For the first time in a long time, I found myself enjoying a new series. That series being the recently released The Sandman series on Netflix. Going into this series, I was pretty hopeful. And having read the first two volumes, which this season covers, I can honestly say it was a pretty faithful adaptation.
Since this show is still relatively new, I will avoid spoilers as much as possible. But in any case, POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD.
When Morpheus, better known as the Sandman and Dream, is captured in an attempt to resurrect a man’s son, he spends the better part of a century (one hundred and five years to be exact) trapped and without his tools. Upon his release, Morpheus is on a mission to retrieve what was stolen from him and get revenge.
Along the way, he will return to his home in the Dream World, meet Matthew, his new raven companion, and visit Lucifer Morningstar as he retrieves what was once lost. And as the dust settles, he will be reunited with his sister, the ever charming and insightful, Death and learns of someone known as The Vortex, which could prove catastrophic if not approached accordingly.
This first season covers the first two volumes of The Sandman series, Preludes and Nocturnes and The Dollhouse.
When it comes to positives, I think there are quite a few. The most significant for me being, the story, the characters, the casting, and how it translated as an adaptation.
I also like the darker fantasy tone it had. As someone who enjoys fantasy, it’s always nice to fins a good series, book, or what have you in this genre. And The Sandman does that really well for me.
Its also worth noting that Neil Gaiman, the creator of The Sandman comics. So while I do think they did really well adapting it, it’s neat that Neil Gaiman did have a hand in the production. So I would hope he enjoyed how the show came out.
As a story, The Sandman is an intriguing one. The idea of the personifications of things like dream, death, desire, despair, delirium, destiny, and destruction living among us is a concept that can certainly create some interesting and philosophical story. And it was.
In general, what I think this season did really well was the approach and set up. It sets up the world and characters well. It knew what it wanted to do with it’s story and setting and did it in a way that I felt was well executed.
As an adaptation of the first two volumes of the comic, I think it did really well. While Neil Gaiman had a hand in it’s production, it was able to, not only tell the story pretty accurately, but have necessary changes and additions that worked.
The characters were also interesting. Each one having their own story to tell. There’s Rose, who’s looking to find her brother after they were separated when they were younger, Doctor Destiny (a.k.a. John Dee), who, after escaping an Asylum, wants “everyone to live with their truth” and for a “more honest” world, and Corinthian, who wants to be his own person and prevent Morpheus from stopping him. Though not all of the characters we get to see outside of The Endless, these are just a few examples.
While only four of the seven Endless (the group of entities that Morpheus is apart of) appear in this season, they were all unique and fit what they personify well. Morpheus takes his job as the ruler of dreams very seriously, knowing how it effects the waking world and how destructive the lose of it can be.
Desire, though not appearing as often as Morpheus, makes a great impression and sets up what to expect with their relationship with Morpheus. As well as their twin Despair, who does make a brief appearance. Should a season 2 get green lit, which I’m confident will happen, I feel that these two will get a lot more attention and development.
And then there’s Death, the oldest Endless introduces thus far, and the second eldest over all. She was the one that Alex Burgess was looking to capture when he got Mopheus instead.
I do believe that the casting choices were great. I know casting can cause debate on initial reveal and sometimes after, but I think that the casting choices were good. Some of my favorites include Mason Alexander Park as Desire, David Thewlis as Doctor Destiny, Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death, Vivienne Acheampong as Lucienne, and Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer. Tom Sturridge also pulls off Morpheus really well. Not only in appearance, but in voice too. He sounded how I would expect Morpheus to, so I really enjoyed his portrayal.
And of course, there are other casting choices I thought were really well too. Even in voice work like Patton Oswald as Matthew the raven and Mark Hamil as Merv Pumpkinhead.
Overall, I do think that the casting choice was good. It’s also pretty diverse, which I think is pretty cool. I also think it works. For instance, with Desire being very ambiguous as far as their identity (in the comics Desire is often referred to as sibling). So casting Mason Alexander Park (They/Them) in the role, I feel was a good choice. Plus, I really think they bring a real charm to the character, and I can’t wait to see how the character develops from here (Death too, because I really want to see more of her too).
