John Proudstar was born into an Apache tribe in Camp Verde, Arizona. As a teenager, Proudstar discovers he possesses the mutant abilities of superhuman strength, speed and resistance to injury. This is a result of his mutation making his muscle tissue much denser than that of an ordinary human. His muscle density is distributed in such a way as to greatly enhance the size of his arms, shoulders, and thighs. Thunderbird's skin is also much denser than in ordinary humans, making him more resistant to physical injury. As part of his mutation, Thunderbird possesses over-sized lungs and an unusually developed respiratory system. He can apparently run at faster than normal speeds, as he was often seen overtaking a herd of buffalo.
Looking the part, John lied about his age and joined the US Marines for a two-year tour of duty. John almost didn’t survive being stationed overseas. One night, on the way to Guantanamo, the helicopter John was in was hit by lightning and crashed into the Caribbean Sea. The pilot having sustained some injuries, John managed to drag him into a lifeboat with him, but the waters were rough and he thought they would drown. Suddenly, the sky opened with a roar of thunder, and John saw a bolt of lightning that looked like a bird. That signaled the end of the storm, and they were eventually rescued. John knew that his grandfather would have said that he had finally found his totem – the bird of thunder.
He returns to his tribe afterward only to find himself depressed and restless. He spends his days in boredom, often running down buffalo and wrestling them to the ground. When John returned from service, he learned that his mother had been diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a terminal form of cancer, by Doctor Edwin Martynec. When John's reporter friend Michael Whitecloud alerted him that something was amiss with the medical testing, John agreed to help investigate Martynec and the Arroyo Medical Laboratory running the labwork. Looking for adventure, James stowed away in his brother's pickup truck and the three of them infiltrated Arroyo to look for evidence. It turned out that Martynec had been doctoring lab results in order to secure test subjects for his own illegal research into genetic enhancement. The doctor turned out to be a wolfman creature himself, but thanks to his blossoming mutant powers John was able to hold his own with Martynec long enough to get the others to safety. Doctor Martynec blew up the Arroyo labs to cover his escape, and John and James were able to confirm that their mother was actually in perfect health.
Thunderbird was created by Len Wein, Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum and first appeared in Giant-Size X-Men issue 1 (1975) as part of the All-New, All-Different X-Men team. However, during their second mission, Thunderbird died. This was planned relatively early on, to show the readers that really anything could happen in the new X-Men comic. As such, Thunderbird is still considered to be one of the few X-Men to have truly died.
Major Story Arcs
Joining the X-men
Soon after, John Proudstar was called into service again and went to war for his country. He earned himself several medals and an honorable discharge, but he returned to Camp Verde a changed man. He was withdrawn and bitter, and had only little love left for the white man’s world. Quite possibly, the experiences John had during the war served as a painful reminder to the fate of the Apache and the other Native American tribes. It was in this angry, bitter state that Professor Charles Xavier found John Proudstar in while looking for new recruits to help rescue the missing X-Men.
He is later recruited by Professor X to join his third group of X-Men. Although Proudstar is reluctant to be a part of a white man’s team, he agrees and takes on the superhero title Thunderbird. After successfully completing his first mission with the X-Men, Thunderbird turns out to be so volatile and ill-mannered that he constantly throws off the team's synchronization. He often found himself going head to head with Cyclops. This anger and abrasiveness was arguably what helped lead to his untimely end.
The new team succeeded in rescuing the X-Men from Krakoa, the living island, and they were invited to join. John hoped to have found a place where he could fit in, but he chose the wrong person to bond with. Later, that day, he asked Iceman to give him a tour of the mansion, but the mutant teenager was rather unfriendly, not liking the idea of there being a whole bunch of newcomers. Thunderbird was more than willing to fight for his place among the X-Men, but as almost all of the original X-Men quit the following day to pursue regular lives, there was no need to.
However, John remained rather competitive and tense. While the other X-Men would take some downtime to relax, John was always trying to be the best; measuring himself by comparison to his teammates, especially Wolverine. Thunderbird also constantly challenged Cyclops‘ authority as team leader. His over eagerness caused John to get careless, and he even injured his leg during a Danger Room session. Because of that, Cyclops didn’t want to take John along on the team’s next mission action, but Thunderbird insisted on coming.
To his teammates' surprise, he died after only his second mission. During the new team's second mission, the X-Men went to Cheyenne mountain in the Colorado Rockies, which was the location of a North American Air Defense command center that was ruled by Count Nefaria. Nefaria planned to escape with a small aircraft. However, Thunderbird was able to follow him as he leaped onto the airplane that was carrying Count Nefaria. Ignoring Banshee’s warnings and Professor X's telepathic instruction for him not to be on the plane, Thunderbird refuses, insisting that this was his chance to show that he was a true Apache warrior. The plane explodes, killing Proudstar, while Nefaria survived. It has been accepted by many that it was Thunderbird’s pride that killed him.
