If you know your Marvel history, you know that Thundebird is most famous for one thing: dying almost immediately after being introduced in 1975’s seminal Giant-Size X-Men #1.
Created by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum, Thunderbird was part of the second generation X-Men team that truly defined the characters for decades going forward, along with Wolverine, Storm, Colossus and Nightcrawler. But while those other mutants have become household names, Thunderbird — one of the first examples of a Native American superhero — was quickly killed off two issues later in X-Men #95. It was a legitimately surprising move at the time to kill a character off so quickly after being introduced, and his legacy was subsequently taken on by the character’s brother, Warpath, primarily on multiple X-Force teams.
But now, thanks to Fox’s X-Men-inspired series The Gifted, there may be justice for Thunderbird.
Blair Redford plays John Proudstar / Thunderbird on the show, and all signs indicate that the character is around for the long haul — three episodes have aired so far, and CBR spoke with Redford on a set visit last month during the filming of the show’s sixth episode. Not only has this Thunderbird managed to avoid mortal peril, he’s also one of the show’s main characters, as a leader of the Mutant Underground. Naturally, Redford is pleased the series has deviated from comics history in this instance.
“It’s rewriting history a bit, but that’s the whole idea of the show,” Redford told CBR. “You’re taking a basic premise and a guideline of these characters and their origin and their life in the comic books — it wouldn’t be as enjoyable if you just did exactly what’s on the pages in the show, we would all know what’s coming.”
X-Men fans are a famously devoted bunch, but according to Redford, he’s heard from plenty who are happy that this Thunderbird is staying alive.
“It’s funny to me, because there’s been an overwhelmingly positivity from the fans that have been very much into the character,” Redford said. “I didn’t know how they were going to react, because he died quickly in the comics.”
Yet, knowing that tragedy is a pivotal part of the X-Men’s inherent drama, Redford isn’t against a noble death for Thunderbird — at some point in the far future.
“Honestly, I think very far down the road, if the show is successful, I think there’s a really cool opportunity there if they want to do some sort of tragic ending with him at some point,” Redford said.
Of course, The Gifted is still very early in its run on Fox, and there’s surely plenty more to come from Thunderbird and the rest of the Mutant Underground — starting with new episode “eXit strategy,” airing 9 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 23.
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