His name is Kurt Wagner, but in his circus days, he was known as The Incredible Nightcrawler. This blue ball of fur has been a favorite face of the X-Men for decades, becoming a notable member of the team and developing his own fanbase. Known for his teleportation ability, his gymnastic form of movement and combat, and his fur and fangs, Nightcrawler is easily one of the most recognizable X-Men. Like all superheroes, he's had quite the evolution of attire and appearance throughout his long and exciting career. Batman isn't the only superhero with an affinity for blue tights, you know. Nightcrawler has gone through quite the circus of design in his days, each ranging from super-silly to solidly serious. But whether it's been blue tights or power armor, we've all been able to distinguish the identity of our favorite teleporting mutant. (Sorry, Blink fans.) No matter the suit, Kurt is still recognizable and distinguishable from his fellow X-Men.
But which versions of the character truly make Nightcrawler so incredible? What gear allows him to move with his acrobatic prowess and still protects him from harm, which design truly reflects the color of his character, and which interpretation is the most hailed by fans? Well, that's what we're here to address today, dear readers. We've combed through the X-Men archives and dug about for the various versions of the eccentric and endearing character. We present to you our fifteen selections of Nightcrawler's most prominent looks and designs, ranked from worst to best.
15 X-MEN: MANIFEST DESTINY
After the Professor X perished (for the 600th time) in the "Messiah CompleX" storyline, a militaristic Cyclops relocated his his newly reunited X-Men to San Francisco for a new era. This phase was ushered in the landmark 500th issue of Uncanny X-Men in a main story by Matt Fraction, Terry Dodson and Greg Land. This new era was called Manifest Destiny (get it??) and took place when mutants were, for a time, an "endangered species." Good times!
Nightcrawler was a part of this San Fran-based X-Men team, sporting a new jumpsuit too. It didn't have staying power -- clearly -- and represents a pretty forgettable era for Marvel's Merry Mutants. Yes, he has a sword in the above image. Did he use it much? No, he did not.
14 PRYDE OF THE X-MEN
Ah, the '80s... It was a time of big hair, spandex, and glam rock, and the X-Men had them all. In this first attempt at an animated series, Marvel's favorite team of mutants had more cheese than a stuffed-crust pizza. Next to Wolverine and his cringe-worthy Australian accent, Nightcrawler's design and interpretation are both a pair of sore spots.
We weren't kidding about that blue tights comment we made earlier, and they're absolutely garish. Not to mention, Nightcrawler's character is entirely too flirtatious with Kitty Pryde. He's harmless but still very creepy. This version is easily the weakest on our list but fear not, readers. The only way to go is up.
13 X-MEN: THE END
This version, designed by artist Sean Chen, isn't necessarily bad, but it's not the most beloved design for the character. Aside from Kurt's more elongated features, the suit is just too busy. The red undertones have been amped up to the point it almost looks like something out of a Power-Rangers knock-off.
It's Nightcrawler, but the design and the suit look a bit too modernized. It's all well and good to have something bright and colorful in a comic book world, but Nightcrawler is a mutant crime-fighter, not a runway model. It had good intentions, but overall it's a forgettable design.
12 21ST CENTURY
Speaking of modern interpretations of the character, here's one that has us all heaving a collected disgruntled sigh. We can get behind the black and red bodysuit, what superhero hasn't worn one of those at some point. But those shoulder guards have got to go! He looks like a Marvel version of Batman Beyond.
Not only would the armor be a total eyesore, but it would also most likely inhibit his movement. It's hard to do an impressive backflip while wearing metallic football gear. I think we can all agree that we're released Nightcrawler went on to bigger and better looks after this 2000s trainwreck.
11 1990s EXCALIBUR
During his days with the Excalibur team, Nightcrawler went through quite a few different looks in this beloved 80s-90s series. From having his original uniform shredded during the heat of battle to having an alien inspired suit from the Starjammers, he certainly went through the wardrobe.
This version from the Warren Ellis, Carlos Pacheco and Bob Wiacek run is one of the most radical changes on our list. Sporting a goatee, a shorter haircut, cape, and a rapier, this interpretation is far from the original design, but a fan favorite in some circles. It's a more adult and adventurous version of the character, and we certainly can't deny its merit.
10 WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN
One of the more recent televised versions of the team to include the blue Elf, the animated Wolverine and the X-Men, had Nightcrawler as one of the central characters in the show. In fact, next to his pal Wolverine, Nightcrawler had the most starring episodes. This version was a return to form, albeit a more angular design.
This version of the character sees a slightly altered version of the original design, but with a very noticeable X logo and some distinct facial alterations. The more defined facial structure and the parted hairdo are some new changes, but the overall concept is an acceptable update for the character. The twin sabers are also a surprising plus.
9 X2: X-Men United
What did we do to deserve such an amazing character actor like Alan Cumming? X2: X-Men United was many a Marvel fan's first introduction to the character of Nightcrawler. Cumming's incredibly versatile performance is one of the main factors of this iconic look, showing the character's mix of weird-yet-warmhearted in 2003 film.
Though beloved by many fans, the design takes a few liberties, such as removing the fur and replacing it with deliberate scars all over his body. The tail and toe effects are impressive, especially for '03 standards, and who can forget his introductory scene in the White House? It's a good first live-action adaptation, but things definitely get better as we go down our list.
