Nightcrawler – also known as Kurt Wagner – is a superhero with a demonic and memorable appearance that you might recognize from the Marvel comic universe – the X-Men comics in particular. He’s most known for his physical characteristics – namely, the blue skin, crazy feet with two toes and hands with three fingers, yellow eyes, and of course, the iconic pointed tail. Part of the reason he is so memorable is because there’s a huge juxtaposition between his appearance and his personality. Though he looks like a villain due to his demonic physical traits, he’s actually a devout Catholic who is serious about religion, and a sort of jokester figure who likes to have fun.
As pretty much every character in the comic book world, Nightcrawler went through quite a few dramatic events in his life, and he has some pretty noteworthy parents as well. He’s loved, he’s been abandoned, he’s made sacrifices, he’s been involved in pretty much every typical type of comic book storyline under the sun. Despite his unique, fascinating story, and the fact that most comic book lovers know who he is, Nightcrawler is not as well known to the general population as some of the more popular figures who have essentially starred in their own series of films, like the iconic Wolverine with those killer claws.
A young Nightcrawler appeared in the latest X-Men film X-Men: Apocalypse, and if you were looking to learn more about the demonic yet devout hero, here are 15 things you might not know about him.
15. He Grew Up In A Circus
It’s no secret that many comic book characters have, well, slightly unusual childhoods. If they were just normal, they wouldn’t end up in comic books. However, Nightcrawler might just take the cake. His parents were not able to raise their blue-skinned offspring and they abandoned him; he eventually found refuge with some friendly circus folk, and in that world, his strange appearance became an asset rather than a liability. He quickly started contributing to his found family as a performer, doing acrobatics and frightening audiences with his demonic appearance. However, the very thing that nurtured him eventually ended up hurting him – while the circus folks who took him in were kind, he eventually ran into a circus owner who wasn’t quite so nice. The evil owner ended up drugging and capturing Nightcrawler, and once he got a glimpse into the fact that mutants weren’t always warmly accepted, he ran from the human circus world and never looked back.
14. Rogue Is His Sister (Kind Of)
Anyone who knows even the slightest bit about the comic book world knows that family relations, particularly when you mix in mutants and affairs and all that complicated business, can be incredibly twisted and complex. Nightcrawler’s is no different. His mother, as many know, is Mystique, but he always thought he was an only child who had been abandoned by his parents. Later on, he found out that he had a few siblings, including Rogue. Well, kind of. While Nightcrawler is Mystique’s biological son, Rogue was essentially her adopted daughter, someone she cared for and raised, so they’re sort of siblings. The discovery and storyline can be found in the comic world, but their sibling relationship hasn’t been covered on the big screen yet. Yet another facet of Nightcrawler’s personality and backstory that is a bit of a mystery – he’s certainly more complicated than many of the other comic book figures out there!
13. His Father Is A Demon
Many comic book figures have, well, interesting parents, but Nightcrawler can definitely boast that his dad is a little out of the ordinary – because he’s a literal demon. Nightcrawler grew up thinking that he essentially was an orphan; he didn’t know his father and he never did. However, he eventually found out who his father was – and it certainly helped him understand why he was cursed with such a demonic appearance. It turns out that his father, Azazel, is actually a demon – and we’re talking old school, with red skin, pointy ears, and an intimidating tail. Considering how much of Nightcrawler’s identity is tied to his faith, the fact that his father is a literal demon is all the more shocking. You think regular comic book heroes have daddy issues, just imagine the inner conflict that Nightcrawler must feel knowing that he’s trying to serve God while he father is literally fighting angels and using imp-like creatures as slaves.
12. He Becomes The Pope (Briefly)
Remember when we said that Nightcrawler’s religious beliefs were a huge part of who he was as a character? Well, we weren’t kidding. Nightcrawler certainly wasn’t just a Sunday Catholic – his faith was a huge part of his character, and his devotion served as a remarkable juxtaposition to his demonic appearance. Within the comic book world, he eventually gets roped into a storyline where he actually becomes a Catholic priest. It seems like a great fit, right? Well, if it was a legitimate storyline – turns out that Nightcrawler’s beliefs were used as ammunition against him by some villains. He was eventually tasked with replacing the Pope in that storyline and then the villains got what they really wanted because everyone saw a demonic-looking Pope and didn’t bother to learn that his faith was strong and that he was in fact leading a holy life – they immediately labeled him as an Anti-Christ because of how he looked.
