New Mutants (1st series) #58

Issue Date: 
December 1987
Story Title: 
A Bird in the Hand

Louise Simonson (Writer), Bret Blevins & Off The Wall Studios (Pencilers), Terry Austin (Inker), Glynis Oliver (Colorist), Ken Lopez (Letterer), Ann Nocenti (Editor), Jim Shooter (Editor-in-Chief)
Created by Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod

Brief Description: 

Wolfsbane and Cypher encourage Bird-Brain to speak and act like a human, while Mirage, Cannonball and Magik concentrate on studying for their mid-term exams. Eventually Bird-Brain begins to learn some basic words, mainly to do with food, and the New Mutants learn more about him by simply observing his reactions to certain things - like animals being caged on television he becomes upset. The New Mutants sneak out for burgers, and Bird-Brain is on his best behavior. Later, Cypher gives Bird-Brain his own New Mutants uniform, and allows him to sleep in his room - until later that night Bird-Brain, squawking about “friends” breaks through the window and flies away, arriving at McBurgers he demands burgers, fries and chocolate shakes, which the shocked staff give him, before he flies away. By this time though the New Mutants are on his tail and eventually catch up with him, where they learn he is going to back to where he came from to help his friends. Magik teleports them to the North Atlantic and Bird Boy leads them to the island he came from, only for the New Mutants to be surrounded by some frightening creatures.

Full Summary: 

Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters - home to a group of special students, born with a variable in their genetic structure that gives them more-than-human abilities. They are…the New Mutants! Today, the New Mutants are studying in the library - well, three of them are, while the other two are trying to teach their new acquaintance Bird-Brain how to speak. Rahne “Wolfsbane” Sinclair holds an apple out in front of Bird Boy, and Doug “Cypher” Ramsey uses his mutant ability to understand other languages to tell Bird Boy that it is an apple.

Rahne tells Doug that she is glad he has got a language power, otherwise they would never get through to Bird Boy. ‘Do like Doug says, Bird-Brain, say “apple”!’ Rahne exclaims. Bird-Brain just squawks, his tongue hanging out of his mouth. Lying on the floor nearby, Danielle “Dani” Moonstar a.k.a. Mirage tells her teammates to give it up and come and study, reminding them they have midterms coming up. Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie mumbles that calculus stinks and he is never going to remember the formula.

As Bird-Brain snatches the apple from Rahne and eats it, a whole lot of numbers and symbols appear in mid-air, right in front of Sam. ‘What’s that?’ he exclaims. Dani smiles and tells Sam that it is his formula, the one he thinks he can’t remember. Mirage points out that it is in his head, because she could access it and project it for him. ‘Don’t get so hysterical!’ she exclaims. Sam leans around from where he is sitting against the couch and asks Dani if there is any chance she can do that on the exam. ‘Nah, Magneto’d think I was cheating!’ Mirage replies.

Rahne mutters that teaching Bird Boy with food doesn’t work as all he wants to do is eat it, and when he eats he thinks he is being rewarded for doing something good - only he didn’t do anything good at all! ‘He didn’t even try! Let’s do something else’ Rahne suggests, leading Bird Boy over to the others. ‘Hey!’ exclaims Mirage as Bird-Brain stands on her books.

Lying on the couch is Illyana “Magik “Rasputin, blowing bubbles with some gum as she studies. Rahne holds up some of Illyana’s flowing blonde hair and tries to get Bird Boy to say “hair”. Bird Boy however has his eyes fixed on Illyana’s bubble gum. Sam tells Rahne that she might as well study as there is nothing going on in there. Rahne ignores that comment and grabs one of Illyana’s hands - ‘Try hand Bird-Brain! Say “hand”!’

Mirage remarks that Magneto let Bird-Brain stay here, but they are all grounded and this time Magneto said they would stay grounded unless they ace the exams. Sam tells Rahne and Doug to forget dopey Bird-Brain and hit the books. ‘Bubble! Say “bubble”!’ Rahne exclaims pointing to Illyana’s bubble gum. Doug holds up one of Illyana’s feet, ‘Foot, Bird-Brain! Foot!’.