I don’t really have that many negatives for this season. However, while I might think this show is really good and a great adaptation, I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s flawless. That said, my critiques are very minute.
One being that I feel like it could have been an episode or two longer. It might not need it, but I feel like another episode or two would be a nice way to help develop things a little further. That’s not to say I think it’s rushed, which I don’t. I just feel that there could have been an episode that made helps explore Desire a little (without giving too much away), and maybe an episode that explored Rose and Jed Walker past a little more. Again, not exactly necessary, but something. Plus, Desire will probably get more development and screen time in later seasons.
That’s all I can really think of as far as critiques. I suppose upon a rewatch, I might find something else. However, I don’t really have many critiques of the show at this time.
I would give this show a ninety percent. I do think they did a great job adapting the first two volumes of Neil Gaiman’s iconic comic. The casting and characters were great, the story was told really well, and it has an aesthetic that really fits this gothic, horror fantasy. The effects were also really good too. And while it might have one or two flaws in the form of maybe being a little longer, overall, I think this is a really good show and I would recommend it.
Of course, I know it might not be a show for everyone, which is fine. The comic and the Netflix adaptation are a bit dark (I’ve heard that the diner scene was kind of unsettling for one or two people), so I wouldn’t expect it to be for everyone. However, if you are looking for something a little different and/or a dark fantasy, I would recommend it.
With that said, I leave you with the following questions: Have you seen the show yet? If so, what were your thoughts? Are you planning to watch it? Since it’s pretty much a guarantee that a second season will be made, what are some of your hopes going into it? Do you think it will, or should, cover the next two volumes (Dream County and Seasons of Mist)? If you have read the comics, do you think it was a good/faithful adaptation?
What if I told you I only recently got into Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series? Much like Watchmen, Sandman was a series I always know about, but never got into it when I was younger. It wasn’t until I finally started getting into graphic novels/comics and after I was given a recommendation that I checked out both. Watchmen has become one of my favorite comics and I am steadily making my way through Sandman (I’m currently two volumes in and own the first six with plans to get the entire series) and I am enjoying it.
With Netflix’s adaptation coming up fast, I thought I would take a moment to discuss a couple of hopes/expectations I have going into the series. Three to be exact. I plan to watch the series when it’s released, since I am interested in it and it’s one show I am excited to watch. Whether I watch a few episodes a day or binge the entire season in one, we’ll see.
Following the Comic as Closely as Possible, While Still Adding Its Own Flair
When it comes to adaptations, creative liberties are expected and usually fine. Sometimes things get cut or added for the sake of adaptation. And sometimes somethings are tweaked.
For example, Peter Jackson removing the scenes Tom Bombadil when making the Lord of the Rings trilogy. While a case could be made that he should have been left in the movie, since he was where the Hobbits got Bill the horse, I don’t think cutting Tom Bombadil was a bad call. Especially since he didn’t really return after his appearance in Fellowship of the Ring.
Back to Sandman, I do think it should follow along with the comic. Not to a tee perhaps, but still following along as close as possible. It would appear that the first season will follow the first two volumes (Preludes & Nocturnes and The Doll House) and is planned to be a faithful adaptation with a few tweaks (ex. the series taking place in 2021 as opposed to 1989 and Morpheus/Dream being imprisoned for 105 years as opposed to 75). And with Neil Gaiman having a hand in this series, I’m sure he will approve of the direction this series takes.
All and all, I am hopeful that this will be a pretty faithful adaptation with tweaks and creative liberties taken as needed.
Good Special Effects When Needed.
Special effects and CGI are things that can be either really good or really bad depending on the execution. For instance, The Mummy Returns is known for its dated CGI, specifically when it came to the Scorpion King, while Lord of the Rings, which used practical and special effects, would be considered a good use of special effects and CGI.