11. He Was Almost Part of The DC Universe Instead of Marvel
When it comes to the comic book world, though there are a few outliers, the majority of characters and stories come from one of two universes – either DC or Marvel. In fact, many fans themselves are a bit torn between which universe to support – it’s that big of a deal. However, Nightcrawler has a bit of a foot in both camps. Nightcrawler’s creator Dave Cockrum initially pitched the demonic-looking, pious figure to DC comics to be a part of The Outsiders, a team in that universe. However, the powers at DC didn’t feel that Nightcrawler was really a good fit. Eventually, Cockrum began working in the X-Men universe, and suddenly what was a bit of a strange-looking potential hero became a compelling mutant – all the things that DC hadn’t liked were suddenly assets! Nightcrawler moved over to the Marvel world and made his debut there in 1975. The rest, as they say, is history.
10. He Was Born In Bavaria
Characters in the comic book world come from all corners of the globe – and many come from entirely different planets altogether. From superheroes who were dropped on earth from their home planet to average Americans who are given super powers to international heroes and villains trained to kill, there’s a huge mix of origins in the comic book world. Nightcrawler initially hails from none other than Bavaria. That’s right – the guy with the demonic appearance actually isn’t a mutant from another world, he’s just a regular guy who grew up in the land of pretzels and fantastic beer. There are many folk tales from that area that focus on somewhat frightening figures, so it’s almost fitting that a creature like Nightcrawler would initially come from there. Of course, he left soon after his birth and began traveling with a circus, so he likely doesn’t really call Bavaria home – but it’s still a fun fact to know.
9. Professor Xavier Saved His Life Once
Professor Xavier is, by necessity, intertwined in the stories of all of the X-Men. After all, he’s the head of the academy for mutants. However, he also plays a role in Nightcrawler’s life. Amos Jardine, the aforementioned evil circus owner, was a Texas man who bought the circus that Nightcrawler was working for at the time and sent him to be a part of the freak show, where he was imprisoned and drugged. To sum up a long, long, complex storyline, Nightcrawler eventually escaped from that situation with the help of a young boy, ran back to Germany, found out that his adoptive brother Stefan had gone on a killing spree, went to fight him to stop his evil behaviour, accidentally broke Stefan’s neck, and then found himself facing a crowd of angry villagers who thought it was him, not Stefan, who was responsible for all those deaths. Just as they were about to slay Nightcrawler for his brother’s sins, Professor Xavier (who was in the area because he wanted to recruit Nightcrawler to be one of the X-Men) swept in and psionically paralyzed the angry villagers to save Nightcrawler.
8. He Falls For His Foster Sister
Family ties in the comic book world are a little bit murky, and there are definitely a few characters who engage in incest or borderline incest – including Nightcrawler. As we know, he was abandoned when he was a child and was eventually raised in the circus by some friendly folks. One of the main sources of support in his childhood was a sorceress named Margali, who had a daughter, Jimaine. Though they don’t have any blood ties, Nightcrawler and Jimaine were essentially raised as siblings. Jimaine eventually inherited her mother’s powers and followed her brother, who had since become a member of the X-Men. She changed her name to Amanda Sefton, and, all grown up, the two began a romance. They’re not technically related, but because of how they were raised, fans still find the pairing just a little too close to actual blood siblings falling for one another, and it tends to elicit cringes.
7. His Teleportation Skills Are Pretty Insane
Okay, teleportation in general is a pretty impressive skill to have, even amongst mutants and comic book figures with super powers. However, Nightcrawler’s abilities are even more impressive than most. He apparently teleports by tearing a hole in the space-time fabric and moving through a higher plane of reality – obviously at super speed. That’s right – he essentially travels through an entirely different world. Plus, to add a little extra wow factor and to tie it into his whole demonic trait, when he teleports the smell of sulphur and brimstone fills the air and there’s a bit of ash – it’s basically straight out of literature on hell. The mere fact that he can teleport is pretty amazing, but the way in which it ties in to his traits in this world while moving him through an entirely different world makes the whole process completely insane – and it’s something that, frankly, we’d want to know even more about!
6. He’s Invisible In The Shadows
Many comic book creatures have certain distinguishing traits, and often they’re things that the characters have a tough time hiding, an obvious physical manifestation of their power or something along those lines. In Nightcrawler’s case, there’s one trait in particular that gives him a little bit of a chance to hide – his skin. Yes, the demonic appearance and blue skin that makes him so visible and memorable in the day time is actually a benefit at night, because it means he can essentially disappear into the shadows – the comic artists will frequently just show the yellows of his eyes peeking out of an otherwise dark shadow. The fact that he can basically disappear in the dark of the night just adds to his slightly spooky, demonic vibe, and hey – at least there’s a benefit to the strange skin that causes him so much trouble in his day to day life.
