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Thunderbird (comics)

This article is about the first X-Men member known as "Thunderbird". For the other X-Men members who share the same codename, see Thunderbird (Neal Shaara) and Warpath (comics).
Publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics
First appearance Giant-Size X-Men #1 (May 1975)
Created by Len Wein
Dave Cockrum
In-story information
Alter ego John Proudstar
Species Human Mutant
Team affiliations X-Men
United States Marine Corps
Abilities Superhuman senses, strength, speed, stamina, sturdiness

Thunderbird (John Proudstar) is a fictional character, a Marvel Comics superhero who was briefly a member of the X-Men. An Apache, Thunderbird possesses superhuman athletic ability. He was a short time member of the "Second Genesis" group of X-Men gathered together in Giant-Size X-Men #1 as he died on their second mission.

Publication history

Thunderbird was created by writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum for the new X-Men, specifically to be a member of the team who would fail the entrance exam. Having already decided that the previously introduced characters Sunfire and Banshee would fail the exam, Wein and Cockrum felt it would be unrealistic for only older characters to "flunk out", and set about creating a new character to fit this role. After developing Thunderbird, however, they decided that they liked the character - his costume in particular - too much to write him off after only one issue, and decided to keep him on.[1]

The character debuted in Giant-Size X-Men #1 (May 1975). While working on the first issues of the regular series, the creative team realized that having Thunderbird as a regular character was problematic. According to Cockrum, "...we created him as an obnoxious loudmouth, and we already had an obnoxious loudmouth in Wolverine. So one of us decided to kill him off after all, just for shock value."[1] Chris Claremont, who scripted the story, confirms that it was Wein who decided to kill the character, and added, "He figured there are two ways to do this. One, you spend years, if not decades, building up a relationship between the audience and a character, building the emotional bonds between them so when something happens to that character the audience is devastated. Or you do it right off the bat, when no one is expecting it."[2][3] The story culminating in Thunderbird's death appeared in X-Men #94-95.[4]

In 2010, the character appeared in the front of a teaser featuring X-Men characters believed to be dead. It is titled "All New, All Different.[5] Thunderbird was one of the feature characters in the 2011 two-issue limited series Chaos War: X-Men.[6]

Fictional character biography


John Proudstar was born into an Apache tribe on a reservation in Camp Verde, Arizona. As a teenager, Proudstar discovered he possessed the mutant abilities of superhuman senses, strength, speed, stamina, and sturdiness.[7]

Proudstar was drafted into the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam War and earned the rank of corporal. He returned to his tribe after the war, but he was unhappy and listless.


He was then recruited by Professor Charles Xavier to join his third group of X-Men.[8] Eager to prove his prowess, Proudstar agreed and assumed the superhero codename Thunderbird. He assisted the other X-Men in rescuing the original X-Men from Krakoa the mutant island.[9][10]

During the weeks of training which followed, the ill-tempered and individualistic Thunderbird often found himself going head to head with the X-Men's leader, Cyclops. The new team's second mission took them to Valhalla Base, Colorado, to combat Count Nefaria and the Ani-Men.[11][12] When Nefaria attempted to make his escape in a jet plane, Proudstar leapt on board. Disregarding Professor X's orders to jump to safety, Thunderbird hammered at it with his bare fists. The plane exploded, killing Proudstar.[12][13] (Count Nefaria is later revealed to have survived the crash.[14][15])

Thunderbird's brother, Warpath (James Proudstar), has similar powers, although to a much greater degree, and is also an X-Man.[7][16]


When Warpath goes to visit Thunderbird's grave during the Necrosha storyline, he encounters the Demon Bear. After defeating the creature with the aid of Ghost Rider, he finds out that former Purifier Eli Bard has dug up Thunderbird and everyone else buried there.[17] It is revealed that Bard used a version of the Technarch virus to resurrect Thunderbird and the others as his servants.[18] Thunderbird is later seen with Selene's Inner Circle and Caliban being led to the ruins of Genosha, which she dubs Necrosha.[19] Thunderbird fights Warpath, who snaps his neck and then kills Selene. Thunderbird's spirit is seen departing, telling his brother that he "can let go now".[20]

Chaos War

During the Chaos War storyline, Thunderbird is among the fallen X-Men members (consisting of himself, Banshee, Moira MacTaggert, Esme and Sophie of the Stepford Cuckoos, and three deceased dupes of Multiple Man) to return from the dead after what happened to the death realms. He remembers the last time he was briefly revived during the events of Necrosha, albeit faintly. Thunderbird leads the revived X-Men members into looking for a diary written by Destiny that might hold the key to defeating Amatsu-Mikaboshi while evading Carrion Crow, Eater of the Dead.[21][22] Thunderbird called upon the mythical Thunderbird to get him and his group away from the Carrion Crow. He and the group discover that Moira MacTaggert has been possessed by Destiny's ghost. In the aftermath of the defeat of the Chaos King, Thunderbird is returned to the afterlife after reality is restored by Hercules. Thunderbird contemplated that his life finally meant something and hoped that next time he was resurrected, it would be with Sophie.[23][24]

Powers and abilities

Thunderbird was a mutant that possesses superhuman strength (sufficient to rip apart a fighter jet with his bare hands), speed (he was fast enough to outrun a bison, possibly much faster), stamina, and durability due to his dense musculature.[7] His senses were also enhanced, enabling him to become a highly adept tracker.

