Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Nightcrawler: Priest, Prophet, Mutant

"Nightcrawler-- Priest, Prophet, Mutant

            Introduced in 1975, one of the most popular characters from the X-Men comics is a German circus acrobat named Kurt Wagner (a.k.a. Nightcrawler). Blessed with extreme agility and the ability to vanish in a puff of smoke and teleport miles away, Nightcrawler also has one of the most distinctive appearances of any of the X-Men characters, sporting blue skin and fur, yellow eyes, pointed ears, fangs, a prehensile tail, and three-fingered hands and feet. His appearance is very much demonic, making Nightcrawler’s devout Catholicism all the more fascinating. Though Nightcrawler’s freakish appearance is very much accepted during his upbringing in the Bavarian circus, he often finds himself at the mercy of angry mobs whenever straying from his circus peers, and it was after being rescued from one such mob that he joined Professor Xavier’s X-Men and came to America. Called a demon and a monster, Nightcrawler might have the most in-depth understanding of the persecution that mutants face, and yet, he will not allow his will or his faith to be crushed. Despite opposition from many in the religious community, he serves as an ordained Catholic priest, even though he finds it difficult to attend or preside over mass due to the terror his appearance often insights. Still, Nightcrawler remains an effective counselor, preaching the love of God for those born different, encouraging humans to love mutants and encouraging mutants like Magneto to be patient with the humans.

(X-Men 2)

              Perhaps what makes Nightcrawler so endearing is how utterly complex a character he is. A fan of classic films, Nightcrawler fancies himself a bit of a swashbuckler, often imitating his hero, Errol Flynn, when he goes into combat with the X-Men. Of course, while his beliefs make him pacifistic at his core, he must reconcile fighting alongside the X-Men as a service to the greater good, seeking to protect humans and mutants from whatever threats might arise from those seeking to oppress and conquer. Additionally, while many of the mutants are capable of passing for human, Nightcrawler’s appearance is a constant source of turmoil for him, but he continually finds affirmation in his religion, recognizing that, through his mutation, God has granted him special abilities and unique insights into the ordering of the world. He has every right to hate the people around him, yet he sees all people as children of God and preaches that same love and tolerance to his fellow X-Men when they grow tired of fighting the good fight. His religious rhetoric and comments about God’s love are a welcome antidote to the hate that the X-Men sometimes receive from religious groups like the Purifiers and the Church of Humanity. In fact, his uncrushable faith might be Nightcrawler’s most impressive ability, and it is evidence of just how much comfort people can find in God when the majority tells them that they are misfits or abominations. While religious people have an unfortunate history of being just as hateful as any other group, God loves the oppressed and the oppressor alike, going so far as to live among us as Jesus Christ and die a humiliating death to reconcile humanity to God. Nightcrawler might embody that spirit more than any other X-Men character. In his own words,

Looks like someone's been reading their Peter Abelard."

Original source:
Another article on Nightcrawler's faith and origin story:

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