5718 in-depth character profiles from comics, games, movies

Deathbird of the Shi'ar (X-Men enemy) (classic Marvel Comics)

Deathbird

(Profile #1 - classic)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

“I am a survivor, Clan-Master. Before I am through, it is *you* who will beg me for *mercy*. A mercy that will be *denied* !”


Context

Deathbird is a mad alien empress and a recurrent enemy of the X-Men. She’s an important part of their space adventures.

This profile covers everything from her 1977 first appearance up to her 1991 return in Uncanny X-Men. “Death-Bird” is how her name is originally spelled, but the hyphen eventually disappears.

As usual with Shi’ar lore, I use both the Latin and English terminology interchangeably, with a preference for Latin (making Deathbird the former Majestrix of the Imperium, but occasionally the former Empress of the Shi’ar Empire). For more data about the Shi’ar, you can also check our Starjammers team profile.


Background

  • Former Name: Cal’syee Neramani.
  • Other Aliases: Death-Bird, Death-Phoenix. A secondary source has a note about her being Al’shree Neramani, but I haven’t found primary source material for that so far.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: Unidentified parents (deceased), D’Ken Neramani (brother, deceased), Lilandra Nermani (sister), unidentified sister (deceased), Deathcry (formerly Sharra Neramani, niece, name stricken from the records), Black Light (alleged son), White Noise (alleged daughter), Adam-X (aka X-Treme, nephew), Charles Xavier (aka Professor X, brother-in-law)
  • Notes: There is also a high likelihood that Deathbird is the mother of Heather and Davis Cameron (aka Lifeguard and Slipstream).
  • Group Affiliation: Former member of the Shi’ar Royal Family.
  • Base Of Operations: Mobile (often Earth, or Chandilar, or the Shi’ar Empire).
  • Height: 5’8” Weight: 181 lbs.
  • Eyes: Solid white Hair: Purple and blue feathers.


Powers and Abilities

Deathbird is a rare mutant Shi’ar female. More specifically she’s a genetic throwback evidencing such long-since-lost Shi’ar traits as functional wings and talons.

Beyond flight and claws, Deathbird frequently demonstrates remarkable levels of superhuman agility, strength, reflexes, durability, etc. A ferocious hand-to-hand combatant, her first appearance had her matching no less than Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers) in strength and prowess.

Her wings are steel-hard and her pinions can cut through metal. This may be a natural side-effect of her mutation, or her feathers may have been weaponised (for instance glazed with a special spray-on compound). Tigra has compared hitting Deathbird to striking granite.

Deathbird vs. Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers)

Deathbird makes a big deal about being much more agile and deadly in the air, and preferring to have ample space to fly and manoeuvre in. In practice, no significant gain in efficiency is readily apparent. Still, our game stats include a small defensive bonus as a nod toward her statements.

Skills

Deathbird keeps spouting tirades about being a devastating, savage, skilled fighter. She often claim to be the deadliest warrior from the Aerie (the old name for the planet Chandilar). This is all entirely true.

Though she prefers to fight with her talons, hands or spears, she has been seen competently using all sorts of weapons/ These have included energy handguns and man-portable energy cannons.

It is implied that she has technological skills. She converted Earth-made components to assemble or repair Shi’ar communication gear and may have been planning to built a spaceship using Earth tech. Presumably she was working from plans, tutorials and other computer data.

Other physiological aspects

A conversation between the surviving Neramani sisters indicated that Deathbird was not mutated yet when they both were hatchlings. We also learn that a very young Deathbird was less adept at combat than a very young Lilandra. It is possible that, like most Earth mutants, Cal’syee mutated and became an insane super-fighter at puberty.

Since Shi’ar females have breasts and apparently human-like genitals, assuming they go through puberty does not sound too far-fetched.

