Why Mera & Nightcrawler are my favourite superheroes:
I’m an odd person. I can have weird, eclectic tastes. I never feel quite like I fit in with other comic fans oftentimes (more on that in a future OP-ED). So it’s probably no surprise that my two favourite superheroes are each less common choices in themselves. My two favourite superheroes are Queen Mera of Atlantis, and Nightcrawler, aka Kurt Wagner of the X-Men.
My love for each of these two represents a different part of myself, or at the very least, a part of the person I strive to be I think. Mera being the strong-willed, driven leader, unwilling to let any doubt or naysayers dissuade her. Once Mera’s chosen a course of action, she sticks to that course to the very bitter end. My relationship with the character of Mera is relatively short, only discovering (for lack of a better word) her character through reading the DC crossover event “Blackest Night” for the first time when I was in college. Seeing how Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis portrayed her in that storyline, a woman grieving for all the family she had lost (Aquaman had been dead at the time, and both of them having lost a son years prior), yet still fighting off the invading Black Lantern army, refusing to quit, to fall to despair? That was incredibly inspiring and empowering to me.
I actively strived to follow Mera’s character once I finished reading Blackest Night, moving to the follow-up Brightest Day, where her relationship with Arthur is tested as the true purpose of her first encounter with Aquaman is revealed. She was sent to Atlantis to kill Arthur. This was part of Geoff Johns’s attempt to revamp the character of Mera, and I do think said revamp works. The following arc Mera experiences throughout Brightest Day was very compelling, as was the Aquaman on-going title Johns would write after that, in the wake of the New 52 reboot of 2011. From that point on, I knew that Mera was a new favourite of mine. From battles with the monstrous Trench, to high school reunions, to taking the throne of Atlantis herself, I followed Mera’s journey and treasured every moment of it. And this past December, I was fortunate enough to see my favourite DC character on the big screen in the epic live-action Aquaman film. It’s been a great decade to be a fan of Mera.
But why is Nightcrawler an equal favourite of mine? Well if Mera is someone whose stories who push me forward, Kurt’s move me to be kinder. And my history with the blue-elf goes back a lot further.
Back in the early 2000’s, when I was at a friend’s house for a sleep-over party, there was a game. This friend had a Playstation where I did not (#NintendoKid4Life), and thus had access to a game I’d never experienced before. This game was X-Men: Mutant Academy 2. A simple, straightforward fighting game starring Marvel’s Merry Mutants, I was intrigued by it. And among the roster of playable characters, there was a blue devil fighting with a sword. My child-mind was BLOWN by this. Who could this strange character be? Clearly a villain right? But no, this demon was a quick-witted, compassionate hero.
Already I was fascinated by this Nightcrawler, but as this was a fighting game, story content was minimal. So where did I go for that? Televison. Around this same time (or perhaps a year or two later it’s a bit foggy), Fox Kids was airing a new animated series based around the X-Men, titled “X-Men: Evolution”. This was a more unique take on the X-Men than the 90’s animated series had been (a show I did watch as a kid and enjoy), as it was a completely new tale of the origins of the X-Men. Scott Summers, Jean Grey, Kitty Pryde, Storm, Wolverine, Spike, and yes, Nightcrawler, formed the first X-Men team. And this series followed most of these characters (save for Storm and Logan) as teenagers. This was important as it meant I could connect with Kurt in a whole new way, he was young, vibrant, and carefree. All this in spite of his bizarre appearance. That was inspiring to me. Kurt was an oddball I could try to be myself as a teenager. He loved fast food, parties, goofing around, and he cared about everyone around him. He was kind to a fault,
Between that game and that animated series, I was sold. No longer could any other Marvel character ever hold a candle to the incredible Nightcrawler in my eyes. And I found a new standard to live to. Trying (and often failing) to bring laughs & joy to others, making sure they never felt as alienated as I myself did, growing up with Asperger’s Syndrome (again, subject of another day’s OP-ED). Through these depictions, and those of the films such as X2: X-Men United, and the X-Men comics I’d devour with such fervour, I’d fuel both my love for Kurt Wagner and strengthen my ability to face the world.
When the world seems dark or cruel, as it so often does these days, I can struggle to pick myself up, to keep going. But through Mera’s iron resolve, and Kurt’s kind heart, I dust myself off, stare defiantly at those who would repress others of different ethnicities, sexual orientations or identities, and I refuse them. And I try to crack a stupid joke instead.