Suddenly, POP goes Illyana’s bubble as Bird-Brain shoves one of his clawed fingers into it, causing the sticky goo to spread all over Illyana’s face. ‘Enough! Cut it out!’ Magik exclaims as she knocks Rahne, Doug and Bird-Brain backwards by opening a stepping disk. ‘Look Bird-Brain! See Illyana teleport! Say “teleport”!’ Magik disappears and then reappears on the other side of the room, trying to pull the gum from her face, ‘What a mess!’ she exclaims before asking Rahne what makes her think Bird-Brain can even learn English.

‘Parrots can’ Rahne replies as she hugs Bird-Brain. Doug points out that ravens can also - or at least they can croak “nevermore”, before adding that Bird-Brain is smarter than a raven. Rahne mutters that since their teammates don’t want to help they will use themselves, and transforms into her wolf-form, asking Bird-Brain to say “wolf”. Rahne transforms into her half-human half-wolf form and Bird-Brain starts squawking madly at her, before smiling and hugging her.

Rahne asks Doug what Bird Boy is saying, to which Doug replies that Bird-Brain is calling Rahne his “like-creature” or something like that, whatever a “like-creature” is. Rahne asks Bird-Brain if she is a “like-creature” because she is a shape-shifter, or because she is part-animal in this form, the way that he seems to be. Rahne returns to her human form, and Bird Boy pulls away, looking forlorn he begins squawking again, then begins to fly around the room, heading straight for the large window.

‘He’s having one of his fits again!’ Cannonball exclaims, so he begins blasting to try and get Bird Boy, who smacks into the window, cracking the glass and bumping his head. Sam grabs Bird-Brain and forces him down to the floor, apologizing, but pointing out that half the window is broken now. Bird-Brain just continues to squawk, and the New Mutants gather around him as Sam asks Doug what is going on, what Bird Boy is saying. ‘He think the moon’s a cookie or something?’

Doug tells his friends that he thinks Bird Boy is talking about the “full-moon”, the “end of the feeding time”, “tests” and perhaps the “end of it all”, as well as “like-creatures” and “blood” - whatever that could mean. Doug reminds his friends that Bird Boy’s life has been so different from theirs that it is hard, even when he says words Doug thinks he has figured out, to know what Bird-Brain means.

Later, ‘People say television is America’s baby-sitter! I really don’t approve…!’ Rahne remarks as she and the other New Mutants set Bird Boy down in front of the television. ‘I do Otherwise we wouldn’t get anything done!’ Mirage replies. Dani tells her best friend Rahne not to sweat, as this is Sesame Street and is educational. On the television, the character “Big Bird” tells the audience that today’s letter is the letter “T”. The New Mutants sneak off while Bird-Brain is left with a giant bag of popcorn, and Cannonball remarks that if Big Bird cannot teach Bird-Brain English then he doesn’t know who can! ‘He loves it really, now study!’ Mirage orders.

‘”T”, like in tiger!’ Big Bird exclaims, to which Bird-Brain begins squawking wildly yet again. The New Mutants all turn back to Bird-Brain and the television and Mirage remarks that the way Bird-Brain is talking to the television he must think Big Bird is another like-creature too. Doug informs everyone that, actually, Bird-Brain recognizes the tiger, and has a name for it - “Rwar-Reep!”. Sam asks how Bird-Brain could know about tigers, as they come from India. ‘And they found him on an ice float in the North Atlantic!’ Magik points out.

Before Bird-Brain can attack the television, Dani shouts ‘Grab him, Sam!’, which Sam does, causing popcorn to go flying everywhere. Sam tells someone to change the channel quickly, as Sesame Street is obviously too much for him. Mirage grabs the remote and switches the channel, and an advertisement for McBurger comes on screen. Danielle remarks that Bird-Brain has the attention span of a humming bird, but loves hamburgers.