Thunderbird had received military training in hand-to-hand combat.


In Native Americans in Comic Books - A Critical Study, Michael A. Sheyahshe compared John Proudstar to Tupac Shakur, noting that "Thunderbird becomes even more popular, posthumously, than he ever was while living."[25]

In September 2001, Bill Rosemann, the Marketing Communications Manager of Marvel Comics, announced that "The death of Thunderbird!", Uncanny X-Men #95 has been classed 32 in the 100 best Marvel Comics.[26]

Other versions

Age of Apocalypse

In the Age of Apocalypse, Proudstar provided safe passage to Avalon through the Infernal Gallop.[volume & issue needed] Eventually he met the X-Man Nightcrawler who had the mission to travel to Avalon and bring the mutant known as Destiny. Proudstar refused first only to get his finger taken by Nightcrawler when he accused Nightcrawler's mother Mystique of stripping refugees of everything of worth for her services of transporting refugees to Avalon.[volume & issue needed] The finger was later restored and bandaged, possibly sewn back on.[volume & issue needed]

The Madri discovered Proudstar and the Infernal Gallop's location at Ghost Dance and died from a shot in the back when the Madri infiltrated Greenpoint.[27]

Earth X

In the Earth X reality, Thunderbird was seen in the Realm of the Dead talking with Professor X.[28]


An alternate version of John Proudstar is an original member of the Exiles, a group of superhumans tasked with fixing damaged realities. This Thunderbird is captured by Apocalypse during his time with the X-Men and unwillingly transformed into one of his Four Horsemen, namely War.[29]

Thunderbird's time with this group is relatively short, several months at most. He serves mainly as the powerhouse of the group. In the third story arc he meets another alternate version of himself, who has become the shaman of Alpha Flight, and this arc is largely centered on his internal conflicts.[30] Later, Thunderbird sacrifices himself to hold an anti-matter bomb within the body of Galactus, which forces the world-devourer to leave Earth after the massive injury the bomb causes. Although his physical body heals from the damage caused by the detonation, he is left in a coma. He is replaced by Sasquatch and the team are forced to leave him behind.[31][32] His body is later discovered in the Panoptichron, a crystal city that lies between realities, but has yet to be returned to his home reality.[33]

During his time with the Exiles, he develops a romantic relationship with teammate Nocturne,[34] who is pregnant with his child when he becomes comatose.[31][32] (However, she later loses the child for unexplained reasons.[volume & issue needed]) Issue #16 shows flashbacks of previously unseen scenes between the two characters that further develop their relationship.[35]

This version of Thunderbird is considerably more powerful than the mainstream one, due to Apocalypse's augmentations. His skin is covered by retractable armor plates that harden when he enters battle, considerably increasing his durability, and even at base level his power statistics are above his 616 counterpart. His power increases with his rage, akin to the Hulk who he once defeated in close combat, and his appearance becomes more bestial as he does so.[36]

A side-effect of Apocalypse's modifications is that Thunderbird no longer has a sense of taste.[36] He nevertheless enjoys smelling things.[35]

Thunderbird wakes up and escapes the stasis wall in the Panoptichron.[37] He helps Psylocke and Cat regain control of the Panoptichron during Doctor Doom's assault,[38] and is later reunited with Nocturne when the Exiles and New Excalibur teamed up to save Roma and the Captain Britain Corps.[39] Thunderbird leaves the team shortly after to be with Nocturne on Heather's earth.[40]

House of M

In the House of M reality, John Proudstar appears as a police detective for the NYPD and as the leader of the strike force known as the "Brotherhood."[41][42] Proudstar eventually made a deal with Wilson Fisk to bring in Luke Cage's gang as both a matter of pride and to end his criminal activities.[43] Thunderbird's efforts resulted in Cage's Avengers battling the Brotherhood, in which their defeat caused Magneto to disband the Brotherhood.[44][45]

What If?

