Published October 19, 2023

What We Think We Know About Nightcrawler's Origin

Learn the lies that surround Nightcrawler's birth before the truth is revealed in next month's 'X-Men Blue: Origins' #1!

During mutantkind's darkest periods, Nightcrawler serves as the X-Men's guiding light. His endless compassion has made him a friend to all, but beneath that kind heart lies a tragic backstory. In the decades since his debut, the mysterious circumstances of his birth have been revealed to readers and Kurt Wagner alike in a series of contradicting stories, rumors, and outright dishonesty. On November 29, writer Si Spurrier and artists Wilton Santos and Marcus To will clear up the confusion once and for all in X-MEN BLUE: ORIGINS (2023) #1

This revelatory one-shot will spin out of Nightcrawler's current adventures in UNCANNY SPIDER-MAN (2023). It's a dangerous time to a be a mutant and Nightcrawler is navigating the FALL OF X era by giving into his heroic nature and suiting up as New York City's newest wall-crawling super hero!

It's not all swashbuckling fun, though. His birth mother Mystique just resurfaced with her mind shattered due to grave injuries she endured at the Hellfire Gala. Amnesiac, she lurks around Central Park speaking of her lost baby. The pair have a troubled relationship, but Nightcrawler always finds it in him to forgive. Can he help his mother when she needs him the most? And if he does, what new secrets about his birth is Mystique ready to share?

Before the definitive truth is exposed, let's take a trip through Nightcrawler's twisted history to find out where things currently stand. 

X-Men Blue: Origins #1 cover by Francis Manapul
X-Men Blue: Origins #1 Cover by Francis Manapul

Margali Szardos and Nightcrawler's Childhood

Nightcrawler debuted in GIANT-SIZE X-MEN (1975) #1 by Lein Wein and Dave Cockrum. On the run from an angry mob in Winzeldorf, Germany, Nightcrawler was rescued by Professor X and recruited for an all-new, all-different X-Men. His attackers appeared to be motivated by Kurt's devilish appearance, but Chris Claremont—who defined Nightcrawler during his legendary UNCANNY X-MEN run—and artists John Romita Jr. and Bob McLeod provided fuller context for Kurt's seemingly simple origin in X-MEN ANNUAL (1970) #4.

Titled "Nightcrawler's Inferno," this startling story revealed Nightcrawler was adopted by a sorceress named Margali Szardos. Telling Kurt she found him as an infant next to his dying mother, Margali raised him alongside her two children, Jimaine and Stefan. Kurt grew up in the traveling circus where Margali worked as a fortuneteller, eventually performing there himself as an acrobat.

Despite his blue skin and prehensile tail, Kurt found himself in an accepting and loving environment. However, darkness loomed under the surface. Margali was a follower of the Winding Way and her quest for greater power led her to practice the dark arts. Fearing his mother's influence would eventually corrupt him, Stefan made Kurt swear Kurt would kill him if he ever took an innocent life.

Years later, Stefan fell victim to madness and went on a murderous rampage through Wizeldorf. Kurt's attempts to reach his brother failed and, during their struggle, Stefan's neck got snapped. Kurt was blamed for Stefan's murders by the villagers, leading to the moment where readers first met him in GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1.

Kurt's role in Stefan's death also incurred Margali's wrath, but the two reconciled after Kurt explained his side of the story. Still, Margali has persistently tried to manipulate Kurt over the years and is not one to be trusted. Later stories prove Margali's claims about finding Kurt beside his dying mother false. Was this a white lie to save him from heartbreak, or was she serving a greater scheme?

X-MEN ANNUAL (1970) #4 artwork by John Romita Jr., Bob McLeod, Glynis Wein, and Tom Orzechowski
X-MEN ANNUAL (1970) #4 artwork by John Romita Jr., Bob McLeod, Glynis Wein, and Tom Orzechowski

Meeting Mystique

As fate would have it, the X-Men put Nightcrawler on a direct path towards meeting his actual birth mother, Raven Darkholme—the shape-shifting mutant known as Mystique. The two first came into contact in UNCANNY X-MEN (1963) #142 by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, part of the iconic "Days of Future Past" story arc. When the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants attempted to assassinate Senator Robert Kelly, Mystique and Nightcrawler found themselves on opposite sides of a pitched battle in Washington D.C. 

After Nightcrawler saw Mystique revert back to her true form, complete with blue skin and yellow eyes, he was astonished at their mutual resemblance. Kurt demanded an explanation, but Mystique offered nothing but taunts and told Kurt to seek answers from Margali. This interaction caused much anguish for Nightcrawler, and it would unfortunately be some time before he learned more.