Death gear

Neramani uses a number of weapons. Her arsenal includes :

  • Bracer spears. The feather-shaped ornaments on her right bracer can be detached and turned into metallic javelins, apparently using a process akin to Pym particles to make them grow.
    Furthermore, when two such javelins are put in contact in a certain way, they discharge a powerful bolt of lightning at whatever they are pointed at, though each spear seems to have a limited charge. Note that the javelins can be collapsed back into ornament size, and put back onto the bracer ; apparently they can also be half-extended to form a long dagger.
  • Mace javelins. These are generally similar to the bracer spears, except they burst on contact and release a potent type of chemical mace.
  • Sparkquills. Deathbird once used this bracer-mounted weapon, which apparently fires volleys of small projectiles. Presumably, she doesn’t use this weapon much since it is short-ranged and only useful against soft-skinned opponents.
  • Personal teleporter. As an Majestrix, Deathbird has her royal person equipped with a personal teleporter which can be triggered quickly and can carry several persons if they huddle around her.
  • Deathbird may have some sort of universal translation device built into her costume or accessories. She can routinely communicate with everyone.

Steel bird

In her Claremont-written appearances, Deathbird is a match for Ms. Marvel — who can hit people with trucks and survive enormous impacts — and can fight Tigra and the X-Men all at once.

In some other appearances (such as her first Avengers appearance or her Spotlight on the Starjammers one), she barely seems to be superhuman – if that. See our game stats for a technical comparison of her weak state and her strong state.

Our *unsupported, No-Prize-style hypothesis*  is that she takes enhancers. In our hypothesis, her mutation requires a certain type of food or certain chemicals to run at peak efficiency. If she cannot cook some up her strength and durability are much closer to that of a normal Shi’ar.

This scenario works very well to explain Deathbird’s strength throughout her entire career. Our full non-canon hypothesis is :

  • Deathbird needs to have an unusual amount of alien heavy minerals in her diet for her body to reach its full power.
  • It takes a few months for the effects of her diet to fade away. This is what happened while she was trapped on Earth and when she clashed with Hawkeye.
  • It takes a week or two for a renewed heavy minerals diet to ’power up‘ her superstrength back to its full level. Thus she couldn’t ’repower‘ in time after full information was found about the Phalkon.
  • There are long-term effects to that diet. Her mutation can process heavy minerals for strength but it’s not 100% efficient and hard-to-eliminate toxins build up. Thus she let her superstrength drop when she expects long periods without being a warrior, such as when she’s the Majestrix at times of relative peace.
    During that time, Shi’ar doctors can detox her.

History

Cal’syee Neramani is the eldest of the current generation of the Shi’ar royal family. She was thus destined to to be the next Imperatrix of the Shi’ar Imperium. However, she and her siblings were a troubled lot.

Though she seemed to be a normal baby when she hatched, Cal’syee was actually a mutant. She grew into a genetic throwback with a berserker’s temper. This likely indicated some sort of genetic peculiarity among the Neramani.

Cal’syee’s niece Sharra Neramani also turned out to be a feral mutant, albeit with different characteristics. As to Cal’syee’s little brother D’Ken, he was a murderous psychopath. The only relatively sane person among the siblings was their sister Lilandra.

Regency and exile

One flashback depicts young Kree hero Mar-Vell encountering Cal’syee Neramani while she was the Regent of the Imperium. How this articulates with other known facts is unclear, but a possible chronology is :

  • The previous Imperatrix died and, as the eldest, Cal’syee was made Regent. Meanwhile the death of the Imperatrix was being investigated for foul play.
  • She encountered Mar-Vell during this brief period. It may also be during this era that she reportedly murdered one of her sisters in a fit of rage – the name of the victim is unrevealed.
  • Cal’syee was then exiled, over the murder of her sister and/or because she was accused of the murder of the Imperatrix. Who had actually killed the Imperatrix remains unclear. Cal’syee was accused of the deed, but it is possible that D’Ken was the real culprit.

As a result, her name was stricken off the records. From then on she was only to be referred as Deathbird. Not too long after that the other mutant Neramani, Sharra, was similarly exiled after murdering a fellow soldier over a romantic rivalry. Her only allowed name became Deathcry.