His brother James ( Warpath) later took over the Thunderbird name, honoring his brother. He first blamed the death of his brother on the X-Men, but later the brave young Apache became a member of X-Force and the X-Men and started using the name Warpath. A third character has also gone by the name Thunderbird - Neal Shaara who was briefly a member of the X-Men.
Return from the Dead: A Moment Only
Many years later, John Proudstar was revived by Eli bard in an attempt to make Selene Immortal. With Proudstar's resurrection, his entire tribe was also resurrected as well as the long standing Morlock called Caliban. Proudstar was later seen with the Inner Circle and Caliban going to Necrosha (Selene changing the name Genosha to Necrosha). He is shown alongside Blink keeping an eye over a captured Warpath, John Proudstar's his brother.
Selene's people attacked the X-Men and kidnapped Warpath. Teleported back to the presence of Selene, still restrained, Warpath witnesses the murder of Eliphas, apparently seeming shocked at Selene's killing of him. She then summons Thunderbird, instructing him to place Warpath in the dungeon along with Destiny believing that she still has use for him, and Warpath begins to shout, longing for his brother and attempting to boost his sense of free will by getting him to escape that of Selene's, but his dead brother smacks him across the face and drags him away.
In the dungeon, with Blink watching, Thunderbird rams a knife through Warpath's hand as he's curled up, injured on the floor, Thunderbird continuing to beat him. Warpath keeps telling him that he must fight, but Thunderbird rags him up by his hair, telling him that Selene will soon rise to be a goddess. Thunderbird then tells his brother that she will feed and she will grow so hungry that she will feed on the world and then move to the Spirit Realm, then warning his brother that he must stop her, all the while using Warpath's blood to draw a sigil on a pillar, then warning Warpath to kill him before he kills him, Warpath telling him that he's unable, Thunderbird telling him that he must find some way of doing so. Blink questions this, but Vanisher teleports in, crying out for Warpath. Blink teleports his left arm away and Thunderbird leaps to attack, as Vanisher manages to teleport to grab Warpath and escape.
Vanisher does this with the other members of X-Force, and as they question what's happening, Warpath tells them that Selene is now a goddess and he knows how to stop her. Warpath narrates what his brother told him during the beginning of the next issue, saying that those who could do something about her ascension, sorcerers and such, would be hit that heaviest and would be unable to do anything to stop it; he then explains how the souls will feed her and how her hunger will never cease. We then see him telling the members of X-Force that his brother told him how to kill her as they paint themselves, telling them that his ancestors were able to travel through the Spirit Realm, and they are about to do a Ghost Dance, designed to kill evil spirits, Warpath stating their intention "to tear out Selene's black heart.".
The Inner Circle gaze up at Selene's new form, as X-Force burst onto the scene, Warpath running away to do what must be done to kill Selene. He's then confronted by Thunderbird, and the two battle, Warpath promising to save him in death as he couldn't in life, and when his brother challenges his fighting abilities compared to his, Warpath tells him he isn't the kid his brother once knew, and proceeds to break Thunderbird's neck, Selene seemingly sensing this, and Warpath telling his brother's corpse that this will end soon.
Thunderbird once again returns to fight the forces of the Chaos king and Carrion Crow. Thunderbird becomes the leader. He is able to use the powers of the Thunderbird to fight Carrion. He recognizes his failings and pride when he first joined the X-Men and is now fights with honor. He is able to focus all that into destroy Carrion and saves the world a little longer to allow the rest of Chaos war to continue.
Thunderbird's muscles produced less fatigue toxins than the muscles of ordinary humans. He could exert himself at peak capacity for several hours before fatigue began to impair him. Superhuman strength and could lift approximately 2 tons under optimum conditions. His muscle tissue was three times as dense as that of a normal human being's and was distributed in such a way as to give Thunderbird massive shoulders, arms, and thighs. His skin was several times as dense as that of a normal human being's and included an additional layer of leathery epidermis. Hus lungs were oversized, and his respiratory system was developed in such a way as to allow him maximum wind and endurance with a minimum of oxygen intake. These features made Thunderbird a natural outdoor fighter and athlete. Also he was somewhat more resistant to physical injury than an ordinary human due to the density of his skin and muscle tissue. Not invulnerable, he was capable of withstanding impact forces and blunt trauma that would have severely crippled or killed an ordinary human with only mild to moderate discomfort. Thunderbird was also a very skilled tracker.
