Nightcrawler In Animation - A Retrospective
Part One -
Originally a rejected hero for DC Comics, or so the legend goes, Nightcrawler is among many fan’s favourite mutants despite the fact he is really, really odd and tends to dramatically differ in character depending on who writes him.
My own personal experience with Nightcrawler doesn’t start in animation, which is a radically different break from the norm. I loved the X-Men cartoon as a child but admit to rarely knowing who any of the characters were before I watched the show. I certainly wasn’t one of the fanboys tingling in anticipation for this character to show up or for the group to fight this villain – I really didn’t know who so many of them were. Even now, if they haven’t appeared in a cartoon, I can’t really claim to be too knowledgeable on them.
As I said above, Nightcrawler was different. I remember having fond memories of the first X-Men game for the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis to you on the other side of the Atlantic) and Nightcrawler was one of the four playable characters along with Cyclops, Wolverine and Gambit. For those interested in such trivial matters, Archangel, Storm, Iceman, Jean Grey and Rogue were your helpers (naturally, Archangel was the best). Magneto had infected the Danger Room with a virus and you had to defeat whatever villains it cooked up in order to overcome it’s programming before finally travelling to Asteriod M for a final showdown with the Master Of Magnetism. The game is incredibly difficult to beat, I’ve had it since I was like, 7 and still haven’t finished it without cheating. One of my plans in life is to complete this and Spider-Man Vs The Kingpin without cheating but to be honest, I think it’s time I set myself a new, achievable challenge, like curing cancer or running to the moon.
Anyway, enough off topic rambling about me, let’s go back to Nightcrawler in animation. Ol’ elf man would make his debut in Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends in an episode entitled The Education Of A Superhero. It’s a none speaking cameo, which, despite only lasting 4 seconds, is still twice as good as anything else in the episode. The less I have to rant about Videoman, the better for all concerned. Given that Spider-Friends couldn’t decide which roster of The X-Men it actually wanted to use in their numerous appearances, Nightcrawler was absent from The X-Men Adventure and would have to wait until Pryde Of The X-Men to make his way back to the small screen again.
Marvel took something of a gamble with Spider-Man in the 80’s. Funding an entire production for a syndicated cartoon featuring their flagship character paid off, as the networks noticed the popularity of the show promptly picked up a new Spider-Man cartoon, one which you and I would later call Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends. A quick backdoor pilot mean The Incredible Hulk got his own, criminally short lived but astonishingly good cartoon a year later and as seen above, they tried the same trick with The X-Men in Amazing Friends but never pulled it off. Determined to get The X-Men on TV, they went to the length of producing a very expensive pilot in hopes of getting one of the network to order and X-Men cartoon. None of them were interested – they all wanted Smurfs and things of that nature – superhero cartoons were on their way out, fun cute comedy shows were the future.
The pilot isn’t especially bad. It’s not especially good either, but it could’ve been a lot worse. The plot is pretty thin – understandable for a 22-minute pilot that had as many characters as this episode did. Nightcrawler made the cut this time and actually got more screen time that most. He’s presented as the swashbuckling character here – he spends most of the episode seeking the affection of new girl Kitty (shame on Kurt, she’s like, 14!) only to find she is repulsed by his appearance. She inevitably learns that she is wrong to judge people by how they look and they become friends.
You’ve heard this millions of times before if you’ve looked through any of the previous retrospectives – the animation here is superb, far better than even the best of Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends offered, and as such Nightcrawler looked great. The comic design is one of those you shouldn’t tamper with too much unless you are forced to, and they kept it pretty faithful here. Casting was done very well too – considering the blundering they did with Kitty and Wolverine, it’s good to see they did such commendable jobs with Nightcrawler and Cyclops (I refuse to do a retrospective without mentioning how awesome Michael Bell is.) Overall, Nightcrawler’s appearance here was much like the pilot itself – not bad, but nothing incredible.
It certainly wouldn’t compare to the next time we’d see him on TV…