say that my collection is very Nightcrawler and Wolverine involved. Yes, the broader X-Men comics do have the rest of the X-Men, but if there was a pattern, that would be it. Which is by no means a problem. Everyone reads comics a bit differently. I will certainly read a series if it interests me, but I also like reading comics with my favorite characters. It’s a reader by reader basis.
While I would recommend all of these, if you are looking for Nightcrawler reads, I would recommend: Claremont’s run starting with Giant-Sized X-Men #1, Nightcrawler (2003), Wolverine by Greg Rucka #6, for both a great story with Logan and Kurt and a gem of a censor passing cover, Second Coming, Amazing X-Men, Nightcrawler (2014), House of M, X-Men Gold, X-Men (2020), Giant-Sized X-Men (2020), Return of Wolverine, Way of X, and Inferno. There are more out there, I am still working my way through X-Men comics.
And as for movies, I’d recommend X2, X-Men Apocalypse, and X-Men Dark Phoenix. I know the last one is considered more of a miss, just like the Dark Phoenix adaptation before it (The Last Stand), but thought I would include it.
BAMF: The Conclusion
Though not X-Men’s most popular member, Nightcrawler is one that is generally liked. For me, a combination of his personality, backstory, adaptations, and what he symbolically represents is what I enjoy. I also really enjoy his friendship with Logan. I hope you enjoyed this little deep dive into why I like Kurt Wagner.
Now I leave you with the following. What are your thoughts on Nightcrawler? What are your favorite adaptations of Nightcrawler? Favorite stories? Who’s your favorite X-Men member?