“It’s your lucky day at McBurger!” the voice over on the ad exclaims, and Bird-Brain manages to squawk something that sounds like “McBurger”, which gets Rahne very excited. ‘He said it!’ she exclaims. Dani points out that this would be his first word. Sam remarks that Bird Boy learns by reward, so suggests to Illyana that she teleport out and get Bird Boy a burger.

But Wolfsbane tells Illyana that she can’t, reminding them that they are grounded and Magneto said they were not to go out. Dani assures her best friend that this is more important, as it is for science - ‘We’re salvaging a semi-human life!’ Dani adds that it is only for a second, so will hardly count. ‘Besides…how’s he gonna stop me?’ Illyana asks as she enters a Stepping Disk - and reappears moments later with a burger.

Magik holds the burger out before Bird-Brain and asks him what it is. Bird-Brain doesn’t respond, he simply grabs for the burger, but Illyana pulls it back before he gets it, ‘No you don’t! First say it - McBurger!’ she exclaims. Bird-Brain says it, and Rahne exclaims that he said it better than the first time. Dani tells Magik to give Bird Boy the burger, and reaches for the fries. Holding them out in front of Bird-Brain, Dani urges him to say “French fries”, which he does. Magik hands Rahne and Cypher a milkshake and suggests they do it together. Rahne manages to get Bird Boy to say something that closely resembles “chocolate shake” and both give him a hug while he drinks his shake. Rahne then hugs Illyana, remarking that although she disobeyed Magneto, it was worth it. Rahne thanks Illyana then exclaims that they knew Bird Boy could talk.

The next morning, the New Mutants and Bird Boy crowd around a table and eating donuts they examine several newspaper articles and a map. Illyana holds her donut slightly away from her as she reminds her friends that Bird Boy was floating on ice. Cypher points out that Bird Boy recognized a tiger, so Sam asks ‘Where the heck can he have come from?’ ‘HEY!’ shouts Illyana as she turns to her donut, only to discover that Bird-Brain has taken a large bite from it. Sam motions to the old National Geographic magazines on the book shelves and points out that they will have pictures with all sorts of places, so all they have to do is show Bird Boy the pictures and see which ones he recognizes.

The teens begin flicking through the magazines: ‘Some place near the ocean - here’s the Bahamas!’, ‘The coast of Africa?’, ‘Indian Ocean here’, ‘Hey! North Atlantic! Greenland!’ ‘No oceans in that one!’ Suddenly, Bird-Brain has several magazines thrust in front of his face, ‘Here’s the San Diego zoo, they have tigers!’ Rahne tells Bird Boy to look at the magazines and asks if he recognizes any of them.

Bird-Brain squawks as he grabs the magazine depicting Greenland, then thrusts the one showing a zoo to the ground, hissing as he does it. Illyana asks if perhaps Bird Boy was in a zoo, but Danielle remarks that he can’t have been, as he is too weird and they would have heard about him sooner. Sam grabs the atlas and points to where the newspaper article said Bird-Brain was found, motioning to where the current drifts, Sam suggests that perhaps Bird Boy is from one of those little costal islands. Sam adds that he would love to know what all that stuff Bird Boy was going on about the full moon was about, to which exclaims that they will not find out more until they ace all of their exams and tells her team that they better get back to studying.

Soon, the teens have returned to studying, but Rahne and Doug are still more concerned with teaching Bird Boy than learning. ‘See, Bird-Brain? Pencils! How many?’ Rahne asks the strange creature. Bird Boy responds by almost saying “pencils” before asking for a burger. ‘Yes, they are pencils’ Rahne remarks, before telling Bird Boy to calm down and assuring him that they will have lunch soon. Cypher asks Bird-Brain how many pencils there, to which Bird Boy squawks. Doug announces that Bird Boy seems to have words for “one” and “lots” but no specific number concepts.