While I may not be trained in using CGI and the like, as a viewer, I do know how bad effects can ruin or diminish the quality of a property. Put it simply, I would hope for good special effects as well as it not being overly used. I know that the series would need special effects given the nature of the series, but that doesn’t mean it needs to rely too heavily on it. So long as it’s presentable and not too heavily relied on, I think that will be okay.
A Good Time Viewing
As odd as it might sound, so long as it’s a fun/enjoyable time. Granted, the series does tackle some grim/dark topics, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed. So long as it is done well and in a way that can be enjoyed, that’s all I can ask for.
I know some of it’s topics won’t be for everyone, which is okay. I wouldn’t expect it to be. I would just hope it tackles everything in a good and tactful way.
And even if it is dark, I think that’s something that should be explored. Not every show will have themes and stories that are positive. That’s not to say that there shouldn’t be good or positive moments (I do feel like Death will have a few of these), just that it shouldn’t be afraid to tackle some of the darker themes and stories from the comics.
And even though I think this can, and likely will, take a darker tone thematically, that doesn’t mean it won’t have positive or good moments. Shows can mix positive and negative traits. Some shows just might lean on some more than others, with sprinkled in aspects of the other, while other shows balance the two. So long as it is well written, it can be enjoyable.
I know open the floor up to you. Are you excited for The Sandman? Are there any expectations you have for the show? Is there a character, or characters, you can’t wait to see brought to life? Are there any series you’d like to see get adaptation into a televised/animated series?
For anyone who is familiar with Teen Titans, this is a notorious arc. Acting as a sort of climax for Slade get revenge on the Titans for the death of his son Grant (who’s death was caused by trying and failing to mimic the experiment that gave Slade his enhanced abilities), The Judas Contract would go down as an iconic and controversial arc. This is an arc that has been adapted three times (three and three quarters if you want to include Jericho and Slade’s backstory in Titans and Terra having traitorous/evil tendencies in Teen Titans GO!), in Teen Titans (2003), Young Justice, and the 2017 animated movie of the same name.
I want to discuss the Teen Titans adaptation of this story that took place over the course of its second season as well as the 2017 animated movie. Both tell the same story, but one was geared more towards a younger demographic and the other rated more so for adults. However, I would argue that the 2003 adaptation was a much better than the 2017 movie. But before I do, allow me to take a moment to discuss what made The Judas Contract controversial as well as my general thoughts on the story and how these adaptations where different.
Why So Controversial?
The reason that this particular arc has garnered it’s questionable reputation was for the relationship between Terra and Slade “Deathstroke” Wilson. Mostly the fact that a grown man was having a relationship with a teenager. While I cannot speak in depth about the reasons behind it, I know that Wolfman and Pérez (rest in peace) did decide to go with it to shock readers. They did want to go with Terra as the traitor of the group, which I can understand. Some of the choices made with it, like the relationship and her appearance when with him, not so much.
My General Thoughts on The Judas Contract
While I certainly agree that the Terra and Slade relationship was questionable at best, to put it mildly, I don’t think it was a completely terrible story. And while I would consider Deathstroke as one of my favorite DC villains, Ra’s al Ghul being my all time favorite DC villain, I won’t defend the relationship between him and Terra. I don’t think it should be, and I assume Wolfman and Pérez wouldn’t either (even if they have said it was meant to be as shocking as possible). I definitely think it’s one of those arcs that has historical importance in some ways, even if it isn’t a good story.
What I liked about Judas Contract was the fact it was Nightwing’s debut, it expanded on Deathstroke’s backstory and family, and introduced one of my favorite comic book characters in the form of Joey “Jericho” Wilson. I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that Nightwing is iconic and a fan favorite, who needed a proper introduction, even if it was here. And Jericho is an LGBTQ+ character (currently bisexual), so I wouldn’t want to scrap this story and potentially scrap what would become representation later on (the thought about making Jericho gay, but ultimately didn’t due to him potentially coming off as a stereotype). Because of that, I don’t think Judas Contract was a total loss.
