Unlike the other countdowns I'm doing as part of this blog series, I really can't assign rankings to my favorite characters. Multiple Man is my favorite, but Wolfsbane and Kitty Pryde have both caused me to tear up on occasions, and I probably relate to Cannonball more than any other X-Man. Seriously, the top ten all have a place in my heart. Limiting this to ten was hard enough (I know everyone out there really wants to read a couple hundred words about Maggott, but that will sadly not happen anytime soon).
So, here it goes...
REAL NAME: James Proudstar
FORMER ALIASES: Thunderbird, Proudstar
FIRST APPEARANCE: New Mutants v.1 #16, June 1984
GROUP AFFILIATION: Currently X-Force, formerly Hellions, New Mutants, X-Force, X-Corporation, X-Men
APPEARANCE HISTORY: X-Force v.1 (1991-2001), Uncanny X-Men (2006-2008), X-Force v.3 (2008-Current)
CREATED BY: Chris Claremont & Sal Buscema
Warpath makes my top ten because his personality is so rich and complicated. Possibly without knowing it, every successive writer has placed a new personality on the character that, somehow, has managed to only enhance his previous characterizations. Now, looking back with a critical eye, I can see the evolution of what was initially a carbon copy of a dead X-Man into a truly unique individual who is finally coming into his own and earning some respect.
The X-Force kids live in my heart. Seriously. They have their own Camp Verde right there, next to a ventricle or something. I'm not sure why, but almost half of my top ten favorite characters called Cable a mentor at one point or another. Perhaps it's because I love underused characters. How else can I rationalize loving Boba Fett and Wedge Antilles, two characters that have, maybe, 10 lines between them throughout six Star Wars films. When I started reading comics, I could see the heroes in X-Men and Uncanny every Saturday at 10 AM on Fox. Heck, Cable appeared way more than he probably should have, a result of him being a character created with pretty much every Totally Awesome Gimmick of the early '90s. The X-Forcers were a mystery to me. They had their own book, they had a history, and in the last page of the first issue I bought (#24), it looked like Magneto was going to be appearing in the next issue. Magneto! Big time! In X-Force? Who were these kids?
As I started collecting X-Force, Warpath stood out to me. He was really witty during Rob Liefeld's run on the book, making quips in the heat of battle and not much else. The inner-dialogue Fabian Nicieza gave him, though, really piled on the angst. I mean, back in the day he did try to murder Professor X for "letting" his older brother, the X-Man Thunderbird, die on his second mission. With a start like that he's always going to have some emotional problems. But the way it was balanced with wise-cracks was unheard of to me back then. After Liefeld left, Nicieza introduced Warpath's undying and unrequited love for Siryn. Warpath nursed her when she was hungover and helped her with her alcoholism. As this happened, knowingly or not, Nicieza quieted Warpath's rage and his humor. He just became a really stand-up and mature guy, all through his interaction with probably the first woman he ever loved.
Jeph Loeb's run on X-Force took Warpath in a different direction, but one that needed to happen. Adam Pollina gave him a haircut, toned down his muscle mass, and gave him (and the rest of the team) cutting edge fashion. Warpath stopped moping about Siryn, quit the team, hooked up with the mysterious mutant Risque and shirked all responsibility. For a character so defined by rage and so hung up on a woman who just wouldn't return his love, it was great to see this relationship with Risque and even better to see it blow up in his face. He loved and learned, much like people do. In real life. Comics can be like real life!
When he returned to X-Force after a brief sabbatical, he was a much more whole person. He had accepted his relationship with Siryn and put the demons of his past behind him, leading him to ditch the name Warpath for his surname for a while. Warpath became a solid team player and a supportive friend. Then Warpath gained the ability to fly and I really stopped caring. The early 2000s weren't a good time for him. Grant Morrison banished him to the Mumbai X-Corporation alongside Feral, a character that...well...had ripped Siryn's vocal chords out in front of his face a couple months prior. For a continuity nut like me, that was unreasonable.
Thankfully Ed Brubaker came along, jettisoned the ridiculous flying power, gave him back the codename Warpath, and finally made him an X-Man. Brubaker's take on the character was once more cocky and battlesmart, but also respected by his peers (including Nightcrawler and Wolverine who joined the X-Men alongside his older brother). Warpath held his own. Brubaker even remembered Warpath's friendship with Caliban from their stint on X-Force together following Caliban's death. Warpath is back home in a title called X-Force that doesn't really star the X-Force I love, but he's still being written well and treated with respect. Honestly, it's this portrayal that put him in my top ten. Before this, I seriously thought Warpath would never be viable, exciting or treated well again. Thanks to one writer's interest and dedication to making him a great character, he's now a big part of the X-Men saga. Thanks, Ed.
When I asked Billy Tan, the artist who introduced Warpath to the X-Men alongside Brubaker, to draw James Proudstar for me, he was surprised to hear that he was one of my favorite characters of all time. He has the spirit of a warrior, a mouth full of quips, and supports his friends to the very end. Sounds like a great character to me.
FAVORITE WARPATH COVERS
WARPATH ACTION FIGURES