Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
Thunderbird is back! (You did read X-Men: The Trial of Magneto, right?) Now that John Proudstar has been resurrected, so many questions need to be answered.
Fortunately, new Marauders writer Steve Orlando is joining forces with All Elite Wrestling superstar Nyla Rose to find the answers X-Fans seek in April’s Giant-Size X-Men: Thunderbird #1. And, fortunately for X-Fans who just can’t wait, Steve and Nyla were happy to swing by X-Men Monday and tease their upcoming collaboration with artist David Cutler.
AIPT: Welcome back to X-Men Monday, Steve, and welcome for the first time, Nyla! Nyla, readers may be familiar with your wrestling career, but not your relationship with comics. What can you share about your history with comics and, of course, the X-Men?
Nyla Rose: If I’m being honest, I don’t really recall exactly when or how I got into comics specifically, but I’ve always loved cartoons and animation, so naturally the bridge from Saturday morning cartoons to comic books was inevitable. Especially having a mom that was thrilled I was reading lol. I’m almost certain my relationship with the X-Men started because of the cartoon from 1992. Instant love at first sight!
AIPT: Thunderbird getting his own Giant-Size X-Men one-shot written by Steve Orlando AND All Elite Wrestling superstar Nyla Rose! This comic’s surprise announcement this past December was eXciting for so many reasons. How did this opportunity and collaboration come about?
Steve: Chance, passion, and luck? The real answer’s about as simple as it could be, even if it doesn’t always work out as well as it did with this book. When we decided Thunderbird was getting resurrected in X-Men: The Trial of Magneto, the natural question was “what then?” The power of the first X-Man to die being resurrected was strong, but we needed to figure out where Thunderbird fit in going forward. And while he’ll be showing up a lot of places, we wanted to make sure he got a true spotlight.
With that in mind, with the character coming back for the first time in a long time, he deserved the best possible spotlight. And that meant giving him something he hadn’t had much, if at all, in the past — Native folks behind the scenes to tell his story. As it so happens, I was already acquainted with Nyla from her work ruling the internet. And she had just worn Mystique gear on an AEW show the week before. So, fate told me she might be an X-Fan. I shot the idea to the group to reach out to her about co-writing, and the business stars aligned… we got the approval for outreach! From there, off to the races, and even more so when we found out David Cutler, himself from a First Nations background, was available as our collaborator on interior art. It was a strike, a hole in one, pick your metaphor.
We’ve got a history-making character in Thunderbird, whose story is being told by a history maker herself in Nyla Rose, and visualized by the perfect artist for the job in David, who knows Thunderbird’s struggle. And me? I’m just here to help make it happen, and facilitate. It has been an incredible journey! Nyla and David are doing career work with this one!
AIPT: And what was the co-writing experience like for you two?
Steve: I noted above, but mostly I see my job in this co-writing scenario as helping Nyla learn the comics format, and get the story she wants to tell on the page in the best way possible. Every single co-writing job is different. But with Nyla performing and being on the road, we talk story a lot and check in when needed on Zoom, or if AEW happens to be coming to my town. Which, luckily enough, they did right as we kicked off this thing! So we were able to beat the story out in person, and since then, I’ve been here to help with the implementation. But I see myself as a means here, Nyla and David are by far the real show. And as it should be, they’re kicking large quantities of ass!
Nyla: Steve is being WAY too generous here, he has been a MAJOR help and fantastic partner and guide! What’s funny is, in the early stages of figuring things out and deciding what story to tell, Steve and I were on the same page… A LOT! Like a scary amount lol. So it definitely made the process easy and flow incredibly smooth, at least on my end. I was so nervous to come onboard into a world I didn’t know at ALL, writing comics, but Steve not only put me at ease, he’s been very encouraging. Honestly, the ENTIRE team has been phenomenal and amazingly welcoming.
AIPT: Obviously, Thunderbird is getting an all-new look courtesy of the story’s artist David Cutler. What can you share about the origins of this new costume and David’s artwork for the one-shot?
Steve: When Thunderbird came back, we knew he needed to be visually differentiated from his brother, Warpath. Yes, they’ve got different builds, but their costumes have been similar for a long time. But also, we saw an opportunity to redesign Thunderbird’s costume with a Native lens, versus an outsider lens with outsider expectations. So, with this, other than wanting to recall the original Thunderbird design/logo in some way, my job was to get OUT of the way. We address the colors and meanings behind the costume in one of our data pages, actually! But I’ll say this, I’m incredibly proud to have a look for Thunderbird created by Native folks, drawn from diverse Native culture, that’s fresh but functional for all the fights John’s bound to be picking.
Nyla: For me, it was immensely important that his new look be modernized and not so dated. I wanted something Natives and First Nation people would look at and be proud of and not just say, “Oh there’s tassels, I guess we’ll accept this.” And something non-Natives could look at and say, “OK this looks badass.” I think our team has done exactly that based on the fact that there’s already fan art and the book isn’t even out yet!!! WHAT?!
AIPT: Our first X-Fan question this week comes from Gdex, who said that John Proudstar is a very important character in the X-mythos but one with very little page time. We know about him mostly from how other members of the Giant-Size X-Men team and his brother James reacted to him and his passing. As writers, did you find it frightening or freeing (or maybe both) to be creating what is going to be the modern take on an important character who is almost a tabula rasa?
