The German born Nightcrawler made his first appearance in Giant Size X-Men #1, released in 1975. The first of Charles Xavier’s all new team, Kurt Wagner came to the X-Men complete with codename and costume, both formerly used during his life as a circus performer.
The character was created sometime earlier however, and was not originally intended for the X-Men. In fact, he was first offered to Marvel’s ‘distinguished competition’, DC Comics, for their Legion Of Superheroes offshoot, The Outsiders, but was deemed “too funny looking” by DC’s editor Murray Boltinoff.
Created primarily by artist Dave Cockrum, who had sketched the demonic looking character several years earlier, Nightcrawler ended up in the X-Men when it was decided to include a non-human, almost scary character in the new team line-up. Another of Cockrum’s designs, the bat-winged Vampyre, was also considered, but the entire creative team preferred the blue-furred, barbed-tailed Nightcrawler, and didn’t think there was room for two good-hearted, freaky looking characters, so Vampyre was scraped in favour of Nightcrawler.
Writer Len Wein added the German background, creating his civilian name by combining the names of German chancellor, Kurt Waldheim and composer Richard Wagner (Nightcrawler could have easily been Richard Waldheim then…doesn’t have quite the same ring to it though).
Wein and Cockrum argued about his personality however. “My version was very animalistic, howling at the moon and stuff,” says Cockrum. “And I’d just taken a fencing course, so I saw him as a swashbuckler. But Len saw him as a bitter, tragic monster.” (Wizard X-Men Special, 1999).
“Nightcrawler was always heroic,” Says Wein. “But the devil-may-care attitude definitely was added by X-writer Chris Claremont. But I still recognize the character we created in Claremont’s version.” (X-Men Collectors’ Preview, 1995).
Kurt has always been one of the most popular X-Men. Though he can’t claim to have the fan following of Wolverine, he is far more popular than Storm or Rogue. A survey held by Wizard: The Guide To Comics at their website shortly after his return to the X-Men after the cancellation of Excalibur asked fans which X-Man they’d like to see get their own regular book. Nightcrawler easily thrashed the competition. Only combined could Storm and Rogue beat him. Strange then that they made the cut for the X-Men’s big screen debut and Nightcrawler didn’t. Though the rumour that he WILL be in the upcoming sequel that has been circling on the Internet for over a year has been confirmed, many Nightcrawler fans are not happy with the choice of Alan Cumming for the role, feeling the average-looking, 37 year-old Scotsman is not suited for the amazing looking 26 year-old German. But then, similar things were said about the six foot plus Australian Hugh Jackman playing the five foot three inch Canadian Wolverine…
Only time will tell...