Teen Titans vs The Judas Contract: What Were the Differences?
The biggest differences these adaptations had, was the target audience. Teen Titans was created for a much younger audience, as such, a lot of the more mature aspects of Terra and Slade’s relationship had to be censored. Instead of making her a traitor from the get go, she was conned into going to Slade for help controlling her powers and betrayed the Titans because of him manipulated her into becoming his apprentice.
The Judas Contract movie was more so geared towards an older audience, as it had a PG-13 rating. It tried to follow the basic structure of the comic, but in the animated universe where Damian was Robin, Dick was already established as Nightwing, and the Titans consisting of Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy, Blue Beetle (Jamie Reyes), Terra, and the aforementioned Nightwing and Robin. It also mixed in the rivalry between Robin and Deathstroke, which had been established in Son of Batman, which is one thing I was never really a fan of, but I’ll get to that later. The only thing it didn’t include from the comics was Grant, Slade’s eldest son who died, and it heavily reduced Jericho’s role.
What I Feel The Judas Contract (2017) Did Wrong
I’ve narrowed down what this movie did wrong to two main reasons: The Deathstroke and Damian rivalry and the reduced role that Jericho played. While I’m wasn’t expecting a frame for frame replication of the comic, and am perfectly okay with taking creative liberties as needed, these are just two reasons that I felt hindered the movie. The latter a bit more so since the movie could have gotten away with telling Jericho’s story in a PG-13 setting when compared to the 2003 animated series.
Starting off with the Deathstroke and Damian rivalry, I was never really a big fan of it. Granted, it only really appeared in Son of Batman and Judas Contract, but it’s something I felt wasn’t needed and put a bit too much focus on Damian. An issue I feel isn’t one that only I had.
For some movies, I could understand that, like Son of Batman and the Justice League vs the Teen Titans. Others, not so much. This and Batman vs Robin especially. The latter, I feel like should have been focused on Dick more since it dealt with the Court of Owls, which Dick had familial ties with. There’s also the issue of Jason and Tim not being in these movies at all despite the first and fourth (fifth if you include Stephanie) Robin, but that is a completely different issue.
Basically, all the attention Damian was getting was kind of annoying. I know I thought it was, and I kind of doubt I was the only one given how much some people disliked Damian around this time. And maybe still do.
Circling back to the Judas Contract, the reason I found this rivalry’s return bothersome, was for a couple of reasons. Deathstroke feels better suited to be a Nightwing villain and by extent a Batman and this rivalry with Damian, a child (ten to fourteen year old), feels shameless and/or unnecessarily problematic.
Though Deathstroke did start off as a Teen Titans antagonist, with characters who were in there late teens early twenties, once the New Teen Titans came to an end, readers did get to see him make a gradual change to becoming a Nightwing antagonist. And while I wouldn’t necessarily say antagonizing a group of late teens and young adults is much better, the reason why he didn’t like them wasn’t because he felt like a kid showed him up. It was because he blamed the Titans for his son’s (Grant) death.
Shifting from a Nightwing antagonist to a Batman antagonist I can let go for the most part since becoming a Batman antagonist isn’t unfathomable and makes sense. I just think keeping him as a Nightwing rogue just would have been better for Nightwing with his solo picking up in the nineties and Deathstroke feels like he fits into Dick’s rogues gallery.
My issue is with making him an antagonist for Damian. I can see Deathstroke being at odds with the League of Assassins as well as having brief ties to them. However, if DC wanted to have him at odds with the League, I feel like it’s better for him to antagonize Bruce, Talia, or even Ra’s than Damian.
Ra’s because he is the head of the League, both literally and in name (yes, I know Slade killed him in Son of Batman, but given how often Ra’s comes back, I doubt having him and Slade at odds makes sense). Talia, because she is one of the higher members of the League, despite not being next in line due to Ra’s feeling he has to be succeeded by a man (he respects female fighters like Cass Cain, Shiva, and his daughters, so I wouldn’t say he’s sexist so much as he has a traditional way of succession). And Bruce because he is who Ra’s considers as a worthy successor, even if Bruce doesn’t accept the offer.
