“No Man is an Island”
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Pencil: David Ross
Inks: Al Milgrom
Colours: Brad Vancata
Letters: Ken Lopez
Editor: Terry Kavanagh
Original publication date: November 1990
Don’t let the title fool you—some men are islands, and those islands claim Krakoa as a father and have sworn revenge on Nightcrawler! That’s right—it’s time to talk Kurt Wagner vs Vega-Superior, The Son of Krakoa! And also, the X-Men…??? Anna, Mav, and Andrew are joined by superhero scholar John Darowski to talk adventure story tropes, Kurt’s investment in problematic fantasies, and the multilayered objectification of monstrous/beautiful male bodies in a comic where most of Kurt’s blue fur is on display most of the time.
On the opening splash:
Anna: “You know when you accidentally have your phone camera set to front-face, and catch yourself at a bad angle looking down at it? That’s Kurt in this image.”
Mav: “But also – you have the phone sitting on the table in front of your crotch.”
On adventure story tropes:
“I loved this comic as a kid. But now I see all the problematic tropes going on. It’s an old school white savior narrative, involving an ‘ignorant’ tribe who worships a false god who need to be taken down a peg.” -John
On Kurt’s clothing choices:
“Either Kurt was wearing a loincloth already, or he made himself a loincloth upon arriving on this island to properly perform his adventurer role.” -Andrew
On gender and performance:
“It’s always implicit with Nightcrawler that as much as he might aspire to traditional masculine roles, he’s always out of place. What I like about Classic X-Men #23 is that you see him engaging directly with performance. He studies himself in the mirror and has to cut the boots to fit his feet. He literally can’t fit into the role.” -Anna
On Kurt’s affection for swashbuckling:
“I like Kurt best when he’s someone who can engage with swashbuckling fantasies but is also capable of contemporizing them to align with his values. Which are better than the values in most of those old stories.” -Andrew
On Kurt’s objectification:
“One of the things I wonder about a lot with Nightcrawler and other ‘monstrous’ characters is whether their nakedness is being treated as nakedness because they’re monstrous, and therefore not considered objectifiable. This can make the eroticization at least partly accidental.” -Anna
On Kurt’s Errol Flynn fascination:
“There’s never been a Nightcrawler story that delves into his original affection for Errol Flynn, let alone one that updates it. Which is a shame, because the cultural meanings attached to Flynn have changed so much over time. He’s now acknowledged as a much more problematic figure. He’s also a much queerer figure.” -Anna
On Kurt’s fantasies:
“I’m willing to accept Kurt buying into a masculine fantasy unironically. The ways Kurt is problematic – and he is sometimes, including in his relationships with women – speaks to the fact you don’t have to look like the blond jock to be problematic.” -Mav
On the ongoing story:
“It’s basic, but I liked that this scene built on the pub story from Excalibur #29, which started trying to repair the Brian/Meggan relationship by showing a kinder and more empathetic side of Brian.” -Anna
On cultural context:
“This was the era of second-wave environmentalism – of Captain Planet and Al Gore. Re-reading this comic after so many years, I wanted to see how that was expressed here. It wasn’t great. The solution is to kill the vegetation?” -John
Want more John Darowski?
Check out his recent edited collection Adapting Superman: Essays on the Transmedia Man of Steel! Featuring Anna’s essay ” Adaptation, Fandom and Gender: What Counts, Who Counts and Why,” Mav’s essay “No Tights, No Flights: How Smallville Put the ‘Human’ in ‘Superhuman,’” and lots more awesomeness!
And here’s Anna guesting on Joseph Darowksi’s The Protagonist Podcast, talking (natch) Nightcrawler – specifically, the 2004 solo series by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Darick Robertson! John is a frequent guest on The Protagonist Podcast as well!
And as usual:
You can find Andrew on Twitter (@ClaremontRun).