Marvel's X-Force series was built of action-heavy storylines, big weapons, and monochromatic uniforms. This series sees a totally new Nightcrawler joining forces with Fantomex, Psylocke, and even Deadpool. It was a darker time for everyone, including our favorite furry elf. The X-Force's Nightcrawler is actually from another dimension and he's known as Kurt Darkholme from Earth-295.
This Nightcrawler sports a silver suit, a pair of swords, and isn't afraid to kill. It certainly makes us miss our old Kurt, but we can't deny there's a likable edge factor seeing a more mild character suddenly become dark and serious. That being said, we much prefer the more benign and colorful variant.
7 2000s UNCANNY X-MEN
Finally getting away from his silver-shouldered look, Nightcrawler returned to a more sensible form in a 2004-era run of Uncanny X-Men. This version saw a callback to his original, lovable self, complete with his over-friendly demeanor. It was a return to familiarity for many fans of the character, and sometimes that's just what a superhero needs.
This look obviously inspired his later appearance for Wolverine and the X-Men, but it has enough of the classic design to win the hearts of even the most die-hard purists. The black and red suit made a triumphant comeback, lost the triangular midsection, and improved the gloves and toed-boots. In a case of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" Nightcrawler comes back along with his classic sense of style.
6 X-MEN: THE ANIMATED SERIES
Considered one of the most true-to-form versions of the X-Men, the '90s animated series brought the iconic Marvel team right off the page and into our living rooms. The show was almost exactly true to the source material in terms of presentation. Anyone of these characters could be easily pulled from the show and onto a comic panel, and Nightcrawler is no exception.
Almost an exact adaptation of his classic look, Nightcrawler is introduced when the team is on a ski trip. Unaffiliated with the X-Men at this point, his attire was part of his costume from his circus days. His face, while matching the comic's design and shading, is more expressive and emotional. The show continues to be one of the most faithful adaptations.
5 CLASSIC LOOK (GIANT-SIZE X-MEN)
This is the most recognizable look for the great blue Elf, the one that started it all. Nightcrawler was first introduced to the X-Men canon in 1975's comic book extravaganza, Giant-Size X-Men #1. In true monster-movie fashion, Nightcrawler is run out of a village by an angry mob. Prof. Xavier finds him and the rest, as they say, is history.
Like Spider-Man's red and blue suit, this is the look that inspires every following adaptation. No matter what version it is, there are always elements of the original, which was of course designed by the late, great Dave Cockrun. Whether he's in the X-Force or on one of his solo runs, the black and red suit, blue skin, pointy ears, fur, and prehensile tail are always present.
In 1985, Nightcrawler got his first miniseries, and boy was it a trip. Take a shipload of pirates, a time-travel portal, and a quest to rescue a princess and you've got yourself a good time for a blue guy. It's one of Nightcrawler's most memorable outings, and still worth a read today.
Nightcrawler has always been a fan of Errol Flynn's films, so it was pretty interesting to see him live out his fantasies. Complete with a bandana and cutlass, we see the blue elf take on a swashbuckling hero role as he tries to make it back to his own time period. Though he had to leave the pirate attire behind, it's nice to see he's still pretty handy with that blade.
Anyone even remotely familiar with Nightcrawler knows that he is, in fact, a very devout Catholic. This is presented in almost every adaptation, as well as some of the animated series he's featured in. But it was Grant Morrison who decided to up the factor by leagues.
In mid-200s Uncanny X-Men comics, Nightcrawler nearly completes his training as a Catholic priest, but since superhero duties come first, he rejoins the X-Men, but not without an upgrade to his uniform. Designed by Ian Churchill, Nightcrawler sports a black and yellow suit with a raised collar, reminiscent of a priest's. We're not gonna lie, it's one of our favorite looks on this list.
2 X-MEN: APOCALYPSE
Viewers were wowed at the look of the new X-Men in X-Men: Age of Apocalypse. All of the classic characters and designs seemed to be there. Characters like Storm and Psylocke make appearances, all in their classic '80s and '90s attire -- and that includes Nightcrawler.
A much younger version of the character is portrayed in the movie be Let Me In's Kodi Smit-McPhee, who brings a more comics-accurate portrayal to the big screen. His black and red suit makes a return as well, but the scars from X2 are still present. It's a return to form for the blue Elf, and we imagine there'll be an update inspired by this look in X-Men: Dark Phoenix.
1 X-MEN: EVOLUTION
After the success of the first X-Men film, a TV show was inevitable. This version of the team saw more movie-inspired designs for characters like Cyclops and Sabertooth, but other characters got more colorful adaptations akin to a Saturday-morning cartoon. With longer hair and a goofier attitude, we saw a new side of the character in X-Men: Evolution.
Along with the Link-ish appearance, Nightcrawler was given a brand new suit -- and we're not talking design. Along with new threads, Kurt sports a high-tech secret hiding in plain sight, a special gadget in his belt that projects a human appearance over his mutant form. This version of the character is one of the most beloved, and for good reason. It's a fun and lovable take on a Marvel legend, offering up a killer blue-skinned look in addition to a memorable "human" form.