All three of these characters are adults. And while I wouldn’t say Damian can’t fight Deathstroke, having Deathstroke as an antagonist feels off when you consider Damian in these movies is a tween to early teen. It feels odd that a grown man would be fighting a character around that age because he felt like this tween showed him up and feels like defeating him would give Slade the honor of leading the League.
I also felt like having the two at odds in Judas Contract takes away from the main story. It’ll be going through the motions and then it gets to a scene where it wants to bring up this antagonistic rivalry because Deathstroke wants to get Damian taken care of first and reveal that Terra’s the traitor here.
With that said, allow me to jump into Jericho. First by saying, while I don’t mind that they took a few liberties with why Deathstroke was working with Brother Blood and H.I.V.E. I don’t think nixing Jericho’s role should have been one of them. After all, this was Jericho’s origin just as much as it was Nightwing’s and is just as important to the story as Terra’s downfall.
If they didn’t want to throw Grant in the mix, or just forgot about Grant (forgetting about him isn’t hard since he was dead after the first arc of New Teen Titans and never really got the resurrection Jason did) that’s fine. Not being able to work in Slade losing his eye from his now ex-wife Adeline because Damian did, that can be altered as necessary. If they had to alter it so that maybe Slade was working for H.I.V.E. to protect Jericho, that is works.
Do you know what they did? Had Jericho make a brief cameo and never brought up again.
Without writing the entire plot of Judas Contract, I want to take a minute to discuss what made Jericho so important. From who he was related to, what happened to him that caused his parents to split, how important he was to Slade despite the separation, and why they could have used him in the movie.
Jericho was introduced in the Judas Contract after all of the Titans but Dick were captured by H.I.V.E. (Deathstroke assumed Dick wasn’t worth perusing and potentially dead after attacking him while Dick was in retirement). Adeline had managed to get into Titans Tower with her son with the intent of revealing what Deathstroke did, revealing Terra as the traitor, and allowing her son to help rescue the Titans with a now Nightwing Dick Grayson.
During this exchange, readers are introduced to Joseph “Joey” Wilson, Slade’s second son, also known as Jericho. He could not speak, after an accident involving his father (He does use ASL). It’s revealed that Joey was abducted by the target Slade’s client wanted killed. And rather than giving his captor the name of his client due to honoring the integrity of the contract, Slade decides that he can save his son. He does, but because his reaction time was a second slow, Joey’s throat was cut. And while the hospital was able to save his life, it would render him permanently mute (He does get it back when he is possesed by the souls of Azarath and when he is revived in the Geoff Johns Teen Titans run, but it has been permanent with every relaunch). Because of this, and the anger she had towards Slade, Adeline tries to kill him, only being able to shoot his eye out because his reflexes caught on in time.
As I previously mentioned, that could have been altered given Damian was the reason for it. The same thing happened in Arrow with Oliver shooting Slade’s eye out, but I wasn’t not a fan of how they approached Jericho in Arrow for other reasons. In Judas Contract, they could have said that Adeline tried to shoot him, but missed completely or left it at Adeline and Slade divorcing before Jericho left the hospital and Adeline, Joey, and Grant were briefly put into witness protection while they moved.
Jump to the present and Adeline states that she and Joey wish to help. Adeline gives Dick the information he needs while Joey joins Dick as Jericho to help rescue the Titans. It’s also here that readers get a taste for Joey’s powers, which involve him being able to possess and take control of others, as he possess Nightwing to prove it.
They go off to save the Titans, but do end up captured. When they are brought before Slade, Terra, and Brother Blood, Slade is disturbed. This is the first time in years that he had seen his son, who he still loved, and is troubled by the fact that his son as been put into a nostalgic situation. Terra starts to realize that Jericho is Slade’s son, having seen photos of Slade’s family previously.