Steve: For me, at least, the job here’s always the same: find the core of the character, build a story around challenging that, and yeah, make sure there are plenty of things exploding. Now, with Thunderbird, in some ways, it’s an asset that he only has a few appearances among the living. It gave us a very clear vision of who he was! And again in his case, it made it a unique story opportunity to examine how other people, but readers, and in-story mutants, have put a lot of their own views and assumptions on Thunderbird. They’ve remade him with their own lens.
So, frightening? No. But it’s ALWAYS a big responsibility and honor to work on these characters, and even more so with Thunderbird being who he is. All that meant though is that we had to do our damndest to do the job right. And I think, with the team we’ve assembled, we sure have. By the end of this issue — you’ll know for sure who Thunderbird is, and how he sees the modern world. No surprise, he might see some bullshit and feel the need to call it out.
AIPT: Like you said, Thunderbird hasn’t had many appearances in Marvel publishing history, but X-Fan Rareblight pointed out that he did return briefly in the “Necrosha” and “Chaos War” events. Rareblight was wondering if John’s past temporary resurrections would be addressed.
Steve: We do allude to these very briefly in one of our data pages! Of course, this is just a one-shot, with the goal of getting Thunderbird set up with a role among the living. And that has to be our chief focus — what’s next? What’s waiting in the future? But these past brief resurrections absolutely did happen, for sure, and Thunderbird’s got opinions about them. And in time, if we get the chance to do more with Thunderbird as a solo character, we’d love to explore them more.
AIPT: X-Fan Rob wanted to know what drives John Proudstar in the age of Krakoa. His desperation to prove himself drove him to his death. Now he’s back, his entire tribe and family were massacred (minus his brother, who is essentially now a more experienced and self-actualized version of himself). How does he find relevance for himself and his new country?
Steve: A lot of this is precisely what we’re addressing in this one-shot. Thunderbird himself isn’t sure where he fits in once he’s back, and he’s as surprised as anyone would be to find he’s been turned into a posthumous icon during his death. Can he possibly be the person everyone says he was? Does he need to be? Thunderbird’s quest to find relevance, as you say, is the core drive of this one-shot. But the first question is about whether or not he even likes Krakoa, or fits in there. I’m very proud of where we landed, in concert with Nyla and David. The loss of Thunderbird’s family plays a big part in this one-shot. Though as for his entire family being killed, well, stay tuned. And while Warpath might be more experienced, he’s a very different person. And you’ll see Thunderbird’s opinions about that here, as well as in other X-Books going forward.
AIPT: For so long, Thunderbird was nothing more than a footnote in X-Men history — the first X-Man to die on a mission. What is your hope for the character coming out of this one-shot in the X-Line and among X-Fandom?
Steve: Well, let me tell you. I think by the end of this one-shot, our hope for Thunderbird is very clear. I’ll say this, Thunderbird has a unique dynamic with some of the biggest icons of Krakoa. In his early appearances, he thought Wolverine was a soft punk, and couldn’t be bothered to respect an uptight ass-kisser like Cyclops (John’s POV, not mine). Now, while he was gone, Cyclops and Wolverine have become foundational to Krakoa. Thunderbird to me, as an emotional hook, really has a singular point of view on some of Krakoa’s greatest. And he does not care what anyone thinks. He’s got a rough exterior, but once you do gain his respect, Thunderbird is your ride or die. You’ll see more of how that plays out in the one-shot. Krakoa or Arakko, Thunderbird goes where he wants, walks into whatever room he wants, and does not tolerate hypocrites or bullshit. Never has, and now that he’s back? Never will.
AIPT: Nyla, X-Fan Jason Kelley said your character in AEW thus far has been very serious. However, there have been a few instances where your sense of humor has shown through. Jason thinks you’re hilarious and would love to see that part of you used more in your wrestling. Is that something you’d like to do, or do you like just being the monster heel? As for your writing, Jason can’t imagine a Thunderbird story gives many opportunities for humor, but if you do more writing in the future, would you be interested in doing more comedy?
Nyla: I don’t like to “shoehorn” anything in because then it feels forced and disingenuous. I think a more serious monster was definitely needed in the beginning of AEW, to establish a constant threat looming in the “shadows” if you will. But as the company evolves, so do the characters, so I definitely see room to, for lack of a better expression, “lighten up” a bit more as the situations grant. As for writing, it really just depends on what the core story is and where we can go with it. It’s always a little hard/tricky to escape comedy as my background is in being a comedic actress but I’m definitely open to exploring just about any opportunity that may come up… comedy, horror, action, horror… definitely horror lol.
AIPT: Finally, Nyla, we all know mutants have different power levels, but X-Fan Jay Barrett was curious to learn what you consider your Twitter savagery power level to be. Steve, feel free to weigh in as well!
Nyla: Oh wow… lol ummm I’d say usually I’m at about a 36. Occasionally I have to kick it up to about a 50 or so to check a fool… but even I have had to delete a tweet I was typing up or save it to the drafts because they can’t handle these Thanos levels of tweets 😂
Steve: Oh my answer’s simple on this one. I’m just here to get jobbed out for Nyla :-).
AIPT: Important answers to important questions. Nyla and Steve, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedules to talk all things Thunderbird! And if you liked what you heard, X-Fans, be sure to pick up a copy of Giant-Size X-Men: Thunderbird #1 when it goes on sale April 27, 2022. Here’s a sneak peek at a few of David Cutler’s pages courtesy of X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White!
Just a reminder that Jordan, along with his uncanny friends from the X-Office, will be back neXt week for the milestone X-Men Monday #150! Here’s a reminder of what your favorite mutants were up to when they reached 150 issues…
Until neXt time, X-Fans, stay eXceptional!
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