The past few months have seen a number of big changes to the X-Men thanks to the Marvel team's ongoing relaunch in House of X and Powers of X event, not the least of which has been their main mode of transportation. The X-Men's new base of operations is Krakoa, which has transported the X-Men around the globe and beyond using portals generated by the mutant island. However, the X-Men traditionally used a relatively more mundane method of transportation, the Blackbird.
The Blackbird, or the X-Jet as it is sometimes referred, is a larger, impossibly advanced version of the real world SR-71 Blackbird, which was a stealth jet designed by Lockheed Martin in the '60s. The jet was designed to be able to outfly potential threats instead of combating them and holds the record for the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft. The X-Men have used a few different versions of the Blackbird over the years, and the jet has appeared outside the comics in film and TV. Now, we are going to take a closer look at the origins of the Blackbird, its capabilities and various upgrades over the years, and its use in other mediums.
WHEN DID THE X-MEN'S FIRST BLACKBIRD APPEAR?
The first iteration of the Blackbird was initially known as the Strato-Jet and was famously destroyed by Count Nefaria in the mission that took Thunderbird's life in X-Men #94, by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum. That mission also revealed the jet was actually a modified Sr-71 Blackbird, though the second Strato-Jet was the first to become known as the Blackbird.
The Blackbird would be destroyed and rebuilt many times over the course of the X-Men's adventures, and they would eventually have an entire fleet of Blackbirds, as well as other airborne vehicles like the smaller X-Jet known as the Dove or the X2, which was a rescue and recovery vehicle with bleeding-edge technology.
WHAT CAN THE BLACKBIRD DO?
One of the main features of the Blackbird, even in its initial Strato-Jet appearances, were the VTOL engines, which stands for Vertical Take-Off and Landing. Some other improvements made to the Blackbird by the team include a Ruby Quartz windshield that amplified Cyclops' optic blasts, but the biggest improvements came thanks to the X-Men's association with Lilandra and the alien Shi'ar.
The mutant inventor Forge rebuilt the Blackbird using the alien technology, which gave the jet advanced holographic cloaking and sonic dampeners that rendered it invisible and even included portable Cerebro units. The first appearance of Forge's new Blackbird, which would become the new standard for the visual look of the vehicle, came in Chris Claremont and Jim Lee's iconic X-Men #1.
THE BLACKBIRD in X-MEN FILMS AND TV
The Blackbird has made a number of appearances in other mediums, both in animated series and in live-action on the big screen. The TV pilot episode Pryde of the X-Men featured the first animated appearance of the Blackbird, though it wasn't until the 90's X-Men: The Animated Series that the Blackbird was truly represented as a regular part of the X-Men's world. The Blackbird would go on to appear in follow-up animated series like X-Men: Evolution and Wolverine and the X-Men.
X-Men hit theaters in 2000, and the Blackbird, now rechristened the X-Jet, made its live-action debut alongside the team. The X-Jet would get a sleek new upgrade for the sequel, X2: X-Men United. However, it wasn't until X-Men: First Class began to reimagine the origins of the cinematic X-Men that Hank McCoy was revealed as the mastermind behind the X-Jet's high-tech modifications in Fox's X-Men movie franchise.
The Blackbird has now evolved into a vehicle capable of spaceflight that the X-Men can use when Krakoa isn't an option, proving there are no limits to how far the Blackbird can advance alongside its mutant owners.