Jericho, upon regaining consciousness, possesses his father to help free himself and Nightwing as well as working on freeing the Titans. It around this point that Terra, in a deteriorating mental state, starts falling apart and attacks Slade and the Titans. She would ultimately die with Slade surviving and the Titans getting a new member. There is also a brief moment where Jericho feels guilty for hurting his father, who he still very much loved, despite knowing that it had to be done.
Because of this Jericho was crucial to the story. And while Teen Titans 2003 didn’t include Jericho in their Judas Contract arc, it mostly has to do with it being a show geared towards children and wouldn’t have covered half of what the comic did in this arc. Jericho also appeared later in the show and, had they continued, maybe viewers would have gotten something about Jericho and Slade’s relationship.
The Judas Contract movie doesn’t have the same excuse. It was a PG-13 movie and considering that they slipped in the comic version of Slade and Terra’s relationship, they could have easily gone over Jericho’s story. Even if they had to bump it up to an R rating because of the violent nature of Jericho’s accident, it would still be possible.
Keeping Jericho’s appearance to a minimum in the movie undercuts important elements of the comic. I remember seeing a discussion mentioning how both Terra and Jericho were a Judas in the arc. Terra is the Judas of the Titans while Jericho was a Judas against his father. Note: If I happen to find the post I will link it. And again, with Judas Contract being Jericho’s debut, he should have had a bigger role in the movie.
Because of that, I don’t think Judas Contract should have limited Jericho. I feel like including him could have worked if they had to cut some of the Damian and Deathstroke scenes and/or had a longer run time. If run time was an issue than that’s fine, but if that were the case, I do feel like they could have reworked or tweaked the movie a little bit to make it work out.
The character of Joey “Jericho” Wilson shouldn’t have been cut due to how important the character was to the source material it was adapting. It also had the rating to tell Jericho’s story. So I don’t know why they wouldn’t have included it.
With all of that said, allow me to jump into the Teen Titans version of the Judas Contract and what it did better.
What I Feel Teen Titans (2003) Did Right
When it comes to the Teen Titans animated series there a a few things to remember. That is was geared to a younger audience and as such, certain aspects had to be changed. Of course it did have mature moments, like the entirety of the episode Haunted, but there were certain things that they had to censor for the targeted demographic. Some that sound kind of silly in hindsight, like going with Slade instead of Deathstroke (because Deathstroke wasn’t kid friendly), and some censoring that made sense, like the whole relationship between Terra and Slade. That said, Teen Titans 2003 has gone down as a classic Cartoon Network program. As well as one of my favorites. That doesn’t effect why I felt it did the Judas Contract better, as there are episodes and such I can critique like Things Change and Every Dog Has His Day, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t one of my favorite CN shows then and now.
What I felt season two, the season that focused on Terra and the Judas Contract, did right comes down to three factors: How they approached the Terra and Slade dynamic, Terra’s arc being a refreshing take on the character, and how it approached loss and betrayal.
The Slade and Terra Dynamic
One thing I think I can say most people appreciated is how the dynamic between Slade and Terra was changed. Granted, I never knew about the creepy romantic side of it until I was in my teens, years after the show had ended. That said, knowing that now, I think it was for the better. Not only because it wasn’t appropriate for a younger audience, but because they could still approach Terra joining Slade without it.
Despite it being a “kid’s show”, it was able to approach this dynamic well. It went with the apprentice route from season 1, but with Slade conning Terra into believing he could help her control her powers. And while that might have helped, he also talked her into joining him without much trouble, unlike Robin, who he had to threaten to destroy his friends if he didn’t do as he said.
Slade basically gave her what she wanted while manipulating her into thinking the Titans were her enemies. And even though she agreed, Slade did have a contingency plan if she decided to defect. That being his ability to control her through her suit.
It wouldn’t last as she did regain control and sacrificed herself in order to save the Titans and kill Slade. Slade may have learned from season one, but he still failed to get an apprentice in season two.