After Cal’syee was exiled, the next oldest sibling D’Ken had become Majestor. In 1977 his power-mad, nihilistic plan involving the M’Kraan Crystal was foiled by the X-Men before it could destroy the universe. D’Ken was deposed.

His little sister Lilandra became the new Imperatrix. She would eventually make a Terran, Professor Charles Xavier, her consort. This was but one of the incidents that made her unpopular among her subjects due her untraditional and restrained policies.

First ostracism on Earth

That same year Deathbird was first encountered on Earth. She was helping MODOK regain full control of the splintered AIM organisation. That she was a space alien wasn’t apparent at first, and what she was doing there was never explained.

Deathbird attempts to electrocute Hawkeye

A No-Prize Hypothesis is that she had allied with MODOK to build a spaceship for her to return to the Imperium. The full resources of a reunited AIM was one of the few ways to have such a ship built on Earth, presumably using Shi’ar plans.

Deathbird seemingly perished while defending MODOK against Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers), but actually survived. She again clashed with super-heroes as she procured technological resources – once with Ms. Marvel as she hijacked a shipment meant for the Avengers, and once at Cross Technological Enterprises where Hawkeye (Clint Barton) apprehended her.

Deathbird soon escaped from prison, though.

First coup – the opening gambit

Deathbird somehow contacted opponents of Lilandra. One assumes that her thefts and local allies allowed her to build some sort of interstellar radio. Various factions decided to rally behind the exile as the next Imperatrix. Key among those was the traitorous Admiral Lord Samédàr, who hoped to be lavishly rewarded after the coup.

Other pro-Deathbird conspirators were few in numbers. But they too held important functions in the nobility, the military and even the Imperial Guard.

The conspirators arranged for a commando strike during a council, kidnapping Lilandra and killing several of her key people. Samédàr fabricated clues pointing toward Earth, and led a fast battle force there.

The goal was to :

  • Repatriate Deathbird.
  • Destroy Earth (to get rid of the X-Men and prevent the exposure of the forged clues).
  • Arrest Lilandra and Xavier based on further forged documents incriminating the conveniently razed Earth.

Meanwhile, Deathbird was leading the Earthside part of the operation. She hired mercenaries – a war cadre of the Brood, a greatly feared species of aliens, led by Clan-Master Kam’n’éhàr.

The objective was to kidnap Xavier so he could be used to exert pressure on Lilandra if needed. Deathbird would then depart Earth before it would get blown up. She and several Brood snipers engaged the X-Men and Tigra in New York City and kidnapped Xavier. During the battle, Deathbird and her allies nearly killed Colossus (Piotr Rasputin).

First coup – losing the initiative, part 1

Corsair (Christopher Summers) came in to reinforce the X-Men. His Starjammers saved Colossus and allowed for the interception of the Brood ship carrying Deathbird, Xavier and Neramani. Xavier and Neramani were rescued, but Deathbird spaced Storm (Ororo Munroe). Though Munroe was rescued, it was at the cost of extensive damage to the Starjammer’s stardrive.

Though her Brood mercenaries were getting rebellious, Deathbird convinced them to stay on her team by providing them with prepared genetic profiles of the X-Men.

Samédàr also ran into difficulties when two X-Men (Kitty Pryde and Nightcrawler) exposed his treason to a cadre of loyalist Imperial Guardsbeings. Their revelations forced other Guardsbeings who had sided with Samédàr and Deathbird (including Warstar, Hussar, Quasar and the then-current Fang, plus several Borderers) to reveal themselves and engage the loyalists.

Though Samédàr had concentrated his forces and the traitors outnumbered the loyalists, one of the loyalists was Gladiator, the Praetor of the Guard. This made the loyalists likely to win.

Samédàr tried to destory the Earth before everything was lost, but this was foiled by the Starjammers. Samédàr and his traitors were arrested, likely by the loyalist members of the Imperial Guard – Gladiator, Oracle and Starbolt.

Though Colossus eventually fully recovered from the nearly-fatal wound, Xavier was plunged into a coma during the coup attempt.