Rahne suggests they try it Bird Boy’s way and encourages him to say “many”. Bird Boy’s reply is translated as “many burgers”, ‘Oh wow, did you hear that? He said “many burgers”!’ exclaims Doug to his friends. ‘That means he’s real hungry!’ Rahne exclaims as she hugs Bird Boy. ‘Is he smart or what?!’ exclaims Doug. The excited teen remarks that just yesterday Bird Boy learned how to speak and now he is practically speaking in sentences!

‘Many burgers, huh? You think we oughta get him some?’ Illyana asks. Rahne once again points out that they are grounded and therefore cannot go out, to which Illyana reminds everyone that she went out yesterday and is hungry too, so she thinks she should teleport them all out for burgers. Mirage asks about Bird-Brain, to which Doug suggests that they put him in disguise. ‘You’ll behave this time, won’t you, fella?’ Doug asks. Cannonball agrees, pointing out that they will not be gone for long, before asking where they should go.

McBurger! Where else?!’ someone exclaims as Illyana’s stepping disk materializes the New Mutants outside a McBurger restaurant. Mirage remarks that they probably shouldn’t be doing this, to which Rahne exclaims that it is not for them, but for Bird Boy who needs to observe other people so he can learn how to act. Bird-Brain is dressed in a large green trench coat, a wide brim hat and sunglasses.

Taking Bird Boy into the restaurant, Rahne points out that Bird Boy said he would behave. ‘If he was kept in a zoo…’ she begins. ‘I think our school’s turning into a zoo!’ Illyana mutters while Sam goes over to order, telling his friends to wait for him in the back. ‘Twelve burgers, eight fries, six shakes!’ Sam asks the person taking his order, while glancing nervously back to his friends.

Three minutes later, Dani and Illyana are pressed up against Bird-Brain to keep him in the booth and Rahne exclaims that Bird Boy is behaving, better than last time anyway as he hasn’t tried to grab anyone’s food. ‘Only because we practically sat on him!’ Dani mumbles. Magik tells Sam that they thought he would never get back, ‘Get him outside fast and I’ll teleport us home!’ she adds.

Moments later, the New Mutants and Bird-Brain arrive home, with Bird-Brain exclaiming, as best he can, ‘Many burgers, many French fries, many chocolate shakes’.

That night, the New Mutants are lying on the floor, watching the television where a man is in a cage with a lion, trying to tame it. A whip cracks against the lion, causing Bird Boy to squawk and leap towards the screen. Sam tells him to calm down as it is a just a movie while Mirage processed to change the channel. ‘Get him some cookies!’ Sam exclaims. Someone holds out some cookies in front of Bird Boy, whose attention suddenly drifts to the moon which he can see out the window.

Later, in Cypher’s room, Rahne and Doug are preparing to dress Bird Boy in a New Mutants training uniform. Bird Boy is still gazing out of the window, so Cypher tries to get his attention by making funny faces in the mirror. Rahne remarks that the movie really upset Bird-Brain and wonders if perhaps they should have got to know him better before they let him watch things with cages. Rahne holds the uniform out in front of Bird-Brain, who grabs it and hugs it. ‘That cheered him up! He likes it! He want’s it on!’ Rahne exclaims.

Sam, Dani and Illyana hear the commotion so they enter Doug’s room and see their friends dressing Bird-Brain. ‘He’s one of us, isn’t he?’ Doug asks, to which Rahne exclaims that is why they are giving him a uniform, adding that he practically begged them to do it. Bird Boy squawks as the uniform is pulled down over his head. ‘Doesn’t sound too happy about it to me’ Sam jokes. ‘No problem!’ Magik exclaims as she grabs a pair of scissors and cuts down the back of Bird-Brain’s uniform, and helps pull his wings through while asking whose costume this is anyway. Rahne reveals that it is one of Sam’s old ones which he outgrew.

