Thunderbird the Shaman
- Indian Comics Irregular #75
John "Thunderbird" Proudstar is, of course, the Apache superhero who
debuted in GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1 (1975) and died soon thereafter.
Michael "Shaman" Twoyoungmen is the Sarcee medicine man and superhero
of Canada's Alpha Flight. They're a good example of Natives who have
nothing in common--except, of course, the ubiquitous long hair and
In a new Marvel comic called EXILES, the team visits alternate
dimensions where history happened differently. In EXILES #5-6, they
meet a John Proudstar who has become the Shaman of his world. What
does this scenario tell us about Indians in the 21st century?
On the plus side, this Proudstar doesn't have the stereotypical pink
skin of the first. He speaks normally, confirming that the original
T-Bird's coarse speech was a writer's affectation. And he mentions
his abusive father, partly justifying T-Bird's inferiority complex.
(See ICI #54 for details.)
On the minus side, it's hard to believe Proudstar would set aside his
Apache belief system to study Shaman's "mysticism." That someone
raised more than a thousand miles from the Sarcee, with no knowledge
of their spirituality, could become proficient enough to be deemed
a "shaman" is patently unlikely. It's about as unlikely as T-Bird's
joining the Catholic priesthood and eventually becoming Pope.
Theoretically possible, yes; realistically plausible, no.
Unlike the PETER PARKER 2001 annual (ICI #72), this comic has
eliminated the superficial stereotypes, but it still gets the deeper
points wrong. The glass is still only half full. For more on
Thunderbird as Shaman, go to
Multiculturalism in the X-Men
I've noted that the All-New X-Men series, with its international
cast, was a landmark in superhero comics. I've also argued that this
breakthrough was a step in the right direction, not the final word in
multiculturalism. Every character who stayed with the team was born
and raised in a European-based culture. (See ICI #51 for more on the
In 2001 Chris Claremont launched a new X-Men series, X-TREME X-MEN.
In an interview he made a remarkable claim: "This is...the first
mainstream super hero group whose membership is predominantly third
world." Uh, not quite.
"Third World" refers to a region's socioeconomic status, not its
ethnic makeup. But no matter what Claremont meant, his claim doesn't
work. I've dissected Chris's latest Claremontism at
Watch Out for Wendigo
Yet another new movie shows a Native American influence. From the LA
"Wendigo" is named after a terrifying creature out of Native
American mythology that has been utilized by everyone from poet
Ogden Nash to the creators of "The X-Files" and Marvel Comics. As
described in the film by a mysterious tribal elder, this half-man,
half-deer shape-shifter is "always hungry, never satisfied.
There are spirits to be feared because they are angry. He who
hears the cry of the Wendigo is never seen again."
Draw a Native Hero and Win
Sharpen your pencils! Blue Corn Comics and the Canku Ota newsletter
are holding a drawing contest for young artists. Our goal is to
encourage kids to get in touch with their artistic side and their
The theme of the contest is "Native Heroes." That includes real and
fictional figures from Coyote to Jay Silverheels, Pocahontas to Peace
Party. To enter, head to Canku Ota at http://www.turtletrack.org
And tell a friend.
Blue Corn Comics