Terra’s Character Arc
This is probably one of if not the only time Terra wasn’t pure evil. Unlike in New Teen Titans, the Judas Contract movie, Teen Titans GO!, and the comics (the Young Justice animated series also had a Judas Contract arc, but I haven’t caught up), Terra wasn’t inherently evil. She just wanted to find a home and family while also learning to control her powers.
Whether or not viewers liked Terra will depend on the viewer, and whether or not they like to ship them another issue entirely (shipping when someone pairs two characters romantically). However, this version of Terra is different than most, if not all of her other versions/adaptations. She wasn’t always a villain, looking for help wherever she could, and was redeemable.
What made this Terra unique, and possibly enjoyed more, was the fact that she could be redeemed. She wasn’t too far gone to realize she she messed up, even if it did take a while to realize that. She also wasn’t always evil. Of course, her actions while she was working with Slade aren’t excusable. However, she at least recognized that she was in the wrong and tried to make up for it however she could.
This came in the form of Terra sacrificed herself. It wasn’t because she had a vendetta, but because she wanted to protect the people who truly mattered (the Titans and Beast Boy especially) and reverse the damage she had caused.
Though she can still be critiqued for her decisions, I do thing that this version of Terra is one of the better ones. She was a character that wasn’t looking for chaos, but help, and unfortunately found it in the wrong place while in a state of naïveté. I’m sure that if they wanted to go with the ‘always evil’ route, they would have figured out a way to do it. I don’t think they would have wanted to for the sake of the show’s demographic and the fact she was a member of the Teen Titans, unlike Slade who was always the villain, but they could have. However, I think that by not doing it, Terra’s story was pretty effective.
Betrayal and Loss
It also addressed betrayal and loss in a fairly reasonable way. It almost feels like the five stages of grief with everyone approached her betrayal differently. Denial could be seen with how Beast Boy refuses to see that she is completely lost. Bargaining could be seen when Robin fights Terra, using his own time as Slade’s apprentice to try and reason with her. Anger was a common sentiment. This is seen the most when Raven fights Terra. Depression can be seen with Beast Boy after she defects in Betrayal. And acceptance can be seen after she thinks she destroys all of the Titans and it seems that even Beast Boy believes she isn’t realizing her situation and accepts that she has to be stopped.
As for loss, while viewers don’t get to see how the Titans are effected much. However, they do get to see how the Titans honor and grieve over her sacrifice. And when she returns in Things Change, Beast Boy tries to bring back Terra’s memories in the hope of having her become a Titans again, which unfortunately does not come to pass (which may or may not have been explored more in a sixth season if the show got one).
Those are three ways that I feel that Teen Titans 2003 did Judas Contract better.
What About Jericho?
For those of you who might be wondering why I’m not critiquing Teen Titans for including Jericho, the answer is pretty simple. Target audience and missed opportunities. Because of the target audience, Teen Titans did have to censor some aspects of what the show was based on. Sure, episodes like Haunted and the entirety of season 4’s Trigon arc were dark, but there were some things that were avoided.
Including the odd reason behind the whole Slade instead of Deathstroke name change, Teen Titans didn’t cover Grant’s death, which was a big reason why Slade was so dead set on destroying the Titans, and the sensitive nature of Starfire’s slavery and Blackfire’s role in it. It certainly wasn’t 4Kids levels of censorship, but I can understand why they would censor those aspects. With that in mind, I don’t see Teen Titans covering the nature of Jericho’s injury. At least to the same gravity as the comics did.
As far as missed opportunities, Jericho does show up towards the end of season 5. Why that late, I can only really speculate. I believe that was either because, it might have felt odd to throw a new character in at the same time as Terra, Slade’s son at that, or with the final showdown with the Brotherhood of Evil, he wasn’t the only new face to be with the Titans, and fit in with the Titans expanded team.