Thunderbird appeared in some issues of What If?:

  • In "What If the X-Men Died on their First Mission?," Thunderbird was among the original line-up that died when Krakoa was hurtled into space.[46][47]
  • In "What If Professor X Became the Juggernaut?," Thunderbird was part of Juggernaut's X-Men.[48][49]
  • In "What If an All-New All-Different X-Men Never Existed?," Thunderbird was never recruited by Professor X and was allied with Erik the Red. He was quickly frozen by Iceman.[50]

In other media


Thunderbird appears in the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends episode "The X-Men Adventure", voiced by John Stephenson. He is shown as a member of the X-Men. In this incarnation, he possesses the ability to shapeshift into a variety of North American animals and didn't demonstrate any of his abilities from the comics.[51] When it came to Thunderbird's shapeshifting, Iceman muttered "I didn't know you could do that!"

In X-Men: The Animated Series, Thunderbird is featured with Magneto's evil mutants in the title sequence. He has a non-speaking role in the episode "Slave Island" in which he is a mutant prisoner on Genosha.


In 2003, Dynamic Forces created a bust of Thunderbird. Nick Barrucci, President of Dynamic Forces, said "The X-Men have such a rich, yet tragic history. To commemorate, DF worked to create two busts presenting the heroes of the X-Men who gave the ultimate sacrifice - their lives. So, we are starting our 'Memorial' Diorama line with two of the biggest heroes - Colossus and Thunderbird!".[52]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Meth, Clifford (August 1993). "How a Typhoon Blew in Success". Wizard: X-Men Turn Thirty. pp. 50–52. 
  2. Christensen, William; Seifert, Mark (August 1993). "From Gofer to Comic Great". Wizard: X-Men Turn Thirty. pp. 36–40. 
  3. Claremont Celebrates the Past with "X-Men: Gold"
  4. Taking An Early Look at "Giant-Size X-Men" #4
  5. "All New, All Different, All Dead" X-Men Teaser
  6. Simonson Raises the Dead in "Chaos War: X-Men"
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Encyclopedia of weird westerns: supernatural and science fiction elements in novels, pulps, comics, films, television, and games by Paul Green, p.206
  8. Comic books: how the industry works by Shirrel Rhoades
  9. Giant-Size X-Men #1
  10. TeenStuff (May 2006)
  11. X-Men #94
  12. 12.0 12.1 Glossary of Characters by Mike Cornnell
  13. X-Men #95 (1975)
  14. Avengers #164
  15. Gina Renée Misiroglu, Michael Eury, The supervillain book: the evil side of comics and Hollywood, Count Nefaria p.79, Visible Ink Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0-7808-0977-2
  16. Encyclopedia of weird westerns: supernatural and science fiction elements in novels, pulps, comics, films, television, and games, p.220
  17. X-Force vol. 3 #10
  18. X-Force vol. 3 #11
  19. Necrosha #1
  20. X-Force #25
  21. Chaos War: X-Men #1
  22. Doug Zawisza (December 29, 2010). "Review - Chaos War: X-Men #1". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  23. Chaos War: X-Men #2
  24. Doug Zawisza (January 29, 2011). "Review - Chaos War: X-Men #2". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  25. Sheyahshe, Michael (2008). "Native Americans in Comic Books - A Critical Study". McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7864-3565-4
  26. Jonah Weiland (September 20, 2001). "100 Greatest Marvels: The Countdown". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  27. X-Calibre #2 (1995)
  28. Earth X #7
  29. Exiles #1
  30. Exiles #5-6
  31. 31.0 31.1 Exiles #10
  32. 32.0 32.1 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
  33. Exiles #62
  34. Exiles #1-10
  35. 35.0 35.1 Exiles #16
  36. 36.0 36.1 Exiles #6
  37. Exiles #97
  38. Exiles #98-99
  39. X-Men: Die by the Sword #1-5
  40. Exiles #100
  41. House of M: Avengers #2
  42. CBR News Team (November 30, 2007). "Marvel Previews for December 5th". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  43. House of M: Avengers #3
  44. House of M: Avengers #5
  45. CBR News Team (February 22, 2008). "Marvel Comics On Sale February 27, 2008". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  46. What If vol. 2 #9 (1990)
  47. Rougemont, Jacob. "Earth-X-Men Died on their First Mission". the Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe. Retrieved December 17, 2013. 
  48. What If vol. 2 #13 (1990)
  49. Rougemont, Jacob. "Earth-Professor X of the X-Men Had Become the Juggernaut". the Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe. Retrieved December 17, 2013. 
  50. What If vol. 2 #23 (1990)
  51. Goldman, Eric (May 31, 2011). "The X-Men's TV Histor: From Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends to Wolverine and the X-Men and beyond, we take a look at Marvel's mutants on the small screen.". IGN. Retrieved December 17, 2013. 
  52. Weiland, Jonah (July 30, 2003). "'Colossus' and 'Thunderbird' immortalized by Dynamic Forces". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved December 17, 2013. 

External links