Earth 1100 Exiles
In this reality, John Proudstar did not die soon after joining the X-Men. His brother James was the Proudstar to die on this Earth. He carried on with the X-Men, and as a result, he was the X-Man to be transformed into a Horseman by Apocalypse. The immortal mutant recognized the anger within him and made him War. But, even after all that Apocalypse did to him, he still couldn't control Thunderbird's spirit. He rebelled to side with the X-Men, but he was never the same man.
Pulled from this reality, Thunderbird, a.k.a. T-Bird, was drafted into the first incarnation of the Exiles. He was told that he had to fix the multiverse or his own reality would become altered into one where he never freed himself from Apocalypse's control. That was enough reason for him.
On one world, he encountered another version of himself who was almost his own opposite. This John had become the Shaman of Alpha Flight and possessed an inner peace and certainty T-Bird doubted he could ever have. He found talking to his other self was almost like being with James again. While on this world, he was forced into a fight with the Hulk. He went deeper than usual into his War transformation, losing control and pummeling the Hulk into unconsciousness. His alternate self was able to get him to retake control over himself.
During his time with the Exiles, T-Bird was growing closer with Nocturne, a fellow Exile. On her world, she had been involved with his brother. They got off to a rocky start, mostly due to T-Bird having trouble accepting her feelings for him. As far as he was concerned, he was a monster. The stress and loneliness that came with being on the Exiles shouldn't force her to be with someone like him. She eventually convinced him her feelings were real, and they continued their relationship in full. The rest of the Exiles were hardly aware of it.
T-Bird and some of the other Exiles were captured and forced into gladiatorial combat on an Earth that had been under Skrull rule for a century. He would often refuse to fight in his heavyweight matches. Either he would lose or he would be driven to the point where he had to fight, pulling of a sudden comeback victory as he did against the world's Guido Carosella. During captivity, Nocturne revealed to him that she was pregnant with his child. Their captivity came to an end when the Skrulls suddenly began leaving the planet, and the reason became clear when Terrax arrived. Galactus was coming, and the Exiles had the responsibility to save this world from him.
A plan to repel Galactus was formulated, and the grand finale was to detonate an antimatter bomb within him. This was to be Banner Beast's responsibility, but he was swatted away by Galactus and dropped the bomb. T-Bird saw the bomb and understood that he was the only one close enough and strong enough to do what needed to be done. Taking the bomb, he allowed himself to go all the way into his War transformation, causing his humanity to start to slip away. He leapt onto Galactus' back, punched a hole through the Devourer's armor and deposited the bomb. The explosion caused Galactus enough trauma that he left to find a simpler meal. T-Bird's body was recovered and brought to a medical station. Physically, he healed completely. Mentally, he was pronounced brain dead.
A Sasquatch from another world appeared to take his place on the Exiles, and he was left behind. Eventually, his body was recovered and put into stasis in the Panoptichron. He remained there for a long time until emerging fully healed. After that, he along with Nocturne and Blink took some time off the Exiles and went to Heather Hudson's reality on a vacation.
Apocalypse turned John into a cyborg. The markings on his body feel like flesh but are in fact retractable and transformable plates. He often kept himself only in mid-transformation in battle, because going too far would turn him into War again. Side effects of what Apocalypse did to him included a far lesser need to breathe or eat, an enhanced sense of smell and sight and the lack of a sense of taste.
Age of apocalypse
John Proudstar of Earth-295 ( Age of Apocalypse) founded the Ghost Dance movement, a religion based on Apache beliefs. John Proudstar was a part of the Infernal Gallop to Avalon. He was the front of the "Ghost Dance", the first stop. He represents the bridge between the exterior world and Avalon so Kurt Darkholme visited him and he sent him to Avalon, and later fought Apocalypse's goons the Infinities at the Ghost Dance. He died after being shot through the chest by a Madri.
In this reality, John Proudstar was a member of an Alpha Flight led by Wolverine. He had become this reality's Shaman after meeting the original. Michael Twoyoungmen saw the potential in John and taught him to tap into it. He also allowed John to quiet his rage and find inner peace. John left the X-Men and joined Alpha Flight under the command of a Wolverine who was never part of the X-Men.
Shaman encountered an alternate version of himself when the Exiles visited his world on a mission. This was T-Bird, a John Proudstar who was turned into War by Apocalypse and never found a sense of inner peace. He did his best to bond with his unfortunate alternate self while both teams dealt with capturing the Hulk.
Both Johns agreed that the Invisible Woman's powers were lame.
What if the X-Men Died on Their First Mission?
In a timeline where the original X-Men managed to defeat Krakoa by themselves, Thunderbird was not recruited for the X-Men since they didn't need more members. Instead he was recruited by Eric the Red, but simply called himself "Proudstar". Eric, Proudstar and Nightcrawler (another would-be X-Man recruited by Eric) were easily defeated by the original X-Men.