5. He Can Transform His Appearance Thanks To An Image Inducer
While many comic book figures are humans or at the very least can easily pass themselves off as humans, from Peter Parker to Clark Kent, Nightcrawler definitely isn’t one of them – while he has several very human personality traits, his demonic appearance definitely marks him as being different in some way. However, there are a few moments of reprieve for Nightcrawler thanks to a certain gadget that one of the comic book artists, Chris Claremont, came up with. In a few storylines, Nightcrawler is able to use a holographic image inducer to essentially mask his true appearance and project the appearance of someone else – and he typically goes big, opting to project the face of celebrities, including handsome movie stars. While Nightcrawler’s physical appearance is a huge part of what makes him who he is, it’s kind of interesting to see him being able to experiment with that appearance in certain storylines.
4. Bamfs Were Created From His Blood
Most comic book fans will have heard of Bamfs, particularly X-Men fans, as there have been several references to the impish creatures throughout the X-Men comics. In Uncanny X-Men #153, Kitty Pryde tells a story to Colossus’ little sister including several characters or fairy tale figures that are clearly based on the X-Men, and one of the characters included are teleporting imps who bear an uncanny resemblance to Nightcrawler. Eventually the comics were a bit more specific about the impish creatures that popped up from time to time, revealing that red Bamfs were semi-demonic beings fed with Azazel’s blood (Nightcrawler’s father), while the blue Bamfs were fed from Nightcrawler’s blood. The creatures may not be as recognizable as some of the more iconic individual X-Men, but they’re still a cool addition to the storyline – and based on how often the comic book writers reference them, we have a feeling that eventually we might get to know a whole lot more about Bamfs.
3. He Has No Soul
Given how important his faith is to him and how developed his religious self is, this one is probably the toughest for Nightcrawler to stomach. In Second Coming, where Hope Summers returns to the present, Nightcrawler gets tangled up in things and ends up laying down his life to save her from Bastion. Then, three years later in 2013, writer Jason Aaron brought Nightcrawler back by crafting a storyline where Azazel declared war on the afterlife, and Nightcrawler had to return from the dead to the land of the living, because he had to bring his father over to a realm where he would be less dangerous (we know, it gets pretty complicated). While his actions were for the good of the X-Men, the process unfortunately ends up costing Nightcrawler his soul. Given the extent that the demonic and the holy intertwine in his character, it’s actually kind of a fitting tribute that he gives his soul for his father, in a way.
2. His Mother Is Mystique
When Nightcrawler takes a look at his blue skin and yellow eyes, he definitely feels different than the other mutants, and other humans in particular, but there’s one mutant with whom he has a lot in common – because they have blood ties. We’re talking about Mystique. Everyone knows that the demon Azazel is Nightcrawler’s father, but it takes two to tango, and it turns out that his mother is the well-known mutant Mystique. Nightcrawler didn’t quite inherit her shape-shifting abilities, but the physical appearance is definitely evident. Now, Mystique wasn’t exactly the best mother in the world – as we know, Nightcrawler was abandoned when he was a child because she decided to run away for her own safety and just leave her child behind. However, it can’t be denied that biologically, she’s the one who created him – no matter how little he may have had to do with her since then.
1. His Mother Was Initially Supposed To Be His Father
Okay, this is a bit of a trippy one. Yes, Mystique is a woman – anyone who has seen her portrayal in the film world by the gorgeous Jennifer Lawrence knows this. However, as all X-Men fans know, Mystique is also a shape-shifter who can take on different forms – including the form of a man. Initially, the writers created a storyline where Mystique shapeshifted into the form of a man and would impregnate Destiny, a female mutant who was Mystique’s lover at the time. Perhaps Marvel felt a bit nervous including a same-sex couple back then, perhaps the writers thought that the storyline would be better presented with a few tweaks, or whatever the reason, the original idea didn’t end up happening. Instead, they went the very realistic route of having the shapeshifter Mystique impregnated by a demon, because… that’s less controversial. Somehow. While Destiny had some cool powers, there’s no denying that Nightcrawler’s part-demonic parentage is a big part of his character.