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When the X-Men franchise was rebooted in X-Men: Days Of Future Past, it gave Fox the chance to revisit some of their greatest successes. So in X-Men: Apocalypse we're going to see Nightcrawler once again! But who is the mutant known as Kurt Wagner? Here are ten things you might not know...
1. Nightcrawler was almost a DC Comics character!
Artist Dave Cockrum had toyed with the idea of Nightcrawler – who he originally envisioned as a grim demon fearful of returning to Hell after a botched assignment – for a long time. When DC asked him to design a group known as the Outsiders, based in the time of the Legion of Super Heroes, he included Nightcrawler – but DC's editors felt he looked too weird.
In 1975, Cockrum was asked to work on relaunching the X-Men, with a new, international roster. He pitched Nightcrawler once again, and the rest is history!
2. Chris Claremont intended Nightcrawler to be the son of Mystique - and her lover, Destiny!
Writer Chris Claremont was never one to avoid controversy, and his plans for Nightcrawler's heritage were revolutionary for the time. Claremont intended to reveal Mystique as Nightcrawler's father - she had taken on human form and slept with her lover, the precognitive Destiny, who had given birth to Nightcrawler as a result. These were different times, though, and the prohibitive Comics Code Authority wouldn't ever have agreed to the plot.
Decades later, Claremont got to use flashbacks to portray the relationship between Mystique and Destiny, although he'd already hinted at it by getting subtle dialogue past the CCA. By this point, though, it was too late to tie Nightcrawler in to the couple.
3. In the comics, Nightcrawler's father is actually a demon!
It fell to controversial X-Men writer Chuck Austen to finally blow the lid on Nightcrawler's family tree. Austen revealed that Nightcrawler's father, Azazel, was an ancient demon whose race of demonic mutants had lost a war with their angelic rivals. Azazel had wandered the Earth, siring children in order to build an army; when he met Mystique, he recognized she was strong enough to bear his child, and slept with her. Nightcrawler was the result.
This twist is hardly one of the most popular in X-Men lore, as fans felt it damaged the ironic nature of Nightcrawler's humanity - it made his demonic appearance a literal part of his heritage. Azazel, for his part, made his cinematic début in X-Men: First Class, but was killed off-camera before the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past!
4. Nightcrawler is in love with his foster sister!
Abandoned as a child, Nightcrawler was brought up in the circus, around the family of a ruthless sorceress named Margali. He fell in love with his foster sister, Jimaine, who had inherited her mother's power; after Kurt joined the X-Men, Jimaine followed him, changing her name to Amanda Sefton, and the two became allies - and lovers.
Fans have always had a mixed reaction to this particular romance. The idea of foster siblings who are lovers has always felt a little 'morally grey', and it's not unusual to hear references to the 'yuck factor'!
5. Nightcrawler teleports through another dimension!
If you ever thought teleportation was a boring power, you were disabused of that notion in X2 - as Nightcrawler rampaged through the White House! But how does his teleportation work?
Nightcrawler teleports by tearing a hole in the fabric of space-time and moving through a higher plane of reality at tremendous speed. His teleportation is accompanied by the stench of sulphur and brimstone, and a blast of ash - all characteristic of the reality he moves through while teleporting. In the comics, this is a Hellish dimension tied to Azazel; in the TV animated series X-Men: Evolution it was the realm of a demonic race known as the N'Garai. Check out the full story!
6. Nightcrawler is invisible in shadows!
Not all of Nightcrawler's powers are obvious. The darkness of his skin means that he can blend into shadows, with artists commonly rendering only the yellows of his eyes as visible. It's something he discovered while he and the X-Men were in Scotland, dealing with a crisis involving leprechauns (yes, really). Even weirder is the fact that this was the arc that introduced Wolverine's real name, in a frankly hilarious piece of dialogue:
7. In the comics, Nightcrawler often hides his appearance using an image inducer!
The X-Men comics are, above all, a morality tale; a celebration of diversity, challenging us to confront bigotry and prejudice. Mutants like Nightcrawler, whose physical appearances are so unlike conventional humans, have it the hardest; they can be recognized at a glance. For poor Kurt, it's even worse; let's face it, anyone who saw Nightcrawler would just assume they were looking at a demon.
In a sad touch, Chris Claremont had Nightcrawler given a holographic image inducer to hide his true appearance. True to form, Kurt used it to effect the face and form of famous people - particularly swashbuckling film stars!
8. Nightcrawler was once a Catholic priest!
Nightcrawler's Catholicism has always been a core part of his identity, a none-too-subtle irony given his appearance. When the legendary Chris Claremont returned to the X-Men books in X-Men #100, he took this further than ever before; he literally had Nightcrawler become a priest!
Chuck Austen wasn't so keen on this idea. In one of the most bizarre plot-lines to ever grace the pages of the X-Men comics, he revealed this was all a plot to discredit the Pope and cause a war on mutantkind. Poor Kurt had just been a dupe.
For the record, other aspects of the plot involved exploding communion wafers. Yikes.
9. Nightcrawler's blood created the Bamfs!
Meet the Bamfs! In Uncanny X-Men #153, Kitty Pryde was telling a fairy tale to six-year-old Illyana Rasputin, Colossus' little sister. She based the fairy tale on the X-Men's world, right down to a 'Princess Jean' based on Dark Phoenix! Part of this fairy tale were Bamfs, teleporting imps who looked just like Nightcrawler.
Writers seem incredibly fond of the Bamfs, and there have been clever nods to them throughout the X-Men comics. In a haunting homage to their first appearance, a Bamf doll was by Illyana's side when she died of the Legacy Virus in Uncanny X-Men #303. Meanwhile, in his first miniseries, Nightcrawler visited a reality in which Kitty's fairy-tale was true.
More recently, it was revealed that Bamfs were semi-demonic beings who had been fed the blood of Azazel (red Bamfs) or Nightcrawler (blue Bamfs). The Jean Grey School was home to a veritable tribe of Bamfs, although there's only one currently active in the comics, a Bamf nicknamed Pickles who hangs around with the All-New X-Men.
10. Nightcrawler has no soul!
Here's a basic rule of comics: whenever you have a major event, a character death is part of it. That was the case in 2010's Second Coming event, in which the 'mutant Messiah' Hope Summers returned to the present day. Nightcrawler gave his life saving her from the super-Sentinel known as Bastion, an event that tore the heart and soul out of the X-Men.
Now here's another basic rule of comics: death is but a revolving door. In 2013, writer Jason Aaron chose to bring Kurt back. His Amazing X-Men series took the X-Men into the realms of heaven and hell, and they found Nightcrawler's father declaring war on the afterlife. Nightcrawler chose to return to the land of the living in order to bring Azazel with him, trapping him on a plane of existence where he'd be less dangerous. But in so doing, it cost Nightcrawler his very soul.
In all honesty, it doesn't seem to have changed him much - he's still the same cheerful swashbuckler he's always been, although this has recently been shaken by his seeing a mutant massacre in Extraordinary X-Men. Alas, poor Kurt.
For more X-Men facts, check out my previous post on CYCLOPS!