Sam tells his teammates that they are crazy trying to squeeze Bird-Brain into one of his old costumes. ‘It’s Bird-Brain’s costume now, Sam. Who else would want it?’ Dani remarks. Cypher points out that Bird Boy is a person too, sort of, and probably a mutant too, and therefore Bird Boy is going to start sleeping upstairs, in his room Doug adds, remarking that the movie seemed to depress him and he doesn’t want to leave Bird Boy downstairs alone.

The New Mutants examine Bird Boy now fully dressed in the uniform and Doug declares that Bird Boy is one of them, the uniform proves it, so they should start treating him like a friend. ‘Friend? Get real, Doug! He doesn’t even know what that means!’ Illyana exclaims. Rahne begins to get a bed ready for Bird Boy, but pulling out a fold-out bed she remarks that Bird Boy is pretty tall so she doesn’t think he will fit. Cypher puts an arm around Bird Boy and tells him not to listen to the others, ‘You do know what friends are, don’t you!?’ Bird Boy squawks in response.

Several hours later, Doug is asleep on the little fold out bed, and Bird-Brain suddenly sits up right in Doug’s bed. He looks out the window, squawks ‘Behave’ then looks at Doug and squawks ‘Friend’ - then suddenly flies straight to the window and crashes through it, squawking ‘Many friends!’ Dani, Sam, Illyana and Rahne rush into Doug’s room asking what happened. Mirage warns everyone to be careful around the glass and Illyana remarks that if Magneto finds out they will be in big trouble.

Doug declares that they have to go after him, but Rahne reminds him they are grounded. ‘We break the rules to go after burgers and we can’t go after a friend? Gimme a break!’ Illyana exclaims. Sam tells his friends to get their uniforms then Magik can teleport them to the pasture, before asking Mirage if she wants to bring Brightwind. ‘Yeah, great! Sure is convenient having a flying horse, isn’t it?’ Dani replies.

Meanwhile, McBurgers is about to get a very late night customer, one that stumbles awkwardly through the door in his very own New Mutants costume. ‘What the heck!?’ gasps a shocked McBurgers worker as the strange creature approaches the counter, then squawks that he wants ‘Many burgers, many French fries and many chocolate shakes!’ When he gets no response, the frustrated Bird Boy repeats his order. ‘Burgers! Fries! Shakes! Coming right up!’ one of the staff remarks, everyone scared of him so they are just going to do as he asks.

‘What do you suppose he is?’ someone in the restaurant asks. ‘Alien! Gotta be an alien!’ someone exclaims. The staff follow Bird Boy out of the restaurant and watch him as he takes flight, One of them declares that it could be the Moth Man. Someone else remarks that this isn’t Virginia, before asking if they think it could be that Bird Boy from the television.

Nearby, Dani, Doug and Rahne are on Brightwind while Sam carries Illyana. Doug remarks that he thinks Bird-Brain went Northwest, towards the North Atlantic where he was found. Passing over McBurgers one of the staff mutters ‘Wherever he comes from, they like junk food, too!’ After following what they think to be Bird-Brain’s trail, Mirage eventually sees their “friend” several meters ahead of them. Rahne sees that Bird-Brain is carrying something and asks what it could be. Doug points out that whatever it is, it’s slowing him down.

Mirage tells her teammates that she is going to try the lasso and goes in closer, while Sam and Magik speed up and blast in front of Bird Brain, giving him a double surprise as Mirage manages to throw the rope around his ankle. ‘Hamburgers?’ Illyana asks as Bird-Brain begins to drop all of his food. Falling, Bird Boy calls out to his burgers, which Illyana manages to grab most of them, telling Bird-Brain not to worry. Sam forces Bird Boy to the ground and the land with a thud.

Dani lands Brightwind and she and the others rush over to Sam, Magik and Bird-Brain. Rahne asks Bird-Brain why he did it, why he had to break the window. ’You said you’d behave - why’d you run away?’ Doug asks him. ’Don’t you know we’re your friends?’ Bird-Brain squawks and reaches out, calling for his friends. Mirage asks why he would keep calling out for friends, as they are his friends. Doug wants to know why Bird Boy lied and had to disobey, before Sam asks where he got all those burgers from/ ’I think he stole them’ Wolfsbane remarks, to which Sam asks why he would steal burgers.

