Spoiler Alert

The opening moments of episode six of X-Men ’97, “Lifedeath Pt. II,” don’t take place on Earth, but in the depths of outer space. It is in the galaxy ruled by the Shi’ar Empire, in fact. In that scene, we get a proper introduction to someone who will no doubt be a major thorn in the X-Men’s side in the future — the Shi’ar royal warrior known as Deathbird. Although she appeared fleetingly in a handful of X-Men: The Animated Series episodes in the ‘90s, it’s here that we really get to know this deadly alien. But her comic book history doesn’t begin in the pages of X-Men comics, but actually in the pages of Ms. Marvel. A series written by Uncanny X-Men’s Chris Claremont, who along with artist Keith Pollard, created Deathbird in 1977.

The Marvel Comics Origins of Deathbird

Marvel Comics

Born as Princess Cal’syee Neramani of the Royal House of the Shi’ar on the world Chandilar, Cal’syee was third in line to the throne. From birth, she was under a cloud of suspicion because of prophecies saying she would bring great evil to the galaxy. They exiled her from the Shi’ar homeworld when she brutally murdered her mother and sister and also stripped her of her name. She eventually took on the alias of Deathbird, reflecting her winged nature. Winding up on the distant world of Earth, Deathbird became a criminal working with villains like M.O.D.O.K., and battled Carol Danvers, then going by the name Ms. Marvel. This makes her similar to another well-known X-Men villain, Mystique, who also debuted as a Ms. Marvel adversary.

Deathbird Becomes an X-Men Villain

Marvel Comics

Deathbird becomes a major X-Men villain when she attempts multiple takeovers of the Shi’ar throne, trying to steal it away from her sister Lilandra. At the time, Lilandra was the paramour of Professor X, the X-Men’s leader. Eventually, with the assistance of the alien race the Brood, she was able to steal the throne from her sister. For quite some time, Deathbird ruled the Shi’ar Empire with an iron fist, until Lilandra, with the help of Charles Xavier, was able to help her take back her rightful place on the throne. Deathbird actually ceded the Empire to her at a later time, hating the day-to-day bureaucratic process of ruling.

Deathbird’s Mutant Romances

Marvel Comics

Eventually, Deathbird made some sort of peace with Lilandra, and helped her defeat the Kree in the Shi’ar/Kree War. When the Shi’ar ultimately conquered the Kree, they elevated Deathbird to Viceroy and ruler of the Kree Empire in the Shi’ar’s name. When she helped the X-Men fight the alien Phalanx, she found herself in a brief romance with the time traveler Bishop. Her most important romance however was with the Earth mutant Gabriel Summers, a.k.a. Vulcan, who is the younger brother of Cyclops and Havok.

When Cyclops’ parents, Christopher and Katherine Summers, were abducted by the alien Shi’ar, Katherine was pregnant. Although Emperor D’Ken killed her, the unborn mutant child was spared. He then grew at an accelerated rate in the Shi’ar Empire’s labs. Living most of his life off-Earth and taking the name Vulcan, thanks to his energy-controlling powers, he became the consort of Deathbird. Eventually, he takes the throne of the Shi’ar, becoming Emperor Vulcan, with Deathbird as his Empress. Together, they have a hybrid child, whose name, gender, and current whereabouts are unknown.

The Alien Mutant Powers of Deathbird

Marvel Comics

Like her Earthly enemies, Deathbird is a mutant. While all members of the Shi’ar race descended from bird-like creatures, Deathbird had a genetic mutation at birth. Her mutation made her far more akin to prehistoric Shi’ar, who were far more avian in appearance. This mutation gave her wings, allowing her the power of flight. In addition, Deathbird has super strength, speed, and agility. Her nails are like talons, and can tear through most substances. As if her innate mutant powers were not enough, Deathbird is a highly skilled warrior. She’s a fighter almost without equal in the entire Shi’ar Empire.

Deathbird’s X-Men: The Animated Series Cameos

Marvel Animation

In the original X-Men: The Animated Series, Deathbird made two silent cameos in a pair of episodes. We see her with her older brother, the mad emperor D’Ken, when he kidnaps the Summers family in a flashback. She also appears at the side of Apocalypse at the end of the fourth season episode “Sanctuary, Part II.” We learn in the episode “Beyond Good and Evil: Part II” that she allied herself with Apocalypse to wrest the Shi’ar throne away from her sister. But once Apocalypse captured the Shi’ar psychic Oracle away from Lilandra for his own purposes, he betrayed Deathbird, thus leaving her at the mercy of her sister.

Deathbird in X-Men ’97

Marvel Animation

Deathbird must have pleaded with her sister for a second chance after we last saw her. Because in X-Men ’97 she serves Empress Lilandra in her war with the Kree and defeats Ronan the Accuser. She also used her sister’s romance with Charles Xavier as a “weakness” to exploit, as he is a mere “Terran.” She suggests their union would taint the Shi’ar royal bloodline. Much like Chris Claremont and Jim Lee’s iconic Uncanny X-Men #275, we just might see Xavier’s students take on the alien villain before season one is over. It certainly seems like Deathbird is shaping up to earn her name in the eyes of Marvel’s mutants.