Who Is Sunspot in X-MEN? This Marvel Mutant’s History, Explained

Spoiler Alert

In the first episode of X-Men ’97, the series introduces us to a new young mutant, Roberto da Costa, a.k.a. Sunspot. As a new guest at Xavier’s School, Roberto fills the role Jubilee did in the original X-Men: The Animated Series pilot episode, as our POV character. Sunspot is a long-standing X-Men hero who was also an Avenger in the Marvel Comics. Here’s everything you need to know about the Brazilian powerhouse mutant known as Sunspot.

Sunspot’s Origin Story in Marvel Comics

Sunspot's tragic origin story from the New Mutants graphic novel from 1982.
Marvel Comics

During a time when Charles Xavier believed his X-Men to be dead, he considered shuttering his school. But he convinces himself that his School For Gifted Youngsters should remain open. However, he believed its third generation of students should train not to fight, but to simply control their powers. This was how writer Chris Claremont and artist Bob McLeod introduced the New Mutants, in Marvel Graphic Novel #4 in 1982. Among that original New Mutants lineup was Roberto da Costa, a young Afro-Brazilian teenager who came from incredible privilege, but also with a potentially deadly power.

Sunspot's powers activate in the New Mutants graphic novel from 1982.
Marvel Comics

Roberto, sometimes called Bobby, was the son of an extremely wealthy Afro-Brazilian entrepreneur by the name of Emmanuel da Costa. His father, who came from poverty and built a business empire, constantly pushed his son to his limits. While in high school, he became an exceptional athlete, excelling on the school’s soccer team. He was even eyed for potential Olympic training. However, one day racist bullies attack him, causing his X-gene to activate. He became a being of solid black solar energy, which resulted in incredible physical strength. The crowd, shocked at his appearance, all fled in terror, except for Roberto’s girlfriend, Juliana. Tragically, she later dies taking a bullet meant for Roberto.

Sunspot Joins the New Mutants, and Later, X-Force

Sunspot in his early New Mutants days from '80s Marvel Comics.
Marvel Comics

Roberto joins four other students — Cannonball, Wolfsbane, Mirage, and Karma — as students in Xavier’s School. Dubbed “the New Mutants,” the intent was for them not to become X-Men, merely to hone their talents. Nevertheless, these New Mutants find themselves caught up in all kinds of superheroic adventures. During his time as one of the series leads in New Mutants, Roberto becomes close friends with Samuel Guthrie, a.k.a. Cannonball. The two friends part ways for a time when the warrior Cable reforms the New Mutants into the paramilitary X-Force. After this, Sunspot returns home to Brazil. However, in time, he would eventually join his old teammates as an X-Force member himself.

Sunspot as a member of the New Mutants, and later, X-Force.
Marvel Comics

Sunspot Joins the Hellfire Club, Later Teaches the Young X-Men

Over the decades, Sunspot pops up in various teams. After a stint on X-Force, he leaves the team when his father dies. Since his father was part of the elite Hellfire Club, he inherited his position and became the Inner Circle’s Black Rook. Later, he becomes the head of the Los Angeles branch of the X-Corporation. X-Corp was a company designed to help civilian mutants around the globe. But when the Scarlet Witch de-powered 98% of Earth’s mutants, the X-Corp was dissolved. After that, Cyclops asked Sunspot and his former teammate Dani Moonstar to train a new generation, dubbed the Young X-Men. Thus bringing Roberto’s journey as an alumnus of Xavier’s School full circle.

Sunspot Becomes an Avenger

Sunspot as a member of the USAvengers.
Marvel Comics

After the events of Avengers vs. X-Men, Roberto and Cannonball are asked by Captain America to join the Avengers. The two accept his offer, and go on many adventures with the team. In fact, Roberto uses his vast wealth to buy the often-villainous think tank Advanced Idea Mechanics, creators of M.O.D.O.K. He transforms it into Avengers Idea Mechanics. As a result, this new iteration of A.I.M. has its own Avengers team, the U.S.Avengers. Roberto leads the team first as Citizen V, and later, renaming himself Citizen X. His BFF Cannonball is along for the ride with each iteration. Sadly, Sunspot dies in the Asgardian War of the Realms. But as with most mutants in the Krakoan age, that is not the end of his story.

Thanks to the Resurrection Protocols of the mutant island of Krakoa, Professor X brings Roberto da Costa back to life, along with every other dead mutant whose psychic essence was stored in Cerebro. He rejoined his original graduating class of students, the New Mutants, for a space adventure to join with Cannonball, who was now living off-world. Eventually, when mutants took over the planet Mars and terraformed it into Arrako, Sunspot moved there, opening up a bar called the Red Lagoon. He would eventually return to Earth, however.

Sunspot’s Mutant Powers and Abilities, Explained

The X-Men member Sunspot, powered up with solar energy.
Marvel Comics

Originally, Sunspot could only absorb solar radiation and turn that power into super strength. His body becomes pitch black when he does this, as he drains all the ambient light from his skin. He had the equivalent strength of 2 tons, eventually expanding to 50 tons. When the immortal mutant Gideon experimented on him, he exposed him to more solar radiation, which gave Roberto the power to fly by generating thermal updrafts, and also the ability to project solar blasts. Although super strong, he’s not invulnerable, although he can take a heavy beating. He is immune to all forms of heat and fire, and any attacks on him with heat weapons only increase his strength. When in powered-up mode, Sunspot can even survive the vacuum of space, as his solar energy will sustain him.

Sunspot in X-Men: Days of Future Past, New Mutants, and X-Men: Evolution

Adan Canto as Sunspot in X-Men: Days of Future Past (L) and Henry Zaga in New Mutants (R)
Twentieth Century Films

In the X-Men live-action film franchise, Sunspot played a small role as one of the rebel mutants in 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, portrayed by Adan Canto. In 2020’s The New Mutants, he’s a principal character, played by Henry Zaga, a young mutant traumatized by accidentally killing his girlfriend. Although not appearing in the original X-Men: The Animated Series, they showed Sunspot as one of the New Mutants recruits in X-Men: Evolution. These castings all came with some controversy, as none were Afro-Brazilian actors. Even the voice actor for his character in X-Men ’97, Gui Agustini, while Brazilian, is Caucasian.

Sunspot’s Future in X-Men ’97

Spoiler Alert
Sunspot as an X-Man in Marvel Comics (L) and in the animated X-Men '97 (R)
Marvel Comics/Marvel Animation

In X-Men ’97, the mutant-hating group The Friends of Humanity kidnaps teenage Roberto da Costa. The X-Men rescue him, and although at first reluctant to join Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, he strikes up a friendship with Jubilee. In this iteration, Roberto’s parents don’t know about his mutant powers, and he’s hoping they don’t find out. It remains to be seen if Sunspot becomes a fully-fledged X-Man by the time the first season of X-Men ’97 finishes up, or if we’ll have to wait till season two to see him in a superhero uniform battling Sentinels and other X-Men foes.

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