Nightcrawler has always been a role model for me, morally, spiritually, and sexually.
These are pages taken from Uncanny X-men (1963) 169-170. They were some of the first comics I bought when I was eight. I first saw the x-men from the arcade game, which my brothers and I played when we visited Sandcastle waterpark. I always played as Nightcrawler, knowing nothing about the character besides what he looked and played like, and his appearances in the cutscenes. I started picking up Classic X-men and X-men Classic comics (their titling switched halfway through the run), which were cheap in the back issue boxes.
I’ve chosen the pages here because they represent the core of the character for me. Kurt starts out in a bubble bath with his girlfriend, Amanda. Sexytime is implied. He gets an alert, teleports to see Angel being carried into the sewer, and then catches Angel’s girlfriend as she’s been thrown through a skyscraper window. He catches Candy, teleports back into Amanda’s bathroom, and dumps Candy into Amanda’s bubble bath, so she doesn’t get hypothermia. He and Amanda are still nude at this point.
We next see Kurt battling, then captured by the Morlocks. He’s tied, but can’t really be contained. A stripped angel is bound to a cross and unconscious, wearing a spiked choker necklace. He multiple teleports Callisto, taking the warrior and rendering her dazed. Callisto clutches him in her tattered wedding dress. He hoists Callisto aloft behind Angel, in a heavy metal album cover of an image, with the swooning woman, the devil, and an angel.
Plaque infects storm, and Nightcrawler relents; he’s tied again, so that Storm doesn’t die. While being bound, he asks questions of the Morlocks, trying to learn more so that he can humanize himself and his friends, make them harder to kill.
While tied to a stake, Nightcrawler chastises Masque when she pulls at Storm’s face like putty, affirming a basic human right of dignity and respect. Like, “I get that we’re fighting, but there are standards, and decency. You’re honorable people, even if you’re outcasts, and let’s be respectful.” He’s protecting his friend, and calling on the higher instincts of his captors.
Masque reveals his distorted face, and says that because he’s been rejected for his appearance, he hates those who are beautiful; he then reaches out for Kurt’s face.
As an aside, Claremont defined this era for his writing, but I never hear anything about the gorgeous lines, colors, and shading of Paul Smith and Bob Wiacek. Look at Kurt’s cheekbones. Look at the shadows on his face. This is love, right here.
When my hair is long, it’s curly and poofy like his, and the longer hair makes my nose pointier and my face more triangular in general. I don’t know if I realized it at the time, but I resembled Kurt. As an adult, I was skinnier in my twenties, from long distance running. Since then, I’ve built up my upper body as well, overall looking a lot like Kurt too. If I could spend my athletic time with gymnastics, I would. Unlike Kurt, my flexibility is shit. Tight back, tight hips, tight shoulder . . .
Callisto tells Kurt he’s more a Morlock than an X-man, and Kurt says that these are his friends, and he’s always fought to be judged by his actions, not his looks. Claremont isn’t the one who made Kurt a priest, but he did make Kurt an ethical voice, and someone with Christian values. Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan illustrates this principle: the one who helped the injured man in the story was the Samaritan, even though he was a religious illegitimate by the standards of Jesus’ listeners.
Like Claremont, I don’t think making Kurt a priest was worthwhile. He’s getting “Flanderized,” where a characters traits become so exaggerated in later stories that they become pathologies. Kurt in this story is comfortable with sex, has a serious girlfriend, uses his fists and his brains, and acts like a man in his 20’s who knows what he’s doing. Making him a priest puts so many restrictions on his character.
Nightcrawler challenges Callisto to a duel, which she accepts, but Storm pre-empts it, demanding the right of combat for herself. We find out that she was planning to kill Callisto, and would have if it weren’t for the healer. She knew that Kurt wouldn’t kill, and that he could easily be killed in the process. Angry Storm could be a lion.
What would he say to me, today, as I prepare to work for people who are critical of me? “Simon, your work is valuable. It is important. It represents your love, worked out for other people. You don’t do it for your supervisors, you do it for the patients, and you do it because it’s who you are, it’s an expression of your strength, intelligence, and insistence on the very best. Should they question you or condemn you, remember that they don’t know you, and that’s they are lonely, unhappy people. But each of them have a heart, and they love something and someone as well. By showing your grace and kindness to those supervisors even as they scorn you, perhaps you can teach them of the Father’s love.”