In the case of the former, I feel it is more excusable for Teen Titans as opposed to the Judas Contract movie since it was adapting the story over the course of a season and had to take some liberates due to what they had to cut out. Judas Contract 2017, on the other hand, was a straight forward adaptation with tweaks needed to fit into the DC Animated Movie Universe. Much like Hush and how Justice League War being an adaptation of the first few issues of New 52’s Justice League. So Judas Contract 2017 had the ability to stay closer to the original story as possible, unlike Teen Titans, which had to censor quite a few things in order for it to get to it’s target audience.
Plus, Teen Titans had a habit of having seasons focus on a specific character. There would be episodes that would focus on the team, but, the season would focus on a specific character for the season’s overarching story. Season one focused on Robin and his obsession with Slade, concluding with the Apprentice two parter. Season two focused on Terra. Three dealt a lot with Cyborg, H.I.V.E., and Brother Blood. Trigon was the center of season four’s conflict, which put Raven at the center stage. And five focused a lot on Beast Boy, his Doom Patrol roots, and the Brotherhood of Evil.
Which brings me to my next point. The nonexistent sixth season. While Teen Titans was ultimately cancelled after five seasons and given a movie to give it a proper conclusion, a number viewers would have liked a sixth season. This sixth season could have addressed how Terra came back to life and the creature they were fighting in the finale. I also like to think that season six could have addressed Jericho being Slade’s son.
Cancelling it did leave some questions and plot points unanswered. And while it briefly lived on in tie in comics titled Teen Titans Go! (not to be confused with the comedic reboot), but to my knowledge, they never addressed it there. Rose, Jericho’s sister, however, did show up in it, which might explain why she appears in the Teen Titans Go! series.
Teen Titans’ second season and The 2017 animated adaptation of The Judas Contract both told the same story. One had to be a bit more censored to fit a young demographic, while the other had the rating to explore elements that the other didn’t. Even so, how Teen Titans approached it was better. Because, while the 2017 Judas Contract was able to cover ground that Teen Titans couldn’t, focusing time on the Deathstroke and Damian rivalry and not including Jericho hindered it. More so than Teen Titans, which didn’t bring up the character until later for whatever reason the showrunners had. Teen Titans, though censored, was able to tell the Judas Contract story in a way that felt compelling and it was a refreshing take on Terra.
I know turn it over to you. What are your thoughts on the Judas Contract story? Did you like the 2017 adaptation? Why or why not? What were your thoughts on Teen Titans adaptation in season two? What are your thoughts on Terra, in general and/or in either adaptation?
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
With that little bit of history out of the way, allow me to get into Nightcrawler. I guess it would have started with X-Men Evolution. I didn’t watch it much when I was younger, but when I did catch it, I found myself liking Kurt. It probably had to do with how laid back he was and him being the more comedic of the gang (that probably contributed to why I liked TMNT 2003’s Michelangelo too). One episode of X-Men Evolution I remember watching was Middleverse, the season one episode where Kurt accidently ends up in another dimension of sorts and meets Forge. It wasn’t the only X-Men media I had watched over the years, as I also remember seeing Wolverine 2013, First Class, and was overall aware of the X-Men movies. Though, I will admit that I never got around to all of it back then.
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.
In terms of personality, he’s light-hearted and optimistic. He can display moments of anger, sorrow, and fear, but he is usually seen as pretty positive, all things considered. And with Logan being his best friend, it’s the perfect balance to his more stern and pessimistic world view. He’s flirty, but not in a problematic or annoying kind of way. In some ways, he could be seen as a hopeful outlook for the future, while also not being blind to the problems in the world.
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
I own a handful of X-Men comics. Some solo series, some with the team. Nightcrawler has a few solo series: Age of X-Men: The Amazing Nightcrawler, X-Men Icons: Nightcrawler, a four issue mini series, and two twelve solo series in 2003 and 2014. Of his solo pieces, I own the 2003 and 2014. I haven’t started them yet, but I have skimmed through both.
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?
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.