Posted by:
Byron Brewer

Like a phoenix? Another ‘Bird rises from the ashes


CHAOS WAR: X-MEN #1 PREVIEW He was robbed! John Proudstar got the short shrift! Back when the X-Men were yet to be “uncanny” – if memory serves, I think the Inhumans were uncanny at the time – the “all-new, all-different” creations of Dave Cockrum’s pencils blew the roof off the House of Ideas as soon as Giant-Size X-Men #1 hit the racks. While most of those creations got a good chance at thrilling us in battle and depressing us by fighting shadows of racism, John Proudstar – the original Thunderbird – never got that opportunity. Grounding the series forever in a gritty reality all its own, Thunderbird became the first X-Man to actually die, on the “new” team’s second mission in X-Men #95. But the Apache warrior will get to stretch his legs again courtesy of the scribe who offed him, Chris Claremont, and co-writer Louise Simonson (X-Factor), as some deceased X-Men along with their supporting cast join the fight against the Chaos King in Chaos War: X-Men in December. “Thunderbird got short shrift. The poor guy’s pride and impulsiveness led to his death, early on, before he matured into the man he was meant to be,” Simonson said in a CBR interview. “It will be fun to give him another chance.” Mourning a heritage that never was while hinting at a shrouded mystery to come, Simonson said that “Thunderbird assumes his role as natural leader. (Also, he is the chosen of … but that would be telling.)” Proudstar was born on a reservation in Camp Verdem Arizona. As a teenager, he discovered he possessed the mutant abilities of superhuman senses, strength, speed, stamina and sturdiness. Drafted into the Marines during the Vietnam War, he earned the rank of corporal. He returned to his tribe after the war, but was unhappy and listless. He was then recruited by Professor X  to join his third group of X-Men. Although Proudstar was reluctant to join another white man's crusade, he agreed and assumed the codename "Thunderbird." He assisted the other X-Men in rescuing the original X-Men from Krakoa. After successfully completing this first mission, Thunderbird turned out to be so volatile and ill-mannered that he constantly disrupted the team's synchronization. He often found himself going head-to-head with Cyclops, appointed leader of the X-Men. This attitude would not change, and ultimately led to an untimely end for the young mutant. The new team's second mission took them to Valhalla Base, Colorado, to combat Count Nefaria. During the battle between the X-Men and Nefaria’s Ani-Men, Thunderbird leaped onto an airplane that was carrying the villain. Despite the urging of Banshee, Thunderbird refused to get off the plane, stating that he would show that he was a true Apache warrior. The plane exploded, killing Proudstar. While Nefaria is later revealed to have survived the crash, Thunderbird has so far been considered dead as the result of his headstrong action. But even in death, Thunderbird's legacy carries on. His brother, Warpath (James Proudstar), has similar powers, although to a much greater degree, and is also an X-Man. 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.” In December, John Proudstar – and several other dead X-Men, including Banshee – will walk the Earth again. What part will they play in the Chaos King’s quest to turn back the clock of eternity? Chaos War: X-Men begins in December!