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Excalibur #16


Writer: Chris Claremont

Penciler: Alan Davis

Inks: Paul Neary

Colours: Glynis Oliver and Mike Rockwitz

Letters: Tom Orzechowski

Editor: Terry Kavanagh 

Original publication date: December 1989

Some people say you shouldn’t go full Nightcrawler. The GGW pod disagrees. Especially Anna, Kurt Wagner’s (Unofficial) PR Manager, who’s hoping he’ll be hiring her in an official capacity after this episode on the sword and sorcery extravaganza that is Excalibur #16, “Warlord.” Comics scholar Dr. Keith Friedlander falls from the sky onto the deck of our sleek pirate corsair to talk swashbuckling, lust, consent, and Kitty’s first kill. And Nightcrawler. So. Much. Nightcrawler. (Almost all of him, in fact!) Basically: if you’ve ever wanted to listen to a serious academic discussion about the gender fluid symbology of a certain prehensile tail, this ep’s for you.  

This episode has an enhanced video version! Watch here:

On the visual language of Kurt:

“Davis gives Kurt a very fluid and visually distinct fighting style. Kurt’s fluidity isn’t Spider-Man’s. His glee fits his personality. He’s complicit in violence but it’s ‘fun violence.’ That’s Kurt’s ideal world.” -Mav

On the appeal of Kurt as identification character: “Part of the appeal of him performing generic swashbuckler roles is the identification that comes with the fact that, like us, he’ll never be able to perform these roles properly. Because he’s not the generic handsome hero. He’s a blue devil guy.” -Anna

On the importance of Kurt as a sexy character:

“This is the most explicit sex scene we’ve ever had featuring Nightcrawler. These scenes are important because they humanize Kurt. Also, while these scenes are fan service-y, they’re fan service-y of the types of gazes that don’t often get prioritized in the superhero genre. Like female gazes, and queer gazes… anyone who likes to look at suave lean-muscled devil boys lounging around in bed and licking wine off people’s hands.” -Anna

“I like the attention paid throughout this sequence to Kurt’s unique features. There’s no attempt to disguise his difference. It’s front and centre, as a feature, not a bug. It’s Kurt in sexy mode, but it’s still so much Kurt.” -Anna

On the end of Kurt-baiting:

“There’s something very validating about the affirmation of Kurt’s sexuality here, because there’d been so much hinting around leading up to this, with things like the bathroom scenes. There’s a lot of ‘Kurt baiting.’ But here, he’s a fully sexual being. There’s no more coy hinting.” -Keith

On the many uses of prehensible tails:

“In terms of the sexual flexibility of Kurt – some of the gender fluidity of his body speaks to that a bit, and his tail is a good example. His tail can be a phallic symbol or a connotatively feminine, sensual symbol. Kurt’s tail thrusts and squeezes.” -Anna

On Kurt’s swashbuckler fantasies:

Excalibur has these ongoing acts of masquerade – donning different identities, and even different skins. And some fit better than others. This is a very special present to Kurt in that he often puts on this masquerade of being the swashbuckler, and now, in this world, it’s not a persona. You get to just *be* it, and it’s appropriate, and you’re not acting a part.” -Keith

To see some subsequent references to these risque costumes – we did a Twitter thread collecting them, which you can find here!

On Kitty’s use of force:

“This is the first humanoid character Kitty has killed. Within the context of this world, this fits with Kitty growing up. Wolverine trained her and helped raise her. There’s a reason he was her best friend.” -Mav

On Kitty as ninja:

“I liked the Kitty/Rachel dynamic here, where Rachel’s usually the one protecting Kitty (or at least, believing that’s her role), and now Kitty’s saving Rachel.” -Keith

Want more Keith Friedlander?

Want more Keith Friedlander?

Find him on Twitter (@FriedKeith).

And! Check out his fabulous book chapter “Parents, Counterpublics, and Sexual Identity in Young Avengers” in Anna’s edited collection Supersex: Sexuality, Fantasy, and the Superhero.

You can also read more of Keith’s insights into superheroes and gender politics in his article for The Middle Spaces on the MCU’s Thanos: “Despite the Genocide: Deconstructed Masculinity and Thanos Fandom.”

And! Keith is the current President of the Canadian Society for the Study of Comics – aka the organization through which Anna, Andrew, and Keith all met for the first time! They hold yearly events and regular symposiums, and the membership is a mix of academics, fans, and critics; it’s also very reasonably priced (with a free option for the financially challenged). If you’re not up for joining the society, you can still follow them and the work of the society’s members on Twitter! (@ComicsBD)

And as usual: 

You can find Anna on Twitter (@peppard_anna) and on her podcast with Andrew and Michael Hancock, Three Panel Contrast (@3PanelContrast). 

You can find Andrew on Twitter (@ClaremontRun).

You can find Mav on Twitter (@chrismaverick) and on his podcast, VoxPopcast (@VoxPopcast). 


-GGW Team