The Marvel Comics character Red Wolf is immensely historic. He is Marvel’s first Native American superhero. Over the years, many Cheyenne men have taken up the mantle of Red Wolf. These Red Wolves have fought side by side with the likes of the Avengers, Hawkeye, Tigra and Scarlet Spider. In honor of ComicsVerse’s spotlight on Indigenous characters in comics, we present a history of Red Wolf.

Unfortunate Beginnings

The first Marvel Comics character called Red Wolf appeared in the Marvel western book TEX MORGAN. He only appeared in one issue, TEX MORGAN #9 (1950). The titular cowboy ends up encountering Red Wolf and the rest of his Crow Nation tribe. First, Red Wolf hunts down a white prospector who killed some of his Crow Nation brethren. While searching for the prospector, he finds Tex Morgan and his Blackfoot Tribe sidekick Lobo. Interestingly, the name Lobo will become quite important for the superhero incarnation of Red Wolf. After defeating the prospector, Red Wolf turns on Morgan and Lobo. He sees Lobo as a traitor to all Native Americans. Additionally, he hates white men, so he tries to kill them both.

This prototypical Red Wolf never appeared again in a Marvel book. He embodied quite a few unfortunate Native American stereotypes, the kind seen in nearly all sorts of media of that era. In addition to this, Morgan bests this impetuous, angry and pride-filled man in a duel using Native American weapons. In an incredibly embarrassing ending, Red Wolf literally falls on his own sword, or, well, knife, and dies. This incredibly racist and insensitive portrayal of a Native American does not connect to the future Red Wolves.

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William Talltrees

The superhero version of Red Wolf first appeared in AVENGERS #80 (1970). Created by Roy Thomas and John Buscema, Talltrees was the first Native American superhero in any Marvel book. Native Americans had appeared before as sidekicks and villains in various western books. However, they never had much of a lasting presence in superhero books until Talltrees. Owayodata, the god of the hunt who the Cheyenne worship, gives Talltrees the mantle of Red Wolf. He endows Talltrees with super powers including superhuman strength and wolf-like senses. Talltrees also travels with his faithful wolf companion, Lobo.

Avengers #80
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

In his first appearance, the Cheyenne Vietnam veteran becomes Red Wolf after Taurus, a member of the Zodiac, kills his family. Talltrees swears revenge and teams up with the Avengers to take Taurus down. After this battle, Talltrees joins forces with various heroes in a multitude of guest appearances, including Tigra and the West Coast Avengers. Red Wolf assists these heroes because their battles happen to take place on or near his tribe’s reservation. Talltrees eventually helps form the Rangers, a Texas-based superhero team who fight the Hulk, among others. After the first Superhuman Civil War, the Rangers become part of Tony Stark’s 50 state Initiative. Talltrees’ most recent appearance is in SCARLET SPIDER, where the Rangers team up with Kaine Parker, another Texas-based hero.

Johnny Wakely

Wakely first appears in Marvel Spotlight #1 (1971) by Gardner Fox and Syd Shores. Wakely got his own ongoing series, which makes him the first Native American Marvel superhero who had his own comic book. A white couple, the Wakelys, adopt and raise Johnny, an orphaned Cheyenne, after a group of white pony soldiers kills his birth parents. A band of Native Americans eventually kill the Wakelys. After these deaths, Wakely decides to devote his life to finding peace between the white Americans and the Native Americans.

Red Wolf #1
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

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After becoming an Army scout, someone shoots Wakely and leaves him for dead after he discovers a plot to ambush a group of Comanches. Owayodata revives Wakely and bestows upon him the title of Red Wolf. He then becomes the Red Wolf of the old west. Owayodata encourages Wakely to continue his plan to bring peace to the warring nations. After fighting to keep peace and teaming up with other western heroes like Two Gun Kid and Rawhide Kid, Wakely becomes disillusioned with his plan. As a result, he decides to devote his life to fighting only on the side of Native Americans. Eventually, he saves a young Brave man, who later takes up the mantle of Red Wolf. It remains unknown as to who this man is and which Red Wolf he becomes.

Thomas Thunderhead

Only appearing in three issues of the RED WOLF book, Thunderhead was also created by Gardner Fox and Syd Shores. Thunderhead lives in modern times, much like Talltrees. The great-great-grandson of Wakely, Thunderhead becomes Red Wolf after having a strange dream where Owayodata accuses him of turning his back on his Cheyenne heritage. He wakes up to find Wakely’s wolf Lobo as well as the Red Wolf costume in his apartment. Thunderhead decides to take up the mantle and become a superhero.

Red Wolf #7
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Originally listed as an alias of Talltrees, Thunderhead was later retconned by fans to be Talltrees’ father, the Red Wolf of the 1970s.

READ: Find out about another Native American Marvel hero, Dani Moonstar.

Wildrun

Not much is known about Wildrun. An ancestor of all the prior Red Wolves, he lived during the time of the American Revolution. The time-traveling villain Kang the Conqueror chooses Wildrun to become a member of his Anachronauts, a group of time-displaced heroes and villains who swear allegiance to Kang. Wildrun fights the Avengers as well as the Fantastic Four in his first appearances in FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #25 (1992) and AVENGERS ANNUAL #21 (1992). Wildrun, created by Mark Gruenwald and Herb Trimpe, survives this encounter, but he has made only two small appearances since then in two ‘90s AVENGERS mini-series.

Red Wolf — 1872

The most recent Red Wolf first appears in 1872 #1 (2015) by Gerry Duggan and Nik Virella. This Red Wolf lives on Battleworld, the patchwork planet created by Doctor Doom during the recent SECRET WARS event. Literally named Red Wolf, this Cheyenne travels to Timely, a town populated by Old West versions of popular Marvel heroes, in order to destroy the Roxxon Dam which blocks his tribe’s access to clean water.

Red Wolf #1
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

After being captured by Mayor Wilson Fisk’s men, Red is rescued by Sheriff Steve Rogers. He stays in the town prison and awaits the fair trial Rogers promised. After Fisk kills Rogers, Red teams up with Natasha Barnes, the widow of Bucky Barnes, the only deputy in the town, as well as Bruce Banner, Tony Stark, and Carol Danvers. They work tegether in order to avenge Rogers’ death. Additionally, they want to end Fisk’s reign of terror since they all despise him. With the help of his allies, Red defeats Fisk.

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Red Wolf — After 1872

Red becomes the new sheriff of Timely, much to the chagrin of many residents. While investigating the mysterious deaths of two residents in RED WOLF #1 (2015) by Nathan Edmonson and Dalibor Talajić, Red encounters a strange man who can shoot electricity from a device on his chest. Red hits the device before the man can kill him, and finds himself transported to modern day New Mexico.

Red Wolf — Present Day

The character quickly becomes a fish out of water, constantly surprised and amazed by this modern world. Red eventually teams up with the local police department to defeat a group of men who killed the sheriff. Once they’re stopped, he becomes a deputy.

Red’s solo series was canceled, so he made few appearances until OCCUPY AVENGERS #1 (2016) by David F. Walker and Carlos Pacheco. In the OCCUPY AVENGERS series, Red Wolf works with Hawkeye and the new Nighthawk as well as wheelchair-bound hero “Wheels” Wolinski to right any wrongs they may encounter while traveling through America. Currently, Wolf is a member of the Resistance against Steve Rogers’ Hydra rule along with his teammates.

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