Mystique's familiarity with Margali implied she had some semblance of knowledge regarding Kurt's upbringing, but any role she had in it remained unclear. The first notion she harbored any feelings for her long-lost son came in UNCANNY X-MEN (1963) #177 by Claremont and John Romita Jr. After slaughtering X-Man after X-Man as part of a vicious training sequence, Mystique was unable to deliver the final blow when faced with Nightcrawler.

UNCANNY X-MEN (1963) #142 artwork by John Byrne, Terry Austin, Glynis Wein, and Tom Orzechowski
UNCANNY X-MEN (1963) #142 artwork by John Byrne, Terry Austin, Glynis Wein, and Tom Orzechowski

family reunion

Nightcrawler finally discovered some concrete facts about his origin in X-MEN UNLIMITED (1993) #4 by Scott Lobdell and Richard Bennett, where Graydon Creed—leader of the anti-mutant group Friends of Humanity—investigated his own family history to confirm he was indeed the son of Mystique and Sabretooth. In the process, he learned Nightcrawler is his half-brother. 

Mystique and Graydon's hatred had erupted into a violent feud, and Forge—who had developed a personal connection with Mystique—called in two X-Men to reach out to her: her beloved adopted daughter, Rogue; and, for reasons he wouldn't disclose, Nightcrawler. Graydon, Rogue, and Nightcrawler chased Mystique to Rogue's childhood home in Caldecott, Mississippi, where an explosive family reunion ensued. Determined to make his newfound brother hate their mother as much as he did, Graydon unleashed the awful truth behind Kurt's birth.

Mystique had been married to a wealthy German nobleman named Baron Christian Wagner. When she gave birth to a pointy-eared son with blue skin, she was forced to flee the castle. As the villagers caught up to her, she accidentally dropped the newborn and left it to the mercy of the mob, who thereupon tossed it off a cliff.

Later, Mystique painted an even darker picture. Thinking she was speaking to only Graydon, Mystique revealed she saved herself by shapeshifting to look like a common villager. After telling the mob she killed Baron Wagner's wretched wife, she proceeded to toss Kurt off the cliff herself. She claimed to have no regrets, but when she realized Kurt heard her tale, she showed immediate remorse. 

When Graydon's forces launched an attack, Mystique and Nightcrawler were left hanging for their lives off of a cliff. Realizing Rogue could only save one of them, Mystique let go and plunged to her apparent demise, sacrificing herself in an act of poetic justice. Of course, she would eventually resurface—as would even more pointed questions about Nightcrawler's birth. 

X-MEN UNLIMITED (1993) #4 artwork by Richard Bennett, Steve Moncuse, Glynis Oliver, and Dave Sharpe
X-MEN UNLIMITED (1993) #4 artwork by Richard Bennett, Steve Moncuse, Glynis Oliver, and Dave Sharpe

the draco

Everything we'd learned about Nightcrawler was turned inside out in "The Draco," a story arc by Chuck Austen, Phillip Tan, and Sean Phillips. This scandalous saga began in UNCANNY X-MEN (1963) #428, where a new player joined the plot. 

When she was the wife of Baron Wagner, Mystique met Herr Azazel, ruler of La Isla des Demonas. Mystique fell in love and the two began a sordid affair. Her feelings only deepened after Azazel revealed that he, too, was a mutant and embraced Mystique for who she truly is. Always unable to give Baron Wagner a child, Mystique became pregnant by Azazel, who instructed her to raise the child as the Baron's before coldly abandoning her. Utterly heartbroken, Mystique cursed Azazel and didn't hesitate when she was forced to let her baby go. Unbeknownst to her, Azazel intervened and saved Kurt from his fatal plunge, placing him in the care of an old ally: Margali Szardos. 

This information came to light after Azazel completed his long-orchestrated plan. Having sired mutant offspring with teleportation powers for decades, Azazel called them forth as adults to La Isla des Demonas, Nightcrawler included. Part of an ancient mutant race from Biblical times, Azazel invited his children to partake in divine destiny, and their ritual opened a gateway to the dimension that Azazel and his people, the Neyaphem, were banished to.

With their similarities in appearance and Mystique present to corroborate Azazel's story, Nightcrawler found Azazel's claims to be undeniable but ultimately rejected him as a father. Together with the X-Men, he put an end to Azazel's mad scheme, although his purported father eventually found other methods to escape to Earth. 

The dark shadows of Nightcrawler's past loom larger with each revelation, but that should come as no surprise given the deceitful cast of characters involved. What key part of the story has been missing this whole time? And more importantly, why has it been hidden until now? Find out next month when all is revealed in X-MEN BLUE: ORIGINS #1! 

UNCANNY X-MEN (1963) #428 artwork by Sean Phillips, Dave McCaig, and Rus Wooton
UNCANNY X-MEN (1963) #428 artwork by Sean Phillips, Dave McCaig, and Rus Wooton

Learn the truth about Nightcrawler's origin in X-MEN BLUE: ORIGINS #1, on sale November 29!

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