Rahne exclaims that it must be something to do with the lion tamer and the whip on TV - and the moon. Sam points out that Bird Boy didn’t even eat the food, so at least it appears he wants something more than food now. Sam then asks Danielle if she can pull an image out of Bird Boy’s mind. Rahne wants to know where Bird Boy was going, so Mirage pulls an image of Bird-Brain’s destination from his mind, which reveals a small island.

Bird Boy squawks and Doug informs everyone that Bird Boy is saying that it is indeed his home and that it is the full moon - the time of testing. ‘Testing? Like our finals?’ Rahne asks. Doug replies ‘Sort of - but if you fail his test, sounds like you die!’ Mirage pulls from Bird Boy’s mind an image of what he fears the most - and several monsters are seen. Doug exclaims that it has something to do with the testing and those who don’t pass are torn apart, but he managed to escape.

Bird Boy begins squawking about his friends, to which Doug reveals that Bird Boy’s friends are still there and the test is tonight. ‘He’s afraid they’ll die or maybe kill each other, I’m not sure!’ Doug adds that Bird-Brain wants to save them, doesn’t want them to be ripped into shreds - or starve. Danielle shows everyone an image of Bird Boy’s friends, and Sam supposes that Bird Boy was taking the burgers to his friends.

Cannonball turns to Mirage and asks her how far it is to the North Atlantic. ‘Thousands of miles!’ Mirage replies, remarking that Bird-Brain was going to fly all that way back to the place that terrifies him to save his friends. Sam exclaims that Bird Boy would never make it by himself, to which Rahne and Magik if she can teleport them there. ‘First it’s one burger, then it’s twelve, then it’s save Bird-Brain, then it’s thousands of miles away!’ Magik mutters, before reminding Rahne that they are still grounded. ‘You’re heading down the primrose path, you know!’ she adds.

Rahne exclaims that she doesn’t care, that she has to save Bird Boy - they have to save him. ‘Don’t you want to?’ she asks Magik. ‘Sure! I like breaking rules, I just wasn’t sure you did!’ Magik replies. Illyana creates a Stepping Disk and the New Mutants, Bird Boy and Brightwind enter it, arriving moments later in the North Atlantic. Magik points out that the North Atlantic is rather big so she placed them as close to that island group Sam showed them on the map as she could.

Clutching Brightwind so she doesn’t fall off, Rahne remarks that they are still disobeying and wonders if they should tell Magneto after all. Dani declares that they don’t have time, and Doug points out that it is night time, so Magneto won’t even know they are gone as they will be back before morning. ‘Bird-Brain knows what friends are for. Let’s show him that we do, too!’

The New Mutants follow Bird Boy as he lands on a rocky island. Secure on the ground, Wolfsbane exclaims that there is nothing here, no lights, no people and asks what they are to do now. ‘What a bust!’ complains Illyana. Suddenly the teen heroes hear some rustling in the forest nearby, then a hiss. ‘What was that hiss?’ Illyana asks. Bird-Brain hisses back loudly - ‘You had to ask!’ Sam exclaims as dozens of frightening creatures emerge from the forest and surround the New Mutants!

Characters Involved: 

Cannonball, Cypher, Magik, Mirage, Wolfsbane (all New Mutants)

Bird Boy



Patrons and staff at McBurger

On Television:

Big Bird

Story Notes: 

The New Mutants are grounded after Bird-Brain caused several disasters at the mall in New Mutants (1st series) #57.

“Sesame Street” is a very long running (it began in 1969 and new episodes are still being made in 2006) educational show for children, which features real people and a variety of puppets and other characters, one of the more famous characters is Big Bird, as seen this issue, along with others like Elmo, Oscar the Grouch and the Cookie Monster.

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