First coup – fall of the Brood

Meanwhile, Deathbird and her dreaded Brood allies, likely using other Shi’ar inside contacts, continued to work on their coup. They ambushed Lilandra and her X-Men allies during an official party on the Z’reee Shar (the imperial yacht), and swiftly knocked everybody out through surprise, psychotronics , force fields and explosives.

Lilandra and the X-Men (plus at least one ally, Carol Danvers, and one Imperial Guardsbeing, Fang) were handed over to the Brood for their genetic material. Brood embryos were implanted in all the captives.

Deathbird draws one her weapons

Paying the Brood with the X-Men proved to be a huge mistake. Wolverine managed to kill the Brood embryo within him, rally the X-Men and Danvers from their trance, and escape. Despite a series of brutal battles, the Brood could not stop the mutants.

Worse, the genetic experiment they had time to complete on their captives only managed to turn Carol Danvers into the monstrously powerful Binary. Binary destroyed the bulk of the Brood forces allied with Deathbird.

First coup – success !

The X-Men and their allies kept beating impossible odds and made it back to Earth, destroying the Brood embryo which had pretty much killed Xavier and saving the professor. However, though they had managed to save everyone, Deathbird was now on the Shi’ar throne.

Furthermore, the huge damage that the X-Men had inflicted to the Brood worked in her favour, ridding her of a dangerous thorn in her side.

As to Lilandra, she went to join the Starjammers who fought for her return to the throne. She also acted as an official during the trial of Reed Richards, who was accused of having saved Galactus.

(Lilandra’s role is somewhat puzzling, since she had been deposed at that point. With some charitable reading of dialogue, the most likely hypothesis is that Lilandra launched the trial as she was practically out of power (perhaps as a last-minute attempt to garner some popularity), and was present during the rest of the proceedings as the *former* Majestrix of the Shi’ar Imperium. Perhaps the procedure was tied to the person and not the function, or perhaps the Imperium did not want to appear as a house divided in front of other galactic powers.)

Reign, part 1

Much of Deathbird’s first reign is undocumented. She is known to have recruited at least three Imperial Guardsbeings to pack this institution with allies.

The first was Zenith, an energy manipulator somehow related to Raza. Zenith was later apparently killed by Binary. The other two were Black Light and White Noise, two super-powered Shi’ar siblings who made several perplexing references to Deathbird being their mother. They did their best to defend her.

During Deathbird’s reign a Galadorian Space Knight, Pulsar, was found drifting in Shi’ar space, practically dead. The ship’s medic, Tyreseus, managed to communicate with Pulsar as he died. Tyreseus then decided to rebel against the Imperium in the name of his recently-conquered word, Calurnia. He had his body installed within the Pulsar armour as per Galadorian procedures.

His acts of war triggered a diplomatic incident with a team of spaceknights led by Rom who was operating in the areas. Gladiator, feeling highly uncomfortable as a servant of Deathbird, arranged for the Pulsar case to be solved outside of all official channels, he and Rom trusting each other as beings of honour.

This betrayal of Deathbird’s orders apparently went unnoticed, perhaps with the help of Guardsmen sympathetic toward Gladiator’s stance — such as Electron.

Quest for the Phalkon

Lusting for power, Deathbird launched a ’special project‘ to discover the truth behind the legends of the “Phalkon” a source of great power in Shi’ar folklore. I assume this could be likened to the Reich sending parties to find the Ark of the Alliance in the first Indiana Jones movie.

Remarkably enough, this special mission actually came up with some specific leads and a general location for the Phalkon. However, they found little to no data as to what it was. The Starjammers stumbled upon this mission and fought to reach the Phalkon before Deathbird’s goons could.

As the Starjammers became involved, Deathbird personally intervened and swept in to capture Lilandra. Unexpectedly, Lilandra managed to evade her sister, arm herself and strike back, surprising Deathbird and briefly blinding her. As Lilandra tried to kill her sister, Deathbird loyalists from the Imperial Guard teleported in (again Warstar, Hussar and Quasar, joined this time by Zenith).

