Alas, poor Kurt, I knew him, Ororo.
Apologies to the Bard, whose original words are quoted below. I feel that they are appropriate for this somber celebration of the uncanny mutant known as Nightcrawler:
Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow
of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath
borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how
abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rims at
it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know
not how oft. Where be your gibes now? your
gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment,
that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one
now, to mock your own grinning? quite chap-fallen?
Now get you to my lady’s chamber, and tell her, let
her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must
come; make her laugh at that.
Click on the character design sheet and notes above by the legendary Dave Cockrum (who also created Storm and Colossus, among many others). Unfortunately, Dave passed away in 2006. All artwork in this post is by Cockrum.
You can read about Nightcrawler’s creation in Dave’s on words here and here. Newsarama has a nice tribute for Kurt in their Dial H for History series that is helpful if you aren’t familiar with the character’s background. Above, an awesome sketch of the fuzzy elf done for a fan at a convention.
Nightcrawler assisting the All-New, All-Different X-Men in Giant Size X-Men #1. Kurt was paired with the antagonistic Sunfire who did not treat Kurt with respect or kindness (but then, Sunfire wasn’t known for his sweetness). Kurt’s appearance was constantly a battle for him as it did not match the gentleness within his heart.
Nightcrawler teleports and almost drowns in Uncanny X-Men #147, page 3. The character’s derring-do was an elemental aspect of the character. The dichotomy of a brave man who just happens to look demonic was not lost on X-Men readers and Kurt quickly became a fan favorite.
Nightcrawler reminisces about his recent adventures with his team in Uncanny X-Men #147, page 5. Cockrum’s amazing design sense is evidenced by his unique panels to catch the reader up on as much information as possible in a short amount of space.
Artwork from the first issue of the Nightcrawler mini-series (page 18). Errol Flynn was revealed to be one of Kurt’s heroes and his swashbuckling ways here totally represent his interest in one of Hollywood’s most adventurous (and sexy) leading men. When Kurt disguised himself with the image inducer(scroll down to read a great summary of its uses by Kurt as well as the image inducer’s complete history), he chose to look like Errol Flynn.
Nightcrawler encounters a Bamf, a smaller version of himself! “Welcome to Bamf Island, Daddy!” Indeed!
A lovely pencil illustration, presumably another convention sketch. A fantastic somber moment.
Nightcrawler and Wolverine developed a close friendship over the course of the new X-Men’s adventures. They were frequently seen sparring in a friendly game of “tag” with the loser buying the beer. The two men were close confidants and compadres. Check out this fan’s reaction to their friendship and Nightcrawler’s subsequent death.
In Uncanny X-Men #105 (page 27) Nightcrawler tries to rescue Lilandra without success. I love the first panel showing his acrobatic skills.
Nightcrawler makes up for not being to keep Erik the Red from taking Lilandra by rescuing her in Uncanny X-Men #107 (page 15). The first time I read this scene I was totally freaked out by the Soul-Drinker.
Uncanny X-Men #153 depicts the first appearance of the Bamfs when Kitty tells a fairy tale to Illyana (little sister of Colossus).
“Kitty’s Fairy Tale” starred the X-Men in more archetypal characterizations of themselves and proved to be a rather fun flight of fancy for a book that had been dealing with cosmic soap opera and death. Much of that sense of delight comes from Cockrum’s fantastic sense of play with the characters and his quirky iterations of them.
An early depiction of Nightcrawler and the all new team from Uncanny X-Men #98. Nightcrawler shows compassion for Cyclops’ well-being and of course, Scott summarily dismisses his concerns. I get sad when I look at this page and realize that Kurt is not the only dead X-Man on the page (RIP Banshee, Jean Grey, and Moira MacTaggert).
More goodness from the Nightcrawler limited series. I chose to include this image last because of the words that Dave Cockrum wrote at the bottom of the page, “Nightcrawler is me. The Bamf is my libido.” Interesting words from a man who truly understood where creator and creation intersected. Telling, perhaps, of the fiery energy required of a creator and the commitment necessary to explore a character. Where did Nightcrawler begin and Dave Cockrum end? Hard to say as we know longer have the man with us to ask these questions. It is sufficient to say that we are all the richer for the creator and the character having touched our lives. Perhaps there is no longer room in the X-Men books these days for the compassion of Kurt Wagner (and let’s be honest, in years past the X-titles have ignored and/or misused the character’s charisma and charm for some time) but we will always have these amazing stories to remind us of the brilliance of the past.