John Proudstar (Thunderbird)

Apparently, the upcoming tv series The Gifted will import many characters from the Exiles comics series, including Blink, who we already know. The leader of the mutant resistance that helps the Struckers, in fact, will be Thunderbird, portrayed by Blair Redford. Strong and determined, Thunderbird will lead his team through an era of chrisis for mutants, but nothing more is known so far about his origins or relationship with the other protagonists. We met his brother Warpath in the movies, but if this will be referenced to remains to be seen. Anyway, let’s take a look at one of the shortest-lived X-Men ever, who wields the doubtful privilege of being a character who became much more popular once dead than he was when he was alive.

John Proudstar was born in Camp VerdeArizona, in the Apache reservation. The son of Neal and Maria Proudstar, he was very proud of his people’s legacy, and he proved since he was a teenager to be more than willing to embrace the responsibilities that came from being the heir of a tribe of honorable warriors. He also taught his younger brother James what it meant to be a true Apache, but he soon realised that he couldn’t be what he wanted as long as he lived in the reservation, where everybody seemed to be complacent with a life of confinement and isolation. Wanting something more from his life, he escaped from the reservation and, lying on his age, entered the United States Marines, wanting to embrace the warrior’s life he dreamt of. He left on a two-years duty to the Vietnam War, where he distinguished himself as a war hero: a corporal with many medals, he still was dissatisfied with the life he was living, as fighting as a soldier was little more than being a mercenary to him. While coming back to the States, his helicopter was caught in a thunderstorm, and it was hit by lightning, crashing in the Caribbean Sea; the pilot was injured, so John took him out of the cabin and tried to bring him ashore, but he simply wasn’t strong enough, and believed to be about to drown. In that moment, another lightning illuminated the sky, a bolt shaped like a huge bird: the storm ended abruptly, and John knew he had found his totem, the sacred animal of his people and its protector deity, the Thunderbird. Proudstar and the pilot were saved, and he came back to the reservation…where he resumed his old, tiring and depressing life. One day, overwhelmed by boredom, John spotted a little girl charged by a wild buffalo: without thinking about it, he reached the huge beast, and wrestled it to the ground, showing an unnatural strenght. He and the tribe believed that this was a sign of the Thunderbird’s blessing: he surely was the champion of the Apaches of old, meant to be his people’s protector.

When John’s father died, Maria and James were all he had left of his family, but a doctor, Edwin Martynec, diagnosed the woman with a terminal cancer. Proudstar was obviously saddened by the news, but a friend of his, reporter Michael Whitecloud, informed him that something was amiss with Martynec’s studies. The two decided to investigate, and John’s adventurous brother, James, secretly followed them, hidden on the pickup: once in the doctor’s lab, Proudstar discovered that Martynec was faking diagnosis in order to use his patients as guinea pigs for his genetic experiments. Exposed, Martynec showed the Proudstars and Whitecloud the progresses of his own research, and transformed into a werewolf-like creature, trying to kill the intruders: with his new powers, John was able to fight the beast to a stallmate allowing his brother and his friend to escape. Also the mad doctor escaped, but not before blowing his entire lab up to hide his illegal genetic experiments. Once home, John and James had Maria undergo other tests, and they found out she was perfectly healty. From there on, life in the reservation was pretty much the same as ever, although John was called to solve little emergencies from time to time, such as raging bulls or wild animals escaped from some fair, as well as accidents with machines and cars: protecting his people like this was far below what he could actually do. Finally, one day a man on a wheelchair arrived to Camp Verde, and introduced himself as Professor Charles Xavier: a telepath himself, Xavier revealed to Proudstar the true nature of his powers, and identified him as a mutant. He also asked him to join his team of adventurers, the X-Men, as the original one was missing, abducted by the living island Krakoa. Albeit reluctant to join a white man’s team, John agreed at least to help Xavier save his pupils, but when the Professor tailored a costume for him and nicknamed him Thunderbird, he realised this was the heroic destiny he was meant to embrace. Finally he had found his place in the Apaches’ glorious legacy.

John Proudstar is a proud member of the Apache tribe, nostalgic of the glorious past of his people but also fiercely committed to reviving it; altruistic and selfless, he’s however constantly angry over the injustice the Apaches have to live with on a daily basis, and embittered and mistrustful towards any white man (especially the ones in charge, as Cyclops realised almost immediately). As Thunderbird, he possesses superhuman strength, durability and stamina, which united to his military training make him quite a superb combatant; also his senses are enhanced, and he’s a skilled tracker. An outcast all his life, Thunderbird knows he’s destined to a higher calling, and he’s ready to do anything in his power to prove to the world he’s the blessed champion of his people’s gods.

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8 Comments

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  6. […] has quite some authority within the group, acting as some sort of second in command to the leader Thunderbird. In the comics, Sage is quite an old acquaintance for the readers, a proud member of the X-Men, […]

  7. […] and among the many faces there’s one who finally steps out, as we see her discussing with Tunderbird. In rX, we get our first glimpse of the beautiful Dreamer portrayed by Elena Satine (pun […]

  8. […] week’s episode of The Gifted provided us with some insight on Thunderbird‘s past…and with a new character to speak about. After the flashback, at the beginning […]


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