Before they could take Lilandra down the Starjammers got the deposed Imperatrix out. That was to the relief of another Imperial Guardsbeing, Manta, who was under Deathbird’s orders but could not bring herself to hurt Lilandra.

Deathbird immediately counter-attacked. She sent her loyal Guardsbeings and Manta to delay the Starjammers, then stole the completed coordinates of the Phalkon.

Deathbird vs. Hawkeye

A light Shi’ar strike force led by Deathbird managed to reach the “Phalkon” on Earth. It turned out to be not less than the Phoenix Force (then hosted by Rachel Summers). Using surprise and specialised equipment, they managed to neutralise Phoenix. Deathbird hungrily started using special gear to draw the Phoenix energy into herself, proclaiming that she was now Death Phoenix.

The procedure was stopped by Excalibur, Lilandra and the Starjammers, and the Imperial Guardsbeings present had to evacuate the unconscious Deathbird for her own safety.

Deposed by the Warksrulls

A short time after the Phalkon fiasco, the Imperium suffered through one of its strangest coups in a rich history of turmoil. A cadre of Warksrulls captured the Starjammers, duplicated their abilities and attacked the Imperium, using both their newfound and native powers to devastating effect.

Soon the Imperium found itself conquered. The Warskrull impersonating Charles Xavier used his mental powers to force all the Shi’ar high command to accept his authority as the consort of a mind-controlled Lilandra.

What will Deathbird do now that she’s been deposed by Warskrulls disguised as the Starjammers and her sister is a puppet on the Imperial throne ? Gosh, I can’t wait for the next profile !


Description

Deathbird can emit battle-cries that are very close to those of a large raptor bird. That’s presumably another aspect of her ’throwback‘ mutation since those are apparently more powerful and primal than what a normal humanoid throat can emit.

Deathbird’s skin coulour ranges from Caucasian (on the pale side, even) to a sort of soft orange. This seems to be a Shi’ar thing – similar adventures in skin tone strangeness affect other Shi’ar characters. Perhaps they react to the temperature of their environment or biological cycles or something.


Personality

Deathbird is a savage, cunning, ruthless alien warrior. She is proud and brutal, but with an unpredictable, alien code of honour. At one point she helps Ms. Marvel save passerbies from a collapsing highways since she considers that they are not honourable targets. Deathbird then hammers Ms. Marvel from behind as soon as the civilians are out of danger.

Like all flying military types, she has but scorn for opponents operating primarily on the ground.

Deathbird is a major hardass, but she’s also a smart schemer and competent plotter. She almost always has an ace up her sleeve and generally stays one or two steps ahead from most opponents. In particular she is good at managing treason, double agents, unstable alliance with horrible alien monsters and other high-stress situations.

Deathbird uses Shi’ar exclamations and curses, though she seems far less prone than others to swear by Sharra and K’ythri, the Shi’ar state religion. I’ve included a few extra quotes so as to list basic Shi’ar terms.

She often mentions “the aerie”, which can have two sense. It is both the old name for the Shi’ar core world, and the name of her generation of Neramani siblings.

I suppose it’s a Shi’ar “the King is the Land” tradition which considers the royals and the planet to be conceptually interchangeable. The difference between the two can be obvious (when she mentions that she’s the eldest of the aerie) or not (when she claims to be the fiercest fighter of the aerie).

Royalty

As a ruler, Deathbird is moody, tyrannical and demented. Unjust wars, frequent use of torture, deportation and extra-judicial procedures, “special projects” about things that do not entirely make sense, etc. are her thing.

She does not make major mistakes and is reasonably competent. But her reign is unpleasant for those who are not fans of jackboots, crazy tangential adventurism and bombing less technologically-advanced civilisations to smithereens.

She really really hates not being obeyed and would likely disembowel troopers not carrying out her orders with a pinions swipe. Like any evil emperor, she will never hesitate to sacrifice her troops.

