The year was 1975 and the original X-Men weren’t doing very good. No, they weren’t getting their butts kicked by Magneto and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. They were in bigger trouble, they weren’t selling very many comic books and were facing a fate even worse than defeat…they were facing cancellation.
So faced with this impending doom, the folks at Marvel did what any smart comic company would do, get NEW X-Men. And so the story goes, the original X-Men (well most of them) get captured by this living island monster and their leader, Charles Xavier has no choice but to go around the world and get new X-Men to rescue the old ones.
Here's an interesting aside. Years after this story was written, some other writer ret-conned by establishing that prior to assembling his new X-Men, he already had a second, less experienced team in training that he sent first to try to rescue his X-Men. Unfortunately things didn't work out for this second team as they were slaughtered by the island. In order to hide his mistake, Xavier mind wiped anyone who knew about this second team so they would never be heard of again...until one of the members thought to be dead, came back seeking revenge....but THAT'S another story.....
The new team had a more international feel, as was the mandate by the higher ups who wanted to market the X-Men to more readers outside of the US. And so Xavier put on his travelling pants and recruited Storm from Kenya, Colossus from Russia, Nightcrawler from Germany, Wolverine from Canada, Banshee from Ireland, Sunfire from Japan and finally….ok ONE “native”American, Thunderbird.
Now I’m pretty sure the first four names need no introduction. Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler and of course Wolverine have gone on to become 4 of the most recognizable members of the X-Men and even of the entire Marvel Universe. You MAY know Banshee who even if he didn’t get as popular as the first four, did manage to keep an on & off presence in the X universe over the years up until his death a few years back (he was actually killed by that one ANGRY member of the real second team long thought dead). But the final two, Sunfire & Thunderbird, well you’re excused if you don’t know who they are cuz both didn’t really last long on the team. After their first mission of successfully rescuing the original team, one of them quit, and soon after, on their second mission, the other died.
From the very start, both Sunfire and Thunderbird’s chances of flourishing within the X-Men team were basically close to zero. To put it bluntly, they were both arrogant, proud d*#%s with massive chips on their shoulders. Both of them disliked the idea of going off to fight for the westerners and “white man” and only did so for their own convoluted reasons. Sunfire did it cuz he relished the idea of the western world needing his help. And Thunderbird, well Xavier insulted his people and he ultimately decided to join up to prove him wrong.
As I said, after the first mission, Sunfire decided he had enough of being “part of a team” and declined permanent membership in the X-Men and went back to Japan. He continued to pop back every now and then, more often as an ally and sometimes even as an enemy, but he never officially rejoined the team. It has been recently announced however that Sunfire will be joining the Avengers, or to be more specific, the Uncanny Avengers. Apparently, he’s decided that being an Avenger is MUCH cooler than being an X-Man. So hopefully he will be getting more recognition in the very near future, unless he quits again after the first mission….
|not a fan of the western world? that's right, join a team with Captain AMERICA!|
Thunderbird has a more tragic fate. In his brief stint as an X-Man he continued to clash personality wise with the rest of the team. He considered himself a loner who had to prove that he was better than everyone else. So in line with this, on the new team’s second mission, as their enemy tried to escape aboard a jet, Thunderbird impulsively jumped onto the cockpit and began bashing the plane in mid air…until it exploded. Unfortunately, Thunderbird’s mutant powers had nothing to do with flight, invulnerablity…or common sense, and so he died. And that was that. Anyway to add insult to injury, his death, was rather pointless, first of all, Banshee was flying right along side the plane and could have easily taken it down with his sonic scream, and secondly, the bad guy ultimately survived.
|Now I'd watch THAT movie!|
Now I’m not exactly sure why the writers introduced the Sunfire character only to have him leave almost immedeately. But I did read that Thunderbird was killed off because his character and personality were deemed too similar to Wolverine, so one of them had to go. This just blows my mind to think that at ONE point in history, Wolverine could have actually been pointlessly killed off and been just a footnote in Marvel/X-Men history and Hugh Jackman would have been discovered for playing Thunderbird in the X-Men movie! Boy did Marvel make the RIGHT call there! Actually, if we're being honest, I HATE Wolverine and would have been quite happy if he had been killed off instead.
|forging a different (war)path|
Fortunately, Thunderbird’s “legacy” lives on through his younger brother, who took up the name Thunderbird as well, originally to fight the X-Men whom he blamed for his brother’s death. Luckily he wasn’t as stupid as his brother and realized that his death was his own doing. He eventually joined the X-Men, took on a new name, Warpath and unlike his brother, has been relatively successful in finding his own unique place in the team.
Anyway, even if their time with the X-Men was short, this didn’t stop Hasbro from immortalizing both of these guys in plastic, and to be honest they did quite a good job on both of them. And they managed to one-up their fellow New X-Man Banshee who still to this date doesn’t have his own action figure……unfortunately in this case there really IS no luck for the Irish….
|still waiting for Banshee....|