Thunderbird as depicted in Classic X-Men #3 (November 1986). Art by Art Adams.
Publication information
PublisherMarvel Comics
First appearanceGiant-Size X-Men #1
(May 1975)
Created byLen Wein (writer)
Dave Cockrum (artist)
In-story information
Alter egoJohn Proudstar
SpeciesHuman Mutant
Team affiliationsX-Men
United States Marine Corps
  • Superhuman physical abilities and senses
  • Trained unarmed/hand-to-hand combatant

Thunderbird (John Proudstar) is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. Created by writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum, the character first appears in Giant-Size X-Men #1 (May 1975).[1] Thunderbird was a short-lived member of the Second Genesis group of X-Men gathered together in this issue, as he died on their second mission, where they tried to chase down Count Nefaria. His death is also depicted in X-Men: Grand Design – Second Genesis #1, where his death is witnessed by Banshee, and felt deeply by the X-Men and Charles Xavier.

An Apache Native American and Human Mutant, John Proudstar possesses superhuman athletic ability. Since his death, Thunderbird was temporarily brought back to life during the Necrosha and Chaos War storylines, before being permanently resurrected after the establishment of Krakoa.[2] His brother James Proudstar, known first as Thunderbird, and then as Warpath, is also a mutant and X-Men with similar capabilities.

In addition to his mainstream incarnations, Thunderbird has been depicted in other fictional universes. The most notable alternative version of the character is a member of the original Exiles team. In other media, Thunderbird is one of the main characters in the live-action television series The Gifted, portrayed by Blair Redford.

Publication history

Writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum created Thunderbird 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.[3]

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."[3] 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."[4][5] The story culminating in Thunderbird's death appeared in X-Men #94-95.[6]

In 2000, for the 25th anniversary of the introduction of Thunderbird, writer Scott Lobdell and artist Aaron Lopresti did a two-issue series about the character, with a cover by Art Adams. Marvel Comics never published the series. At the same period, after nine years of absence, Chris Claremont returned to the X-Men to take over the titles. According to Brian Cronin from Comic Book Resources, there were likely two events that lead to the cancellation of this mini-series. Firstly, Claremont introduced a new X-Man character Neal Shaara with the codename Thunderbird. Secondly, Claremont had his own project for the 25th anniversary: X-Men: Black Sun, which had a spotlight comic on the various members of the All-New, All-Different X-Men, including one on Thunderbird with his partner Wolverine.[7] In 2010, the character appeared in the front of a teaser featuring X-Men characters believed to be dead titled "All New, All Different".[8] Thunderbird was one of the feature characters in the 2011 two-issue limited series Chaos War: X-Men.[9]

John Proudstar was finally resurrected in the main comics continuity in X-Men: The Trial of Magneto #5 (2021), over 45 years after his initial death in X-Men #95.[10] He starred in a solo one-shot Giant-Size X-Men: Thunderbird #1 (2022), where he received a new costume.[11] He continued appearing sparingly as a minor character in various ongoing X-related books.

Fictional character biography

John Proudstar was born into an Apache tribe on a reservation in Camp Verde, Arizona. As a teenager, he discovered he possessed the mutant abilities of superhuman senses, strength, speed, stamina, and sturdiness.[12]

While he was a teenager, John's mother Maria fell sick as Edwin Martynec lied to her that she had cancer. He also targeted John's brother James only for John and his reporter friend to thwart him.[13]

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.[14] 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.[C 1]

During the weeks of training that 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.[C 2][15] 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.[15][C 3] Count Nefaria is later revealed to have survived the crash.[C 4][16]

James Proudstar has similar powers, although to a much greater degree. He is also an X-Man who first used the codename Thunderbird and then switched to Warpath when he joined X-Force team.[12]: 220 [17]

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 learns that former Purifier Eli Bard has dug up Thunderbird and everyone else buried there.[C 5] It is revealed that Bard used a version of the Technarch virus to resurrect Thunderbird and the others as his servants.[C 6] Thunderbird is later seen with Selene's Inner Circle and Caliban being led to the ruins of Genosha, which she dubs Necrosha.[C 7] 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".[C 8]