Once she decides she must have something (usually a source of power), Deathbird becomes single-minded and willing to make unreasonable sacrifice to get it. Likewise she generally seems to be super-competitive.

Most of the character development for Deathbird occurred later. At this point she still is a simple character.


Quotes

“You see, hatchling — Death-Bird has other weapons besides her razor-sharp talons ! Kaaaa —!!” (hurls spear)

“Strike me a hundred such blows, Ms. Marvel — they’ll not affect me ! I was born to course the winds ! I’ll never fall to a dirt-grubbing human !”

“Fool ! Did you think that the first-born of the Aerie would fall so easily ?”

“Shigon’s bones !”

(About the X-Men, to her allies) “If I — the finest warrior ever born to the Aerie — respect them, you should *fear* them.”

“SKREEEE !”

(Facing the X-Men) “I look forward most eagerly to facing you on the field of honor.” (beat) “Either in single combat or against your entire team.”


Sharing

The links to follow us and/or subscribe to our monthly newsletter are at the bottom of this page.



Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Deathbird

Dex: 08 Str: 12 Bod: 11 Motivation: Power
Int: 05 Wil: 05 Min: 07 Occupation: Exile
Inf: 07 Aur: 05 Spi: 06 Resources {or Wealth}: 004
Init: 022 HP: 060

Powers:
Claws: 13, Flight: 07, Invulnerability*: 11

Bonuses and Limitations:
Flight is Winged.

Skills:
Evasion (Aerial only): 09, Gadgetry: 03, Martial artist*: 08, Military science: 03, Thief (Stealth): 04, Vehicles (Space): 03, Weaponry*: 08

Advantages:
Familiarity (Shi’ar technology), Language (Low and High Shi’ar).

Connections:
Deathbird supporters within the Imperium (High).

Drawbacks:
Loss Vulnerability (see “Steel Bird” below), Minor Rage, MIA toward Power, Socially Inept, Partial Attack Vulnerability (-1CS OV vs. Lilandra – she consistently underestimates her sister).

Equipment:

  • BRACER SPEARS (x6) [BODY 06, EV 04 (13 w/STR, 08 w/STR when thrown), Sharpness (EV): 02, Lightning: 13, Ammo (Lightning): 02, Note: Lightning requires two spears].
  • MACE JAVELINS (x2) [BODY 06, Chemical attack: 08, Sharpness (Chemical attack): 04, Grenade Drawback].
  • SPARKQUILLS [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 06, Ammo: 05, Range: 03, Advantage: Autofire].
  • PERSONAL TELEPORTER [BODY 02, Teleportation: 14, R#02].
  • Deathbird may have some sort of universal translation device built into her costume or accessories since she can routinely communicate with everyone.

Steel bird

See the P&A section for a discussion of Deathbird’s power fluctuations.

When her power level is degraded, as was the case when she fought Hawkeye or during the Phalkon Quest, her STR and BODY both drop to 06 (the Claws and melee EV of the spears drop to 07, and the thrown EV of the spears drops to 05).

It is possible that her Flight drops by one AP, and I got the distinct impression that all OVs for her Dice Actions were considered to be one CS higher, whereas her own OVs were all considered to be one CS lower.

Since she barely used HPs when seen in this state, degrading her HP use efficiency by two Genres is reasonable. This makes it a wise choice for her not to spend any until she can fix whatever results in such a weakened state.


Design Notes

Some of our game stats (Invulnerability, Military Science, Thief, Vehicles, etc.) are traits that she demonstrated in later stories, but were worked back in for coherence’s sake.


Killer Queen

When she is Majestrix, Deathbird has High Credentials with the Shi’ar Imperium, maximum-level military rank within the Shi’ar military, and her Connection with her supporters becomes High and Powerful. Her Resources are also somewhere in the 30s.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Marvel Universe.

Helper(s): Darci, Capita_Senyera, Chris Cottingham.

Subscribe to our MINI-NEWSLETTER !

One bare-bones e-mail per month. Plain text. Short. To the point. Learn more.