Thunderbird (Neal Shaara)
Brett Booth, artist
|First appearance||X-Men (v2) #100|
Leinil Francis Yu
|Alter ego||Neal Shaara|
|Abilities||Generation of superheated plasma, superstrengh, speed, durability, stamina|
Neal Shaara, also known as Thunderbird, is a Marvel Comics superhero, who was briefly a member of the X-Men. Created by writer Chris Claremont and artist Leinil Francis Yu, he first appeared in X-Men vol. 2 #100 (May 2000).
An Indian pyrokinetic, he has no connection to the previous X-Men characters called Thunderbird. He is a vegan and was originally intended to be called Agni, after the Hindu god of fire.
He is the first Indian member of the X-Men.
Fictional character biography
Neal Shaara comes from an affluent family in Kolkata (Calcutta), India, where his father is the city's chief of police. His family also owned a large tea estate, where they all lived. He was popular among girls because of his good looks. When his journalist brother Sanjit disappeared, Neal decided to investigate, against his parents' wishes. Neal was shadowed by his father's best detective Karima Shapandar, and when Karima had to save him from a group of thugs, the two fell in love and began a romantic relationship, looking together for Neal's missing brother.
Karima turned into a Prime Sentinel
They were ultimately captured by the villain Bastion, who planned to turn them into Prime Sentinels as he had already done to Sanjit. Unlike his plans however, the shock of the transformation caused his latent mutant powers to manifest, the power to generate and control solar plasma and heat.
Sanjit was able to disable the other Sentinels, fighting with his programming, but was fatally wounded in the attempt. Karima told Neal to leave her, as her own transformation process was beginning, and she would surely kill him when she could no longer fight the programming.
Joining The X-Men
Neal was now lost, alone and with strange powers that he neither comprehended or wanted. Neal contacted Moira MacTaggert, an old friend of his family, and soon arrived on Muir Island, and he met the X-Men, although he did not know that when he first saw them. Later, the X-Men revealed themselves, when they used their powers to stop Cable when his T.O. (techno-organic) virus ran out of control. A frightened Neal accidentally used his powers and ran from Mactaggert's facility. Jean Grey found him the woods, with his clothes burnt. She gave him a standard X-Men training uniform made of unstable molecules that wouldn't be burned by his powers and convinced him to join the team. He chose the codename Thunderbird, becoming the third one to do so after the Proudstar brothers. He later adopted a more armoured yellow and red uniform with wire mesh padding (see image above).
While with the X-Men, he struggled with the same difficulty the X-Men's Havok did years before - his fear of killing or hurting someone with his incredibly powerful plasma. Not only that, but he also fell in love with the X-Man Psylocke, even though she was in a relationship with Archangel. He and Psylocke often engaged in flirtatious behaviour in front of Archangel, who made his displeasure felt to the 'rookie'. The two would break up and Psylocke was free to pursue a romantic relationship with Thunderbird.
He becomes friends with Colossus, who had also lost his brother. He also introduces him to the game of cricket. During one of their conversations, he says that though he's happy with Psylocke, he still retains his feelings for Karima who is a Prime Sentinel.
Thunderbird's lack of control over his powers often caused problems during combat. He refrained from using them on his opponents due the fear of killing them. Archangel, who was already angry with Neal over Betsy, mocked him and questioned his place in the X-Men.[volume & issue needed]
A short while, Thunderbird and five other X-Men formed a splinter group of X-Men (dubbed the X-Treme X-Men), cutting all ties with the rest of the team whilst searching for Destiny's Diaries. He trained with Pylocke to gain better control of his powers, such as using only a small amount of plasma to blind targets. He was also able to use his blasts only to singe his opponents. Psylocke would die at the hands of Vargas, leaving behind a grief-stricken Neal. He strongly objected to her body being bagged.[volume & issue needed]
For a time he was seen working with Lucas Bishop, another mutant with energy-related powers, in an attempt to overcome his fears and gain greater control over his powers. He comes to think of Bishop as his mentor. After Pylocke's death, he begins questioning the purpose of his life. Bishops tells him that while none of the X-Men made it in the history books of his time, Neal did. This greatly motivated Neal.
Some time after, Neal started a relationship with Heather Cameron, who was also known as Lifeguard. She and her brother Davis (who would become Slipstream) joined the off-shoot group of the X-Men. After the inter-dimensional Invasion at Madripoor by the villain Khan, Thunderbird and Lifeguard left to search for her brother Slipstream, who left the team.
Neal and Heather would later be seen as a member of the X-Corporation in Singapore, although Slipstream was nowhere to be seen. However this was short-lived as there was a synchronized attack on several of the X-Corporation offices after the catastrophic events of M-Day, leading Cyclops to call for the disbanding of all offices. Whether they aborted their search for Slipstream, or did find him, is not yet known.
Powers and abilities
Thunderbird has the ability to transform the molecules of his body into solar plasma, enabling him to convert portions of himself into thermodynamic energy furnaces that release luminescent radiance, pyrotechnic displays, concentrated plasma beams, shaped plasma charges that can deflect solid matter or displace volumes of air on impact for a heatless release of concussive force, and explosive thrust from his legs for flight and project it as focused blasts, flashes, or explosive spheres . He can also use his power to generate sufficient propulsive thrust to fly at supersonic speeds. In his initial appearances, Shaara was relatively unskilled in the use of his powers, but received further training from Psylocke and Bishop.
His blasts are so powerful that the only thing he cannot melt is adamantium. He has now attained better control over his powers and is able to use his blasts to only singe targets. He can also use only a small amount to create a blinding flash.
- X-Men #100
- X-Men #103
- X-Men #104-105
- X-Men #104-105
- Marvel graphic novels and related publications: an annotated guide to comics, prose novels, children's books, articles, criticism and reference works, 1965-2005 by Robert G. Weiner, p.110
- X-Treme X-Men #1-6
- X-Treme X-Men #16