During the "Chaos War" storyline, Thunderbird is among the fallen X-Men members (along with 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 revived briefly during the events of Necrosha, albeit faintly. Thunderbird leads the revived X-Men members to looking for a diary written by Destiny that might hold the key to defeating Amatsu-Mikaboshi while evading Carrion Crow, Eater of the Dead.[C 9][18] 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 contemplates that his life finally means something and hopes that next time he was resurrected, it will be with Sophie.[C 10][19]

When the X-Men made Krakoa a mutant paradise, the resurrection protocols brought back many dead mutants including Thunderbird. He was seen at The Green Lagoon watching Dazzler's concert.[20] However, his resurrection is explicitly shown on-panel in the concluding chapter of the Trial of Magneto arc (during Reign of X) as a consequence of the Scarlet Witch's magic.[10]

After a flashback to his revival, John Proudstar pays a visit to the Apache reservation. Upon arrival, he learns from some kids about how the local law enforcement arrested some of the inhabitants when they wouldn't give up the ones who are mutants. Becoming Thunderbird later that night, he went to the police station to demand the release of the people from Camp Gozhoo. When the local sheriff declined, Thunderbird went on the attack while driving away the punks awaiting to be detained. One hiding police officer contacts Edwin Martynec of the Heritage Initiative (which is secretly funded by Orchis) is while mentioning that they are being attacked. Upon finding the detained people, Martynec arrives with some Heritage Initiative operatives where they plan to harvest the X-Genes from the Native Americans that he freed. While fighting Thunderbird, Martynec transforms into a coyote-like creature as the Native Americans watch. After flashing back to when he last died, Thunderbird subdues Martynec as his grandma Lozen arrives. Thunderbird spares Martynec and throws him towards the Orchis operatives. When Martynec taunts Thunderbird, Lozen kicks him in the head as Thunderbird leaves with his fellow Native Americans. Back on the Apache reservation, Lozen agrees to keep a secret how Thunderbird was revived. They are both visited by Warpath after the Krakoan Gate had been planted on the Apache reservation where Warpath meets Grandma Lozen.[21]

Powers and abilities

Thunderbird is a mutant who possesses superhuman strength (sufficient to rip apart a fighter jet with his bare hands), speed (he is fast enough to outrun a bison, possibly much faster), and stamina due to his dense musculature.[12] His senses are also enhanced, enabling him to be a highly adept tracker.

Thunderbird has 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."[22]

In September 2001, Bill Rosemann, the marketing communications manager of Marvel Comics, announced that "The death of Thunderbird!", Uncanny X-Men #95 had been classed number 32 in the 100 best Marvel Comics.[23]


Other versions

Age of Apocalypse

In the Age of Apocalypse universe, John Proudstar is at the head of the religious group Ghost Dance whose members perform nightly dances asking the ancient spirits to bring an end to Apocalypse's reign. They also provided safe passage to Avalon through the Infernal Gallop. When Nightcrawler had the mission to travel to Avalon and bring back the mutant known as Destiny, he forced Proudstar to provide them passage.[C 11] Betrayed by Danielle Moonstar, the Madri learned of Proudstar and the Infernal Gallop's location at Ghost Dance. The Madri soldiers killed all the members of Ghost Dance.[C 12]

Earth X

In the Earth X reality, John Proudstar's life is very similar.[C 13] Thunderbird is seen in the Realm of the Dead talking with Professor X both believing they are still alive.[C 14]


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.[C 15]

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.[C 16] 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.[C 17][25] 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.[C 18]

During his time with the Exiles, he develops a romantic relationship with teammate Nocturne,[C 19] who is pregnant with his child when he becomes comatose.[C 17][25] (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.[C 20]

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 the base level, his power statistics are above his main continuity 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.[C 21]

A side-effect of Apocalypse's modifications is that Thunderbird no longer has a sense of taste.[C 21] He nevertheless enjoys smelling things.[C 20]

Thunderbird wakes up and escapes the stasis wall in the Panoptichron.[C 22] He helps Psylocke and Cat regain control of the Panoptichron during Doctor Doom's assault,[C 23] and is later reunited with Nocturne when the Exiles and New Excalibur team up to save Roma and the Captain Britain Corps.[C 24] Thunderbird leaves the team shortly after to be with Nocturne on Heather's earth.[C 25]

House of M

In the House of M reality, John Proudstar appears as a police detective for the New York Police Department and as the leader of the strike force known as the "Brotherhood."[C 26][26] 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.[C 27] Thunderbird's efforts resulted in Cage's Avengers battling the Brotherhood, in which their defeat caused Magneto to disband it.[C 28][27]

Ultimate Marvel

The Ultimate Marvel version of John Proudstar operates as Shaman appears as a member of Alpha Flight debuting in Ultimate X-Men #94 and this version of Shaman is a mutant who possesses enhanced strength, speed, agility, and senses which have been enhanced through the mutant-enhancement drug Banshee instead of the magical abilities of his Marvel Universe counterpart.[28]

What If?

