Nightcrawler In Animation - A Retrospective

Part One - Part Two - Part Three

X-Men had balls. There’s no disputing the fact. Behind the crude animation, often overdramatic acting and silly scripting, one can’t deny that X-Men went places that other cartoons wouldn’t or couldn’t go. I imagine it’s easy to look back at this show and laugh at it, but I’ve always had a soft spot – even when I was a small child, I knew X-Men was trying to do something different than having action figures shout at each other. No episode says this better than Nightcrawler.

Considered by many to be the very best episode of the show, Nightcrawler deals with the central character’s religious beliefs. Injured on a ski trip, Wolverine, Rogue and Gambit are aided by Monks who take them back to their Monastery in a town where they have heard rumblings of a demon stalking the streets. Bored of supping coca, Wolverine asks what is known about the creature before discovering that he actually lives at the Monastery, the creature, as strange as it sounds, is a man of God.

Religion has forever been a big no-no in animation. For a cartoon as heavily restricted by BS+P as X-Men was, I’m surprised the episode made it passed the concept stage. Religion doesn’t really interest me personally, I’m not what you call a believer but I was impressed with the fact they didn’t shy away from the subject – it shows both the good and bad sides of what religion will drive people to. Nightcrawler hasn’t actually done wrong anything to irk the villagers – they fear him because of his appearance. They believe him to be a demon – God wouldn’t create a creature like him. If memory serves, they don’t be believe in cellular mutation either, so they wouldn’t believe him to be a mutant.

What I find to be the most interesting part of the episode is Wolverine’s involvement – he wasn’t just here to hack things and spout out tough guys lines that are a lot harder to here now than they were in the 90’s. Wolverine initially scoffs at the preacher’s beliefs – why would God look out for them? He used to believe, but he’s seen too much, he has become too cynical. You can’t really blame him – his memory loss, the tests conducted on him by Weapon X, the fact that nearly every friendship and relationship he’s had has ended violently, Logan is too world weary to believe that the man upstairs cares about him. But of course, apparently, he moves in mysterious ways.

There’s no big blow out – no supervillain to fight, just people learning about the errors of their ways and eventually forgiving each other. Nightcrawler even manages to convert Logan in the end – in a rather touching moment, we see Logan on his knees praying at the episodes conclusion.

This episode isn’t forgotten in the show’s outstanding finale, Graduation Day. There’s a wonderful little nod to it, as Xavier says goodbye to Logan.

“Wolverine. Loner. You have a family. While savage, you have found dignity. Cynic – you have found faith.”

Nightcrawler himself is well represented in the episode. He has a nice enough design (hindered by terrible AKOM animation of course) but as far as visuals go, it could’ve been a lot worse. Casting was brilliant – again, when TAS got it right, they usually nailed with their voice actors. Janusz Bukowski is still probably my favourite Nightcrawler voice to date.

Nightcrawler would get one final appearance in the show in Bloodlines in which his complex family tree from the comic books makes its way into the show.

The episode opens as Nightcrawler asks Wolverine for his help – he has sent a note from an unknown individual asking him to meet him or he will harm his birth Mother. Unaware that she was even still alive (Kurt was adopted when he was found in a lake and was trained in the circus as an acrobat) Kurt admits that he doesn’t know what to do. Upon arriving at the location, they realise it is a run down base for the Friends Of Humanity – The X-Men’s answer to Nazi’s to get straight to the point.

He later learns that it was Graydon Creed who lured him there – he had been given orders from the FOH to eliminate the bad seeds in his family tree, which of course included his Father Sabertooth and, as we learn here, his Mother Mystique, step brother Nightcrawler and Step Sister Rogue. Even after his own flesh and blood tries to kill him, Nightcrawler still refuses to hate the women who abandoned him as a helpless baby – he instead asks why and gets the answer no one ever likes to here – he was simply an inconvenience to her life and the fact he was born with blue skin and three fingers was unacceptable to his rich Father. It’s a great episode – nice mystery, good pace, a great twist but for me, it’s the ending that makes it. Having failed the FOH, they throw Creed out of a helicopter over Canada and we see him reunited with his Father – I remember being wigged out when I first saw that. I struggle to describe it as anything other chilling. It may be my very favourite ending to an X-Men episode ever, barring the finale.

I was very pleased with Nightcrawler in this cartoon. After having rekindled my fondness for the X-Men when they began hyping the movie, I was thrilled to learn he would be in the group’s main roster for the new upcoming X-Men cartoon. Little did I know what lied in store for me…