Monday’s Mutant is a favorite of comic book readers and cartoon watchers alike. He has yet to make a good movie screen appearance, though Alan Cummings did a decent job in X2, but the character is one of the most popular of the X-Men Giant size #1 reboot of the 1975. Along with Colossus, Wolverine and Storm, our Monday Mutant made his debut as an X-Man.
He is of course, Kurt Wagner; Nightcrawler.
Kurt was one of the first mutants in Marvel whose mutation also took the form of outward physical characteristics. He could not hide his mutation. Born with deep blue skin, a long tail, hands and feet that only had three or two digits each, Kurt was the epitome of a blue devil. A physical appearance that was in sharp contrast with his kind and forgiving personality. The Nightcrawler was a character that symbolized the mutant parallel with the civil rights movement. The old axiom of not judging a book by its cover and not judging a man by the color of his skin.
Kurt’s origin story was cloudy in the early years, supposedly found by the sorceress and gypsy queen Margali Szardos hours after his birth. She said that his parents, the Wagners were dead and she took the baby Kurt to live with her in a small Bavarian circus where she worked as a fortune teller. The circus as a whole raised the strange looking little child and Kurt grew up happy with Margali’s two other children, Stefan and Jimaine. With his mutant powers, Kurt quickly became the star attraction of the circus as an acrobat. The audience simply assumed that he was a normal boy dressed up in a blue devil costume. The circus was bought out by a Texas millionaire Arnos Jermaine who wanted to place Kurt in a cage as part of the side show and freak attractions. Kurt escapes and goes to live with his step brother Stefan in Germany. But there he finds that his brother is in fact a child murderer. Kurt tries to stop Stefan and in the ensuing battle, Stefan is killed. The villagers find Kurt with the dead Stefan and assume by his appearance that he is the child murderer. They become a mob and try to attack Kurt but are suddenly rendered immobile. By none other than, Professor Charles Xavier, leader of the X-Men.
It is later on that we learned that the Wagners were never Kurt’s real parents.
Kurt is the son of the mutant terrorist, Raven Darkholme also known as Mystique and his father is the demonic mutant Azazel. Upon his birth, his mother Mystique tosses the newborn off a cliff into the river below. She says that she was being chased by a mob and that the child, with its blue skin and tail, would give her away as a mutant and so for her own safety, she had to get rid of it. She confesses this act with tears and remorse. Mystique in the comics is much different from the Jennifer Lawrence or Rebecca Romijn portrayals in the movies. It is more likely that Mystique tossed Kurt off the cliff simply to rid herself of the burden of a newborn.
Kurt’s father Azazel saves him from the imminent death and places him in the care of his lover and friend Margali, the gypsy sorceress.
Kurt is a devout Catholic, even to the point of becoming a priest later in life. His religion is touched on briefly in the early years but later on has become a storyline during the mutant massacre.
What makes Nightcrawler such a powerful figure in the mutant universe, is that besides Beast, who did not grow his fur and blueness until later on in the series, Nightcrawler may well be the first X-Man who could not hide his mutation. He wore his skin every day. His difference between himself and normal human beings was out there for everyone to see. More so that he resembled a figure, the Devil, that is reviled and feared by humanity as being the ultimate symbol of all that is evil. But as the comics went on, what we learned was that Kurt was in fact the kindest and the most understanding of all the X-Men. Quite often the stabilizing personality to Wolverine’s berserker. He harbored no ill will and no animosity to those who would do him harm simply for the color of his skin. He forgave his mother, Mystique, for attempting to murder him as a newborn and in fact spends quite a bit of his life holding out hope in her redemption. This personality goes in direct contrast to his appearance and makes Nightcrawler the poster child for mutant rights.
In the later years of the comics, Nightcrawler has faded from the mainstream books, ending up in UK on the Excalibur team. He leaves and returns to the X-Men over time and even dies at one point, but as is in the comic world, is resurrected later on.
Kurt is and remains, one of the favorite mutants that ever came out of the X-Men stories. His own backstory, one of incredible tragedy and the perseverance to overcome. While his star has fallen in recent years, his is for a generation one of the best that Marvel has ever produced.