Alternate versions of the character are present in some issues of What If? which is a series of comic books whose stories explore how the Marvel Universe might have unfolded if key moments in its history had not occurred as they did in mainstream continuity.

In other media



Thunderbird received a bust from Dynamic Forces in 2003.[38]

Notes and references

Comic books

w: writer, p: penciler, i: inker

  1. ^ Len Wein (w), Dave Cockrum (p), Dave Cockrum (i), Peter Iro (i), "Deadly Genesis!", Giant-Size X-Men #1 (May, 1975). Marvel Comics.
  2. ^ Chris Claremont (w), Dave Cockrum (p), Bob McLeod (i), "The Doomsmith Scenario!", Uncanny X-Men#94 (August, 1975). Marvel Comics.
  3. ^ Chris Claremont (w), Len Wein (w), Dave Cockrum (p), Sam Grainger (i), "Warhunt!", Uncanny X-Men #95 (October, 1975). Marvel Comics.
  4. ^ Jim Shooter (w), John Byrne (w, p), Pablo Marcos (i), "To Fall by Treachery!", Avengers #164 (October, 1977). Marvel Comics.
  5. ^ Craig Kyle (w), Chris Yost (w), Mike Choi (p, i), "Old Ghosts" (Part 4), X-Force vol.3 #10 (February, 2009). Marvel Comics.
  6. ^ Craig Kyle (w), Chris Yost (w), Clayton Crain (p, i), Alina Urusov (p, i), "Who the Hell is Eli Bard?", X-Force vol.3 #11 (March, 2009). Marvel Comics.
  7. ^ Craig Kyle (w), Chris Yost (w), Clayton Crain (p, i), "Necrosha" (Part 1), Necrosha #1 (December, 2009). Marvel Comics.
  8. ^ Craig Kyle (w), Chris Yost (w), Clayton Crain (p, i), "Necrosha: Conclusion", X-Force vol. 3 #25. Marvel Comics.
  9. ^ Louise Simonson (w), Chris Claremont (w), Doug Braithwaite (p, i), "Dead X-Men" (Part 1), Chaos War: X-Men #1 (February, 2011). Marvel Comics.
  10. ^ Louise Simonson (w), Chris Claremont (w), Doug Braithwaite (p, i), "Dead X-Men" (Part 2), Chaos War: X-Men #2 (March, 2011)
  11. ^ Warren Ellis (w), Ken Lashley (p), Phil Moy (i), Bud LaRosa (i), Tom Wegrzyn (i), "The Infernal Gallop", X-Calibre #1 (March, 1995)
  12. ^ Warren Ellis (w), Roger Cruz (p), Renato Arlem (p), Charles Mota (p), Eddie Wagner (p), Phil Moy (i), Tom Wegrzyn (i), Harry Candelario (i), "Burn", X-Calibre #2 (April, 1995). Marvel Comics.
  13. ^ Jim Krueger (s), Alex Ross (s), John Paul Leon (p), Bill Reinhold (i), Earth X #6 (September, 1999). Marvel Comics.
  14. ^ Jim Krueger (s), Alex Ross (s), John Paul Leon (p, i), Bill Reinhold (i), Earth X #7 (October, 1999). Marvel Comics.
  15. ^ Judd Winick (w), Mike McKone (p), Mark McKenna (i), "Down The Rabbit Hole", Exiles #1 (August, 2001). Marvel Comics.
  16. ^ Exiles #5-6. Marvel Comics.
  17. ^ a b Exiles #10. Marvel Comics.
  18. ^ Exiles #62. Marvel Comics.
  19. ^ Exiles #1-10. Marvel Comics.
  20. ^ a b Exiles #16. Marvel Comics.
  21. ^ a b Exiles #6. Marvel Comics.
  22. ^ Exiles #97. Marvel Comics.
  23. ^ Exiles #98-99. Marvel Comics.
  24. ^ Chris Claremont (w), Juan Santacruz (p), Raul Fernandez (i), X-Men: Die by the Sword #1-5 (December 2007-February 2008). Marvel Comics.
  25. ^ Exiles #100. Marvel Comics.
  26. ^ Christos N. Gage (w), Mike Perkins (p, i), Drew Hennessy (i), House of M: Avengers #2 (February, 2008). Marvel Comics.
  27. ^ Christos N. Gage (w), Mike Perkins (p, i), House of M: Avengers #3 (February, 2008). Marvel Comics.
  28. ^ Christos N. Gage (w), Mike Perkins (p, i), House of M: Avengers #4-5 (March–April, 2018). Marvel Comics.
  29. ^ Roy Thomas (w), Rich Buckler (p), Sam De La Rosa (i), "What If... The New X-Men Had Died On Their Very First Mission?", What If? vol. 2 #9 (January, 1990). MArvel Comics.
  30. ^ Kurt Busiek (w), Vince Mielcarek (p), Ian Akin (i), Brian Garvey (i), "What If Professor X Had Become the Juggernaut?", What If? vol. 2 #13 (May, 1990). Marvel Comics.
  31. ^ Kurt Busiek (w), Rodney Ramos (p), Doug Hazlewood (i), "What If... The All-New All-Different X-Men Had Never Existed?", What If? vol. 2 #23 (March, 1991). Marvel Comics.


