Nightcrawler was found by the gypsy Margali Szardos roughly an hour after he was born. Left to die by his mother Mystique, young Kurt Wagner was saved by his demonic warlord father Azazel and given to one of his devoted followers. The follower (Margali Szardos) was quick to take in Nightcrawler and introduce him to her children Jimaine and Stefan. Unfortunately, Stefan would later go crazy and turn into a child killer. This pushed Kurt into the position of having to murder him. Jimaine and Margali blamed Kurt for what happened and it pushed Kurt further into the German public where he was eventually spotted by an angry mob.
Nightcrawler first joined the X-Men after Professor X saved him from that angry mob. Kurt didn’t sport a moment’s hesitation, as he agreed to join the rescue effort to save the X-Men from Krakoa. Nightcrawler stayed on the team, becoming its heart as they encountered the Savage Land and went through the Dark Phoenix Saga. Things would stay pretty normal for Nightcrawler until he was attacked by his foster sister Jimaine. Jimaine now went by the name Amanda Sefton and she had become a witch on par with her mother. After she learned the truth about her mother and her brother, it wasn’t long before Nightcrawler and Amanda Sefton were getting all Richie and Margot Tenenbaum with each other. That never bothered me as a kid, but it weirds me out as an adult. I get that they aren’t blood related, but Nightcrawler was raised as her little brother.
A random battle with the Nimrod Sentinel Unit leads to Nightcrawler’s powers being dampened for some time. Unfortunately, this incident led right into the Mutant Massacre where the weakened Nightcrawler was beaten into a coma by the Marauder Riptide. That whole year of comics just felt like Claremont was beginning his legendary comic padding in order to push Nightcrawler off to the upcoming Excalibur book. But, it was also pretty revolutionary for what became the X-Books’ first crossover. In fact, I’m hard pressed to find any other crossover that raised the stakes as much as “Mutant Massacre”. The stuff during the Fraction/Brubaker era came close, but that also involved messing up Nightcrawler for a considerable amount of time.
While having fully recovered from his injuries, Nightcrawler is left to join the British team Excalibur. While bonding with the heroes Captain Britain and Meggan, Nightcrawler believes he watches the X-Men die in Dallas fighting the Adversary. So, he eventually takes over leadership of Excalibur and stays on the team for a few years. Eventually Excalibur folded and Nightcrawler and a few other X-Men were folded back into the main team. That period of rejoining the team was my Nightcrawler heyday. As a collector, it’s where I really started pouring over every Nightcrawler appearance, learning trivia and buying all sorts of key issues. Hell, it’s when I learned the original origin for the character.
Chris Claremont was originally going to have Nightcrawler revealed to be the child of Mystique and Destiny. While both are women, Claremont suggested that they were in a long term relationship and Mystique shape shifted into a man, so she could impregnate Destiny. It’s like Claremont wanted to turn Nightcrawler into some up-turned mutant version of an Updike character. But, why the big push for Nightcrawler? Didn’t the poor German have enough trouble looking like a blue demon from Hell?
Nightcrawler seemingly dies while fighting Bastion in order to protect Hope Summers. Hope has spent most of her time in comics being portrayed as the mutant Messiah. Unfortunately, this peters out following Avengers vs. X-Men and it sets the stage for Nightcrawler to return. The little blue guy does return, lands his own ongoing series and begins to reconnect with Amanda Sefton. But, one has to wonder. Throughout most of the 00s, nobody really seemed comfortable using Nightcrawler unless it was a nostalgic retread or a deep need to reveal secrets about his origins. A part of me wishes that Marvel would’ve let Dan Slott use Nightcrawler as part of his Mighty Avengers line-up. But, that’s nothing more than a retread on the Beast inclusion of the 70s and 80s.
What can be done with Nightcrawler? The Austen run suggests that his attempts at becoming a Priest were all in his head or an illusion cast by Azazel. I hated that, as I felt that it stripped years of character development in favor of setting up a new villain. It was a bit lazy, but it’s not like it couldn’t be tweaked. Claremont now has the reins of Nightcrawler’s solo book and I can see him doing great things rebuilding the character. But, there’s a part of me that worries about the modern Claremont. Will the creator that defined Nightcrawler ultimately keep recycling material or attempt to move forward?
Much has been made of Nightcrawler’s recently unveiled demonic origins and how later writers have played out the role. Let’s take a deep breath and run it down. Demonic Warlord Azazel and the mutant Mystique meet and have a baby. Mystique tries to kill the baby, but Azazel pawns it off on a witch. Meanwhile, Azazel and Mystique both continue to have sex with tons of people and produce more half siblings for Nightcrawler. Eventually, Azazel decides to keep his wedding tackle in Hell and starts bopping demons. These demon babies mutate like maggots until they become smaller demonic versions of Kurt. They drink whiskey, teleport and steal everything they can get their hands on. For a few years, the Bamfs remain a constant pain for Dr. Hank McCoy and most of the Jean Grey School staff.
Ultimately, what matters is that Nightcrawler remains one of the quintessential Marvel Comics characters. An abandoned child that resembles the outcast he feels like, but has the soul of a Saint. Desperate to find inclusion, he’s willing to make a family out of strangers and works everyday to find something new to appreciate about life. It’s heartwarming and very endearing to find a character that can’t be made grim or gritty, no matter how hard the Austen run tried to bring out that aspect. Kurt Wagner aka Nightcrawler is a spiritual man who just happens to be a mutant. Teleportation doesn’t define him. It just makes it easier for him to be a Swashbuckling adventurer that would do anything for his fellow X-Men. Nightcrawler is the character that every X-Man should aspire to be.