The Original Thunderbird was named John and James Proudstar became his successor after his death from the X-Men mission. Xavier then sent a letter to James regarding how his brother died being recognized as a hero. James became mad to Xavier blaming him about his brother's death. James then joined Beast's team of X-Men as his stepping stone on killing Xavier. He took over his brother's codename as Thunderbird. However, he realized that if he would kill his brother's mentor, it would be awkward since his brother died heroically. He then joined Professor X's New X-Men team.
What if Professor X of the X-Men had become the Juggernaut?
In this reality, Charles Xavier became the Juggernaut who formed the X-Men. Thunderbird is a member of Charles Xavier's X-Men who serves as a police force that aids the mutants and persecutes the sapiens. With the joined forces of Magneto and the former X-Men, they were able to put Juggernaut to Asteroid M. The X-Men's status then became unstable since no one leads them.
House of M
John Proudstar appears as a police detective for the NYPD and as the leader of the strikeforce known as the Brotherhood. Proudstar eventually made a deal with Wilson Fisk, to bring in Luke Cage's gang as both matter of pride and to end his criminal activities. Thunderbird's efforts resulted in Cage's Avengers battling the Brotherhood, in which their defeat caused Magneto to disband the Brotherhood and appoint Sam Wilson as Proudstar's replacement.
Earth-9997 (Earth X)
The history of John Proudstar of Earth-9997 mirrors that of his Earth-616 counterpart. In recent history he was seen in the Realm of the Dead, chatting with Prof. X, both believing they are still alive. However, he was later recruited by Mar-Vel in his attack against Death. When Death was killed, Mar-Vel built a new realm called Paradise. John was one of the first people to inhabit Paradise where he was given a shard of the Cosmic Cube to create his own ideal paradise reality to live in. He was pulled from this reality during the Kree invasion of Paradise. His current whereabouts following the defeat of the Kree army remains to be revealed.
In Other Media
Thunderbird is one of the X-Men who helped Firestar, Iceman and Spider-Man in fighting a cyborg named Cyberiad who wants to have revenge on Firestar. When the team was divided, Storm, Iceman and Thunderbird were together. They have seen Nightcrawler (which is only a hologram used by Cyberiad). They followed him even if Thunderbird feels that there is something different with the aforementioned team mate. They were trapped in a room with its wall getting tighter. Iceman and Storm did their best to stop the walls. Thunderbird then transformed into a Grizzly and destroyed the room. This ability surprised Iceman as that was the first time he saw Thunderbird do that. He was voiced by John Stephenson.
Thunderbird appears in the episode "Slave Island," where he was one of the mutants handicapped by a device that stops them from using their powers. As the X-Men succeeded in destroying the device, it is their time to fight back against those who enslaved them. Using his powers, Thunderbird was able to take down a Sentinel.
Years later, showrunner Eric Lewald revealed that Thunderbird was originally slated to appear as a member of the X-Men in "Night of the Sentinels," the show's two-part series premier. In a nod to the comics, Thunderbird would've been killed by the Sentinels to establish the show's darker tone. However, due to concerns about killing off the team's only Native American member, he was replaced with Morph.
Thunderbird appeared from a different future during this series. Thunderbird is one of the mutants who was imprisoned by the Sentinels. He only appeared briefly, as he was shown running away from the Sentinels when he accidentally knocked Marrow to the ground while the Sentinels were attacking them.
John Proudstar/Thunderbird appears as one of the main characters of the live-action X-Men series, portrayed by Blair Redford. This version of John Proudstar is a former soldier who was kicked out of the military after being outed as a mutant. Following his dismissal, a depressed John developed a substance abuse problem and began participating in underground fights for cash. After being approached by Evangeline Whedon, he became a major part of the Mutant Underground, helping runaway mutants escape from the authorities and Sentinels. He also entered into a relationship with his fellow mutant Dreamer.
In addition to the superhuman strength of his comic counterpart, this version of Thunderbird also possesses enhanced senses that make him an expert tracker.
- Thunderbird was included in ToyBiz's Giant-Size X-Men box set alongside Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Banshee and Sunfire.
- Bowen Designs produced a statue and bust of Thunderbird.
- Dynamic Forces created a Thunderbird bust.
- Thunderbird was featured in Diamond Select's Marvel Minimates line as part of a two-pack with Wolverine.
- Thunderbird was featured in The Classic Marvel Figurine Collection from Eaglemoss Publications.
- Thunderbird was featured in the HeroClix figure game.
- Thunderbird was featured in Hasbro's Marvel Legends line as part of a Target-exclusive two-pack with Storm.