  1. ^ DeFalco, Tom; Sanderson, Peter; Brevoort, Tom; Teitelbaum, Michael; Wallace, Daniel; Darling, Andrew; Forbeck, Matt; Cowsill, Alan; Bray, Adam (2019). The Marvel Encyclopedia. DK Publishing. p. 373. ISBN 978-1-4654-7890-0.
  2. ^ X-Men: The Trial of Magneto #5 (December 2021)
  3. ^ a b Meth, Clifford (August 1993). "How a Typhoon Blew in Success". Wizard: X-Men Turn Thirty. pp. 50–52.
  4. ^ Christensen, William; Seifert, Mark (August 1993). "From Gofer to Comic Great". Wizard: X-Men Turn Thirty. pp. 36–40.
  5. ^ Richards, Dave (November 20, 2013). "Claremont Celebrates the Past with "X-Men: Gold"". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved May 13, 2017.
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  8. ^ CBR Staff (September 16, 2010). ""All New, All Different, All Dead" X-Men Teaser". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved May 13, 2017.
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  10. ^ a b The Trial of Magneto #5 (2022). Marvel Comics.
  11. ^ Giant Sized X-Men: Thunderbird #1 (2022)
  12. ^ a b c Green, Paul (2009). Encyclopedia of Weird Westerns: Supernatural and Science Fiction Elements in Novels, Pulps, Comics, Films, Television and Games. McFarland. p. 206. ISBN 9780786458004. Retrieved May 13, 2017.
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  14. ^ Rhoades, Shirrel (2008). Comic Books: How the Industry Works. New York: Peter Lang. p. 86. ISBN 9780820488929. Retrieved May 13, 2017.
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  21. ^ Giant-Size X-Men: Thunderbird #1. Marvel Comics.
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  24. ^ June 09, Darren Franich Updated; EDT, 2022 at 12:31 PM. "Let's rank every X-Man ever". Retrieved 2023-01-26.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
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  28. ^ Ultimate X-Men #94
  29. ^ a b c Cronin, Brian (May 11, 2017). "Comic Legends: Why Didn't Thunderbird Die on the X-Men Animated Series?". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
  30. ^ Goldman, Eric (May 31, 2011). "The History of X-Men on TV". IGN. Retrieved December 17, 2013.
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  34. ^ Wagmeister, Elizabeth (May 9, 2017). "[VIDEO] Fox Greenlights Marvel's 'The Gifted' to Series — Watch First Teaser". Variety. Retrieved May 13, 2017.
  35. ^ Shedeen, Jesse (September 21, 2017). "Comparing the comics X-Men to their Gifted counterparts". IGN. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
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  37. ^ Melrose, Kevin (October 16, 2017). "The Gifted's Love Triangle Is the Most X-Men Thing You'll See On TV". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
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