Publication Date: 4th Sep 2014
Written By: Peter Luzifer and Gremlin.
Image Work: Peter Luzifer and sixhoursoflucy.


John Proudstar, the first of two sons of Neal and Maria Proudstar, was born on the Apache reservation in Camp Verde, Arizona. He grew up at his parents' ranch and his grandfather often told him stories of their ancestors, but watching the other Apache living their dull lives in Camp Verde, John was ashamed of his people. He knew that he wanted something different for himself, something greater, something that Camp Verde could not provide. Eventually, an unexpected growth spurt in his late teens gave John the means to escape. While he didn’t know it at the time, it was his mutant powers manifesting, granting him physical abilities at the very peak of human limits. Apparently his being a mutant was the result of Maria Proudstar once having been exposed to nuclear fallout after a nearby government test, and John’s younger brother James would later develop similar powers.

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.

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. [X-Force (1st series) #minus 1]

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. [Classic X-Men #3]

It was in this angry, bitter state that Professor Charles Xavier found John Proudstar while looking for new recruits to help rescue the missing X-Men. The telepath explained to the Apache that he was a mutant and that he could use his gifts to help the world, but at first John refused.



Only after Xavier called him a coward did he accept the invitation, eager to prove himself. Upon arriving at Xavier’s mansion in Westchester, John was introduced to several other mutants. Some of them had met the X-Men before, but most of them were complete strangers. John was given a costume made of unstable molecules and he also received a codename - Thunderbird - obviously inspired by his totem. [Giant Size X-Men #1]

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. [Classic X-Men #1]

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 overeagerness 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. [X-Men (1st series) #94]

Count Nefaria and his Ani-Men had broken into and taken control of Mount Valhalla, the headquarters of the North American Defense Command, and were blackmailing Earth’s nations with America’s nuclear missiles.  While the X-Men managed to defeat the Ani-Men and disrupt the base’s self-destruct sequence, Nefaria tried to make his escape. However, Proudstar jumped onto his plane and started tearing its technology apart, not caring for his own safety. Thunderbird didn’t listen to his teammate Banshee, nor to Xavier’s telepathic warnings to jump off the craft, and eventually the plane exploded in mid-air, bringing John Proudstar’s life to a sadly premature end. [X-Men (1st series) #95] The fact that Count Nefaria survived and continued his life of crime made Thunderbird’s death even more pointless.

The X-Men retrieved Thunderbird’s body and, mourning for their teammate, they returned him to Camp Verde, where John’s younger brother James gave him a warrior’s burial in old Apache style. [Classic X-Men #3]