Something that really interests me about X-Men: First Class is that they've decided to take some liberties with characters we've already come to know. Havok will be older than his brother, Scott, and Azazel, the father of Nightcrawler, will have a previous association to the Institute for Higher Learning that didn't exist before.
In the comic book continuity, Azazel made his debut in Uncanny X-men #428 and was created by Chuck Austen and Sean Phillips. It is explained that he is Nightcrawler's biological father, which explains the latter's devil-like features and their shared power of teleportation.
Azazel is the leader of the Neyaphem, a group of mutants who look particularly demonic. They have a counterpart "angelic" group, called the Cheyarafim, which were banished to the Brimstone Dimension. Nightcrawler uses this dimension to "bamf" in and out of when he teleports.== TEASER ==
Azazel plays the demon role well: he has the power of mind control, teleportation, dark magic, swordsmanship and immortality. He can also control beings that come from the Brimstone dimension; these qualities make him absurdly powerful. He is heavily implied to be the inspiration for Satan in Judeo-Christian religions due to his activity and fighting with the Cheyarafim during Biblical times.
He can also shape-shift, which leads to his relevance in the plot. Trapped in a (conveniently) hell-like realm and fancying himself a bit of playboy, Azazel disguised himself as a "normal" person multiple times, seducing women and impregnating them.
When Mystique tried to kill the baby after Wagner found out about his wife's mutant powers (and his "son's" demon-like features) it was Azazel who saved Kurt from falling over a waterfall. Aside from Nightcrawler, Azazel also fathered the teleporting mutants Kiwi Black and Abyss, who he mind-controlled into opening a portal for him to escape his dimensional prison.
If this sounds convoluted to you, you are not alone. Much of Chuck Austen's run on Uncanny X-Men is reviled for its anti-religion overtones and general confusing nature. If you haven't caught the plot hole above, let me point out that if Azazel could impregnate women on Earth and save his newborn son, what did he need his children to open a portal to him for?
It comes as no surprise, then, that producer Brian Singer wants to throw much of the previously-established character out in favour of an anti-Nightcrawler:
"I’m also excited about Jason Flemyng as Azazel, which is a really cool character. It’s like this sinister alter ego of Nightcrawler in a way, which again brings some of the things that we like about that character but at the same time has a different quality."Brian Singer, in an interview for Hero Complex
As Singer's last X-Men project was X-2 (where Nightcrawler was featured heavily) it makes sense that he would want a similar character. While Azazel didn't get a character trailer like our good buddy Beast, his actions in First Class' trailers can be summarized thusly:
- He teleports
- He looks evil
- He contrasts well with Emma Frost, visually (see above)
But the real question is: am I short-sighted for believing he won't do anything else?
I honestly don't know how to list what to expect from Azazel in First Class apart from him to be an "evil" Nightcrawler, take Magneto's side during the split and then hint at a Mystique hookup when her and Beast inevitably break up. His powers will likely be focuses to teleportation in order to avoid confusion for viewers, further diluting his value.
What's worse is that because I know his prior history as a much more powerful mutant, his presence meddling in "normal mutant affairs" just seems out of place. From the trailers we can assume he's associated with the Hellfire Club, but really, would he need them?
The point I want to make is that because Azazel is going to be changed from the comics so much in order to accommodate the film, his role will likely be completely different from the comics, as well. For all intents and purposes, Azazel is a different character in this film than Uncannny X-Men, and should be treated as such.
We'll have to wait until the movie comes out to get the whole picture, but until then, I'll leave it to you choose whether his track record merits optimism.
Matt Demers is a Toronto journalist who writes columns for ComicVine and other places on the Internet. You can find him on Twitter or his website.